Tag Archives: Nathan Aspinall

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!

Nathan Aspinall

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.

MVG Gurn Away

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.

DARTS

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.

cropped-ian-white-2011.jpg

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

The Pro Tour Revolution is gaining momentum!

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.

Nathan Aspinall
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.

501 or More: Challenge Tour 2017 Events 9-12.

The fourth weekend continued  the rough pattern developed over the previous three in 2017. Strong performances, from the “Yo Yo’s” with the “New Brooms” chipping in again.

Wayne Jones, Andy Smith and Alex Roy for the Yo Yo’s. Jaques, Aspinall and Josh Richardson doing damage in bursts for the new brooms. The leaderboard remains relatively stable but the bunching up behind “The Wanderer” is getting closer.

Pieman Adapts to New Menu!

2011 Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship - Day Eleven

As predicted, Andy Smith’s slow start burst into life this weekend. The Pieman has the skill and persona to thrive on this tour and is beginning to do so. Steady results on Saturday were followed by a strong run to Sunday’s final. Andy’s draw on Sunday was pretty tough and this seemed to pull the best out of him. He has now crashed into the top 16 on the Order of Merit and is likely to rise again during the later stages of the season.

A Fine Double Act! 

Black Country pairing of Nick Fullwell and Ian Jones should be familiar to anyone who plays open events around the midlands. Travelling partners, and friends, the two have been a regular, and winning, fixture for many years. The arrival of Jones on the PDC tour was always likely to result in Fullwell benefiting. This Sunday featured a Semi Final for each of them and you can rest assured it will not be the last. Almost no one associated with darts would begrudge Nick the extra support , and motivation, which Ian can provide. As for “Whippet” now that he has begun to acclimatise, to regular PDC events, his legendary will to win and battling qualities will become familiar to many more.

A Learning Curve?

challenge tour logo

Radaslaw Szaganski and Robert Rickwood have added two more names to the rush of players proving that past performance is not always a current guide. Neither of these two players had performed outstandingly on the Unicorn Challenge Tour previously, despite Rickwood having solid performances this year, yet Robert claimed a victory and Radaslaw a runner’s up spot in events 9 & 10 respectively. Evidence is beginning to build regarding the benefit of patience and exposure to PDC conditions and formats. A look at the Pro Tour Players Championship events of 2017 will confirm that this is applying at all levels.

Ashton Watch

A no-show from Lisa this weekend. This is probably a very sensible action. She must be able to keep her options open for as long as possible. Although she has shown herself to be competitive, on the tour, the other opportunities available to her mean that she has a chance to build her career in any code or gender balanced events. Should she choose to take part in the remaining events or simply play pick and mix for a while she is able to gain income, experience and confidence from the breadth available to her.

Next Generation

Three standout moments from the next younger players this weekend. Nathan Aspinall winning at this level marks another step in his development, due to his slightly unconventional style “The Asp” is underestimated by many. His match playing ability and talent level should gain him more opportunities at all levels in the coming years. The return to form, although too early to tell, of James Hubbard is welcome, he is a very nice young guy who has suffered severely in recent months. Finally Josh Richardson seems to be again making progress. His choices, in terms of event selection and attitude, seem good, together with his dad, and progress is being made.

Feel Good Story.

A few years ago Paul Harvey looked on the verge of a breakthrough into the higher levels of the game. He reached the semi final of the British Open in 2010 and was playing at a very high level through at least the early part of 2011. It is great to see a return to something approaching this form in recent months. Should he reach, or surpass, those previous levels then keep a very close eye on him.

Order of Merit.

Nathan Aspinall

Young Nathan Aspinall playing the role of David to James Wade’s Goliath in 2015

Jones and Dyer are still in the tour card positions but the pack behind is both expanding in numbers and condensing in terms of the differences between their totals. Wayne Jones is unlikely to slip out of the top two. The additional automatic tour card and the next eight places, earning a free Q School entry, are still available. Aspinall, Rickwood have shown that one victory makes a huge difference and others such as Andy Smith and Luke Humphries seem to be gathering momentum for the later part of the season.

All in all a very good advert for the Unicorn Challenge Tour and it’s likely to get even better in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

UK Open 2016 – PDC & Coral’s FA Cup of Darts – Preview

Coral Uk Open Logo

The Coral UK Open is one of many darts fan’s favorite events. The only TV tournament that offers a random draw, re done after every round, and genuine opportunity for newer faces and genuine amateur players to make a name for themselves.

With seven different winners and a different runner-up in every event, thirteen in total, the UK Open provides much-needed variety and interest. It has become known as The FA Cup of Darts!

The last few years have seen the event screened by iTV4. This years edition takes place from Friday March 4th – Sunday March 6th and thus reaches a large audience of terrestrial viewers.

 Qualifying routes, for both 96 PDC “Professional” players and 32 places secured through winning open knock out events in Riley’s sports bars across the UK, the field of 128 contains a mix of players from all walks of life as well as the many start names of modern TV darts. Taylor, MVG, and Anderson will all be there in the later stages.

The Green Machine. Winner in 2015 was pushed all the way by Andrew Gilding in the Semi Final

The Green Machine. Winner in 2015 was pushed all the way by Andrew Gilding in the Semi Final

The event takes place over three intense days and sees play on multiple boards that can be covered, or switched too, for moments of high drama. The two main stages provide live TV and streamed matches and are often scheduled to give lesser known faces or interesting matches greater exposure.

Players are scheduled to come into the draw at various stages, over the first two days of the event, with the higher ranked professionals entering in the last 64 stage. A good number of David vs Goliath match ups results, as well as star players meeting different, and sometimes tougher, competition at earlier stages than in many major events.

The Wizard gave his career a huge boost reaching the UK Open Final

The Wizard gave his career a huge boost reaching the UK Open Final

Early Highlights.

Several star names will be seen earlier than usual on Friday. Wes Newton , a former finalist, will open up the main stage and former Champion Robert Thornton will appear a few matches later. Both should have enough to win their first games, although Mark Cox could trouble Wes, if he settles quickly, and the winner of Aaron Monk v Stuart Rattray will have had the benefit of playing a match before taking on The Thorn.

Young Nathan Aspinall playing the role of David to James Wade's Goliath in 2015

Young Nathan Aspinall playing the role of David to James Wade’s Goliath in 2015

There are some good-looking clashes scattered around the outside boards. The vastly experienced, and resurgent, Mick McGowen will take on World Youth Championship runner-up Nathan Aspinall and former world number five, Dennis Smith will take on Alex Roy in a battle of the young veterans!

Rising “Amateurs”

Can "The Rock" a success via Riley's qualifiers?

Can “The Rock” a success via Riley’s qualifiers?

The group of Amateur / Rileys qualifiers is as strong as it has ever been for the 2016 event. Several former PDC players have used this route. Alex Roy has been an almost ever-present in the UK Open and has played in more than fifteen world championships. Peter Hudson has extensive experience on both PDC tours and has had several great moments at this event. Steve Maish, Jason Hogg, Ian McFarlane, John Scott and Daniel Day also have extensive PDC experience.

In addition, to these more seasoned players, some very strong players are coming through after “learning their trade”. Andy Brown has huge talent and, having taken some time to re group, could be a serious threat. Darren Layden will give it nothing less than 110% and if he shows his true ability could worry many. Mike McFall is lesser known to many but, at his best, has competed with world-class players before. Paul Hogan always seems to enjoy success at the UK Open and will be joined from the BDO ranks by recent England cap Dave Parletti.

The Delderfield Dream!

Hidden in among these players of great talent is a potential sporting fairytale to cap them all. Larry Butlers’s  recent resurgence would be nothing if Les Delderfield could reproduce the form he showed in the Liverpool qualifying event. Many there described “an old bloke having the day of his darting life”, however they should have checked their darting history books! Les was a semi finalist in the World Masters in 1997! Les has had the longest stop start career you are likely to see. Some superb results, in events often five or more years apart, with nothing in between, make a very unusual story. Let’s hope for more, on this superb tale, if Les can get deeper into the event. If you fancy keeping an eye on a potential super story then look out for Les on board six in the first round, were he plays another qualifier in Mark Wilson.

Typically the trophy in this pic was won six years apart by the enigma that is Les Delderfield

Typically the trophy in this pic was won six years apart by the enigma that is Les Delderfield

Overall then, the early rounds are looking as interesting as always for the darts fan. For the casual viewer there are some good stage games on the first night and a few possible shocks. But for those willing to look a little closer there are some great stories and at least one possible darting legend!

Look out for Part II where we will see who has survived and how the big boys are likely to make out.

Darts, The Technology Game? Part II

In the first part of , The Technology Game? we looked at the recent explosion in technology innovations and advances that have been introduced over the last decade or so. Here in Part II  we will look at Flights, Stems, Points and more. The main areas covered in Part 1 included; Premium marketing, barrel design and grip variations. All have been given a high profile in the last 5-10 years. The jury was still out on the success or necessity of these idea’s and whether they truly have added to the improvement of players at either amateur or professional level.

There are two other area in which  R & D and sales and marketing  booms have taken place:

Accessories: Flights, Stems and more.

a new breed? One of a number of interlocking flight and stem systems available.

a new breed? One of a number of interlocking flight and stem systems available.

From dart’s earliest commercial days, the variations in the additions to the barrel have been as numerous and interesting as to the barrels themselves. Flight materials changed from feather to imitation feather, then plastic, rip stop material and then thinner and thinner polymer types. The shape varied enormously over the years, with the what is now referred to a the standard shape as well as pear shapes, kite shapes and variations up the theme. In recent years designs such as fantail, V wing, tomahawk, slim, DSX and numerous others have been introduced. In the case of stems/shafts the variations have also been coming thick and fast since the 1970’s. From the initial wooden canes, lightweight plastics, steel, aluminium, titanium, one piece or separate items, side loading (Slik Stix) and now, coming full circle with, the current combination flight & stem sets, made from plastic/polymers by manufacturers such as Cosmo or L Style, offering a fixed single unit. At the same time length of stem and the correct combinations have moved back and forth quite considerably.

An L Style Flight & Stem Combo
Again the idea of premium products that will add to your game and provide a glamorous look has been deployed by the manufacturers. Whilst a basic flight stem and fixing set can still be bought for less than £1 where as a combination of the latest Target Pixel Stems & Phil Taylor Flights will cost around £15, alternatively the one piece systems offered, by various manufacturers, cost between £8 and £15 per set up.

Taylor 9Five Gen 2. Too much tech?

Taylor 9Five Gen 2. Too much tech?

All of these changes and developments have,  claimed either logical or scientific, reasons they will improve upon the existing templates. Amongth these are; faster speed through the air, more aerodynamic profiles, less weight, better balance, additional grip and a host of other claims. many have been used and endorsed by professional players and have gone on to win titles or great matches. World Championships have been won with standard flights, smaller standard flights, pear-shaped flights and others. stem length has varied a little and fixings of flight to stem have also varied. But is this through real improvement or simply great players being able to use differing equipment with which they felt comfortable at any one time?

If we again look at the top twenty players we will see how this has panned out of the last twenty years or so, again we shall also look at the next generation of players and see if changes are imminent? In terms of flight shape, the standard shape is used by almost all of the top twenty PDC players. The size and shape varies a little but are described as standard. Taylor uses a unusual very slim “lightning bolt” design. Brendon Dolan will be associated with Kite shaped as he hit his double start 9 darter with them and Barney changes often! The slight size variation is claimed to either assist in the flight, improve visibility, and reduce deflections.

The current & double world champion uses a simple no nonsense set up.

The current & double world champion uses a simple no nonsense set up.

In terms of stem set up the evidence is simple overwhelming. Phil uses some of the innovative design, metallic stems but almost every other player in the top twent uses a nylon/plastic/ carbon fibre stem, most use a stem ring of some description and a majority seem are between 35 and 44mm in length. These can be bought for less than £2 per set up even for branded items, generic versions can be bought for pennies.

Classic but still hugely popular.

Classic but still hugely popular.

When we tested these combinations and asked many top players most players agreed that weight and simplicity to change easily were the reasons they believed the simple set ups were best. For the average player or beginner cost is also a large factor.

The above is not to say that success cannot be achieved with other designs and set ups. Dolan used a simple kite flight and lengthy aluminium stem for his 9 darter, Steve Beaton has used Standards, Oversized Pear Flights and both short and longer stems, usually aluminium to huge success over a 30 year career. It does suggest that, with the odd exception, simplicity is the key here and that over design or elaboration is unnecessary.

Points

Smoothing out junction between barrel and stem as well as griping both board and finger, a true innovation?

Smoothing out junction between barrel and stem as well as griping both board and finger, a true innovation?

Although a rather vital element, of the dart, for many years points were pretty much left alone. Slight changes in colour or size seemed almost accidental. The North Americans favoured a longer point many player customised their own points. However it was pretty ad hoc and unsystematic. The last few years however have seen some dramatic changes. Grooved or diamond cut points, for either increased board grip or finger placement, have made a large impact. Knurled points with a section to rest the finger against  prove popular and more recently the “Storm” point innovation, this makes the barrel and point almost seemless. many advantages are claimed by designers and makers of these points and there seems to be merit in them. Storm points reduce damage to flight set up and may be a factor in the simplicity trend? Grip on points has seemed to reduce fall outs, (except on bad Unicorn days!) Many top players use one innovation or more. The many different combination of possible grip and point shape allow a high level of personalisation to an area previously not explored or marketed.

Two commercial bonus spring to mind, though there are more, firstly the increased roughness of many points may increase the wear and tear on boards and results in lower expectations for durability and more regular purchase, also points of various types can be easily fitted to many other darts, not brand specific, again allowing limitless experimentation with and customization of equipment. In short, point development, and technology, may be one area in which genuine improvement and innovation have been brought to modern darts.

Being certain that your fingers are accurately placed can certainly add to the repitition of your throw.

Being certain that your fingers are accurately placed can certainly add to the repitition of your throw.

Technology Game?

It is hard to fully assess the impact of technology and innovation over recent years. Firstly many of the innovations are not really new, they are re packaged or cosmetic developments based on previous items. Secondly the facts that a very small number of modifications have been accepted, by an even smaller number of the top players, at the top end of the game suggests that they do not feel anything is added to their performance. This however may be misleading as most have not grown up with the newer idea’s and may have been conditioned to be afraid of change or suspicious of tech. Yet it still appears to be the case with the best teenage players?

On the plus side, the huge volume of choice available to the average player is great for the game, conversations about new ideas , designs and equipment are always held amongst players, of all levels, and nearly everyone is willing to give things a try. The research and development undertaken by manufacturers after a slice of the market improves choice of kit and maker. Quality overall is probably improved by modern methods, and thus some of the premium accessory items can last a very long time.

However for those starting out the best advise may still be to try as many sets as you can manage to get a rough idea of the weight and style you like.  Then find a dart shop with try and buy facilities. Once you think you have found a set you like, match them up with relatively cheap flights, stems, springs etc that you can keep replacing or even varying for very little cost. Make use of buy,swap, sell web sites or Facebook groups, these can allow you to test darts and accessories without losing all your initial costs. Keep checking in with AIM for our players guide to selecting darts!

In our experience it is the player and their efforts, that make the difference, not the tech. Within the last five years a number of players over the age of 30 have come through the ranking to occupy high position or do well in TV events.

One of these used a dart that is over 25 years old. Not just the design but the actual set! A medium length nylon stem and stem ring is combined with an everyday pattern dimplex flight. This dart and set up reached the big 5 major PDC events and at times averaged well in excess of 100 whilst, both Pro Tour and in majors, 15+ consequetive legs were won against the worlds best including MVG!

The Asp. Grandad knows best?

The Asp. Grandad knows best?

In addition last years runner up in the world youth championships, Nathan Aspinall, uses darts that, either came from or, were inspired by his Grandad.