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A.I.M: Manufacturers Championship 2019

Who builds the better team? Who makes the best signings? Who improves & develops players? Who is the best Manufacturer / Sponsor?

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For 2019 A.I.M are presenting a simplified Manufacturers Championship version that should be interesting but not over techie or insider nonsense.

A.I.M use the PDC ranking events as a base. In each event, those who reach the Qtr Final or better will score points for their dart supplier/sponsor. Winner will get 10 points, runner / up 5, Semi 3 and Qtrs 1. In the case of televised major,  such as the upcoming UK Open, this will be doubled. For The World Championships, the multiplier will be 2.5. As an amendment, we add the BDO majors for the overall table.

Early Season Skirmishes

The first four ranking events of the season, Pro Tours 1-4, feature the return of a classic dart brand and a rebalancing between the other big names. Another classic brand/manufacturer took a bit of a beating.

  1. Red Dragon (38)
  2. Target (26)
  3. Unicorn (24)
  4. XQMax (21)
  5. Harrows (15)
  6. Bulls (6)
  7. Winmau (4)
  8. Cosmo (1)
  9. Powercore (1)

Red Dragon managed to head the table overall through scoring in every event with a mix of players. Price has moved up a level whilst Wright, Hendo and Clayton all performed well and scored for the team.

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RD excelling in the constructors’ championship?

Target proved hit or miss with Dave Chisnall ensuring a highlight early on while on other days they did poorly, Ricky Evans has stormed through to provide high quality back up. XQ Max still features well with 21 points (two wins) from the four events. This excellent effort is tempered with the fact that all points were gained through a single player. MVG is clearly carrying this vehicle. Unicorn managed to spread their effort across more players including some newcomers including Harry Ward ( Gavin Carlin may well push them over the top as his darts look very like Unicorn Grippers to me!) and in every event, they will also benefit from the return of Gary Anderson.

Harrows made a welcome return to the higher ranks. Their retention of Glenn Durrant ensures they have another iconic name and their 15 points were all gained by the debut-making northeasterner. Josh Payne may also add to Harrows success and represent the younger generation. Bulls continued there recent success with James Wattinema claiming five points with a final appearance. Lees established or smaller brands have yet to make much of a dent in the 2019 table. Cosmo nicked points through Steve West’s efforts and Powercore look to have done well by snapping up Ryan Searle. Perhaps the most surprising was the paltry 10 points picked up by Winmau. Merv King gained them 3 handy points, another was gained by Matt Edgar who despite not having an official dart supplier uses a Winmau Navigator set.

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Harrows returned to the PDC in style.

 Transfers / Signings Activity & Gossip.

Recent gossip about Adrian Lewis leaving Target seems to have died down. His end of season rally in 2018 may well have reminded them of his value. It remains to be seen whether Harrows decide to back up their outfit with another UK / European player or two. Winmau clearly needs a shot in the arm. Their main player roster looks a little one dimensional and although none of them should be written off they do look a little vulnerable to a changing of the guard. Gurney carrying the new generation banner almost alone seems tough. Nathan Aspinall’s move to Target should not surprise anyone as they seem very keen to add proven young talent to their stable, even if it is riskier than their previous ‘darting galacticos’ strategy. Unicorn look a little vulnerable in depth terms. Their team are performing very well but Wade needs to be ber very careful, Gary Anderson seems injury prone and Jelle Klaasen is totally out of sorts. If they can find a star name to prise away from elsewhere to join them it should not be a surprise. Look out for smaller companies or those from the Far East making an impact again soon. In recent years they have been very successful it seems unlikely that this would simply stop. Powercore’s gamble on Ryan Searle, for example, looks a fine bet.

Whether the major companies attempt to poach Clemens, Searle et al may worth keeping an eye on. Do Evo, Powercore, and others, have the reach or ability to develop? Are the contracts solid enough to ensure they get the benefits of their risk/investment?

 

 

A.I.M: Darts Manufacturers Championship 2018, Unicorn retain their dominance.

A.I.M have been closely observing darts for close to a decade. Whether it’s for coaching players, designing/testing products or advising clients, the progression of everything darts is important to us. Who add value to their players? Which have the best signing success? Who is on the up? Who has past their peak?

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Despite staying relatively quiet, Team Unicorn has retained its dominance in overall success.

Along the way, we produced a simple league table for comparing the success of darts manufacturers. We use PDC ranking events as a base. Then we add selected major events from the BDO. The players who reach the last 8 of Pro Tour events receive 1 point, semi-finalists 3, Runner Up 5 and the Winner receive 10. These points are doubled for majors and multiplied by 2.5 for the world championships. To ensure maximum openness we use ranking events only. Here is the 2018 Constructors Table:

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  1. Unicorn (381) 
  2. XQ Max (205)
  3. Red Dragon (199.5)
  4. Winmau (172.5)
  5. Target (161.5)
  6. Bulls (120.5)
  7. Cosmo (48)
  8. One80 (45)
  9. Harrows (13)
  10. Bit of Bully (9.5)

When it comes to signing players, the biggest, and longest established, companies attempt to combine a handful of legendary names with a few of current champions and a smattering of players they believe may move up a level. Recently more female players, players from mainland Europe or Asia, and more youth development have been added. Newer or smaller companies try to spot undiscovered or undervalued talent or back players with a legacy that may sparkle again. This has worked well for Powercore ( Ryan Searle) & Bit of Bully (Ryan Joyce) and Evo-Darts (Gabriel Clemens) for example.

Despite the attention given to other companies in recent years, Unicorn has again managed to produce a squad of players that perform in every type of event and combines dominant champions with other talented winners. Their 2nd group seem to step up regularly and when required. XQ Max has again relied totally on MVG for their points but his prolific form ensures this remains a successful strategy.

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RD excelling in the constructor’s championship. 

Red Dragon has continued their upward momentum and is neck and neck with XQ Max in the PDC table ahead of them when the BDO events are included. The progress of Gerwen price has added another elite level player to Team RD who look more balanced. Their long term support of players is also looking productive. Both Jamie Lewis and Johnny Clayton seem to have benefited from the supportive, family atmosphere that RD create.

Target Dart Logo

Target’s massive investment, in players, designs and marketing, had been paying great dividends. This may have plateaued in 2018. Their old guard are heading into retirements and some of their other top stars had slow years. Rob Cross, Chizzy, Alan Norris and others did not produce their best last years and as such Target slipped into a distant fifth place. Winmau also underperformed for such a famed brand and will need to rework their line up in the coming years or so. They have great ambassadors, who are still playing well, but only Gurney is consistently gaining them high levels of attention.

Eric Wins 3 in a row

The 1st player to win the three in a row. Bristow has been joined by Duzza, another Harrows player.

Harrows, darting royalty to many, made a low key return to the success on the PDC side in 2018. Josh Payne claimed a Pro Tour title and is generally progressing very typically for a Harrow’s player. Three-time Lakeside Champ Glen Durrant will ensure this name is seen across the codes in 2019.

All in all, it was a ‘steady as you go’ year across the PDC ranking events. Red Dragon performed well and look to be on the up. Unicorn’s long practised strategy again proved correct and most of the other big names dipped a little. The rise of  One80 (in the BDO) & the Independents is good to see and may well continue through to 2019. A.I.M will repeat the exercise and see which Team’s signings, and development, progress the most. 

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The Pro Tour Revolution Continues.

In 2018 AIM suggested that the removal of entry fees, for the Pro Tour level of professional darts, together with the increases in early stage prize money, would revolutionise the game. It appears we were right!

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Nathan Aspinall – Claimed his first Pro Tour Title in 2018

A quick glance at the results from this week’s first Pro Tour events might suggest to you that all is normal and nothing much changes. MVG wins one event & Dave Chisnall the second. So far so much the same. Yet you don’t have to look much further to see significant change. Day 1 featured Scott Baker reaching the semifinals at the first attempt. Well, there are often good one-off performances you might say. Agreed, but, Harry Ward another brand new tour card holder, also reached the quarterfinals. At least six of the last sixteen are outside the top 32. Many other new or lesser ranked players won multiple games and got off to solid starts Gavin Carlin being another example. Although Day 2 looked a little more conventional in terms of name recognition many, such as Robert Thornton are currently out of the top echelon. Change is upon the Pro Tour and folks had better adjust.

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The Green Machine. MVG claimed another Pro Tour title.

The reasons for this are three-fold and relatively obvious. First is the shear proven talent level in the field. With a cursory glance through the field 45 or more players have reached at least the final of a Pro Tour or have done so at a televised major event! More than one in three of the starting field. These are without a doubt the strongest, in-depth, fields to play professional darts. Therefore it is no surprise that on any given day any player can find their “A Game” and record results that might be beyond recent expectations. The number of games where history, personality and psychology are highly relevant has also increased. Many supposed shocks are not really such, they are more complex than “current form” suggests.

Secondly, new Tour Card holders, & top up players, totally different from those of only a few years ago. They do not have to spend a fortune to play and so are not as weighed down by the financial burdens as previously. In addition, they have had seen plenty of unsung players break through and achieve major success. It does not seem like a closed shop anymore. Players like Mark Hylton & James Richardson showed you don’t have to have been major BDO successes to break through. Gerwen Price has demonstrated how far and how quickly people from outside the “usual routes” can go. Ryan Searle, Luke Humphries, Nathan Aspinall and Mickey Mansell have given examples of different types of success. Whether it’s proving that the PDC system suites some players that did not flourish in the BDO (Searle) or that you can shrug off a few non-descript years and your day may still come (Mansell) it’s still an example to anyone with the grit and talent to persist.

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Mark Hylton – Showed that a record of BDO type success was not needed.

Thirdly, the field variation is growing. Few years or so ago almost all the top players would play almost every Pro Tour event. This was required by both financial needs, less money was in the game, and ranking/qualification requirements. This is far less so in 2019. With Gary Anderson injured and the Premier League about now underway, there will be more and more variations in the field. Over a period of time. with effects on individual events, and the seedings for later ones, and players confidence and ranking positions, these variations have very large effects overall.

Could it be that the PDC have noticed this and attempted to offset some of this in order to protect its biggest stars? The sudden and unexpected changing of the format in the later stages may not only bring the Pro Tour into line with the Euro Tour. It may also serve to assist those used to playing slightly longer format darts. Premier League players and those used to later stages of the Euro Tour are definitely at an advantage for a least a few months, perhaps longer. It will be interesting to see how many of the “Outsider” players triumph in Semi and Finals?

In the meantime, those on the tour should learn that defeat at any stage, and to any player, is purely an occupational hazard whilst not allowing it to have any effect on their confidence to turn the tables in the very next event. In addition, they should practise over the best of fifteen and be able to perform at the end of long sessions. Resilience and stamina could prove the qualities in most demand.

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Ian White: The Template of Pro Tour Resilience & Stamina?

The Pro Tour Revolution is gaining momentum!

Premier League 2019: Opening Night. Welcome to Hollywood!

Following much debate over who should be selected, in the first place, and then again over who should replace the injured Gary Anderson, the PDC Premier League will get underway tonight in Newcastle (UK).

The first of “The Contenders” will also take a bow. Chris Dobey has been on the verge of a breakthrough for some time. Hollywood, as Dobey is known, first came to our attention in 2014, qualified for the UK Open and reached the last 32 of the World Masters.

Chris Dobey a.k.a Hollywood.
Pic: PDC

After success at Q School in 2015, Chris played the PDC Pro Tour full time. He also received the support of Gary Anderson. After a year of settling in Dobey finally began to show what he could do in 2016. Great runs on the Pro Tour, especially the Euro Tour, ensured qualification for the World Championship, he also qualified separately for the Grand Slam and reached the Qtr Final.
Dobey again plateaued, for twelve months, when many thought he was destined for greater things. After flattering to deceive again, during most of 2018, Chris finally moved up a gear during the Players Championship finals and again in the World championships. His run to the last 16 was superb, but his defeat at the hands of Gary Anderson gained him many fans and was lauded as one of the best games of the event.

Dobey earned his guest slot in the Premier League
Pic; PDC /L Lustig

The serendipitous withdrawal of his Mentor has given Dobey an unexpected opportunity to show his talent to a far wider audience.  It will be interesting to see if the Dobey of last December will be on stage, or whether it will be the intimidated Hollywood, of twelve months previously, who capitulated to The Power in 2017/8. If the 2019 Dobey appears, it will be a very tough opening night for the hugely popular Mensur Sulovic.

Mensur, Hugely popular Austrian with an infectious manner.
Pic: L Lustig / PDC

Elsewhere, Raymond van Barneveld will begin his long farewell to professional darts, taking on fellow former champion James Wade. It is highly debatable that RVB deserves, on form, to be in this year’s edition. However, the Barny Army will get a final chance to enjoy its hero in a regular, competitive and entertaining setting. It could inspire Barney to great things or prove too much pressure for this strangely vulnerable fella. Regardless of the outcome, surely RVB’s contribution to darts deserves a decent send-off.

RVB (could fade into the background
while Ian White needs to discover a route
to TV success. Pic : Lustig / PDC

While players such as Ian White (above), Simon Whitlock and Joe Cullen can count themselves as unlucky not to have been given a shot at the full league, it may prove a masterstroke to feature new blood almost every week.

Local stars and seriously talented newcomers are what inspire crowds and refresh the game for new generations of players and fans. Here’s hoping the idea gets off to a Hollywood start!

Riley’s UK Open Qualifiers 2019 – Pro’s Finding it Tough.

Former Pro’s and ‘Name’ Players are being given an increasingly hard time at grassroots qualifiers.

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Colin Osborne: UK Open Finalist
Can “The Wizard” adjust to open qualifiers?
Pic: PDC

The annual scramble for the ‘amateur’ places in the is well and truly underway. For the last few years, these have been decided via several knockout events staged at Riley’s clubs across the country. During this time it has become more a more difficult to get through these events and there are fewer & fewer spots available.

Recent changes to the professional qualifying events have further restricted the spots and increased the number of current, or recent, tour/elite players having to use this route. This throws up some superb quality fields in smallish venues with few of the creature comforts they are used to. Very long days, that vary in terms of organisational skills, few practice boards and little free space, mean anyone who qualifies via this route has certainly earned it! The evidence of Rob Cross and his astounding progress proves what’s out there. So Ego beware!

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Rob Cross: Voltage’s journey began with a Riley’s qualifier win!
Pic: PDC

Wes Newton became the latest ‘Star Name’ to reach the 2019 finals. The Warrior came through a very long and tough day in Chorlton. Kevin Thoburn triumphed, after 10pm, over a field that included Colin Osbourne, a former UK Open finalist, and current form horse Richie Edhouse. Other tour players including Scott Taylor & Mark Barrilli also qualified through quality fields. In other qualifiers, however, players such as Ian McFarlane Shaun Fox & Micheal Burgoine used their extensive open event experience to triumph on similarly difficult days.

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Richie Edhouse. MadHouse, current form horse fell short in Nottingham qualifier. Pic: PDC

The long and short of this is that a reputation means a lot less than it once did in such events. The fact that there are usually a few big-name players, with a good history in each event rather than one or two is a factor, but also the challenge tour, and other events, have given a wide range of payer a lot of semi-professional experience. They are therefore less intimidated, more familiar with big games and more confident than ever before. Team Riley’s should be stronger than ever for 2019.

The remaining Riley’s Qualifiers will have more and more concentrated fields with ‘Name’ players struggling to grab one shrinking numbers of places. It promises to be difficult, but an intriguing couple of weekends. With the constant evolution of the game, and players experience banks, means the breadth of quality is getting higher every year.

Former, or semi, professionals need to prepare better, adapt to the different conditions and accept the difficulties of such day, if they are to resist the hordes of quality players who in many ways have them at a disadvantage.


Durrant Leads ‘Contenders’to Replace Anderson in Premier League

Anderson is suffering from injury. Pic: PDC

Sadly, Gary Anderson has had to withdraw from this year’s Premier League due to a troublesome back injury that has had bothered him for some time. After frenzied speculation, the PDC has opted not to replace him directly, which must upset Simon Whitlock immensely, and instead invite six up and coming players to gain experience of the event.

A combination of recent performances, geography and commercial factors seem to have been taken into account. Three-time & reigning BDO World Champion Glenn Durrant will lead of ‘The Contenders Team’ in Glasgow next week.  There was much gossip that Durrant would be invited straight into the League as a straight replacement. However, the potential backlash against a player who only won his PDC tour card a couple of weeks ago seems to have weighed against that option.

Most of the other players are those who have had good success, at various levels, in recent times and are linked to the locations where they have been invited to play. Steve Lennon will play in Dublin, John Henderson in Aberdeen, Dimitri Van Den Bergh appears in Rotterdam along with Jeffrey De Zwann, Max Hopp is rewarded for his wins last year with a home appearance in Berlin. Three 2019 World Championship stars are rewarded with places. Nathan Aspinall will appear in Nottingham, Luke Humphries in Exeter and Chris Dobey in Newcastle.

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Young Nathan Aspinall will play the
Premier League in Nottingham 2019

These contenders may have a big influence on the 2019 event. They are financially and otherwise incentivised to win their games and those they play will keep the points should they defeat the newcomers. It is highly likely that these matches will have effects on who goes home on elimination night and the finishing positions overall.

Personally, I would not be happy to draw Duzza or The ASP, whilst Chris Dobey & John Henderson in their native lands could be very hard to handle.

Challenge Tour 2019 Hits the Highs. (Events 1-4)

Our recent assertion that Challenge Tour 2019 was not to be missed, (here,) was proven immediately at the first weekend of events from Wigan’s Robin Hood Centre. The first four events were claimed by Sean Carroll, Stephan Burton, Richie Edhouse and Boris Koltzov respectively. This, however, tells little of an outstanding weekend of darts.

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Richie Edhouse. Winner of Event 3 Performed well all weekend and tops the CT Order of Merit after 4 events.

Blitzing the Averages!

The CT usually averages around 80 points per throw, over the whole game. This is due to the “pay to play” nature of Q School leaving a wide range of players eligible for the CT. There are a lot of 85-90 results that offset the 60’s & 70’s recorded early on. 2019 however may well be very different.

Event 1 of 2019 featured no fewer than seven different players averaging over 100. Matty Dennant, more of whom later, chalked up 104 early on. The performance of the day, however, came from Dutchman Wesley Plaisier. Matched with former UK Open Finalist, and multiple tour winner, Colin “The Wizard” Osbourne, he produced an outstanding effort. Plaisier averaged over 127 with his first nine darts and hit more than 65% of his doubles. His overall average was dragged down to 107 by a pedestrian 16 dart leg to win the match.

Event 3 featured the highest average to be hit on the CT and one of the highest in PDC conditions. Matty Dennant, who narrowly missed out at the recent UK Q School, averaged 119 vs the hapless Scott Dale. Dennant completed a 5-1 win hitting legs of 11,14,12,12 & 11 darts. Only an average 5th leg prevented Dennant from recording and even higher overall.

Despite these outstanding efforts, Plaisier reached only 23 on the Order of Merit after four events and Dennant may not even make the qualifiers as he is only tied for 32nd place.

Debutant Shines

A couple of weeks ago AIM / Dart X tipped an outsider to do well at Q School and possibly gain a  tour card. It cannot be denied that we looked a little optimistic, to put it mildly, when he underperformed badly and barely troubled the scorers. However, it turns out that we were not daft, just premature.

Sean Carroll has been working the BDO tour for a while and has been playing his league & open darts in a highly competitive area of the Midlands. Somewhat like last years “surprise package”, Jason Lowe, Carroll was respected by many knowledgable folk and good players. But had not quite achieved the breakthrough many, including us, thought he would.

As if to put the tough experience, of Q School, behind him Shaun blitzed the Challenge Tour event at the first time of asking. In his first few rounds, he overcame the talented, such as Vince Tipple (5-4), as well as the experienced including Steve Hine (5-1). His Qtr Semi & Final wins were even more impressive as defeated Edhouse (Winner of event 3), Mick Todd and the in-form Patrick Lynskey to complete a superb run to a maiden PDC title, at the first attempt.

Big Names are Fair Game!

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Former PDC World No.4 Dennis Smith another to struggle this weekend.

If any of the illustrious names competing on this years CT were under the delusion that their past deeds or experience in matchplay situations would gain them much they will have been rudely awaked this weekend.

Multiple World Champions John Part & Scott Waites, Premier Leaguer Wez Newton, former UK Open Finalist Colin Osborne and many others bumped into some lesser known guys playing world class darts. Others such as Andy Hamilton & Andrew Gilding discovered progress was possible but they would have to graft through every game and play at near their current peak in order to get a few hundred quid on the board. A far cry from the thousands or tens of thousands they have been in the mix for until very recently.

For most of these guys, the path back to their peak level is proving very difficult. Some have ventured into the BDO hoping fresh players and venues would help them to find their footing. Others have struggled to accept the situation they are in and assume that the wheel of fortune will turn again. They seem to forget that there are hundreds of hungry, and less battle-scarred, players who are determined to jump on that wheel when it comes and they are more than happy to push those who have had their turn out of the way.

Don’t be surprised if any of these guys or others who have seen the glory, have a big run or put together some impressive performances. You don’t get where they were without being top quality dart players. However, don’t be surprised if they fall when the promised land is back in sight.

 

March of the Ladies

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The Challenge Tour has seemed a lonely place for female players in the last few years. Rachel Brooks and more recently Lisa Ashton had often carried the flag alone or between them. Following Ashton’s success and the PDC’s efforts to involve women players in the 2019 World Championships a corner seems to have been turned. The ladies were represented by a group of famous names with talent and experience. Lorraine Winstanley, Deta Hedman, Fallon Sherrock and Anastasia Dobromyslova joined Brookes & Ashton.

Lisa again seemed to be the pick of the bunch with three last 64 appearances and £150 toward the OOM. Recording averages in the mid-high eighties regularly and into the 90’s at times. Fallon also reached the L64 on a couple of occasions, while Anastasia had a run to the last 32 in event 4. It is plain for anyone to see that this group and others are more than able to compete at this level and, should they wish to, it is only a matter of practice planning and time before the level playing field is a reality.

It will be interesting to see whether the interaction between the BDO and PDC, where the women’s game is concerned, will produce a big step forward for the integration of the game at the highest levels.

The Long & Short of It!

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So, after four superb events, the CT 2019 is well and truly underway. The top section of the OOM looks like this:

Rank Player Country Points
1 Ritchie Edhouse England £2,600
2 Boris Koltsov Russia £2,250
3 Stephen Burton England £2,250
4 Shaun Carroll England £2,000
5 Nathan Rafferty Northern Ireland £1,300
6 Dave Prins England £1,300
7 Mick Todd England £1,100
8 Patrick Lynskey England £1,050
9 Scott Taylor England £1,000
10 Jason Askew England £800
11 Andrew Gilding England £800
12 Andy Hamilton England £750
13 Diogo Portela Brazil £750
14 Jason Wilson England £600
15 Ricky Williams England £600
16 Dennis Nilsson Sweden £550
17 Brett Claydon England £550
18 Darren Herewini New Zealand £500
19 Martin Atkins England £500
20 Dave Ladley England £500
21 Darren Johnson England £400
22 Jeffrey de Graaf Netherlands £400
23 Wesley Plaisier Netherlands £400
24 William Borland Scotland £400
25 Danny Van Trijp Netherlands £400
26 Jesús Noguera £350
27 Stu Wilson England £350
28 Chris Quantock England £350
29 Michael Rasztovits Austria £350
30 Cody Harris New Zealand £350
31 Dafydd Edwards Wales

Although the first four events are unusual, in as much as they count as qualifiers for various things, the top eight or so have put themselves in a very strong position for the rest of the year.  The breadth of first and second level experience in the top thirty or so is very high indeed. Many have played at world championships, on the Pro Tour and some have done even mightier deeds. Yet there are debutants, younger players and those from foreign fields all making a name for themselves. New Zealander Darren Herewini for example impressed at Q School, beating Glenn Durrant along the way, and has started well here. It will be for the big names to put together a series of results over multiple weekends if they are to threaten the Tour Card and major qualifier places.

This tour will be one of the most competitive and interesting out there in 2019. Don’t miss the CT weekend or the AIM summary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Challenge Tour 2019, A Feast for Darts Fans.

If you’re a serious, perhaps even an old school, darts fan then you should follow the PDC Challenge Tour in 2019.  The PDC’s equivalent of The Championship retains many of the advantages of the Pro Tour, such as great playing conditions that are constant for every event, efficient and consistent organisation (and officialdom) as well as, thanks to DartsConnect.com, excellent real-time playing coverage and statistical / data availability.

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Sure, there are a few drawbacks, limited spectator/guest space and no streaming (yet?) being the major ones. But if you like open, regular, competitive and less predictable darts, often of very high standards, this is the place.

Why it Matters.

Challenge Tour (CT) weekends have been of increasing importance, and standard, over the last few years and it appears they will continue to be so. The BDO’s decision to allow players to attend Q School without consequence lead to quite a few additional big names, and high-quality players, now being eligible for CT 2019. In addition, the number of former PDC major players, whether slightly past their peak or returning to winning ways, is growing every year as a generational change moves across the Pro Tour.

In its original format, the CT was a decent enough second division for up & coming players or those who had lost their way, combined with a majority of what could be described as journeymen ( & Women) dart players who could enjoy a great weekend’s serious darts for relatively little cost. It has turned into an extension of the Pro-Tour for many who, for one reason or another, narrowly failed to win a Pro Tour Card.

For those who can reach the higher echelons of the CT, after Events 1-4, they will be able to play the qualifier events for the European Tour as well as filling any missing spaces on the Pro Tour itself. The combination of regular highly competitive darts, in a similar environment, decent income and opportunities at the next level, can be highly effective and beneficial.

An Alternative Route to the Top or a Return Path for the Fallen?

Rob CRoss managed to use the CT as a staging post on his fairytale route to winning at every level of the PDC Tour and claiming the World ChampionshipMicheal Barnard demonstrated this very effectively in 2018. After missing out on a tour card  Barnard set about the CT with a vengeance. His two final appearances, & a Qtr final, ensured that he would be at every Euro Tour qualifier for 2018 as well as putting him at the top of the substitute list for the first few Pro Tour events. The £2,300 probably eased any financial worries as well! Thus a more relaxed Barnard reached the last 16 of his first Pro Tour event of the year, qualified for the UK Open and scored a Euro Tour qualification before the next challenge tour weekend was due! Needless to say, he did not stop there. Within weeks Barnard turned into a regular winner of early round money on the Pro Tour, boosted by his CT efforts, and over the season qualified for both the Players Championship Finals and then The World Championship itself. His earnings in this period exceeded £55,000!  The icing on the cake, for Micheal, took the form of an automatic tour card meaning no Q School and a place on the Pro Tour itself for 2019. How he will perform, without the second tier earnings, regular winning habits and camaraderie, is yet to be revealed.

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Micheal Barnard. The Ultimate Challenge Tour Success Story.

Overall the CT is usually about ten points below the main tour, with players averaging around eighty. This, however, includes a small number of players who are in the very early stages of development and thus can produce some very low scores. This type of player no longer features on the highest tour thus Pro Tour averages come from a selected elite group. It may well be that the difference is more like five points than ten when this is taken into account.  There are a very large number of players overall, over 500 are eligible to play, and a very large percentage are of similar ability.  As a result, players such as Wayne Jones and Alan Tabern have found the slightly lower average level useful in re-finding their feet and returning to Pro Tour. The CT even has its yo-yo players such as Mark Frost ( Frosty The Throw Man!) who seemed to be too good for one and not able to progress in the other.

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The Wanderer. Wayne Jones managed to use the Challenge Tour to return to the top level.

Better and Better

2019 promises a change, the experience level of many of the players is remarkably high. There are world champions, runners up, Premier League players as well as hardened semi-pro types from all over the UK and increasingly the rest of the globe! The talent and potential are virtually limitless and I suspect we will see very high-performance levels and possible records being set on a regular basis.

Add to the above the fact that the draw is totally open and fresh for every event, and you have a recipe for a very explosive and entertaining series of tournaments that may well prove better than ever before and a hidden highlight of the PDC. Surely Barry Hearn will not miss the opportunity to promote the PDC’s efforts for long and streaming will be extended to include the CT.

If your a darts fan and love unpredictable, high level and seriously competitive darts then the 2019 CT is not to be missed. Until then snag yourself a guest pass, boot up your laptop or get practising for next years Q School. 

Tommy Cox – A Darts Great!

I had been recently working on a feature piece for a soon to be relaunched publishing icon. A few days ago I drafted my initial section on Tommy Cox. With today’s dreadful news of Tommy’s untimely death,  it seems appropriate to let it stand alone:

Tommy Cox
Tommy Cox – A Founding Far.
Pic: PDC

Tommy Cox & The WDC/PDC: It is quite possible that without Tommy Cox, and those who formed the WDC, darts would have returned to the pubs and clubs and never again reached the heights we see today. Cox and other founding members were determined to give the best players more TV events, bigger prizes and improve the game. Darts had endured tough times. Due to the outbreak of political correctness with TV/advertising companies wrongly believing the game was out of date and not marketable. The BDO & Olly Croft were happy with a couple of big TV events and did not believe that they ” owed the players a living”. Tommy disagreed.

For the full horrid fallout see Blood on the Carpet (The split in darts) on YouTube –Here

Cox and the players fought the BDO at every turn, ending up the high court. Tommy used his own money, and remortgaged his own house, to ensure the WDC survived. Once the WDC progressed and was stable, Sky TV and Barry Hearn stepped in to take things toward the level we see now. Worldwide PDC darts, hugely successful in Europe and gaining ground in every corner of the globe is the end result. Tommy’s desire that there were enough opportunities for players to thrive and the game to progress seems to have been met in spades. Tommy then spent many years as PDC tournament director. This made sure the events were superbly staged and ran like clockwork.

Thus the professional game was truly born and Tommy Cox was its midwife!

On a personal level, I met Tommy on many occasions, we even had the odd run-in, but, once he worked out that I truly had player’s interest at heart, was hugely helpful and supportive. I admired the way he operated and respected the events he helped make, for players and fans alike, some of the best in the world.

Thank you, Tommy, may you Rest in Peace.

Notes from Nowhere

A superb work. Summarising the feelings of many.

Outside In

I think I was 14. It was an English lesson, as I recall. And the words were delivered with the hint of a smirk.

‘Well of course, the Sun has a reading age of eight.’

Innocuous enough. And I didn’t know if it was true, nor much care. The truth was less important than the implication, to be honest, veracity less important than meaning. I knew what was going on, what was really being said: ‘here are people who are not like us, we clever ones, we sophisticated ones, we who can see through the ruse to the ignorance of folk. We, children, know better, are better.’

I wanted to be part of the in-group. I wanted to have real status and authority, too. To be like you, Sir, all knowledgeable and self-assured and authoritative. I didn’t want to be one of Them, so subtly scorned with a barbed comment…

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