It’s that time of year again, no not Christmas, but the World Darts Championship, by far the most prestigious tournament on the darts calender. The 17 day darting event at the Alexandra Palace kicks off on the 18th of this month, and like every year, it becomes part of the darts fan’s Christmas experience. With the overall prize money increasing to a whopping £1.25 million, the stakes are high. Last year the tournament was built up as the new kid on the block, Michael van Gerwen, against the old champ, Phil Taylor. Van Gerwen was triumphant. Taylor has made clear that he wants his title back, however, this year it’s not a clear two horse race. Throughout the year, other players have stepped up to the oche to seize their share of success. James Wade, Gary Anderson, Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis have all won one PDC majors this year, with their form looking set to continue into the World Championship.
Of course you’ll have your favourite, but what everyone wants to see is an underdog topple the heavyweights. Cast your mind back to Kirk Shepherds unbelievable run in 2008. Ranked 142nd at the time he started the qualifying events, he somehow raced all the way, becoming the youngest player ever to reach the final, only losing out to John Part. Personally, I would love a repeat of Shepherds brilliance, but who could pull it off?
Form in sport is a funny thing. For a darts player it can come and go, then come back again in the space of a short match. Then again, it can totally go or totally stay throughout a whole tournament. Kirk Shepard rode his wave of form all the way showing the possibilities. On top form there’s many players who can match the prowess of van Gerwen and Taylor, but essentially it’s down to luck whether the form arrives and then stays. In the past few years the standard in darts has undoubtedly gone through the roof, meaning extraordinary feats are now performed by players that are low in the rankings. Remember Kyle Anderson’s 9 darter last year, a guy who was relatively unknown before his inspired excellence.
For the top players it must be frightening to know that a low ranked player could hit a nine darter against you in the first round. This pool of skilled lower ranked players is growing. A new batch of players burst into our consciousness this year: Keegan Brown, Rowby-John Rodriguez, Ricky Evans, Stephen Bunting. Could one of these show more than promise and go the distance? Your guess is as good as mine and I want to hear it.