World Matchplay betting column, day four: Steve West can best Darren Webster in some markets

The first round saw some cracking games and particularly some underdog victories.

The opening two games on Saturday saw Steve West and Darren Webster ruin plenty of fav’s accumulators on the night by ploughing home at a combined 14/1 double if anyone was on this.

Gary Anderson and Peter Wright obliged but if backers had taken on the positive handicaps on the underdogs they would have cleaned up.

We said this to Justin Pipe himself last week and it stated we would love to see Pipe and Suljovic battle at the last 16 phase and we have been granted this.

The order of play for Tuesday:

Mensur Suljovic vs. Justin Pipe (Pipe leads 9-2)

Darren Webster vs. Steve West – no previous meetings

Gary Anderson vs. Darryl Gurney – (Anderson leads 6-4)

Peter Wright vs. Cristo Reyes – (Wright leads 7-1)

Mensur Suljovic vs. Justin Pipe (1/3 -3/1)

The pair have met 11 times with Pipe prevailing on nine occasions. Blewboy won the last encounter at a Pro Tour event in April 6-2 with Mensur over the last year or so as the in-form player, who has recently dipped sideways in form especially on the floor events.

On stage however since the World Cup of Darts in June he has made a semi final and final in three events so his stage work is still mighty great.

Pipe managed to see off out of touch Jelle Klaasen in the opener on Sunday with it looking visual that the Dutch maestro’s wrist injury was not completely match fit. Pipe won the game with a tad under 91 average hitting six maximums in the process.

Mensur saw off John Henderson with some ease with a 10-4 victory with a mid 94 average and three maximums.

The betting price firmly sits with the Austrian and why shouldn’t it? With Mensur’s stage work and epic resilience playing a Pipe (3/1) who seemed to not be at his best saw some good darts and some off par shots also.

In a best of 21 clash Pipe is given a +3.5 leg headstart at 10/11 and I see the format suiting both players with a deliberate slow pace. This game should be a cracker now Pipe will be more confident after a win on stage. With the slower pace of the game if this game goes some distance will surely over run the estimated game length.

We contacted William Hill for a match bet and they offered us our fair scenario which was both players to hit 4+ maximums and the match checkout over 110.50 at 100/30 and I cannot deny there isn’t a fair chance of landing especially offering us a bet with an implied percentage of 23.09%.

Darren Webster vs. Steve West – no previous meetings

The pair have not met before according to my sources and both caused early upsets from short priced backers on Saturday.

Both Webster and West collectively would have returned just over 14/1 and between 5/2-3/1 on the positive handicaps had this been backed.

Both players performed brilliantly throughout with Webster needing a mention for his sheer bottle of not succumbing to the big stage and seeing it through against James Wade who was reportedly not well but is not excusing that for defeat.

Steve West and Michael Smith accelerated into the first mini session with a 108 average to a credible 99.94 10-5 victory.

Surprisingly bookies have favoured Webster at 58% to West’s 42% which could be on the basis of form in respect West was a longer price against Smith that Webster was versus Wade.

Bet365 goes 11/8 the pair are 2-2 after four legs and 15/8 it is still tied after six. Looking at the high checkout since the World Championship on stage Webster’s best checkout was a 112 at a European Tour event and hit a 102 in his opener.

West’s best in this period was a 130 at a European Tour event as well as a 121 vs Smith on Saturday. Layers have Webster at short at 8/11 but 5/6 in places for the highest checkout on the night with West at Evens.

Our reasoning for the pricing is purely the match pricing in respect Webster’s price indicates he will win at least two more legs than West. I still fancy the even money price though as I think Webster is a shade shorter than I would have stated.

My target bet here although will be Sky Bet is for West -1.5 maximums vs Webster. The outright most 180’s is 1/2 so the target price minimum for this is even money (1/1)

Gary Anderson vs. Daryl Gurney – (Anderson leads 6-4)

In what may be billed as a rematch just over a week ago when Gurney bested Anderson 8-4 at the US Masters he will look to make it a double sweep as the pair meet again.

Anderson pocketed 10 maximums in his win over Christian Kist which saw the Scotsman bring some of Kist’s better performances out from him.

With both players in fine form, this should be a cracker. Gurney averaged 97 in his first round victory and looked full of confidence. The treble 20 will take a pounding in this game.

Checking certain markets we love Marathonbet offering 89/100 on Anderson to net over a 112.50 checkout. We hope this is not an error but is the bet we take here!

Peter Wright vs. Cristo Reyes – (Wright leads 7-1)

An interesting statistic that all of their eight meetings would have seen over’s on the total leg line (over 9.5 for best of 11) and (over 16.5 on a best of 19).

Wright managed to get over the line against Wilson in the opener despite some below par darts seeing Wright struggle to get out of second gear for some of the contest managing an 89.26 average despite some brilliance from a 147 checkout.

His opponent Reyes pocketed a cool 101 average in a good display against ailing Robert Thornton.

Wright priced on reputation here is around 3/10 with the Spaniard at 4/1 in places. Had the pricing been based on the last performance alone you would be queuing up for the 4/1 wouldn’t you? Of course I’d be in that queue also.

There will be a no bet in this game as nothing takes much fancy.


Suljovic/Pipe both to land at least 4 maximums each and match checkout over 110.50 – 100/30 William Hill #yourodds – 0.5 pts

Steve West -1.5 180s vs. Webster – (Target price 1/1 Sky Bet) – 2pts

Steve West – Highest Checkout – 1/1 general – 1pt

Gary Anderson – over 112.50 checkout – 1.89 Marathonbet 1pt

World Matchplay betting column, day three: Michael van Gerwen to be ‘King of the Oche’ in first outing tonight

The business end of the first round sees the last eight players fight for the remaining places in the last 16 tonight.

Tonight’s order of play:

Simon Whitlock vs. Kyle Anderson – players tied 2-2
Adrian Lewis vs. Steve Beaton – players tied 6-6
Michael van Gerwen vs. Stephen Bunting – MVG leads 10-3
Ian White vs. Rob Cross – White leads 3-1

Simon Whitlock vs. Kyle Anderson

The battle of the Australians entertains the opener at the Winter Gardens with Simon Whitlock pitted against his World Cup partner Kyle Anderson, in which is one of my personal delights of the first round.

Whitlock begun 2017 in high spirits having won two UK Open Qualifiers in February and followed that up with a great run at the UK Open, getting to the quarter-finals in March.

A semi-final in a European Tour event around Easter saw consistency prevail until a dip in form from May onwards saw Whitlock bow out at the early stages of events.

Kyle Anderson’s temporary absence at the back end of 2016 has not done him many favours either nicely rising up the rankings at the time to be forced missing out on three big events including the World Championships.

A European Tour quarter-final and a Pro Tour semi-final more recently have been the main highlights with Anderson the 11/8 shot versus Whitlock at 4/6.

I find this game difficult to call in respect that either player is not going to let the other get too far ahead during the game. I really think if there was one game to nominate going to a tie-breaker this would be on the draft list.

On the betting market front I considered plenty, including the Whitlock three-dart average which was chalked at 11/13 for over 95.50, but the checkout line we wanted was 115.50, but the layers have priced up at 116.50, which was disappointing. Whitlock is capable of the higher average although at 8/11 is not ideal.

Adrian Lewis vs. Steve Beaton

Adrian Lewis will be making his first appearance on stage since being absent on medical grounds recently. We hope Adie is back to full health and will cheer you on as we always do.

His opponent Steve Beaton will no doubt be as consummate as ever, hoping to be able to recreate his magic from 12 months prior getting to the quarter-final and losing out narrowly to Gary Anderson 16-13 in the process in one of the memorable games from last year’s event.

Lewis is 4/9 with the Bronzed Adonis out at 5/2. With Lewis being off the stage for a little while he may produce some “ring-rust” as it might be described and playing Beaton over a dozen times previously knows Steve will just play his game.

The pair have not met on stage approaching three years now. No disrespect to Lewis, but going in blindly on how he may perform with his temporary absence and using reputation alone is not strong enough in my book.

I will be interested on a small interest bet on Beaton over 105.50 checkout at 11/13 with Bwin and I also liked 6/5 on Beaton to hit four or more maximums. With his smooth throw when he is in the zone the maximums do go in but often he can lose some rhythm on the third dart to deny a maximum.

Michael van Gerwen vs. Stephen Bunting

Michael van Gerwen faces off against Stephen Bunting in the penultimate game where MVG is a very heavy favourite to see off the Bullet. Bunting had recently spoken on the Weekly Dartscast and it is well worth a listen.

MVG is heading off as the 4/5 favourite for the title and goes off at 1/16 to win the game with Bunting out at 12/1 to cause a massive upset. There is no value in MVG on the match price and even considering the handicaps you are relying on MVG to win 10-3 or better.

Versus the correct scores of 10-0; 10-1; 10-2 or 10-3 the correct score price implies around a 60 per cent price versus the -6.5 price at 5/4 representing a 44.44 per cent chance.

Looking at the markets the only market that may seem any interest is an even money shot on MVG to win, score the most 180s and the highest checkout makes most sense to me as the game implies Bunting will not get many chances to win legs in the game and even if MVG is off the boil last time we saw Bunting he had real double trouble and I am not sure how his confidence really is going into this game.

Ian White vs. Rob Cross

The final game sees White and Cross with the Diamond with the 3-1 advantage on the head to head all played in 2017.

Cross has been one of the surprise consistent players of 2017 making the most of his tour card rising up the rankings fast. Cross plays veteran White who has been on the circuit for a long time and is no pushover.

Getting to the point here – both are strong on throw and taking this on board I was thinking the total leg price to be around 4/5 but is priced at 19/20 with betstars which is a pleasant surprise. I’d take this rather than the 8/11 on Cross or 13/10 on White.


Beaton – over 105.50 checkout – 11/13 Bwin 0.5 pts

MVG King of the Oche – Win game/most 180 and highest checkout – 1/1 Sky Bet – 1.5 pts

Cross/White – over 16.5 legs – 19/20 betstars 1pt

Daryl Gurney relishing a rematch with Gary Anderson in the World Matchplay after surviving first round thriller

Daryl Gurney is relishing the prospect of locking horns with Gary Anderson again in the second round of the World Matchplay.

The Northern Irishman defeated Anderson in the quarter-finals of the US Darts Masters in Las Vegas last week, on his way to reaching a maiden TV final.

And after surviving three match darts to squeeze past 15th seed Benito van de Pas 11-9 in the first round of the World Matchplay this afternoon, the focus now turns to a rematch between the two in-form players next week.

“Obviously I know how Gary works, Gary gets a wee bit cheesed off when he gets beat by a certain player,” Gurney told Love The Darts.

“He obviously wants to beat me and put it right, but I want to play him. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and he’s one of the best, and I’ll be going out there trying to win it.”

In an enthralling encounter on the Winter Gardens stage this afternoon, Gurney stormed into a 5-2 lead against van de Pas, only to see the Dutchman reel off four straight legs, the third of those finishing with a 170 checkout, to go 6-5 in front.

Van de Pas then broke in the 16th leg to lead 9-7 and throw for the match, but he crucially spurned three match darts at double 16 to get over the line, and Gurney won four legs on the spin to win 11-9 in a tie-break.

Gurney finished with five 180s and a 142 finish to his name as he recorded his first win on the Winter Gardens stage at the second attempt, but does he feel like his game is there to take on the world number two?

“Possibly, the way I was after 10 legs in that game (against van de Pas) I’ll be with him,” Gurney said.

“My scoring and my finishing was there, I was playing really well, more or less probably the way Gary plays, but I’ve got to do it over the full length of a match.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it. If I wasn’t looking forward to playing Anderson I would have stayed at home.”

Justin Pipe through to second round of World Matchplay for first time in four years after beating 10th seed Jelle Klaasen

Justin Pipe booked his spot in the second round of the World Matchplay for the first time in four years with a comfortable 10-5 victory over Jelle Klaasen this afternoon.

The world number 30 had reached the quarter-finals at the Winter Gardens in 2012 and 2013, but had fallen at the first hurdle in each of his last three visits to Blackpool.

While his opponent Klaasen, the 10th seed, was also on a losing run at the World Matchplay, as he came in with three consecutive first round defeats, all since an appearance in the last eight back in 2010.

Pipe punished a slow start from Klaasen to take a surprise 5-0 lead against his higher ranked opponent at the first break, with 109 and 120 checkouts in the fourth and fifth legs helping him to establish a big advantage.

Klaasen stopped the rot in leg six, missing the bullseye for a 161 finish before cleaning up 25 on his next visit to get his first leg on the board.

The Dutchman then had the chance to make further inroads into Pipe’s lead in the next leg, but missed his chance and Pipe eventually found double three to regain his five-leg cushion at 6-1.

Pipe threatened an exhibition checkout in the eighth leg as he began an attempt at a 132 finish with two bullseyes, but missed his effort at the double 16, and Klaasen finished off 76 to double his tally.

However, Pipe never let the former BDO world champion build any momentum, with a 108 finish, his third 100+ checkout of the match, putting him 7-2 in front, before a maximum and double 18 stretched his lead to 8-2 at the second break.

Klaasen returned after the break in need of a miracle comeback to avoid another first round exit in Blackpool, and he showed signs that a revival could be possible with back-to-back legs, in 14 and 16 darts, to cut the deficit to 8-4.

But after the next two legs were shared, Pipe hitting double 16 for a 17 darter and Klaasen landing double four in a 15-dart finish, Pipe secured the victory, with his sixth maximum closely followed by double 16 wrapping up his first win on the Winter Gardens stage since 2013.

Match Statistics

Jelle Klaasen (89.34): 100+ 16, 140+ 8, 180s 3, Highest checkout 76, Checkout percentage 26.32% 5/19
Justin Pipe (90.94): 100+ 21, 140+ 8, 180s 6, Highest checkout 120, Checkout percentage 31.25% 10/32

World Matchplay betting column, day two afternoon session: Jelle Klaasen to get the better of Justin Pipe

Today we are treated to a double session which will see eight further round one matches that will help shape up the last 16 ties.

Jelle Klaasen vs. Justin Pipe

Klaasen toes the oche in the opener versus Justin Pipe, where both need the win for different reasons. Pipe is a nose ahead on the head to head although the pair have not met in over two years.

Jelle is 4/9 with Pipe at 9/4 and Jelle has a 2.5 leg handicap as the different maker at just under even money.

Klaasen in the last two months has really struggled on the tour finding it difficult to get past the last 16 in any competition and failing to cash out at either of the last Player Championship events at the start of July.

Pipe on the other hand on the last two European Tours exited in the first round and may be low on confidence.

Looking at the betting market this is tough to call from a value aspect however the -2.5 on Jelle would get the nod if you wanted an around even money bet.

Robert Thornton vs. Cristo Reyes

Thornton and Reyes take to the oche second up and the pair have met three time prior with The Thorn holding the advantage 2-1 in this respect.

This game is edged towards Reyes on a reputation basis as Thornton’s stage play has nosedived hence the odds compilers view on taking on Reyes for this. Reyes is 4/5 with the Scot 6/5.

Usually when games are priced like this checking the total legs in the game is always a great first base.

Layers take 4/5 on 17 or more legs and 10/11 on fewer. Sky Bet are 4/1 there are 20 or more legs thus a tie breaker which may appeal.

Having looked at this game prior to writing this is one I would rather leave this be.

Benito van de Pas vs. Daryl Gurney

Third on is another close knit game with Benito van de Pas taking on Darryl Gurney in a game where a few months back the pricing would have been a pick em.

Gurney’s recent form including a great run in the World Series has led to a surge of confidence in Gurney being earmarked a Premier League spot next February.

Benito has made one quarter final at a European Tour event since making the final of the German Open at the end of April.

The head-to-head goes against Big Ben having lost all of the last four. Although Gurney is a little skinny on the match price around 4/6 you can get the same price on Gurney winning the 180 by two or more is the bet I am willing to take from this one in the event the game goes some distance I am more confident on Gurney’s 180s.

Mensur Suljovic vs. John Henderson

Mensur Suljovic and John Henderson see off the afternoon session with the Austrian red hot 9/2 ON favourite against the Scot.

There is no previous meetings from my sources and this could be a game that doesn’t really appeal to any betting markets so will leave this be.


Klaasen -2.5 legs vs Pipe – 28/29 Marathonbet 1pt

Gurney -1.5 180s vs van de Pas – 4/6 Sky Bet 2pts

Peter Wright avoids first round scare to edge past James Wilson 10-8 on World Matchplay opening night

Peter Wright avoided a huge scare as he battled back from 3-0 and 8-6 down to beat James Wilson 10-8 in the first round of the World Matchplay tonight.

The UK Open champion looked destined to be heading for an early exit at the Winter Gardens this year, as debutant Wilson took an early lead which he maintained for the majority of the game.

However, missed doubles at crucial times proved costly for Wilson, as Wright won four legs in a row to squeeze through a 10-8 winner in the last match of the opening night in Blackpool.

It was a confident start for Wilson as the Huddersfield ace landed a 12 darter on his way to opening up a surprise 3-0 lead over the third seed.

Wright showed some resistance by taking the next two legs to only trail 3-2 at the first break, but Wilson responded brilliantly with legs in 11 and 10 darts helping him regain his three-leg cushion.

The World Matchplay debutant established leads of 6-3 and 7-4 and, despite Wright checking out 78 for a break to close to 7-6 behind, a superb 127 checkout on the bullseye moved him two legs away from the finishing line.

However, missed doubles in the next two legs from Wilson proved to be the turning point and the catalyst of a late fightback from Wright.

The number three seed finally claimed the 16th leg in 22 darts to level up at 8-8, but only after Wilson had missed the chance to go 9-7 in front.

Wright then hit double eight in the next leg to go ahead for the first time in the match, before an impressive 147 checkout in the 18th leg sealed a comeback win for the Scot.

“I’d have been distraught if I’d lost but I got through it,” Wright said.

“James was very nervous and I was too, coming here as the number three seed.

“I played rubbish in Shanghai and Las Vegas, I brought 10 sets of darts with me and I didn’t know what darts to use – it feels like I’ve never thrown a dart in my life before and it’s really weird.

“I won’t be using these darts again and I can go back and prepare for my next match now. I got away with it.”

Match Statistics

Wright (89.26): 100+ 23, 140+ 15; 180s 2, Highest checkout 147, Checkout percentage 10/33 30.3%
Wilson (90.51): 100+ 22, 140+ 10, 180s 4, Highest checkout 127, Checkout percentage 8/24 33.33%

Gary Anderson overcomes Blackpool debutant Christian Kist 10-7 to get World Matchplay title bid up and running

Gary Anderson became the first seed to book his place in the second round of the World Matchplay after edging past Christian Kist 10-7 tonight.

The world number two hit 10 180s and averaged 101.95 as he started his latest bid for a maiden title at the Winter Gardens with a hard-fought first round victory against the debutant.

In one of three last 32 ties pitting former world champions against each other in Blackpool this year, 2015 and 2016 PDC world champion Anderson and 2012 BDO winner Kist hit 19 180s between them in an intriguing encounter.

After seeing Michael Smith and James Wade both suffer surprise defeats earlier in the evening, Kist showed early signs that another seed could be falling on the opening night as he hit tops tops to check out 100 in the first leg.

However, the second seed had other ideas by winning the next four legs to lead 4-1 at the first break, before the Scot took two of the next three to move further ahead at 6-2.

Kist fought back with consecutive legs, the latter of which included back-to-back 180s, to cut Anderson’s lead to 6-4 at the second break.

Seven of the contest’s first nine legs had gone against the throw, with the trend continuing when the two players returned to stage.

Another maximum for Kist, who hit nine in total, saw him break the two-time world champion to reduce his arrears to one leg.

Anderson responded with two maximums on his way to an 11-darter to break for a 7-5 lead, before Kist broke in 12 darts in the 13th leg to cut the gap to one again.

An 11th break of throw followed in the next leg as Anderson moved two legs clear again at 8-6, before the Scot took out finishes of 76 and 88, in 14 and 15-dart legs, to complete a 10-7 win.

“It was a good game and you’re always going to get that against Christian,” Anderson said.

“He’s a steady player and once he starts finding his range and his speed he sticks in but I pinched it.

“It’s been hard, we’ve been on the road a bit and I was lucky at the end.”

Match Statistics

Anderson (101.95): 100+ 20, 140+ 9; 180s 10, Highest checkout 89, Checkout percentage 10/29 34.48%
Kist (99.96): 100+ 16, 140+ 12, 180s 9, Highest checkout 100, Checkout percentage 7/16 43.75%

Darren Webster survives match darts to knock out 2007 champion James Wade 13-11 in World Matchplay first round thriller

Darren Webster survived three match darts to beat world number six James Wade 13-11 in a first round thriller at the World Matchplay tonight.

The Norwich thrower battled back from 6-2 down, and at 9-8 adrift he had to rely on Wade missing three match darts before taking out 102 to save the match and force a tie-break, before getting over the line in the 24th leg.

Wade, the 2007 World Matchplay champion and a five-time runner-up at the Winter Gardens, had never failed to reach the quarter-finals or better before last year’s event.

But after losing to Mervyn King in the first round 12 months ago, the sixth seed fell at the first hurdle again this year as Webster continued his recent run of impressive performances on the big stage.

Left-hander Wade, who suffered a surprise first round exit in the US Darts Masters to Canadian qualifier Dawson Murschell last week, looked set to cruise into the second round in Blackpool as he opened up a 6-2 lead, aided by a 121 finish.

Webster would not be deterred by his slow start, though, winning five of the next six legs to level up at 7-7, before an 11-darter put the world number 29 in front again.

The momentum kept swinging back and forth as Wade threw in back-to-back 13 darters, the second of which saw him close out the leg with a 171 followed by double 16, to move 9-8 up, but pivotally the former World Matchplay winner missed three match darts in the next leg.

Webster returned to the oche and took out 102 on tops to save the match and force a tie-break, before it was his turn to miss darts for the match.

After holding throw in leg 19 to edge back in front at 10-9, Webster went low with three darts at double 19 to secure the win, with a reprieved Wade hitting double 10 to make it 10-10.

Webster would make the most of his second chance to dump out the sixth seed, as after winning two of the next three legs he landed tops to complete a memorable 13-11 victory.

“I’m the happiest man in Blackpool – over the moon!” said Webster, who will face Steve West in an unexpected second round tie early next week.

“When I was 6-2 down I had to dig in and I told myself I could do it and I got back into the game. He missed three darts and I took out the 102, and that was a big shot.

“James is the man for winning tight games and I’ve managed to beat him so it means a lot. I’ve played well recently and I’ll be relaxed now in the next game.”

Match Statistics

Wade (96.08): 100+ 42, 140+ 18; 180s 2, Highest checkout 121, Checkout percentage 11/20 55%
Webster (96.48): 100+ 35, 140+ 21, 180s 5, Highest checkout 102, Checkout percentage 13/32 40.63%

Steve West dumps out 11th seed Michael Smith 10-5 in dream World Matchplay debut

Steve West enjoyed a memorable World Matchplay debut as he knocked out 11th seed Michael Smith 10-5 in the opening game of the tournament tonight.

The world number 39 averaged 99.94 and hit five 180s as he caused an upset in round one at the Winter Gardens, in Blackpool.

A high-quality contest began with West holding throw on double nine in the first leg, before Smith reeled off three straight legs, all in 15 darts each, with checkouts of 68, 76 and 80 to lead 3-1.

West responded with what proved to be a crucial 121 finish on the bullseye in leg five to close the gap to 3-2, and the Blackpool debutant went into the first break averaging close to 110.

The bullseye finish sparked a winning run for West after the restart, with the 42-year-old whitewashing his younger opponent by winning all five legs in the second session.

West needed just 69 darts as he produced a clean sweep, which included two 11 darters and a 104 finish, to open up a commanding 7-3 lead, and it was an advantage which he would press home to the finishing line.

A third 11-dart finish after the second break stretched West’s lead to 8-3 and made it seven legs in a row for the Essex thrower.

Smith continued to search for a way back into the match, claiming two of the next three legs in 12 and 14 darts, but the former world youth champion spurned a chance to cut the deficit in the 15th leg, leaving West to land double 10 to seal victory on his Winter Gardens debut.

“I’m very, very happy with that and it’s a brilliant win,” said West, who is the second lowest ranked player in this year’s World Matchplay.

“After four legs I must admit that I was a bit worried, but the 121 gave me a lot of confidence.

“it’s a pretty big win but I’ve struggled a bit for the last three months, I know I’m good enough and I’ve never doubted my ability but I wasn’t getting the results.

“Tonight the darts went for me, and this is going to fill me with confidence.”

Match Statistics

Smith (95.45): 100+ 18, 140+ 6; 180s 4, Highest checkout 80, Checkout percentage 5/11 45.45%
West (99.94): 100+ 21, 140+ 12, 180s 5, Highest checkout 121, Checkout percentage 10/23 43.48%

World Matchplay 2017: Our team make their predictions

Who will win the final? Who will be the player to watch? How far will Phil Taylor go in his final World Matchplay? 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?

Dave South: It is difficult to disagree with the bookmakers fancying MVG to retain his title at 4/5. In percentage terms this is an implied 55.5 per cent chance of winning. Some firms are as short as a 60 per cent chance, thus 4/6.

Michael has hit by far the most 180s this year with Dave Chisnall the only other player to break the 200 barrier according to Darts Database.

It will not be easy for the green machine possibly having to play one of team Australia in the round of 16, assuming he can see off former BDO champion Stephen Bunting in round one.

With a potential meeting with Barney or Taylor in the quarter-finals, a possible semi-final according to the bookmakers will be Dave Chisnall. I expect Michael to make the final.

On the other half of the draw the obvious picks are Gary Anderson and Peter Wright. Both have the credentials although Anderson has a potentially tricky rematch against Daryl Gurney from the US Masters in store.

Wright will not have it his own way either and a player potentially shining through at the right time is Michael Smith. If he gets his doubles tidied up he could be the finalist from the other half of the draw.

I’m most excited about the bottom half of the draw as it’s time for an emerging player to really make a mark here.

Christopher Kempf: Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen – no surprises here – will reach the final.

No other players have shown a consistent ability to beat either man in long-format darts. And it is a brave man who backs MVG’s opponent in the final, in spite of his track record of comebacks from almost unwinnable situations in televised events.

In that respect, call me cowardly. Michael van Gerwen will win a third consecutive World Matchplay title.

Dave McNally: Ok, so I’m not actually going to make any ground breaking Nostradamus type predictions here, but I can’t see past Michael van Gerwen winning the title.

The Dutchman has the knack of putting it all together at the right time, and with Blackpool’s straight legs tournament, he is capable of demoralising his opponents if he races into an early lead.

Facing van Gerwen in the final I suspect will be Peter Wright, who comes through the bottom half of the draw with his steady, competitive style and experience of knowing what is needed and how to play these big events.

Burton DeWitt: Well, it has to be Beaton-Pipe, no? No, seriously, I’m hard-pressed to see past Michael van Gerwen on the top half.

Yes, there is a fascinating potential quarter-final with either Phil Taylor or Raymond van Barneveld, but neither of them have seemed good enough so far this year to really give the world number one a challenge.

In the bottom half, I think you could make a really strong case not just for Gary Anderson and Peter Wright, but also for Daryl Gurney, Mensur Suljovic, and Michael Smith.

That said, I think Peter Wright will rebound off a poor World Series holiday and get through. From there, I’ll go van Gerwen to win 18-12.

Who will be the player to watch?

Dave South: Several – Rob Cross has been by far the breakthrough player since his epic maiden UK Open run and will at his pace break into the top 16 with gentle ease.

It would be great to see Gurney continue his great form and he has the credentials to make some distance.

I would also love to see Steve Beaton have one last magical run and he plays an Adrian Lewis who has been dealing with stuff outside the sport, which may be a distraction. Steve rolled back the years last year and is certainly a darting hall of famer.

Lastly, I would love to see Justin Pipe using this event as a platform to kick start his season again, and with a Jelle Klaasen with recent wrist injuries first up it could be what he requires. If Suljovic defeats Henderson we will get a Pipe/Suljovic second round game which I would love to see!

Christopher Kempf: Rob Cross is undoubtedly the player to watch. On the Pro Tour he’s been magnificent, but he has rarely needed to play more than 11 legs at a time.

It remains to be seen whether Cross is up to the challenge, but he’s been placed into a relatively open section of the draw.

If he overcomes Ian White in the first round, he might catch Adrian Lewis off guard and send him home. Rob Cross’ World Matchplay debut thus could be a successful one.

Dave McNally: If Wright doesn’t make the final I can see Michael Smith pushing for a place on the finals night.

He seems to have found his self belief again and has put together a decent run of form recently. I also think Steve Beaton will do well after a bit of a renaissance over the last six months or so.

Burton DeWitt: It’s not often we can say this, but Adrian Lewis. Adrian started the year very positively, and was well-positioned right after Judgment Night for the Premier League, playing well both on TV and off, where he won a Players Championship event. But for the last three months, he’s been really out of sorts.

His form dropped sensationally, culminating in a bizarre World Cup performance where he was nothing better than terrible most of the way. Since then, Lewis has pulled out of two European Tour events and a World Series event to have surgery, and the Matchplay is his first event back.

He has a tough quarter, but one that is wide open. If he is recovered, this is a great chance to fix his season. If he’s not, there’s every chance that come January he’s out of the top 10 and maybe even top 16.

How far will Phil Taylor go in his final World Matchplay?

Dave South: Phil looked so peeved that MVG snuck back in Shanghai. Phil showed he was still on top of his game. With the added confidence Gerwyn Price has generated recently from the World Series, Price will not be laying down for Taylor to storm into round two.

A possible meet and probable emotional moment could see Taylor and Barney playing against each other on TV for the last time which will be one not to miss. A Taylor quarter-final exit to a standing ovation for me!

Christopher Kempf: Phil Taylor will defeat Raymond van Barneveld in the second round before falling to Michael van Gerwen.

Were Taylor facing MVG in a shorter-format match, I might fancy his chances, but a best-of-31 match against the best player in the world is looking like a bridge too far for The Power at the moment.

Dave McNally: First or second round exit. The man who’s done everything in the sport has nothing to prove but the fight seems to have waned.

He will get a fantastic reception from the Blackpool crowd when he bows out. No fairy-tale ending for Taylor I’m afraid.

Burton DeWitt: 167.2 miles on the M6 (83.6 miles each way), according to Google Maps. I just don’t see Taylor playing well enough to be a serious contender right now.

He’s been handed the most loaded section of the draw, and even by today’s standards of ‘there’s no such thing as an easy match’, Phil really has a draw that matches that. He has Gerwyn Price—who already has two television finals this year—and if he gets past that, either a five-time World Champion in Raymond van Barneveld, or Joe Cullen, who just won his second title of 2017 in the last Pro Tour event. And that’s just to get a date with the world number one.

I have Taylor going to the quarter-final, but that seems a best-case scenario for the former world champion on his final voyage of those 83.6 miles up the M6.

Which first round match are you most looking forward to?

Dave South: Oh great question – Reyes and Thornton as talk I’ve seen recently from other darts punters is that Reyes has this in the bag. Thornton has been quiet on the circuit, but if he has prepared well for this, if there is a tiebreaker this could be it! Cross/White is another must watch too!

Christopher Kempf: The Benito van de Pas vs Daryl Gurney match figures to be an explosive one. Though Benito is seeded, he has not played like it these past few months.

From out of nowhere, however, he can post some astronomical averages and huge checkouts. He’ll need it against Gurney, who is arguably more dangerous than most of the top 10 seeds.

Dave McNally: There are a couple of first round games to relish. Phil Taylor versus Gerwyn Price, Raymond van Barneveld versus Joe Cullen, but the one match I’m really looking forward to is Benito van de Pas against Daryl Gurney.

Two exciting players on the tour who like to stir up the crowd, I can see this being a fast-paced encounter with the crowd at fever pitch as the 180s fly in.

Burton DeWitt: So, so, so many tasty first round match-ups, it’s hard to pick one. That entire quarter with Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall is brilliant, but Chizzy-Mervyn King takes the cake.

Chisnall’s second half of the Premier League was electric; Mervyn King has quietly been performing very well this year both on the floor and the Euro Tour stage. Both of these players are players that in a good draw I’d expect to make the quarter-finals the way they’re currently playing.

Chisnall seems to be finishing better, and when his finishing is on, he’s a nearly unbreakable opponent. But King has always had a complete game, and has to be heading to Blackpool with expectations that he can duplicate last year’s performance, where he made the quarter-final. That makes this the standout tie to me.

Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round?

Dave South: Potentially Adrian Lewis, although mostly likely are Kim Huybrechts to Alan Norris and Ian White to Rob Cross.

Wade and Benito are in great danger, although Webster is an underdog that never gives up, recently pocketing a Pro Tour title, and with Wade’s performances recently he needs a break! Gurney is unseeded but the favourite heading in against van de Pas.

Christopher Kempf: In order from most vulnerable to least: Thornton, van de Pas, Wade, White, Whitlock, Klaasen, Huybrechts, Chisnall.

Dave McNally: Dave Chisnall and James Wade will have to be careful in their first round matches against Mervyn King and Darren Webster respectively.

There are plenty of tricky ties in the opening round but these two matches could provide the mini upsets early on.

Burton DeWitt: I fancy five or six to go out, and I think you could make a very strong case for nine or ten to do so. But the two most likely are Jelle Klaasen and Benito van de Pas.

Klaasen got what seems to be the kindest draw in Justin Pipe, who only just sneaked in and has lost 20 of his last 29 matches on stage—and 15 of his last 19 in TV tournaments.

But since his surgery in May, Klaasen has looked like he couldn’t beat a cold. He’s only won 2 of 9 matches across all competitions, including losses to Michael Barnard, Yordi Meeuwisse, and Tony Newell. He seems in dire form.

Meanwhile, Benito van de Pas has also been struggling, and gets the added bonus of drawing Daryl Gurney, who is the top qualifier from the Pro Tour Order of Merit and comes in off a run to the final in Las Vegas where he beat Gary Anderson and Peter Wright before narrowly losing to Michael van Gerwen. So I’m going Dutch today and saying Klaasen and van de Pas are in the most danger of the seeds.

This will be the 24th staging of the World Matchplay and the 24th time it has been held at the Winter Gardens. How special is the venue to you and where does it rank among your favourite venues in darts?

Dave South: The venue is iconic for the reasons that darts has grown to great heights, which saw the Circus Tavern and Reebok lose their status as venues, but Blackpool has survived!

I have always preferred the Matchplay legs format and bar the Grand Slam in November the format suits the marathon players. Although a number of TV events are a race to 10 in the latter stages, all players are becoming familiar with the extended format.

This event is my favourite venue for the iconic moments we have seen at this event, with examples including Taylor hitting the first UK televised live nine-dart finish and Colin Lloyd hitting a 170 to win the title!

Christopher Kempf: The Empress Ballroom is just the right size for a televised darts tournament and represents a good midway point between the intimacy of the pub and the vastness of a sports arena.

The 3,000 fans in attendance can just about get out of hand, but come nowhere near the bacchanalia of the Alexandra Palace in December. It’s also the most aesthetically pleasing venue in darts – it’s as aesthetically pleasing as it is utilitarian.

Dave McNally: The Winter Gardens is probably my favourite venue on the PDC circuit second only overall to the BDO venue at Lakeside.

It has superb character and fantastic ornate surroundings befitting of a prestigous event. The ceilings are at the perfect height to add to the acoustics in the auditorium to maximise the sound of the crowd and create a raucous atmosphere.

The Winter Gardens tends to attract fans that differ from the usual PDC crowd, the seating allows the fans to become absorbed with the darts; with the majority of the seating concentrating on the ground floor level to allow those watching a real panoramic view. Yes, for me it is without doubt the best venue on the circuit by a country mile.

Burton DeWitt: Sadly, I’ve never been. But this is my favourite event on the calendar. Even watching on the television (or, in my case, laptop), you can tell everything about the week is special.

You’ve got the best players in the world over an unforgiving format in what is the crown jewel of the venues the PDC uses. And that’s not to mention that the tournament usually brings out the best of players.

While I could see any of the other events moving—even the World Championships could one day outgrow Alexandra Palace—I just couldn’t imagine the World Matchplay ever having a home that wasn’t the Winter Gardens.