Tag Archives: Unicorn

Three Degrees Of James Wade – The Machine Claims Third UK Open

In any sport to play successfully though three different eras is unusual, to play through three of the best in the history of your chosen field and still be winning major titles is quite remarkable. Yet The Machine has done just that:

JAMES WADE landed his third Ladbrokes UK Open title in Milton Keynes on Sunday, defeating Luke Humphries 11-5 in the final. Almost 13 years on from his first UK Open title, Wade’s success sees him join Phil Taylor in winning televised PDC titles across three decades.

In addition, the £100,000 winner’s prize sees him move up to fourth in the PDC Order of Merit, overtaking Rob Cross as the highest-ranked Englishman.

Now a winner of ten televised ranking titles, Wade expanded his impressive trophy haul with a first UK Open crown since 2011 thanks to a weekend of consistent performances at the Marshall Arena.

His first TV success since November 2018 was secured with a typically clinical display in the final against Humphries, who knocked out reigning champion Michael van Gerwen in the semis with a brilliant display but was unable to repeat the feat in the decider.

Experience won the day as Wade – who averaged 102.52 and was on target with 41% of his checkout attempts – made the former World Youth Champion pay for 20 missed doubles.

“To win TV titles across three decades is something I’m very proud of,” said Wade. “I’m enjoying it again, I think I’ve reinvented myself.


“I’m very happy to be in the world of darts, it’s a great place to be when you’re winning.

“I’m here to provide stability for my son and winning these allows me to do that”.

“Luke is quality, he’s a gentleman and he showed his quality in the way he dismantled Michael [van Gerwen] in the semi-finals.”


In reaching the final Wade was at his unflappable best in defeating world number one Gerwyn Price 11-6 in the semi-finals, having produced a 10-8 comeback win over Simon Whitlock in the afternoon’s quarter-finals.

Wade’s route to the title began with a scare from Ryan Joyce in round four as he came through a last-leg decider, before defeating Cross and Germany’s Gabriel Clemens in rounds five and six on Saturday.

Despite coming up short in his first televised final, two-time World Youth Champion Humphries continued his progression and produced a sensational 107.41 average in his 11-5 semi-final win over Van Gerwen.

Humphries, who edged out Dave Chisnall 10-9 in the quarter-finals, pockets the £40,000 runners-up prize moves up eight places to 33rd on the PDC Order of Merit. The 26-year-old reflected:

“It’s been an incredible weekend for me, an emotional weekend,”
“To reach a TV final is the most unbelievable feeling. I think James is the best player in the world under pressure and he showed it in that game.

“I’m here to achieve big things in darts and this run puts me in good stead going forward.

“I want to be playing the best players week-in, week-out. I know I’ve got the game to do it. Tonight it wasn’t my night, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.”

The Ladbrokes UK Open reached its climax on Sunday after 151 players competed in the tournament’s opening day on Friday.

South Africa’s Devon Petersen reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2015, while Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski made it to the last eight for the first time before losing to Van Gerwen.

2021 Ladbrokes UK Open
Sunday March 7

Afternoon Session

Quarter-Finals
James Wade 10-8 Simon Whitlock
Gerwyn Price 10-9 Devon Petersen
Luke Humphries 10-9 Dave Chisnall
Michael van Gerwen 10-7 Krzysztof Ratajski
Evening Session

Semi-Finals
James Wade 11-6 Gerwyn Price
Luke Humphries 11-5 Michael van Gerwen

Final
James Wade 11-5 Luke Humphries

—–ENDS——

Picture: L Lustig (PDC)

A Forgotten Assett? Paul Nicholson: Unicorn Global Edition.

Our friends over at Classic Arrows (Facebook) continue to acquire rare gems for review, this time the debut dart of major winner Paul Nicholson.

Unicorn Global Paul Nicholson (20 grams).

Before Paul moved to Winmau, who currently manufacture his signature dart, he was a member of team Unicorn, initially under their Global range.

During his time with Unicorn Paul used several dart editions; a full-black dart, a natural tungsten dart, and this one which was his first Unicorn model, first seen in the 2010 Unicorn Book of Darts.

Pic: Classic Arrows

Many people will know Paul Nicholson as the Players Championship finals winner in 2010, as well as being an eccentric character on the darts circuit not too long ago.

Nowadays Paul is regularly seen and heard as a pundit or commentator on the PDC tournaments, and is very knowledgeable concerning the technical aspect of playing darts, darts equipment and
the use of it.

The darts all featured the same grip pattern but differed in coating and color. This dart, the Unicorn Global Paul Nicholson dart was only featured in 20 gram which was the weight Paul used himself. The dart features a gripper finish which was also featured on several other Unicorn darts. The ring grip pattern features red paint in the grooves which gives the dart a unique look and results in a comfortable grip.

Pic: Classic Arrows

There isn’t any footage on YouTube where he is seen using this specific dart, which is because Paul didn’t use this dart for a long time. Like I said the dart was first featured in the 2010 Unicorn Book of Darts, quite soon after this Unicorn released the full-black Nicholson dart which Paul used on TV in that same year.


Words & Pics: Marc Ten Haaken (https://www.facebook.com/Classic-Arrows-102555068342136)

The Immortals – Bob Anderson, A Limestone Legacy.

In 1986 a fourth member joined Eric, John, and Jocky at darts’ top table. Although no one claimed there was ‘a new sheriff in town’, there certainly was a cowboy and a limestone one at that. 

Bob Anderson didn’t quite fit the mold of a professional dart player. Tall, lean, and quite athletic in build, the former javelin thrower had been making waves in the sport since claiming the 1983 British Open. Even this was preceded by a fine run to the last 16 of the World Masters as far back as 1979. 

The World Masters - A three time winner.
A Master at Work – Bob with The World Masters trophy (Pic: Steve Dazsko)

In 1986 he claimed his first ‘major’ TV title and began a run that would see him claim a unique hattrick of Winmau World Masters titles. A new character and a major talent had been added to the darts mix. 

The guys over at dartsdatabase.com recently crunched the numbers and Bob’s averages from the mid-80s to 1990 stand out, ‘The Limestone Cowboy’ often topped the leagues. 

More important than averages, or mere statistics, was Bob’s style, manner, and talent. His finger-pointing, gunslinger mannerisms, and a more aggressive approach ensured that high-level drama and entertainment were ever-present when Bob was on stage. 

The new ‘Musketeer’ did not merely contribute titles. He added a dash of flair and individualism by bringing his love of country music to the stage. Tasseled shirts, bright red trousers, and a variety of overall ‘looks’ combined superbly with the ‘Cowboy’ moniker. Could it be that Peter Wright has simply taken this to its logical extreme? 

Very few players can claim to have straddled three eras competitively, but Anderson can claim at least that many. His late 1970s forays were followed by taking on the big three in their heyday, as darts moved into the 90s Bob was tackling Taylor and Priestley in their prime and continued to do so until the 2008 World Championships (PDC). From John Lowe in 1979 to Jelle Klaasen and Colin Lloyd in the 2000s the Limestone Cowboy went one-on-one with them all. 

From a starring role in darts first golden era, Champion of Champions in 1990, to one of the WDC 16 who founded the modern professional game (and found themselves banned from playing as a result). Bob played a strong role in helping to promote the new organisation, even agreeing to ‘walk on’ with a horse for the World championships. It’s fair to say that Anderson’s career mirrors the history of modern darts. 

He was not however some sort of honorary figurehead! Throughout the 90s and into the next decade Bob fought with, and challenged, the very best of two full eras of PDC giants. In both 2004 & 5, by now in his late 50s, he underlined just how good he was with two tremendous World Championship semi-final runs.  

Bob Anderson - Swindon's world darts champion 1988 | SwindonWeb

For many, it’s the 1988 Bob that sticks in the memory. The Clevedon man enjoyed a purple patch winning six major trophies, in twelve months and captured that elusive World title with an overall performance that would have graced The Lakeside stage in any era. The Limestone Cowboy had cemented his legacy. 


Words: JR Lott ( A version of this piece appeared in Darts World Magazine (571) Sept/Oct 2020)

Featured Pics: Steve Daszko

More about Bob or perhaps book an exhibition? Here.

Boardroom News: Unicorn Opens 2021 Launch Season.

The Boardroom recently previewed ‘Launch Season’ for the darts industry and what it might mean for players, customers, and the companies themselves. It seems Unicorn will be the first to break cover with at least part of their 2021 product launch coming on September 4th.

The ‘grand old man‘ of darts brands is trying to achieve two ends with this move. They will be first out of the traps and, somewhat like at an audition, first or last are thought to stick in the mind of the judges (in this case the buying public). With the success of Dimitri van den Bergh at the Matchplay, they will look to capitalise on a huge boost of brand awareness.

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In addition, it appears that Unicorn may have shrewdly chosen to coincide some, or all, of their launch with the upsurge in darting activity, and television coverage, that September seems to be bringing. This also applies to some European and Global markets.

The social media teaser that was dropped out yesterday does not give much away, other than the model that may be getting additions and or a revamp.

A side benefit of launch season, and this lockdown, is that room needs to be made for new stock. This leads to clearance offers both direct from manufacturers and their retail stockists. Keep an eye at for a review of some of the best bargains for those not driven by the latest fashion.


Originally for Darts World Magazine/ dartsworld.com August 2020

Bag A Historic Lowe Double!

One of the noticeable things in the darts industry over recent years has been the growth of the special or collectors edition sets. Often they are simply a variation on the player’s current dart or specially packaged, souvenir type, product to mark an occasion or achievement. However, Unicorn has just released a unique pack. Not one but two sets of darts marking the remarkable career of John Lowe!

A Moment Of Darting History

In 1984 John Lowe MBE became the first person to achieve a 9-dart finish on television, in a match against Keith Deller at the 1984 World Matchplay. John hit two 180s with his first six darts, before finishing on 141 with treble 17, treble 18, and double 18 to complete the perfect leg. With this feat, John earned himself a place in darting immortality, as well as £102,000.

The John Lowe MBE Limited Edition darts are presented in deluxe packaging and come complete with two sets of darts, the first of which is a Limited Edition Replica of the dart John used to throw the perfect leg. His original (Phase 1) barrels are 90% natural tungsten, with Limited Edition 9 Dart engraving. The shaft and flights are a modern replica of those used on that famous day, a Silver Moulded SlikStik shaft and ULTRAFLY Rainbow Blue flights in Xtra shape.

The second set of darts included are a Limited Edition replica of the dart John used more recently, the main variation is a more pronounced and aggressive grip. The 90% tungsten dart (Phase 2) with gold titanium coating and Limited Edition MBE engraving also includes Gold Premier Aluminium Shafts and Gold John Lowe MBE ‘Ultrafly’ flights in Plus shape.

2019 New Year’s Honours

On the 2nd May 2019, the three-time World Champion was awarded an MBE by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, for services to the sport of darts and Charity at Buckingham Palace. John’s incredible career has spanned across four decades of darting excellence, in which he became the first man to win three World Championship Titles across three decades, defeating Leighton Rees in 1979, Eric Bristow in 1987, and Alan Warriner in 1993.

In total there are just 501 sets of the John Lowe Limited Edition Set, spread across the three weights, meaning there are just 167 Sets each of 21G, 23G and 25G available. Available only from Unicorn or from John Lowe MBE himself.

Each John Lowe MBE Limited Edition Box Contains-

  • Deluxe John Lowe MBE Packaging
  • 2 Sets of Limited Edition John Lowe Darts – 1 x Set of Phase 1 Natural John Lowe Darts and 1 x Set of Phase 2 Gold John Lowe Darts
  • Limited Edition Engraving
  • ULTRAFLY Flights
  • SlikStik and Aluminium Shafts

Full product and purchase details available here: http://www.playwiththebest.com/john-lowe-mbe-9-dart-special.html

Game of the Day – Bob’s 27

If you have been trying, some of the many, new practice drills and games that have been dreamt up, you may be wondering where they came from. SwitchBlade, Middle For Diddle and Sprint (Pro) Half-It were developed by A.I.M:, to assist players they coach and Kill Bull looks like a Mikko Laiho / Winmau game. Today you can hear, about one of the most famous doubles drills, from the man who invented it! Bob Anderson talks through his Bob’s 27 Routine.

Coach’s Comments:

Now I must own up to a bias, Bob is a man after my own heart in many ways. He was also a seriously good player! As important is his understanding of the game and how to improve and or maintain your performance. It is no accident that Bob had a very long Professional career and still plays to a very high standard, in exhibition and competitive matches, aged over 70.

It may also be significant that Bob was one of the first darts players to have a background in a different (athletic) sport. Gerwyn Price has repeated the trick in this era.

Bob’s first point is one of my favourite rules. Have an aim to your practice, don’t just throw aimlessly at the twenties, etc. Bobs next tip is to focus heavily on finishing and hitting that double, his ‘Bob’s 27’ is legendary. Watch it through and give it a few goes. This sets your benchmark and then you should add it to your daily routine. Many players use it as part of their early session or near the start of a longer one.

If you want evidence of how this improves your game check out Bob’s efforts in the 1986 World Masters:

The Limestone Cowboy was as good as they come and, in spells, was outstanding! 151,120,150 & 154! Not often you see that even today. These were hit under serious pressure, on a round wired board, in a major tournament and in quick succession.

So if you want to improve your doubles/finishing listen to Bob Anderson!


This is what ‘Coach’ calls a development (or reset) drill. While high-level players will play it as a warm-up or settling routine, shorter sharper drills can be better for those at the top. Bob’s 27 gives equal focus to every double, great when your developing, whereas sometimes a sharper focus on those that are used most often is more beneficial.

Pic: Steve Dazsko

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?

 

 

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?

Unicorn Logo

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:

outline and tungsten

  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.

Red Dragon Logo
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. 

outline

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.

richie edhouse

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!

Dennis Smith

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

lisa-ashton

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!

challenge tour logo

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.

challenge tour logo

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. 

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