Tag Archives: PDC

Unsung Heroes – Kirk Shepherd

Kirk’s run in 2008 was remarkable, those who knock it are fools, yet it could have been even better! If Kirk had done nothing else he would warrant a place amongst our ‘Unsung Heroes‘.

In most any other sports Kirk Shepherd’s run to the final of the World Championship of 2008 would be fondly remembered as a beacon of possibility and a wonderful fairy tale story. Yet in darts, it’s almost a dirty little secret, whenever you hear it referred to in commentary, or amongst players, the words you will hear most include ‘lucky’, ‘good draw’ and ‘missed opportunities’.

Yet Kirk was only 21 years old and making his debut appearance, at darts’ biggest event after coming through the qualifiers. It was also the debut year of the Alexandra Palace as the venue making it even more imposing than normal. Surely, this should be regarded as almost Boris Becker like?

For a young man, Kirk had already had a decent record in competitive darts. He was twice British Teenage Champion, and a World Youth Master, between 2003 and 2006. He had not yet made much headway on the PDC Pro Tour, but his form in Open events was very good indeed and this is a better guide to current form. In addition, he had form in previous big events including smashing Gary Anderson with ease on more than one occasion. A brief look back confirms that he had previously defeated some of those who would remove from Ally Pally.

In the weeks running up to the event, Kirk determined that he was going to give a decent account of himself. He arranged for a local county player to visit him regularly and they practiced every evening for the proceeding weeks. By the time came for Shepherd to take his bow versus Terry Jenkins most of those who knew him thought he would do well. He did better than that! Kirk removed the multi-major finalist 3 sets to 2, playing superbly in patches and, piling the pressure onto Terry. It was a pattern that Sheperd was to repeat and others seemed powerless to prevent.

When you hear the traditional running down of Kirk’s effort, try switching the situation in your mind. “Everyone had darts to beat him” you will hear or “they missed a lot of doubles” or even “his averages were only in the 80’s“. These remarks totally miss the point. How on earth did a 21-year-old qualifier generate the nerves and pressure that caused highly ranked and highly senior players to allow him to be so close and to keep fluffing their lines?

It is not unusual for an unknown player to have a small run at the World Champs but it is seriously rare for them to get past the last 16 or Quarterfinals, how did Kirk do it, and especially how did he do it whilst appearing to not be performing above the expected level. This is the real key to a remarkable run and something that every new, unknown, or underdog player should think about and study.

Rob Cross’s remarkable run of 2018 can be simply explained. He outplayed and or outlasted his opponent in every round. He is a superb player, lesser-known at this level, who had been settling rapidly into PDC life. He was also 29 years old with a family and support network. In short the perfect combination of talent and timing. It is not easy for any other player to replicate such an effort.

Kirk is a very expressive man. But he held these emotions in tight check during every game. Until it was won!

However, Kirk’s run was different, from that sensible early preparation and the seriously focussed temperament, especially visible against McGowen and Mardle, any player capable of qualifying is capable of emulating Kirk.

Against Jenkins and McGowen Kirk had the advantage of knowing he had defeated them before and had to simple perform again. Thus the stage and the occasion had to be relegated to the background. This also ensured that Kirk did not feel like the underdog and, more importantly, did not act like one. Watch the games carefully, at no point does Shepherd look subservient or like the new boy in school. He knows he is playing well. He is winning legs in superb style and hitting very big shots when needed. The less good efforts are quickly dismissed and he is on to the next throw.

Belief is a major factor that cannot be overestimated. Watch closely and you will see that whenever Kirk’s opponent had darts to win an important leg/set or even the match, Kirk is right behind him with the same attitude he would have had on any other throw. He simply believes he is going to get another throw and he must be ready for it.

The final ingredient in Kirk’s superb run was a refusal to be intimidated. Watch closely, especially against Wayne Mardle, and you will see all the tactics, totally fair, used by a senior or highly successful player against one they regard as a junior. Kirk stands for none of it. Refusing to change attitude, pace, style or manner.

The end result is that senior players are changing their own games or concentrating on Kirk’s instead of their own. Mardle, for example, plays at least three different paces during the match. This plan fails completely and Kirk gets time to settle in and get his own game going. Once he is in full swing Mardle cannot find a way to both get himself up to 100% and impact Shepherd long enough to fully swing the game in his favour. He comes close but Kirks attitude and the lead he had gained ensured he had enough to get over the line. This was a semi-final of a world championship and the senior player had effectively bowed to the junior. But of course, it was “just lucky really”.

It is not fully known but the story could have been even more glorious. Kirk is not one for whining or making excuses, I suspect he has heard enough of those from others, but his performance in the final was hampered by a surprising source, SKY TV!

Kirk had been suffering from the effects of a mild cold for a couple of days around his Semi-Final. After reaching the final, however, there was much to do in terms of media and promotion for the final. This is normal and accepted by all players. However, in this case, it was above and beyond! Kirk was kept waiting around until very late at night, in a very cold venue, and with fake mist/ice to create an effect for one of the promotional trailers. A few of those closest to Kirk note that his cold deteriorated badly and he played the final in a very poor state of health.

Much of the credit for Kirk not getting going in the final must be given to John Part. He did the opposite of the others, who had fallen victim to Kirk, and imposed himself very early and treated Kirk as just another obstacle in his path to a third World title. But maybe, just maybe, a fully fit Kirk would have enjoined the battle earlier and returned the pressure we may then have been in for a real treat and a fitting finale to one of the great underdog runs!


P.s. Don’t write off the “Martial Dartist”! He is only 33 and has retained or regained his tour card three times already. In 2017 he reached the last 32 of the UK Open and had shown flashes on the Pro Tour in recent times. Perhaps a fairytale return is not out of the question.

The Return of The King

The sight of once-great players slipping down the rankings, toward an inevitable spell on the ‘Legends’ circuit, is one of the sadder sights in professional sport and has been becoming more common in darts. Merv King is one of the few to arrest that decline and, last weekend, put it into full reverse.

The King, as he is known, has been in the news more for taking on delivery work for Amazon, during the Covid-19 pandemic, than tackling darts elite in recent times. Merv slipped out of the world’s top sixteen during 2016 and has battled ever since to retain a place in the higher reaches of the PDC rankings. But King has refused to follow others, including Colin Lloyd and Mark Webster, down the path into retirement.

Instead, he has battled all comers and worked hard to regain his best form. In addition, the plateau in the performance of the elite seems to have allowed King to close the gap to the leading pack at the age of 54. This weekend saw him reach a major TV final for the first time since 2014. His nail biting defeat to Michael Van Gerwen) was his first ranking TV final since the World Grand Prix of 2012 (coincidentally marking the rise of MVG).

Happy days: King in action at the Players Championship Finals (Pic: L Lustig)

Between the two bookends was firstly a steady decline followed by a determined rearguard action. King is one of the game’s hardest workers, willing to spend hours “pounding the board”, both in non-event practice and while prepping for a match. Indeed, it was not rare to arrive at major venue hours early only to find a selection of Kings flights scattered around the practice room from his earlier session.

In addition, to old fashioned hard work, King has worked with his manufacturer to improve his distinctive signature dart. The current iteration looks almost identical to his old design except they appear to have a new grip between the curved sections. Quite a few older players claim a desensitizing of the fingers requires more grip as they reach the later stage of their career. King’s unique style of dart makes this very difficult to add so credit should go to Winmau for resolving this. Merv also has a strong understanding of the game and his own throw-in particular he is especially keen on the ‘pick up’ of each dart being easily and exactly replicable.

During a career spanning a quarter of a century, King has reached world finals and claimed victory in the World Masters as well as multiple semi and final appearances in the PDC, he has also endured a spell as the pantomime villain of the game. His efforts at the Players Championship Finals give him a chance of an Indian summer at the highest level, back in the top 20 and with a good chance of returning to the elite top 16 could The King reign again with a first PDC major title?


Paul Lim – A Global Legacy

Merely weeks after this article appeared, in Darts World Magazine, Paul Lim claimed his place at the 2020 PDC World Championships. Perhaps there is another chapter left to be written:

Paul Lim may perfectly symbolize the future of darts. The legendary ‘Singapore Slinger’, now 66, is certainly the ultimate Hybrid darter. He has played big-time darts for almost forty years and been successful in every arena and format the game has offered. 

Paul Lim | Target Darts
The Legend: Paul Lim ( Image Target Darts)

His overall significance to the sport may outweigh any of his individual achievements, although there are so many it’s hard to be certain. Target’s ‘Legend’ has triumphed in the BDO as well as in the PDC, he has twice been a world champion in soft tip darts, almost twenty years and two different codes separated his 1996 and 2017 triumphs.  

In between these individual efforts, Paul has represented four different nations in World Cups and team events. Dart’s World would not bet against him reappearing, and succeeding, in the remote darts realm. 

Lim burst onto the professional scene by winning the Australian Grand Masters in 1983, over the next half dozen years Lim made a plethora of quarter and semi-final appearances in major steel tip events, including the World Cup Singles and World Matchplay, across the globe. Then in 1990 Lim wrote his name indelibly in darts history. 

John Lowe had hit the first TV perfect leg a few years before. Yet, none had been hit since until Lim stepped up to the Lakeside oche. Nine sublime darts later the Singapore ace hit a plumb double twelve to complete the first World Championship ‘Nine’! A brief look on YouTube shows just how clean and controlled his effort was. Lim was now an icon in the game. 

BBC Sport - Darts - Paul Lim's nine-dart finish in 1990
Lim on his way to the first World Championship ‘9’.

Sadly, Paul’s great moment coincided with a decline in the TV popularity of steel tip darts, especially in the UK. Lim continued to play the biggest events but could not sustain himself with that alone. In an effort to boost his career and earning potential he combined his steel tip efforts with North American soft-tip tournament. Again, his efforts paid off in a major way.  

In 1996 Lim claimed his first World title. His victory in the Bull Shooter soft–tip championships confirmed that he could play at an elite level in either format, something he has continued to the present day. 

During the following years Lim became what in other sports would be considered a’ journeyman pro’ he played the major events in both formats. In addition, he demonstrated he could play in any company. From 1994 Lim played within the PDC system and competed with players such as Phil Taylor and Dennis Priestley. 

For most of this period Lim was based in either the USA Japan or his native Singapore. However, by the 2000s Paul was no longer reaching the later stages or collecting serious prize money and a great career looked to be winding down. Then something remarkable happened, in 2011 soft tip darts underwent a major makeover and guess who became its instant poster boy! 

As part of a re-packaging, of the machine based soft tip game, a $1,000,000 World Championship was held in Hong Kong. In a field packed full of soft-tip super stars, and steel tip icons, Lim came through to claim the title aged 57 (something about that number Wayne Warren?). 

In a remarkable piece of happenstance, the PDC arranged a commercial tie-up with the new DartsLive organisation, which Lim was already dominating, an extended an invitation to their champion to play the PDC World Championship at Ally Pally! The following year he qualified again via the  Dartslive route. 

By now Paul had completely mastered the art of playing hybrid darts. He seemed focused on soft-tip in Asia and still crossed back and forth to play PDC events including World Cups. His gentlemanly demeanor and iconic status ensured he became a firm favourite with the fans. But Lim was not merely a performing seal and not yet finished with creating moments of darting drama. 

Paul Lim - Home | Facebook

In 2017 Singapore pulled of one of the biggest shocks seen in the PDC’s World Cup of darts, when they defeated Scotland’s crack team of Gary Anderson and Peter Wright. They went on to defeat Spain in round-two and reach the Qtrs finals. The very next year Lim created a moment of almost perfect sporting nostalgia, the opponent/ Why Gary Anderson of course. 

The 2018 World Championship saw Lim roll back the years and defeat former World Champion Mark Webster. His last 16 game featured a remarkable moment. Lim seemed to be tired and started slowly, before suddenly producing six perfect darts. The crowd realised what could be happening, his opponent, Anderson, knew what was happening, but could it? Could lightning strike twice nearly thirty years apart? 

Paul Lim, 63 years old was about to complete a phenomenal legacy of global, multi format, multi code and multi era darting glory. The perfect bookend to a remarkable journey! 

The first two darts found their targets and with a near hysterical crowd Lim went to release the 9th dart. In a highly unusual moment, there was a very faint twitch and the dart missed the double twelve bed. The disappointment was universal, Anderson looked almost as crestfallen as Paul! Despite the miss Paul was lauded around  the globe and the reminder of his remarkable career.  

Just in case you think the story is over, think again! In 2018 the PDC launched their Asian (Steel tip) tour and yes, you guessed it the first Tai Pai weekend saw one player reach the final of event one and then win event two. That player? Paul Lim. 


Update: Despite the huge disruption to the 2020 season, caused by the Corona virus, Paul qualified for the World Championship by claiming the Hong Kong qualifying event.


JR Lott writes a Lott! Follow him @JRLott2 

Game Of The Day – Middle For Diddle?

Hopefully those of you who have been socially isolated are managing to keep up with routines and things to keep yourself busy. Here is another ‘daily drill’ to add to your list:

Middle for Diddle:

A drill that focuses on the bullseye, first dart, to ensure you need less recalculation needed during match play. Recommended to be played after your warm up and between other drills/games that are more scoring focused.

Game Overview:

There are a number of finishing points, in a leg, where the bullseye (inner or outer), is the best/only option with your first dart. If you become familiar, and automated, when you see these numbers, your success rate will go up and you will react smoothly to any variation (or cock-up!)

Take one turn (3 darts) at these five outshots using the bull:

61, 65, 82, 125 & 132

Award yourself points on the following basis:

  • 61,65 & 82
  • 2 Dart Checkout –10 Points
  • 3 Dart Checkout – 5 Points
  • Left a Double – 1 Point
  • for 125 & 132
  • Checkout – 10 Points
  • Double Left – 3 Points
  • Single – Double Finish left (not single bull!) – 1 Point

Example:

  • Turn 1 – Bull, s3, d4 – 5 Points
  • Turn 2 – 25, Tops! – 10 Points
  • Turn 3 – 25, s17, 0 – 1 Point
  • Turn 4 – 25, t20, Tops – 10 Points
  • Turn 5 – 25, 19, t20 – (28 Left) – 3 Points
  • Total Score = 29

N.B. A single point is scored when going for the 100+ finishes by leaving the double e.g. for 132 – Bull, 25, s17 would leave tops and score a consolation 1 point. The same applies if you miss the double after setting it up with darts 1 & 2.

Variations:

There are shots that can be swapped in and out depending on your personal preferences and in order to ensure that you cover the possibilities that can crop up in a game situation.

63 and 135 are the most likely where you may use the middle ring as an option in certain circumstances or even as your default.

Levels:

In this drill it’s more overall aims than levels. The first order of business is to get shots at doubles. So a good aim is to get shots at all three lower numbers. Then set up the bigger ones.

  • An amateur or pub player type should aim to get shots at the lower finishes, and hit one. Score guide – (circa) 10
  • league player should be looking to take one of the lower ones in two darts & scoring points on the bigger shots. Score guide – 15+
  • higher level player should be looking to take two of the lower ones in two/three darts and gaining points on the others. Score guide – 25+
  • Elite level players should be regularly hitting 33 or more. (Importantly this should be spread across all 5 finishes and be repeatable if the numbers are swapped)

Records:

Frankie Dean profile
Play M4D between more 20’s type drills. Pic: Lawrence Lustig / PDC

This is a tough drill at the higher end. It sucks the mind into being too deliberate so dont play it two many times. Use it as a break drill between others and do no more than two goes in a row.

The record for this drill was set a few years ago, a duel code World Championship player hit 61 in 2, 65 in 2 and 82 in three then left 40, after three, going for 125 and checked out 132 – totalling 38.

Middle for Diddle is a harder drill that requires a switch in focus and then another half way through. It puts the Bull at the heart of your efforts for a section of every practice.

Enjoy and lets us know if you can beat 38 or if it helps improve your ‘Bulling’!


Originally published (with variations) at dartsworld.com

Pics: PDC / L Lustig

A.I.M:

A.I.M: Contribute to New World Championship Guide

It’s always nice to be asked to contribute to a new publishing project to promote the game of darts. Some of the people we at A.I.M: like best have produced 62 pages of news, views, player profiles, product reviews and articles that is yours in a couple clicks:

Dartconnect.com are distributing the guide, as well as RedDragon darts, Grab a copy here: 

Download Your Copy – https://appsolutely.dev/darts/

All 96 players that took part are individually profiled and there are sections for Fallon Sherrock & Mikuru Suzuki as well as feature articles on Barney, Gerwyn Price and those who have hit an Ally Pally 9 Darter.

Mile High Leaves a Vapour Trail tells the tale of how a relative unknown made a big impact, at the 2010/11 World Championship, blazing a trail for others to follow.

The Super 8’s looks at vital stats and other information that can sort out those with a chance of the title from those likely to fall short.

There is even a betting section. You Betcha! Gives a few ideas of what is available these days in the gambing sector.

All in all it is a great guide and unbeatable for free!

Mile High Leaves a Vapour Trail an interesting article in The Ultimate Guide
Lustig. PDC

The Ice Man Returneth! Price Retains Grand Slam.

Gerwyn Price produced the performance of his life to retain the BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts title in incredible fashion by defeating Peter Wright 16-6 in Sunday’s final.

The Iceman, Gerwyn Price, adds another major to his impressive roll of honour.
PIC LAWRENCE LUSTIG:

The Welshman followed up his brilliant maiden career victory over Michael van Gerwen in Sunday afternoon’s semi-finals with an unstoppable display to lift the Eric Bristow Trophy once again in Wolverhampton.

Price had never previously defeated Van Gerwen in 18 previous career meetings but emerged a 16-12 winner in their last-four clash to keep his title hopes alive at the Aldersley Leisure Village.

He then wrote his name into the record books with a relentless demolition of Wright to claim back-to-back Grand Slam wins, averaging 107.86 and hitting 11 180s during a remarkable display.

“I’m chuffed to bits,” said an emotional Price, who picks up £125,000 as champion plus a £3,500 group winner bonus following a flawless week.

“I knew in the middle of the game that I was playing really well. I was hitting trebles for fun and putting Peter under pressure and he wasn’t playing his best.

PIC LAWRENCE LUSTIG: SEMI-FINAL MICHAEL VAN GERWEN V GERWYN PRICE GERWYN PRICE IN ACTION

“I was that I was at the top of my game and I felt comfortable all the way through that game. I’m happy to play the way I did – Peter’s a world-class player and for me to win 16-6 is outstanding.”

Having defeated Gary Anderson in a controversial final 12 months ago, Price has turned jeers to cheers on his way to retaining the Eric Bristow Trophy with his superb form throughout the nine-day tournament.

“This week the crowd has been fantastic for me,” said Price. “To come through that game and have the cheers at the end of it is a much better feeling than last year.

“I’m not used to this but they truly have got behind me and I appreciate it.”

A 100 finish from Price broke throw in the opening leg and he doubled his lead in 13 darts before Wright took out 71 to get off the mark in leg three.

Checkouts of 111, 84 and 88 helped Price to move 7-3 up before Wright – the 2017 runner-up in Wolverhampton – hit back with successive legs to halve the deficit.

An 11-darter from Price stopped that run, while he also took out 130 on the bull and a 12-darter in a run of eight straight legs to open up a 15-5 advantage.

Three missed match darts allowed Wright to keep his faint hopes alive with a sixth leg, but the respite was brief as double five secured Price back-to-back titles.

Following the success, Price moves up to third on the PDC Order of Merit, and he added: “I’m playing well, I’m up to number three and I probably deserve to be three, maybe two.

“I’ve had a good year, 18 months, but it doesn’t happen all the time.

“I’ve been playing well and it breeds confidence, and I’ve been confident in every tournament for the last six months. I’m just thankful to win this again.

“I’m full of confidence and hopefully I can carry that on to next week, it’s the Players Championship and hopefully I can have a good run in that.”

Price’s semi-final win had seen him open up an early 4-1 lead over World Champion Van Gerwen, and though the Dutchman eventually levelled at nine-all, the Markham ace pulled clear to complete a memorable win.

Peter Wright Collects Runner Up Trophy. Pic L Lustig.

Wright had booked his place in the Wolverhampton final for a second time in three years with a 16-11 win over Lakeside Champion Glen Durrant, who lost out in his third PDC televised semi-final of 2019.

Scottish ace Wright had defeated Price to win his only televised ranking title at the 2017 UK Open but was this time left to admit: “I had no answer.

“Beating Michael and then the way he played there, I thought he was trying for the record [average in a final].

“I was chasing him all the way through, and when he missed I was lucky if I was on 100-and-something! He played fantastic all the way through.”

Wright had switched darts ahead of the event to a style similar to that used by Phil Taylor towards the end of the Stoke legend’s career and was happy with his performances in reaching the final.

“I switched to these darts and I said to myself that I think I can get to the final with them, and I got to the final,” he added. “It’s a stepping stone.”

Van Gerwen had been bidding to win his fourth Grand Slam of Darts title, but has now set his sights on next weekend’s Players Championship Finals after being knocked out by Price.

“Gerwyn deserved to win,” said Van Gerwen. “I made too many mistakes and gave him too many chances. He took advantage and credit to him for that.

“It hurts not to take the trophy home, but tomorrow I start to prepare for the next tournament, where I will put it right.”

BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts

Sunday November 17

Afternoon Session                                                                                  

Semi-Finals

Peter Wright 16-11 Glen Durrant

Gerwyn Price 16-12 Michael van Gerwen

Evening Session

Final

Gerwyn Price 16-6 Peter Wright


Text – PDC Official.

Pic – L Lustig

Euro Tour 2020 – Dates & Details.

The qualification structure for the PDC European Tour has been confirmed for 2020 ahead of the widest-reaching season of events since the series was introduced.

A total of 13 European Tour events are set to take place during 2020, including visits to Belgium and Hungary for the first time alongside tournaments in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic and Gibraltar.

As in recent years, each event will feature 48 players and sees the top 16 players from the ProTour Order of Merit seeded through to the second round.

PDC Tour Card Holders will now compete in one combined qualifier for a total of 24 places in the tournament, having previously been split into UK and European Qualifiers.

The top two ranked players from each Host Nation will also qualify by right, where applicable, as two of four players representing each Host Nation.

Further qualifiers will come from the PDC Nordic & Baltic and East Europe regions (one place per tournament), with two places reserved for an Associate Member Qualifier, which will be open to players who competed at the 2020 PDC Qualifying School but did not win a Tour Card.

“The European Tour is a hugely popular and important part of the PDC circuit now and the expansion into two new territories next year is accompanied by this exciting update to the qualification structure,” said PDC Chief Executive Matthew Porter.

“We have reviewed the European Tour with partners including PDC Europe and the PDPA and believe that this new qualifying structure provides a great balance for fans attending across Europe as well as players competing in the events.”

Tickets for the 2020 PDC European Tour are available through PDC Europe via https://www.pdc-europe.de/tickets/

The full qualification structure is as follows:

16 Seeded Players – top 16 entered players from ProTour Order of Merit at time of entry deadline. Will enter each event at second round stage, and need to win their second round match in order for prize money to count to the relevant Orders of Merit.

Up to two ranked players from the Host Nation, outside of the top 16 seeds, from the ProTour Order of Merit at the time of entry deadline. Will enter each event at first round stage, and need to win their first round match in order for prize money to count to the relevant Orders of Merit. Should there be less than two ranked players from the Host Nation, additional places would be on offer at the Host Nation Qualifier.

24 Tour Card Holder Qualifiers – from one knockout qualifier featuring all Tour Card Holders

One PDC Nordic & Baltic Qualifier

One East Europe Qualifier

Two Host Nation Qualifiers – from events for Associate and Day Members from the Host Nation. Day Members can participate in up to two Host Nation Qualifiers per year.

Two Associate Member Qualifiers – from events open to any Associate Member who competed at the 2020 Qualifying Schools.

ENDS

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?

outline and tungsten

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.

Red Dragon Logo

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.

E68FFFAE-B024-4518-9A06-0C3E7190AF88

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?

 

 

The Iceman Joins The Weekenders Club! Price Claims Back to Back Pro Tours.

Winning a PDC Pro Tour event is seriously tough. Players who win back to back Pro Tours over the same weekend are, almost without exception, or soon will be dominant champions of the game. This weekend Gerwen Price added his name to a very elite club.

Latest member of ‘The Weekenders’ club. Price claimed two title from two events.
Pic: PDC

The “Weekenders Club” now has a dozen members and requires its members to win back to back events during the same Pro Tour weekend (or equivalent).

Adrian Lewis (1) founded the club in 2005. At 20 years of age, he won back to back Scottish Pro Tours over one weekend. Phil Taylor (2) unusually not the first, joined soon after claiming both titles in a Dutch doubleheader. Typically of “The Power”, he went on to repeat the feat at least once in each of the next eight years. In 2008 Taylor did the double 3 times and in 2009 he went better with four back to back weekends. Finally, in 2009, a third member joined! Robert Thornton (3) claimed a couple of Scottish Pro Tours over the same weekend. Just to prove it was not a fluke Thornton repeated the trick but it took him till 2014!

In 2010 Wez Newton (5) claimed a unique treble. In addition to back to back Pro Tours in Barnsley, Newton had also claimed his place in the Grand Slam of Darts by winning through the 250+ field on Friday night. This three-hander is unlikely to be repeated. Mervyn King (4) had joined the club earlier in the year by claiming two PLayer Champs. King often starts the Pro Tour well but this may have been his best effort. 2011 featured Gary Anderson (6) claiming his right to join the “Weekenders Club”. His dominant spell over Pro Tour events during this time meant the only surprise was it had taken so long.

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“The Power” Completed “The Weekender” 8 years in a row including four times in 2009

Two new members joined in 2012 with Dave Chisnall (7) & Barney (8) getting in on the act. It is surprising that it had taken RVB more than five years to claim two in a row over a weekend. He had had seriously good spells before. Chizzy was simply expanding on a superb first year on the PDC Tour.

2013 featured an anomaly, Jamie Caven (9) claimed players champs 3 & 4. “Jabba” has a huge talent but had not previously threatened elite clubs such as this. He is the only member not to have featured in at least one major final and or be ranked in the top ten. It is, therefore, a remarkable effort. This year also marked MVG (10) crashing through the door. It seems no coincidence that this was also the first year since 2005 that Phil Taylor did not record the weekend double. In 2014 Robert Thornton showed his return was complete by repeating his 2009 effort.

MVG Gurn Away
The Green Machine. MVG alone
has completed a 3- event
Pro Tour “Weekender”.

Three events weekends were now part of the regular calendar and, after missing out the previous year, MVG quickly claimed UK Qualifiers 2 & 3 over a three-event weekend. Lewis also claimed two from three in a throwback to his 2005 efforts. Two from three is not the same however as two back to back and should not gain membership to the club! Typically, MVG soon claimed a record of his own. He cleared up on a three-event stint in 2016. Three Pro Tours in three back to back days (although they were midweek) puts MVG  in a class of his own. 

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Snakebite claimed 2 out of 3 on a Pro Tour weekend but no back to back. “Weekender Club” Access denied! Pic: L Lustig / PDC

No new member joined in 2017, in fact, no one claimed back to back Pro Tours at all. Peter Wright claimed two from three, over one weekend, early in the season getting close. 2018 proved more welcoming MVG repeated the effort twice,  Gary Anderson reminded everyone he could still do it and the superb Krysztof Rajatski (11) claimed back to back titles without even possessing a Tour Card. The BDO World Master had slipped up at Q School and was reliant on other performances and missing tour card holders to even get in the draw. Thus, as a non-seed, he could claim an unprecedented triumph.

Gerwyn Price (12) now completes the twelve players who have pulled off this difficulty feat. With the ever increasing depth of ability, within the PDC, the club is likely to remain exclusive!

Who will join next and complete the Bakers Dozen?


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.

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

The Pro Tour Revolution is gaining momentum!

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