Category Archives: Great Sporting Moments

World Championship ‘9 Darters’ – Palace Perfection.

As part of our contribubion to “The Darts World Championship Ultimate Guide, 2019 A.I.M: looked at those perfect palace moments:

9 Darters – Palace Perfection 

In any sport there are moments of perfection, think Torvil & Dean or Nadia Comenech, darts is no exception. Over the years improving standards, combined with near perfect playing conditions, have ensured that darting perfection, the nine dart leg, is hit with increasing regularity. Yet, hitting one on the biggest possible stage, on live TV, under the greatest of pressure is still very rare indeed. Think Cliff Thorburn at The Crucible. 

I suspect a certain Mr Taylor has never forgiven RVB for this!

Breaking the Duck 

No player had managed the perfect leg in the PDC World Championship since its beginnings in 1994. By 2010 it seemed that the incentive of a place in the history books was weighing heavily on players’ shoulders. Raymond van Barneveld had other ideas. The setting was a Qtr final vs his countryman Jelle Klaasen. RVB went the traditional route (180,180, T20, T19, D12) and appeared as relaxed as he might in a local exhibition.  

Lightning Strikes Twice 

To prove it was no fluke Barney repeated the trick in 2011. In fact, the only difference from the 2010 version, were his darts, he had switched to a golden set up, and his reactions. In scenes reminiscent of his 2007 World Championship win, Barney was as delighted, and emotional, as many could remember seeing him. 

The Final Countdown 

Perhaps the most remarkable of the perfect legs seen at The Alexandra Palace was struck in 2011. To mark the third consecutive year, that at least one perfect leg was thrown, Adrian Lewis became the first to hit one in the final. Incredibly ‘Jackpot’ hit it in only the third leg! Another of the popular 180 x 2 and 141(T20, T19, D12) route. The nonchalance with which Lewis accepted the crowd’s applause showed a player, at the very peak of his powers, for whom it was simply a matter of time. 

Winstanley Goes Wild 

Darts very own Pat Cash moment? Where did he go?

After a barren year, in 2012, darting perfection returned with a bang in 2013. ‘Over the Top’, as Dean Winstanley is known, certainly lived up to his nickname. Dean found a superb sequence of darts hitting six treble 20s without going near a wire. After completing the 141, in the usual way, he was overcome with a spirit of Pat Cash. Winstanley, like the Australian tennis champion, sprinted out of shot and, reacted with an unrestrained joy that endeared him to all watching.  

All the Right Darts, Not Necessarily in The Right Order? 

In the same 2013 tournament Micheal van Gerwen added his name to the roll of honour. In his semi-final, against James Wade, MVG became the first to hit 9 perfect darts but not going the conventional order. He still hit 7 Treble 20s, treble 19 and double 12, but hit the T19 on his second turn in order to leave 144. 

Perfection, Repetition & Despair 

In 2014 both Kyle Anderson and Terry Jenkins hit 9 darters. Both players lost the match. 2015 featured a repeat performance from Adrian Lewis. Jackpot joined Barney in the club of multiple 9 dart hitters at the World Championships. The most recent 9 example of palace perfection was Gary Anderson, Gary hit his perfect leg, in 2016, vs Jelle Klaasen. Poor Klaasen became the first to have two thrown against him! 

The Founder of the Feast. 

Legendary Lim hits the firstWorld Championship 9 darter

No discussion of World Championship 9 darters would be complete without ‘The Legend’ that is Paul Lim. Paul bridges the two golden eras of professional darts and is still going. In 1990 he hit a superb 9 dart leg vs Ireland’s Jack McKenna. Although it was hit at Lakeside there was only one world championship at that time and the feat had never been completed before. Only two years ago Lim threatened to repeat the feat almost thirty years later. After 8 perfect darts, and at the age of 63, Lim narrowly missed the double twelve. Perhaps he will get another chance at that unique fairytale during this year’s event? 


Palace perfection appears in full, with more extensive links and graphic illustration, the Ultimate Guide : https://appsolutely.dev/darts/

Barney Takes A Bow – Original Article (English)

When A.I.M: were asked to contribute to a guide the 2020 PDC World Darts Championship an article about Raymond Van Barneveld seemed essential.

This piece has appeared, in various forms, in Darts World magazine, at dartsworld.com and on the hugely popular German website darts1.de amongst other places!

Barney Takes A Bow!

Raymond van Barneveld can claim a major role in the story of the PDC at the Palace. From his legendary win in the 2007 event, which may have prompted the move, to his superb 9 dart legs, Barney has provided some of the sports’ most iconic moments. In addition, his ‘Barny Army’ of fans bring atmosphere and colour to every event. RVB’s role in the development and advancement of darts is safe and his reputation as a dart player will only grow. As a five-time World Champion he sits in a club of only three, Bristow (5), Barney (5) and Taylor (16) 

Barney, now 52, will play his last World Championship this year and is sure to receive a superb reception and send off when his tournament comes to an end. He seems entirely at peace with his decision and determined to enjoy his curtain call. Raymond will have taken part in almost thirty World Championships since making his debut at the Lakeside in 1991. His remarkable journey has seen him tackle the legends of darts’ first golden era, battle with ‘The Power’ for over a decade and then shepherd a third generation of new players to take the game forward. 

Barney will have the world as his oyster after his final World Championship.
Pic: L Lustig & PDC

 RVB decided to cross codes and take his place on the PDC tour in 2006. As a four-time Lakeside champion he was the biggest fish in a middle-sized pond and could easily have remained within the BDO system and racked up titles and fees. Yet, he courted controversy, and risked failure, in order to compete at the highest level and against the very best the game had to offer.  

RVB’s first PDC ranking major was the 2006 UK Open unbelievably he won the title. After what could only be described as a stellar debut he prepared for his first PDC World Championship over the festive season of 2006/7. By bludgeoning his way to the final, van Barneveld would realize the ambition that had driven him to the PDC. He was to play Phil “The Power” Taylor over the best of 13 sets. The rest as they say is history. The nip and tuck match, the swings in one direction and then the other, the sudden death bull up and then the winning dart. The sinking to the knees, and the commenators’ superlatives, all form part of the 2007 legend. 

Have one on us Raymond!
Pic: L Lustig / PDC

Although Raymond has not yet added another World Championship Trophy, he has enjoyed a storied career across both codes. Three World Cup Singles titles, two Winmau World Masters, The Premier League and the Grand Slam of Darts, as well as hitting the first PDC World Championship 9 Dart Leg, were amongst many, placed in the trophy cabinet, during a marvelous career.  

Between this year’s first match, vs Darin Young, and an unlikely final appearance on January 1st 2020 the fans at Ally Pally and darts’ fans the world over will bid a fond farewell to a modern legend. On current form Barney may give us a grand finale, Barney’s 3-month form is 10th in the world with a running average of 96.63 for 17 events played. 

Raymond van Barneveld, Take a Bow! 


English – http://www.dartsworld.com/barney-takes-bow-the-curtain-falls/

German – http://www.darts1.de/news/2019/hut-ab-raymond-van-barneveld.php

A.I.M: Go International! ‘Barney Takes A Bow’ Re-Published by Darts1.de

Nice to see one of the pieces we produced for ‘The Ultimate Guide to the World Championship’ proved popular outside the UK. http://www.darts1.de/news/2019/hut-ab-raymond-van-barneveld.php?fbclid=IwAR0jZhV2HphCT-TwImLy-q3Kx_PpG39wjzYG0U3cszuZwNGb2z_ynl5Kkx0

Hut ab, Barney!

Raymond van Barneveld kann eine der Hauptrollen in der Geschichte der PDC-WM für sich beanspruchen. Sein Finalsieg im „Spiel der Spiele“ bei der WM 2007, seine fantastischen 9-Darter – Barney hat dem Dartsport einige legendäre Momente beschert. Darüber hinaus verleiht seine Fan-Base, die „Barney Army“, jeder Veranstaltung eine besondere Atmosphäre. Raymonds Anteil am Aufbau und der Weiterentwicklung des Dartsports ist unbestritten und sein Ruf als Darts-Legende schon zu aktiven Zeiten gefestigt.

Foto © Lawrence Lustig / PDC @ Darts1.de

Er ist einer von nur drei Darts-Profis, die mindestens fünfmal eine Weltmeisterschaft gewinnen konnten. Eric Bristow (5) und Phil Taylor (16) heißen die beiden anderen Mitglieder in diesem erlauchten Club. Der mittlerweile 52-jährige Barney steht vor seiner letzten WM-Teilnahme und kann sich während des Turniers einer riesigen Aufmerksamkeit sicher sein und sich auf eine angemessene Verabschiedung freuen, wenn das Turnier für ihn zu Ende geht. Er scheint mit sich und seiner Entscheidung, die Karriere zu beenden, völlig im Reinen zu sein und will seine Abschiedsvorstellung in vollen Zügen genießen. Seit seinem Debüt in Lakeside im Jahr 1991 hat Raymond an fast 30 Weltmeisterschaften teilgenommen. Am Anfang seiner bemerkenswerten Karriere bekam er noch die erste goldene Ära des Profi-Darts mit, anschießend lieferte er sich über ein Jahrzehnt lang mit „The Power“ einen heißen Kampf, bevor er schließlich eine neue Generation auf ihrem Weg in die Weltspitze anführte, um die Qualität des Spiels auf ein höheres Level zu bringen.

2006 entschied sich RvB zu einem Verbandswechsel und nahm fortan an den Turnieren der PDC teil. Der viermalige Lakeside-Champion war der größte Hai im mittelgroßen Becken der BDO und er hätte ganz einfach dort bleiben und sich Titel und Preisgelder einheimsen können. Doch er entschied sich für das Risiko und einen Wechsel zur PDC, um auf höchstem Level spielen und gegen die Allerbesten antreten zu können, die das Spiel zu bieten hat.

Van Barneveld erstes großes Ranglistenturnier bei der PDC waren die UK Open 2006, die er auch gleich gewinnen konnte. Nach diesem Traumstart bereitete er sich auf seine erste PDC-Weltmeisterschaft vor, die Ende des Jahres 2006 begann. Auf seinem Weg ins Finale wird sich van Barneveld vor Augen geführt haben, was ihn knapp ein Jahr zuvor zu einem Wechsel zur PDC getrieben hat. Er war gekommen, um gegen Phil „The Power“ Taylor im Modus „Best of 13 sets“ zu spielen. Der Rest ging in die Geschichte ein: Das äußerst knappe Finale, bei dem mal der eine und mal der andere vorne lag, der Wurf aufs Bullseye vor dem „Sudden Death“-Leg und kurz darauf der Championship-Dart ins richtige Doppelfeld, sein Sinken auf die Knie, die Superlative der Kommentatoren – all dies trug dazu bei, dass das WM-Finale 2007 bis heute als legendär gilt.

Foto © Lawrence Lustig / PDC @ Darts1.de

Obwohl es Raymond danach nicht mehr gelang, den WM-Pokal zu holen, kann er auf eine sehr erfolgreiche Karriere in beiden Verbänden zurückblicken. Er holte drei „World Cup Singles“- und zwei „Winmau World Masters“-Titel bei der BDO, sowie einen Premier League- und einen Grand Slam of Darts-Titel bei der PDC. Zudem gelang ihm der erste 9-Darter bei einer PDC-Weltmeisterschaft.

Frühestens nach seinem Auftaktspiel gegen Darin Young und spätestens nach einem eher unwahrscheinlichen Auftritt im Endspiel am 1. Januar 2020 werden sich die Fans im „Ally Pally“ und die Darts-Fans an den Bildschirmen auf der ganzen Welt von einer modernen Legende verabschieden müssen. In seiner aktuellen Form ist es Barney durchaus zuzutrauen, dass er den Zuschauern ein großartiges Abschiedsspektakel bietet. Nimmt man nur die letzten drei Monate, so wäre er Zehnter der Weltrangliste mit einem 3-Dart-Average von 96,63 Punkten bei 17 gespielten Veranstaltungen.

Hut ab, Raymond van Barneveld, und alles Gute für die Zukunft!

Text: © Callum Harris-Hulme @ Darts1.de
Übersetzung: Martin Rönnberg

Pics: L Lustig (PDC)


Rob Cross: A Remarkable Example and a New PDC Era?

Author note 1: I wrote the piece below in April 2017. Rob Cross was making a tremendous impact and it seemed to be a watershed moment in the development of the PDC. I may well have underestimated it! Voltage crashed into the Grand Slam and is tearing up the field, he is also likely to rise even higher in the rankings than I suggested in the conclusion to this piece and I suspect he is a game or two away from the Premier League .( CJHH: Nov 17)

Rob Cross at the UK Open. Pic: PDC

Rob Cross caught my attention, as a player, a couple of years ago. During the 2016 UK Open lot of fuss was made of Barry Lynn, however, it was Cross’s talent and attitude that struck me as worth watching. His remarkable subsequent progress could prove an example for others and a validation of the PDC in their efforts to build a sustainable career path for new players.

In its early years, the PDC’s Pro Tour was quite a slow-moving and shy animal. In its original form any player could register with the PDPA and then pay to enter these events. Many hoped to gain enough points/pounds to qualify for the bigger events and kick-start a professional career. Others simply played for the challenge, and pleasure, of playing with the very best.

A Truly Professional Game?

In 2010/11 it was decided to restructure the system and build a structure, similar to that used in golf and tennis, that offered a pathway for players with talent to progress through. The rival organisation’s route, despite its flaws, can also provide players with a path. But progress has been slow, many of the same players dominated for long periods and only those who swapped from the top of the BDO system seemed to become established within the PDC.  This is not to say that many other players, from various darting backgrounds, did not perform superbly for a limited period or that a small number did not break into the top rank after an extended period of trying. Justin Pipe & Peter Wright demonstrated what could be achieved.

Since 2011 the elements of the PDC Tour have grown into a cohesive professional structure that can guide players from their youth performances ( Development Tour) through to a 2nd level tour (Challenge Tour) tour and, via the Qualifying School, then the truly professional ranks of the Pro Tour, European Tour and Majors.  This system offers a set of building blocks toward a top-flight career.

The costs are substantially less than the Pro Tour, the prize money, and other incentives, have been set at levels which allow any determined player to be able to take part. The facilities, venues and atmosphere are virtually identical to the highest level events (non TV) and thus genuine acclimatisation and development are both possible and rewarded. But only when a genuinely new player has demonstrated that this path and structure is viable, for high level and long-term success, can it be classed as a true pathway to professionalism.

PDC’s MVP?

Rob Cross may be a very important player in the progress of PDC darts. He has become the first player to take advantage of all the adult opportunities offered by the new system, winning at every level, and move to the brink of top-flight success. Along the way, he has illustrated some of the other elements available to the modern player and how to gain the maximum from them.

Cross’s composure vs MVG was a huge clue.

Path to Success

Rob broke through by winning qualification to the UK Open in 2016. The qualifying events are completely amateur in nature,  taking place in Riley’s clubs across the UK, but are overseen by the PDC and abide by their basic framework. They immensely difficult to win and often have a very strong field of ex-Pro Tour players, strong BDO players and other very experienced local performers. The vast majority of qualifying players do not progress, past their first couple of games, in the TV event. Rob Cross, however, overcame serious opposition from Pro Tour players, including former Premier League players, and played matches of up to 17 legs, to reach the last 32. He then found himself up against Michael Van Gerwen. Despite the defeat (5-9), he stood up to a complete barrage of other world darts, including a 9 dart leg and a 170 finish, from MVG. He played his own game and performed superbly well. It could be argued that the relaxation of playing a lesser known player, combined with Rob’s strong performance led to MVG producing what he did.

Cross made short work of the PDC’s 2nd Tier.

Next stop was the PDC Challenge Tour. Carrying his momentum from the UK Open, and obvious good form, he reached a final immediately and continued in such fashion for the entire season. His three tour victories ensured that he topped the Challenge Tour Order of Merit and gained an automatic tour card for 2017. In doing so Cross proved that he could win at the next available level of PDC competition, avoided having to attend Q School in January 2017 and could look forward to the 2017 Professional UK Open Qualifiers.

Career Planning and Progression.

In the Autumn of 2016 Cross made another excellent decision, one that may have been at least partly down to the new PDC system. John Archer, a former PDC player, had moved into management and promotion of players. John is a very knowledgeable and straightforward individual who provides good support to his players. His offer to support Rob and the acceptance of that decision seems to have provided the final piece in the jigsaw for Rob’s success. Whether this was due to financial calculations or for support and assistance, with his future career, it was a very smart move. Players, such as Justin Pipe, have made huge progress after easing the burden on themselves as early career professionals. For Cross and Nevada to join hands at this stage was a very astute step.

Professional UK Open Qualifiers.

It appears that considerable thought was given to Rob’s debut season on the Pro Tour. In the early stages he took part in the UK Open qualifiers, performing superbly. Very few players, without considerable high level experience, collect £’s in every one of their first six of these events and in reaching a semi-final more great experience was gained. Thus a first TV major as a professional qualifier was secured. No European tour qualifiers were undertaken at this point. Again choosing from the available experiences and opportunities in a way which would have been scarcely possible a couple of years ago.

Players Championships & UK Open 2017

Next would come another leap in progression. Rob’s Players Championship (PC) debut, February 2017, was steady, these events are seeded, different in atmosphere and tougher in terms of ability. He then returned to the UK Open, this time as a top-ranked professional qualifier, and managed to improve on his 2016 performance reaching the last 16 stage. This was a more significant step than it may appear. When returning to the scene of previous success players are no longer surprise packages and also gain more attention. The pressures are different and not easy to adjust to.

Returning to the PC events, the following weekend, Cross produced a superb performance to triumph in only his third top-tier event. Along the way, Rob defeated former champions, new generation champions and legends of the game, including Raymond Van Barneveld in the qtr finals. He has since added another Players Championship victory to his total and many other later stage efforts. In a debut year this is simply outstanding.

Whitlock and White.
Both defeated, in important matches ,
by Cross in 2017. Pic: PDC

European Tour.

During the weekend of his remarkable PC win Rob also gained his first experience of the Euro Tour qualifiers. After being unsuccessful at the first attempt he managed to qualify for the German Darts Open and has since qualified for four more events, with more qualifiers to come.

These events operate on a hybrid of UK Open and Players Championship formulae. Upon qualification, you are placed into a seeded draw featuring the top-ranked and form players. But games are played singly on stage over a three-day period. It appears that the combination worked very well. Rob has reached the Qtr Finals of three out of four events, gained stage wins over players such as Whitlock and Chisnall whilst adding more ranking £’s toward this seasons major events. This may well be the best consistent performance of any qualifier for this tour. Experience and success here are possibly the most beneficial for any new player. For many years experience, of stage games, large audiences and the single-game high-pressure atmosphere was difficult to come by. Qualifying players were at a huge disadvantage, and often did not play to their fullest potential, as a result. This has been steadily changing since the introduction and expansion of this very successful branch of the PDC structure.

Majors, Worlds and Rankings.

Following this remarkable start to his career, I can find no other who will have achieved so much from a standing start, Cross has qualified for every available event for the rest of 2017. This will include debuts at: The World Matchplay, The World Grand Prix, The European Championships, The Grand Slam, Players Championship Finals and The World Professional Championships.  Only invitational events will be missing from his list from now to the end of the year, even here, however, the PDC has been known to vary this if it can be justified?

Looking at previous debut, and early career, players it is likely that those in similar formats to those regularly played will offer the best chance. Players Championship Finals and the European Championships would seem likely opportunities for Rob to do well. Yet we would be foolish to rule out another leap in achievement. The Grand Prix and then The World Champs offer great reward for fewer wins.

The rankings system will be very important to Rob. The higher he can climb, on all tables, the easier it will be to sustain the success he is achieving. Seedings in certain events and guarantees of tour card retention and a certain income relieve many pressures. His current rank of 52 is superb in such a short time but will be eclipsed at the end of this season.

Based on a simply maintaining his current standard Rob is a certainty for the top 32. The top 20 is likely and, with a strong run or two in a major event, especially the World Champs, he could even break into the top 16. For any PDC debutant these are superb achievements. For a player without significant previous experience they are outstanding and possibly even unique.

In addition to his own remarkable success Cross has demonstrated that the new structure of the PDC, together with smart career planning and a professional attitude, can provide a perfect path to the very top of the game. No need to slog around the BDO for years on end, no need to join the tour and spend years and £000’s learning to adapt to all the different formats, atmosphere, stages, formats etc. Make no mistake,it still takes a player of immense talent and a superb attitude to pull this off, but it has been shown to be possible!

All dart players, and fans. should keep an eye on Mr Rob Cross. and wish him well in progressing, and sustaining, a potentially groundbreaking career in what is fast becoming a truly professional game!


Author note 2: The rest they say is history, Cross went on to outstrip even my wild optimism for his success. World Champion in Jan 2018 and the story continues to this day……….(Jan 2020)

Coral UK Open 2016 – Days 1 & 2

The 2016 Coral UK Open is certainly living up to expectations.

The 2016 Coral UK Open is certainly living up to expectations.

The UK Open lived up to it reputation as the FA Cup of Darts again on the first two days of the 2016 edition. Riley’s qualifiers gave it their all and many Pro’s were given a tough time. Even MVG was subdued, and The Power struggled, in the early the early rounds.

The Giant Killing Starts
Robert Thornton, the 2012 champion, became the biggest casualty of Day 1. The world number seven bowing out to Aaron Monk even after starting strongly. Alex Roy, one of only eight ever presents, looked like he may be the story of the day. Roy, who had had to qualify through Riley’s, got off to a great start, defeating fellow veteran Dennis Smith on the main stage and then coming from behind to win his second round game. Sadly Roy could not make day two, running out of steam in his third game vs Justin Pipe.

Clash of the Titans.

With the initial skirmishes over the last 64 draw was made. As always, the draw provided some uncomfortable moments. Ian “Diamond” White was paired with Simon Whitlock, world ranking number 12 vs number 18. Peter Wright was paired with the evergreen Steve Beaton, Wright emerging a 9-5 winner. Even more mouth-watering, for the five thousand fans, was the clash between Gary Anderson & Dave Chisnal. Two Premier League players , ranked two & ten, who normally could not meet until at least  two rounds later in any TV event.

Old foes clash early. Whitlock defeats white in the last 64.

Old foes clash early. Whitlock defeats white in the last 64.

 

White vs Whitlock did not even rate a TV slot and saw the Aussie overcome a two – five deficit to win through. Mensur Sulivic the inform Austrian repeated his previous wins over an out of sorts James Wade. The machine was deeply unhappy with the board, although his complaints fell on deaf ears.

The main event proved to be worth the wait. Chizzy started strongly and got into a lead, both players seemed to have a little too much respect for the others, it was almost like a couple of prize-fighters waiting to let rip. Finally, despite not being in the lead throughout the match, Anderson kicked into life and produced a tremendous ‘last round’ finish to emerge a 9-7 winner.

Beware “The Spider”.

Cometh the hour, cometh the Spider?

Cometh the hour, cometh the Spider?

After a torrid time, Mark Webster has been cooking with gas again for a few months, better floor showings and, great runs in the last few TV events, have seen the confidence return and the old control and consistency is back. His last 64 victory over Matt Edgar was a demonstration of understated skill and control. In this shape “Webby” could be the man to watch.

Rise of the Amateurs

Altogether five “Amateur” qualifiers made it through to Round 3, a pretty good showing. Sadly the enigma that is Les Delderfield did not even appear, thus a possible fairy story petered out. Most notable were Rob Cross who defeated two very in form and experienced players handily, neither Ken McNiel nor Wes Newton would have been expecting to be so ruthlessly dispatched, and Barry Lynn who, after defeating Claydon and, UK Open veteran, Dean Stewart, would take on “The History Maker” Brendon Dolan, for a place in the last thirty-two and a chance of an even bigger draw.

Robert Cross, earned a monster draw, against MVG, with 3 superb wins on day1

Robert Cross, earned a monster draw, against MVG, with 3 superb wins on day1

Cross did a fine job in removing, the in form, Geoffry de Graff, in a last leg thriller, and moved on into the hat with the big boys, only to get the worst draw imaginable in MVG. Lynn put in another tremendous shift, at the end of a very long day and out lasted Dolan 9 -6. Indeed, it was so late, the draw, for Day Two, had already been held. It was left for the TV presenter to tell Barry that he had drawn reigning world champ Gary Anderson! His response? “good I will smash him all over the board” joking or not Lynn seems to have what many qualifiers, and lower ranked pro’s, lack, genuine confidence and belief.

Rileys Qualifier Barry Lynn wins through day one and threatens to smash Gary Anderson, on day 2. Joking or deadly serious?

Rileys Qualifier Barry Lynn wins through day one and threatens to smash Gary Anderson, on day 2. Joking or deadly serious?

Day Two would show us, and Barry, whether this was misplaced or not!

World Championship Darts and The Lakeside Myth.

The Lakeside. Venue & main sponsor for BDO World Championship Darts.

The Lakeside. Venue & main sponsor for BDO World Championship Darts.

 

With the recent announcement that the BBC will be covering a new darts event, staged by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), and featuring the top 8 players in the world, it can be argued that professional darts is now able to expand and reach a huge audience of both armchair fans and potential new players.
Of course, this news has also lead to much discussion regarding the long-running split in darts, which took place in 1993, and the future of players and events that are staged by The British Darts Organisation (BDO). The main source of concern seems to be the future of the BDO “World Championship” often referred to as The Lakeside.
The event is known as such due to its current venue and the fact that, in order to avoid classing it as a world championship, the PDC, and others, refer to winners of the event post-1993 as being “Lakeside” Champions.

The famous Lakeside stage.

The famous Lakeside stage.

The tournament itself is the continuation of the first darts world championship, held in 1978. The famous trophy is iconic in the sport and contains the names of those, Rees, Lowe Bristow, Wilson, Deller, Anderson, Priestley & Taylor to name a few, who built the game’s popularity over its initial glory period and then through to its current PDC Sky TV incarnation.

The Myth

Over the years the history of the event, the fact that it was the first incarnation, and its more recent venue have become into twinned to create a myth of Lakeside and its importance.
The first edition of, what is regarded as, Darts’ World Championship was actually held in The Heart of the Midlands Club in Nottingham and won by Leighton Rees. The event proved popular and featured an Englishman, Welshman (Rees) a Swede and an American in the semifinals.

1st World Champion. Played at The Heart of The Midlands Club.

1st World Champion. Played at The Heart of The Midlands Club.

The next seven events were held in Jollies Cabaret Club in Stoke on Trent. These events from 1979 until 1985 are regarded by most as darts first golden age. Most great memories of the game from its early TV days are formed here, the battles between Bristow and Lowe, the remarkable Jockey Wilson managing to claim the title against the rock that was Lowe and Kieth Deller managing to defeat all three of them to win his only title, whilst looking like The Milky Bar Kid! These were the kickstart that saw darts boom and created an opportunity for a truly professional game to later emerge.

The games initial great era was built in Jollies in Stoke on Trent.

The games initial great era was built in Jollies in Stoke on Trent.

The event then moved to its new home at The Lakeside Country Club. For the next 8 years, it could claim to be the home of the world darts championship and created some great memories of its own. Jocky’s incredible second win, Bob Anderson finally claiming the ultimate prize and the emergence of two fellows by the name of Taylor and Priestley.

A legend begins.

The Power, 14 world titles have been collected away from Lakeside.

So, from Its start in ’78 till ’93, the World Championship was played eight times at The Lakeside and eight elsewhere. Thus its claim, to be the spiritual home of darts or even The World Championship, is tenuous at best.
From 1994 there have been two rival world championships. Owing to the split between the top players and the BDO who arranged the events until that time. The WDC (later PDC) held their event, featuring all active world champions to that point and most of the top 32 world ranked players, at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet, whilst the BDO continued to use Lakeside. Each event is still providing stories and star players today. Over time the PDC retained the better players or attracted more with numerous TV events and higher prize money while the BDO and Lakeside remained substantively the same for the next 22 years.
Thus from 1994 onward, the Lakeside has held what, at best, can be described as a “version” of the World Championship, whilst another is held featuring the majority of the best players. Alternatively, the event could be described as a World Amateur Championship which happens to carry prize money!

The BDO circuit could easily be compared to The Championship, in football, with PDC darts as The Premiership. Lakeside could be similarly compared to the Play-Offs. The main difference being the winners don’t have to accept promotion and can choose to continue playing in and dominating the lower league.

BDO World Champ , Scott Mitchell, chose to remain within the system.

BDO World Champ, Scott Mitchell, chose to remain within the system.

Meanwhile PDC venues have  established their own spiritual homes of professional darts, with The Circus Tavern being the testing ground for the development of an event, and product, that can be deemed fit to be played on Pay For and Free to Air TV, and in front of  tens of thousands of fans, at The Alexendra Palace in London. The Winter Gardens in Blackpool, home of The World Matchplay and The Civic Hall in Wolverhampton for The Grand Slam of Darts, to name but two, have been enthusiastically adopted by darts fans producing superb and unique atmosphere’s of their own. The Euro tour is also producing such venues. Rotterdam & Dortmund are looking likely to become iconic.

Winter Gardens as dart venue

Solutions.

The current situation of the British Darts Organisation raises a genuine concern for the health of the amateur game and the future of two of the most iconic event in darts. The Original World Championship and The (Winmau) World Masters. Both of these are classic events with long-running histories. Where they are held is almost irrelevant, the truth is that they need to be well run and well marketed in order to ensure their continued survival.

The solution seems relatively simple. Forget the myth of Lakeside or any other venue. A world championship should be where the very best players have the opportunity to qualify and compete against each other during a single regular event. Thus the “Original” World Championship Darts Trophy should handed to the PDC in order that they run one professional world championship each year. Both the Classic & Sid Waddell Trophies would be awarded to the winner. In exchange for this, the PDC should support the running of a World “Amateur” Championship. Possibly for the Olly Croft Trophy.

Any player who has won or, possibly, reached the final of either current version should be granted an exemption into a prelim or qualifying round for the next five to ten years (golf manages this pretty well and it may assist in the transition). Other, time-limited exemptions, may be possible after discussions. The result should be one Professional World Championship and other tournaments in which the very best players qualify or have the opportunity to do so.

In exchange for this the PDC should support the running of a World “Amateur” Championship and lend its management and marketing expertise to the BDO, or other organisation, in order to stabilize the situation and ensure that an amateur system, such as currently exists with superleague & county darts, continues to thrive on a strong and secure footing.

The World Masters could then be staged as a single event open to all players amateur and professionals from across the globe, without its recent late-stage seeded format, jointly run and marketed by the two circuits.

Former PDC director Tommy Cox has offered to come out of retirement and help. His experience in directing tournaments all over the globe in ever-changing times could prove a masterstroke. The amateur circuit could include many current popular events and opens and the money earned viewed as expenses.

Without such an accommodation the consequences will be very damaging, the BDO “World Championship” & World Masters may be reduced to streamed or minority channel events, poorly produced, watched by few and cared about by less. The darts product has been superbly built over 40 years, first by the BDO and Olly Croft , then through the PDC via Tommy Cox & Barry Hearn.

It should not be cheapened, risked or demeaned due to pettiness, spite and or incompetence.

The Adonis – Steve Beaton – A Legend in his Own Time

The Bronzed Adonis in Fine Form

The Bronzed Adonis in Fine Form

Often sport throws up its own version of the famed curse ” may you live in interesting times”. Players of the highest ability seem to be less appreciated due to truly exceptional players, or rivalries, taking the limelight throughout their own careers. In tennis, Andy Murray is unfortunate enough to straddle the careers of Federer, Nadal & Jokovic for example.

Sometimes there is also a case of familiarity breeds contempt. Although, as in this case, it is not usually contempt but merely taking players, and their achievements or contribution, for granted.
Since the early 1980’s one dart player has competed with the greats from at least three glorious eras for professional darts. Initially he was there as a young player competing, and often winning, against the original TV heroes of the game. The Crafty Cockney, Old Stoneface, The Limestone Cowboy, Jockey and the rest.

Move into the 1990’s and he had claimed his own place at the highest table,becoming World Champion and winning other major and TV events. In the 2000’s, not being one to duck the big challenges, or play the big fish in little pond, he joined the PDC. Without the fanfare, promises or advantages, that some receive today, he joined right in the middle of “The Taylor Years” and produced more superb results as well as twice battling back from the usual professional slumps and life knocks that all mere mortals suffer. Steve “The Bronzed Adonis” Beaton will, once again, appear on our screens very soon at The Grand Slam of Darts.

Showing few signs of letting up, this legendary career is now over 30 years long. It seems a good time to appreciate what should be regarded as a phenomenal career.

Early Days.

Although Steve did not become a full-time professional until the early 1990’s this was mainly due to the difficult time for professional darts, caused through poor image and lack of sponsorship & televised tournaments, from the mid 1980’s through to the mid 1990’s. He had however made his TV bow in the Double Diamond Masters, televised by ITV in 1984. He was narrowly defeated, at the Qtr Final stage, by the event winner, Dave Lee, other Qtr finalists included Bob Anderson, Keith Deller and Mike Gregory. The same year Steve made his World Masters Debut reaching the last 32, losing out to multiple world champion John Lowe.

With the opportunities to play professionally increasing Steve made huge progress in the early 1990’s. He began to reach the later stages, of the bigger BDO opens, regularly and was runner-up in the 1991 Gold Cup.

Giant Strides.

1993 was a true bounty year for Steve and set the tone for the career that was to come. A run to the Semi Finals of the BDO World Championships was the marker, over the next few months he won The British Pentathlon, British Matchplay, as well as several large opens, before being part of the England team that landed the WDF World Cup. The year would be highlighted by Steve becoming The World Master and thus claiming his first major TV title.

The next couple of years seemed to be a case of nearly but not quite. After a rousing, defense of his Masters title which he lost in the final to Richie Burnett, Steve captured the European Cup Singles and team titles but was eliminated twice in the first round of the World Championships.

Immortality

Steve joins the immortals.

Steve joins the immortals.

The World Championship hoodoo was put to bed in emphatic style in January 1996. If ever a dart player silenced his critics in style then this was it, Steve had had to put up with much comment about bottle and choking etc. due to his early defeats when favourite for the event. To win the event Steve had to defeat Co Stompe, John Part, Martin Adams, Andy Fordham and then Richie Burnett. I cannot recall another champion having to get past 4 consecutive world champions in order to win their own.

With a number of larger open wins, and another WDF Team World Cup title, 1996 was similar to his efforts of 1993, but this time as reigning World Champion!

Over the next few years Steve regularly reached the later stages of BDO events and the larger opens. During the conflict between the BDO and PDC darting organisation Steve regularly played the TV events organised by the PDC reaching the Semi Final of the 2001 World Matchplay.

Crossing the floor.

With more changes to the eligibility criteria, the move to the PDC full-time started with The World Professional Championships of 2002, in which Steve reached the last 16, less than a month after his appearance in the BDO World Masters. Due to a legal cross over some events remained accessible to players of both codes.

Las Vegas in the 2000's

Las Vegas in the 2000’s

Steve adjusted to the tour style of the PDC quickly and reached the semi finals of a PDC(1)(now classed as the Pro Tour) sanctioned event almost immediately. In addition he hit a 9 Dart Finish in the Irish Masters as well as again reaching the Semi Final of the World Masters. The first couple of years on the PDC tour could be seen as a steady process with qtr and semi final appearances in many floor events. However a Semi Final in the World Grand Prix of 2004 showed that he still had what it took, on stage, at the highest level.

Tough Times & Turn Arounds!

From The World Grand Prix of 2004 through to the start of the 2009 season could be described as the leanest of Steve career to date. The appearances in the later stages of the floor event fell away and early exits from the TV events became routine. His ranking slipped and things looked bleak.

Yet from this low point came a remarkable resurgence that, due to the fact he never quite went away, was barely noticed. Over that season Steve reached multiple Qtr, Semi Finals & Finals on the Pro Tour including becoming the Austrian Open Champion, the last 16 of The World Matchplay & The World Grand Prix and most remarkably, reached his first PDC major final. Losing out to Phil Taylor after removing Adrian Lewis, MVG, Mark Walsh & James Wade. This earned him in a place in The Grand Slam of Darts, for the first time, where he reached the last 16, less than a month later.

It would be fair to say that for the next 12 months Steve would consolidate the return without many stand out results, although good steady performances were ensuring his ranking was solid and he would be around for a while yet. The Autumn of 2010 would provide us with yet more proof that “The Adonis” could still rumble with the best and would be doing so for years to come.

After making his Grand Slam debut the year before, Steve was entitled to a second appearance, due to his major final at the Europeans of 2009. A very good run in The Champions League of Darts put those of us who are fans on guard for what was to come. Steve made it through a tough group stage with a superb, do or die, 5-1 win over Paul Nicholson. In the round of 16 he counted out double world champ Ted Hankey in a comfortable 10-6 win and would play The Power in his first big 5 Qtr final for a long time. If you love sport , natural ability and characters Steve performance will stick with you for a long time. Twice Steve won 5 legs in a row against the greatest to ever play. Both times he was in danger of being routed, and yet despite being 13-9 and 14-11 down he produced the 2nd run of 5 legs to win the match and reach the Semi Final.

Steve Beaton 2014 15

Sadly the tournament ended there for Steve with a 16-9 defeat to Scott Waites. It should be noted though that the scheduling of the semi was grossly unfair. Beaton, despite playing last the previous evening in a titanic struggle, was scheduled to play his semi final first the following day. “The Power” would not have had to contend with such nonsense!

Doing it in Style.

Throughout this superb career you hear darts players, and  fans, mentioning the same things over and over again, style, charisma, natural, relaxed, gentlemanly. Every now and then on social media, or internet forums, there will be a discussion of who has the best throw or is simply the best to watch live. Despite not being in the top ten or as well known as Eric, John Lowe, Phil or Hankey, MVG or Gary Anderson, The Adonis regularly comes out at, or near, the very top. This is simply because his throw really is a thing of simplicity and wonder.

Steve has always seemed to understand that the other elements of the game, such as TV, Walk On, interviews , exhibitions, promotions and sponsors, are necessary  and seems to naturally carry such obligation of with ease. After all anyone who can get away with the “Bronzed Adonis” tag, and walking on to Staying Alive with his shirt open in a seventies style, into his fifties must have something? His laid back approach and regular visits to Tennerife, to top up the bronze, belie the fact that he is a fierce competitor who excels in most things, as anyone who has played golf with him will agree.

Along the way Steve has served his fellow professionals on the PDPA board and designed darts and related items for manufacturers and himself alike. His exhibitions are renowned for phenomenal darts, with a genuine enjoyment of meeting and talking to players and fans alike, often until the small hours! He never seems in a hurry to get away and folk respond warmly.

Not many have had a career that entitles them to a section on their website entitled memory lane! Have a look here: http://stevebeaton.co.uk/gallery-2/video/

More to come!

Another trophy for the collection.

Another trophy for the collection.

In case this seems lie a fairwell piece, or lament for forgotten times, it should be noted that Steve appears far from finished yet! Following that superb 2010 season came another couple of solid years where Steve steadily rose in the rankings. A barron spell or two along the way came as a result of life issues such as we all face, yet in 2013 Steve claimed the German darts Championship on the (Euro) PDC ‘s European Tour. Thus adding another level of PDC event to his winning list. Since this point he has again been remarkably solid on the Pro Tour and in PDC TV majors. Only last weekend he reached the last 16 of the European Championships and has already qualified for the Players Championship Finals and The World Championships in January 2016.

Before that however comes a return to Wolverhampton and, after qualifying through the old-fashioned wildcard system, this could again mark a significant moment in Steve’s career. This year, for the first time, The Grand Slam is a seeded event and together with the other majors at this time of the year could see Steve, 32 years on from his TV debut and now aged 51, rising again to within sight of the top echelons of the darting world.

Surely then “The Adonis” will have joined the Oche Gods?

 

 

 

 

 

The Fight

 

Over 30 years ago two of ‘the four kings’, of 1980’s boxing, met for a contest dubbed simply as “The Fight”. In boxing terms, this would seem a little understated, after the event the name was changed to “The War”.

The War Poster

In a little under eight minutes, these two titans flouted every rule of superfights and waged an unremitting war, of brutal intensity and produced what is thought of, by many experts, as the greatest round ever. Experts and fans alike would also argue that, due to the skill, drama and primal nature of the encounter, the fight itself was the best ever witnessed.

Thomas ” The Hitman ” Hearns was a supreme finisher with a sledgehammer right hand that had seen off 30 of his first 32 opponents with knock-outs. Hearns, however, was moving up in weight, after winning world titles at welterweight and light middleweight, and was, on this occasion, the challenger.

Marvellous Marvin Hagler was the reigning champion. This awesome example of boxing finest was defending his title for the 11th time. Never yet receiving the credit his skills and durability deserved Hagler was motivated in part by a need to be recognised, and paid, at the level he believed he had earned. Having defeated Roberto Duran the previous year taking on “The Hitman” would mean only Sugar Ray Leonard would be missing from a stellar CV.

With the pre-fight tour finished, and tickets and TV rights sold, Hagler and Hearns divided a huge 11 million dollar purse almost equally. But could the fight live up to the hype and expectations surrounding it? Boxing at the time was in something of a slump, post-Muhammed Ali, and with Leonard retiring, its appeal was slipping. Add in that the anti-boxing campaigns were gaining traction, and the future did not look too rosy for the noble art.

Such thoughts were banished within seconds of the first round bell. Throwing all the conventions out of the window both men stormed at each other, simply attempting to batter the opponent into submission. The skill levels were astounding. Hearns managing to slip numerous punches and get his sledgehammer right hand to work. Hagler decided to accept those blows, in order to get to Hearns and weaken his body.

Hagler boxed both conventionally and southpaw style in order to confuse his opponent and throw off his angles. Round one saw Hagler slightly stunned by a very early right hand, but he soon reasserted himself and had reversed the situation completely.

Hagler Hearns Action Shot

It was simply awesome, the crowd realised they witnessing a special sporting moment and responded accordingly. The huge amounts of energy and power used early had commentators questioning how long it could go on in the middle of round one. Hagler was cut early through an accidental head clash and some straight Hearns blows worsened the injury.

As the bell sounds for the round end, both men try the defiant look at the other as if to say “I have got loads more where that came from”. Hagler’s looks more convincing that Hearns’ to me, but perhaps I am biased.

Have a look for yourselves:

Watch here

There you have it. 8 minutes of mayhem as “The Ring” magazine described the fight. Regarded by many fight fans as the pinnacle of Marvin Hagler’s superb career. It is difficult to imagine a greater testament to this awesome athletes skills, power, courage and determination. His reply to the ring doctor when asked if he could see Hearns, due to the blood near his eye’s, was simply “I ain’t missing him am I ?” His desperation not to be thwarted by another questionable decision was huge and resulted in his very best at the ultimate moment.

Hagler Held Aloft

Hearns would come again and, in a career that had huge peaks and a few troughs, would win multiple world titles at numerous weights and produce a remarkable rematch draw against Sugar Ray Leonard.

Yet, for many watching, the images of The Fight are those that sum up the era. Two greats sorting out the pecking order in a blunt and brutal style.

Floyd Mayweather & Manny Pacquiao will have to produce a remarkable exhibition if they are to supplant the images of that Marvelous night 30 years ago.

Hitman Out for The CountMarvelous Victorious