By Darts Weekly Staff
12 DECEMBER 2016 • 2:56PM
Who will win the final? Who will be the player to watch? How far will Phil Taylor go? Our team tackle these and other questions
Who will reach the final – and who will win it?
Richard Edwards: Michael van Gerwen will beat Gary Anderson in the final.
Dave South: Michael van Gerwen is just 2/5 to reach the final and readers will know I have tipped Peter Wright. I think it will be a repeat of the 2014 final, which I was in attendance for on the night. It will be difficult to get past Michael and think he will see in his second reign.
Dave McNally: I can’t see any further than Michael van Gerwen, no matter how much I looked at the draw. I’ve got to go with Gary Anderson as the runner-up. Rather dull and predictable from me I’m afraid but that’s how I see it going.
Christopher Kempf: Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen. Both will fight through gruelling matches with Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld respectively. Van Gerwen will win his second world title, smashing Wright who once again fails to live with exhibition-level darts from the Dutch master.
Who will be the player to watch?
Dave South: Kim Huybrechts put on a great performance at the Players Championship Finals, also Barney has come into form. But what about Phil Taylor?
Dave McNally: My players to watch are Joe Cullen and Corey Cadby. They are set to meet in the first round, and if they do, I feel the victor will go on to do well in the competition. Cullen looks unflappable, as calm as they come and Cadby has been superb and will have nothing to fear or lose as he takes his bow.
Christopher Kempf: The player to watch is Steve West, who has turned heads over the past few months and will enjoy the good fortune of being placed in a relatively open section of the draw. He has the talent to overcome first-round opponent Mervyn King and reach a potential third-round contest with James Wade, who may find himself facing unexpectedly stiff opposition en route to the quarter-finals.
Richard Edwards: Barney! He is looking so good. I am really hoping for an MVG-Barney showdown in the semi-finals and hopefully we see a clash like last year’s epic. Corey Cadby is the real deal and another one to watch, he could play Barney in round two in one of the sessions I’m going to!
How far will Phil Taylor go?
Dave McNally: I feel that there will be an early exit for him. Painter or Caven to beat him in the second round.
Christopher Kempf: Phil Taylor realises that his competitive position relative to the other players, especially van Gerwen, is declining year upon year. He will look to make one final assault to win a 17th title and write a fitting epilogue for a legendry career. Though he should have no trouble reaching the quarter-finals, he will fall to Barney in an explosive quarter-final.
Dave South: I would love to see Phil win the event then go on to announce his retirement in style, but I think a third round possible tie with Kim Huybrechts is a format which the Belgian will look to derail the Power. Third round or quarter-finals for me.
Richard Edwards: I think that’s the toughest question to answer. Let’s go for a shock third round defeat to a fired up Kim Huybrechts.
Which first round match are you most looking forward to?
Christopher Kempf: The Michael Smith-Ricky Evans match shows all the signs of a great first-round matchup. Both are great young talents, one (Smith) enjoyed much of the year ranked in the top 10 but has experienced a shocking collapse in form, while the other (Evans) battled and scrapped his way through the Pro Tour to qualify for a third World Championship. After witnessing Evans’ epic comeback against Simon Whitlock last year, there’s no telling what sort of tangle he may get into with Bully Boy this year.
Richard Edwards: It has to be Jamie Caven against Kevin Painter. What a great way to start a Friday morning (nine hours ahead here) than with some darts! I’ll be flying out of bed at 3.30am when that alarm goes off.
Dave South: This is a toss up between van Barneveld-Green and Bunting-Darren Webster. Barney has a tough opener and with the resurgence of Webster recently it will not make either game as straight forward as the odds imply.
Dave McNally: I’m looking forward to the Ricky Evans and Michael Smith match. It promises to be superb as two of the more mercurial players come head to head.
Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round?
Dave South: Jamie Caven will certainly have the pressure on his shoulders up first. Michael Smith’s 2016 has been a write off, and can Steve West recapture his early autumn form and cause trouble for Mervyn King? In addition, Chris Dobey could stun the out of form Justin Pipe.
Dave McNally: Stephen Bunting looks like his head could be on the block against Darren Webster. Daryl Gurney may also have his work cut out against Jermaine Wattimena. Whatever happens, there’s sure to be a couple of big names tumbling.
Richard Edwards: I have to say Joe Cullen as I lorded up Corey Cadby earlier. I think Bunting has got a tough match but will scrape through. Justin Pipe v Chris Dobey and Vincent van der Voort v Max Hopp are both extremely hard to call and I would edge towards the unseeded player going through.
Christopher Kempf: The most vulnerable seeds in this year’s opening round matches are Pipe, Smith, King, Dolan, Jenkins, van der Voort, Caven and Bunting. All of the above have exhibited mediocre form in recent months and there’s no reason why their opponents shouldn’t smell blood in the water.
This will be the 10th year that the tournament has been held at the Alexandra Palace – do you miss the Circus Tavern or does the Ally Pally now feel like home?
Dave McNally: The Circus Tavern was a closer, tighter environment and had a knack of generating a high quality atmosphere. Since the move to the Ally Pally that seems to have been lost.
Richard Edwards: Having spent most of the past 13 years living in Asia, I have not yet visited the Ally Pally (thankfully dealing with that this year as will be visiting England and getting in three sessions). I went to the 2001 World Championship at Circus Tavern and the close atmosphere and smaller crowds were right up my street. I’m going to have a great time at Ally Pally, but I know it will be a completely different experience.
Christopher Kempf: The Circus Tavern will always have a strong nostalgic appeal, not least for hosting the greatest darts match in history (Taylor-van Barneveld 2007). For a game that is now big business around the globe, the Alexandra Palace is surely the World Championship’s home, and it serves its purpose well. Nostalgia gives many of us an irrational attachment to the Circus Tavern, for what matters is not the size of the hall or of the crowd, but the stature of the men who fill it.
Dave South: Darts has changed with the times and has an ever growing audience reach which is going global. The Circus Tavern was a tidy, intimate venue, while the Ally Pally has been the tournament’s home since 2008. I believe the event will remain in London, but it could possibly move again with the right transport links as the demand for the sport in the next few years continues to grow.