Who will win the final? Who will be the player to watch? How far will Phil Taylor go? A host of darts journalists, pundits, commentators and former players tackle these and other questions
Who will reach the final – and who will win it?
Matthew Kiernan (The Darting Nerd): I’ll be predictable and say (along with everyone else no doubt) that Michael van Gerwen will reach the final. You’d be a bold person to bet against him given his invincible form. I think he will face Peter Wright, in a repeat of the final from a few years ago. Wright has been very consistent this year and I think his form will carry him through. As for the winner, I just can’t look past van Gerwen, as terribly predictable as that is!
Tom Beresford (Tungsten Stories): In my honest opinion I can’t see anyone getting past the in-form Dutchman MVG. He has already won 25 titles this year and he looks unstoppable and I predict a nine darter from van Gerwen in this year’s event. I do think that Peter Wright could also reach the final as he has been in superb form as of late, climbing up to number three on the PDC Order of Merit.
Bob Anderson (1988 world champion): MVG versus James Wade. MVG to win, he has too much high calibre ammunition for James.
Wayne Mardle (five-time World Championship semi-finalist): MVG will beat either Gary, Chizzy or Snakebite in the final. My mind isn’t made up yet. I’ll have a definite predicition by the 15th.
Rod Studd (Sky Sports commentator): The obvious answer is MVG to beat Gary Anderson but I’ll take a wild stab at Phil Taylor to beat Peter Wright.
Pieter Verbeek (Dutch journalist): I can’t see Michael van Gerwen not winning it. He will be up for it and looking to end his record breaking season in style. In the bottom half of the draw I think Peter Wright or Gary Anderson will reach the final. I think the set-system suits more to Gary, however I think Gary is in the hardest quarter between him and Peter. But I have to go for a MVG-Anderson final.
Jay Shaw (Live Darts content editor): Michael van Gerwen vs Peter Wright is a fixture we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the latter of major tournaments this season and I think this will be no different. For me, Wright is playing the best darts of his career and it would be sheer lunacy if he decided to deviate from the darts he used in the Grand Slam and Players Championship. Getting to his second world final would involve him dethroning Gary Anderson in a semi-final which has the makings of a classic, but I think this is Snakebite’s time. He’s become a formidable all-rounder. Of course, there’ll be a whole different level of pressure on van Gerwen as the odds-on favourite, but his record this year speaks for itself and I don’t think even the sets format will prevent him from putting the icing on the cake with a second world title.
Burton DeWitt (Darts statistician): The only people playing well enough to legitimately give Michael van Gerwen a scare – Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld – are on his side of the draw. But I don’t think they will beat him. I have van Gerwen to get through to the final, where he’ll beat Peter Wright 7-5 in a rematch of the 2014 Ally Pally final.
Dan Dawson (Commentator): MVG to beat Wright in the final, as obvious as it is, they look like the form players to me.
Who will be the player to watch?
Matthew Kiernan (The Darting Nerd): I think Dave Chisnall will be the one to watch. It is amazing to think that a player of his calibre has never been beyond the third round of the PDC World Championship. He has reached a number of finals this year, most recently at the Players Championship Finals, so he is coming into form at the right time. If he overcomes a potential banana skin against Jelle Klaasen in the third round I think he could go far.
Tom Beresford (Tungsten Stories): Well the most obvious one is Michael van Gerwen, but the surprise package of the tournament that’s a tough one. I am very excited to see how the young Aussie Corey Cadby gets on as he makes his World Championship debut.
Bob Anderson (1988 world champion): James Wilson catches my eye this year.
Wayne Mardle (five-time World Championship semi-finalist): All eyes will be on Michael van Gerwen.
Rod Studd (Sky Sports commentator): I’m really looking forward to watching World Youth champion Corey Cadby and I always enjoy the way Alan Norris goes about his business.
Pieter Verbeek (Dutch journalist): It must be Corey Cadby. It will be interesting to see if he can bring his game from the World Youth Championship final and the Sydney Masters. He could be a pain for the seeds in his part of the draw. Joe Cullen and Adrian Lewis will have to work for their money against him!
Jay Shaw (Live Darts content editor): Aside from the usual suspects you’d expect to be there or there abouts, I’m excited by the prospect of Chris Dobey on the Ally Pally stage for the first time. He’s a really down to earth lad with a superb natural talent and he’s sure to have been soaking up the advice of his mentor Gary Anderson in the run-in to the tournament. Like many, I’m also expecting big things from Corey Cadby, who could pull up a few trees in his section of the draw. He certainly doesn’t lack confidence but he has the ability to back it up as he proved in the World Series and World Youth final.
Burton DeWitt (Darts statistician): Just one? No, I’m giving you two. First, Mervyn King is one of the eight players in the field who is in the top third of the field in scoring, set-up, and checkouts, and as such he’s my eighth-highest rated player in the world right now. He hasn’t been getting the results to match his performances. His draw is more than favourable, and I fancy him to give James Wade a real scare in the last 16. The other player to watch will be Jonny Clayton, if he can bring his Euro Tour form to the TV stage, he will beat both Gerwyn Price and Ian White.
Dan Dawson (Commentator): I can’t wait to see Corey Cadby on the world stage, he has a very tough section of the draw though, so he may not be around for long. I also think Jelle Klaasen has been playing excellently all year without getting the rewards he deserves (mainly because MVG keeps giving him absolutely brutal beatings).
How far will Phil Taylor go?
Matthew Kiernan (The Darting Nerd): I’d fancy Taylor to reach the last eight, where he is due to meet Barney. More and more people are raising their game against him that it wouldn’t surprise me if an upset was caused before this stage. He is an incredible player who has done so much for the game. His playing level has remained impeccable, it’s just that everyone else has raised theirs.
Tom Beresford (Tungsten Stories): It’s fair to say that Taylor should get out of his quarter of the draw, I personally think he will reach the semi-finals.
Bob Anderson (1988 world champion): Quarter-finals.
Wayne Mardle (five-time World Championship semi-finalist): Semi-finals then he will get beat 6-3 by MVG.
Rod Studd (Sky Sports commentator): A rested and refreshed Phil Taylor could be dangerous just as he was at the Champions League of Darts. He has a chance to win for the 17th time but on the flip side he could be vulnerable in any match with his air of invincibility now gone.
Pieter Verbeek (Dutch journalist): I would not be surprised if he loses before the semi-finals. If he reaches the semi-finals, I think he will lose to Michael van Gerwen.
Jay Shaw (Live Darts content editor): There’s a few whispers that this could potentially be Taylor’s penultimate World Championship before he calls it a day and he’ll be as desperate as ever to get his hands back on that trophy. Missing the Players Championship could prove a blessing in disguise. His preparation will have been geared towards this tournament since the end of the Grand Slam and I fully expect him to see off Bowles or Platt then account for Painter or Caven. Kim Huybrechts would be his likely third round opponent, proceeded by the likes of Lewis or Barney – all of whom he has comfortably beaten before at Ally Pally. The key hurdle, therefore, lies in the semi-finals, where barring a miracle, it would be MVG who awaits. The Power knows how to break the Dutchman down and has done so numerous times this year, but on current form, you’d have to favour van Gerwen to gain revenge and book his place in the final.
Burton DeWitt (Darts statistician): Taylor has the closest thing to a bye to the last 16 as there is in darts. It would be a collosal shock if he doesn’t get through to the last 16. I think he’ll get past either Kim Huybrechts or Vincent van der Voort, but his potential quarter-final against Barney is the potential match of the tournament. Barney is playing the best darts he has played in years recently, and Taylor too is back near his best. But I think Barney takes him out in the quarter-finals.
Dan Dawson (Commentator): Phil could go all the way and win it – he’s still very capable. It’s such a hard quarter he’s in though and I think it’ll be an achievement just to get through that.
Which first round match are you most looking forward to?
Matthew Kiernan (The Darting Nerd): Actually I’m looking forward to most of the prelim games, namely Kevin Simm. Here is a guy who is a Cheshire Super League player who finished a modest 56th on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit. He has never gone beyond the last 16 in one of those events, doesn’t have a tour card or a PDC ranking. And yet here he is on the grandest stage of them all, having won through at the PDPA Qualifier. It’s a fairy-tale and one thousands of amateurs can buy into. I can’t wait to see his face as he walks on, and then I’m fascinated to see how he copes with the pressure. What a way to make your TV debut.
Tom Beresford (Tungsten Stories): There’s a few games which have all the makings to be a classic, but for me the game of the first round has to be Raymond van Barneveld versus Robbie Green. If both players play like they can it will be an absolute cracker and Green will be confident ahead of the clash. His record against Barney is brilliant and he will fancy his chances.
Bob Anderson (1988 world champion): Stephen Bunting versus Darren Webster. I feel a demolition coming on!
Wayne Mardle (five-time World Championship semi-finalist): Painter versus Caven. I’m a friend of Kevin’s and would love to see him play well and win at least a couple of rounds.
Rod Studd (Sky Sports commentator): Assuming Cadby wins his prelim game, his match against Joe Cullen should be terrific. Steve Beaton versus Devon Petersen should be well worth watching too.
Pieter Verbeek (Dutch journalist): Reyes-van den Bergh, Cullen-Cadby, van Barneveld-Green, K Huybrechts-Wilson, van der Voort-Hopp and Beaton-Petersen are the games I’m looking forward to.
Jay Shaw (Live Darts content editor): Kim Huybrechts vs James Wilson. There are half a dozen or so real stand-out ties, but I think on current form this one could be a cracker with very little to choose between the two. A player of Huybrechts’ calibre hasn’t done himself justice in the World Championship in recent years, but he’ll be looking to kick on from a resurgent campaign in Minehead and get off to a strong start here. Wilson has made huge strides on the circuit this year and will be relishing a first taste of the Ally Pally stage. He beat Kim in his own back yard at the European Championship and will fancy his chances of doing the double.
Burton DeWitt (Darts statistician): The popular pick is Stephen Bunting and Darren Webster, and it should be good. Bunting has had a lot of rotten luck the last two years, and Webster has upset a seed two years running in the first round. But I’m going for Simon Stevenson – Robert Thornton. Stevenson has quietly had a really, really good three months on the floor and by every metric is playing better than Thornton right now. If he can adjust to the TV cameras, Thornton will have to improve massively.
Dan Dawson (Commentator): Aside from the obvious sexy stuff from Beaton and Gilding, my pick of the first round ties is Kim Huybrechts v Wilson – it looks a belter. Kim is playing wonderfully but Wilson is quite capable of overturning him.
Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round?
Matthew Kiernan (The Darting Nerd): In terms of seeds, a number are under threat in my opinion. Joe Cullen has been in good form this year but hasn’t won on the Alexandra Palace stage since 2011. He is likely to face the highly touted Corey Cadby in the first round. Jamie Lewis has had a very quiet year on the oche and has never won at the Alexandra Palace in the last four years – I’d fancy Mick McGowan for that one.
Tom Beresford (Tungsten Stories): For me Terry Jenkins has a very tough game as he faces the in-form youngster Josh Payne, who has appeared in a number of TV events this year and has looked solid. Dimtri van den Bergh has a huge chance of progressing past Cristo Reyes. Another youngster Chris Dobey for me should also get past the out of sorts Justin Pipe. I do think Corey Cadby could get past Joe Cullen also.
Wayne Mardle (five-time World Championship semi-finalist): Caven, Price, Dolan, Reyes, Huybrechts, Pipe, Smith, Cullen, Henderson.
Rod Studd (Sky Sports commentator): They will all be nervous, even MVG. Barney has drawn a toughie in Robbie Green and Terry Jenkins could find rising star Josh Payne a very tricky opponent.
Pieter Verbeek (Dutch journalist): Cristo Reyes, Joe Cullen, Jamie Caven, John Henderson, Justin Pipe, Brendan Dolan and Jamie Lewis.
Jay Shaw (Live Darts content editor): As ever, the draw is a minefield of quality and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me to see at least eight seeds bite the dust at the first hurdle. In terms of being the most vulnerable, you have to look at the players for whom results on TV have been few and far between this season. Mervyn King has slipped out of the top 16 and can ill-afford to be off his game against Steve West – who’ll head into his Ally Pally debut full of confidence after a superb second half of the season. Michael Smith has struggled massively since finishing bottom of the Premier League and Ricky Evans – who’s no stranger to a first round upset – will fancy his chances of adding to Bully Boy’s woes. Stephen Bunting is under a different type of pressure this year. He’s defending prize money for the first time and should be pushed all the way by Darren Webster, whose run to the semis in Minehead could hardly have come at a better time.
Burton DeWitt (Darts statistician): I’ve actually tipped 12 of the 32 seeds to fall in the first round, and I’ve picked John Henderson, Justin Pipe, Thornton, Huybrechts, Steve Beaton, and Mensur Suljovic to win tight matches. There are very few seeds that have anything close to a relatively easy match. If I had to pick one seed that I’d be surprised to see win, that’s Jamie Caven. He’s playing terribly right now, and Kevin Painter should be buoyed by getting a reprieve after originally failing to qualify.
Dan Dawson (Commentator): Cullen could face Cadby, and he’s got a frustrating record at the worlds, so he has to be considered in danger. However, he’s playing the darts of his life so I think he could actually have a run.
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?
Matthew Kiernan (The Darting Nerd): The Circus Tavern had its own gritty charm, but the sport has grown exponentially since then, which made the move to Ally Pally a must. The move means more fans can watch live, a higher gate revenue and ultimately more money for the players. Perhaps most crucially, it creates one of the greatest sporting atmospheres that money can buy – “boring, boring tables” chant notwithstanding. From what I hear from those that have played there this year, the Circus Tavern has seen better days as a facility. So from my perspective – long live Ally Pally!
Tom Beresford (Tungsten Stories): We will never forget the unique atmosphere of the Circus Tavern, where the crowd were really on top of the players on stage, similar to the World Matchplay but a bit more intimate. I do think Ally Pally has been a great home for the World Championship in recent years and many more years to come as the game continues to rise in popularity.
Bob Anderson (1988 world champion): I only played at Ally Pally once, so it never really felt like home to me as a player. However, I’m sure the players of today love it!
Wayne Mardle (five-time World Championship semi-finalist): I do miss it a bit, but the sport had become too big for it. The Alexandra Palace gives off an importance, it feels a special event when you walk through the doors. It should feel bigger and better than any other event, and it does. The World Championship is what it’s all about. THE BIG ONE.
Rod Studd (Sky Sports commentator): I miss the Circus Tavern very much. Anyone who was there when Barney beat the Power in the 2007 final or when Adrian Lewis walked out against One Dart will know exactly how I feel. It was an old fashioned sporting bear pit perfect for darts. The championship outgrew the old place though and Ally Pally has provided its own wonderful atmosphere and some magical moments. Long may that continue.
Pieter Verbeek (Dutch journalist): I’m only 22 and was not really following darts when it was held at the Circus Tavern. I only have seen the final between Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor in that venue. If I look to the result of that game, I have to like the location in Purfleet!
Jay Shaw (Live Darts content editor): Personally, I never managed to make it to the Circus Tavern, but the first world final I ever watched was the classic between Taylor and Barney in 2007 and that was the perfect way to close that chapter of the sport. In terms of intimacy, the Circus Tavern created a much more intense atmosphere from a knowledgeable crowd rather than the party atmosphere you get at Ally Pally, but there’s no denying that the sport had outgrown that venue and I think the move has been integral to the success of the sport over the past decade.
Burton DeWitt (Darts statistician): The PDC outgrew the Circus Tavern, plain and simple. And we’re seeing the PDC ditch smaller venues elsewhere, with Dusseldorf, for instance, falling off the Euro Tour calendar for 2017. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years, if the semi-finals and final are moved to the O2 or something like that. The atmosphere may be different, but it’s the direction the PDC wants to move in.
Dan Dawson (Commentator): I’ve only ever covered darts at the Ally Pally so I can’t really comment on what the Circus Tavern was like – but I adore Ally Pally – it’s synonymous with the worlds now and I can’t wait to get there again this year.