The verdict: Darts World Championship

The world famous Alexandra Palace once again opened its doors to play host to the pinnacle of darting destiny as the PDC World Darts Championship returned to London on the 14th December.  The 25th edition of the PDC World Championship will see 72 players from all around the globe go toe to toe in their bid to take home a sizeable portion of the 1.8 million prize fund and have their name engraved onto the prestigious  Sid Waddell Trophy. SFME’s Thomas Wragg gives his verdict on the key contenders for the title in what promises to be one of the best World Championships to date.

Mighty Mike

Michael Van Gerwen is the clear front runner to defend his crown after another phenomenal year on the oche in which he has accumulated a staggering £1,736,250 in prize money which is nearly 1 million more than his nearest rival Peter Wright. The Dutch dartist comes into the tournament on red hot form after winning the previous four TV tournaments and began his defense with a routine 3-1 win over fellow Dutchman Christian Kist in round one. The two-time World Champion looks unstoppable at the moment and the only thing standing in his way will be a whole host of players trying to knock him off his perch.

 

The best of the rest

Gary Anderson is currently ranked third in the PDC Order of Merit but I believe he is the only man who can stop Van Gerwen on his day, the Scotsman has been on blistering from at the Ally Pally in recent years having won two of the last three World Championships whilst losing the other to Mighty Mike last year. Anderson starts his campaign against the winner of the preliminary round which will either be Jeff Smith or Luke Humphries in what should be a simple route to round two.  The two-time world champion is yet to win a major title this year but has lifted the Perth and Dubai Darts Masters with the latter a tremendous 11-7 victory over MVG in which a world record combined average was achieved. On his day he is simply a darting genius and if he can keep up his renowned power scoring he could meet MVG in the final in what promises to be a proper battle of the tungsten titans.

Colourful Scotsman Peter Wright will be aiming for a debut World Championship victory in a year which has seen him seal his first major title at the UK Open back in March against Welshman Gerwyn-Price. Wright is a crowd favourite with his crazy hair and even crazier dancing but 47 year old changes his darts far too often and I think that will hurt his chance in his search for the biggest prize of them all. The former finalist also finds himself with a tough draw and could meet Alan ‘Chuck’ Norris or Kim Huybrechts in the third round with both being tricky opponents. I would love to see Wright win a World Championship but can’t see him going any further than the quarter finals this time out.

Phil Taylor will be hoping to bow out in glory as he brings an end to his glittering career in which he has won an unrivalled 16 World Championships. ‘The history making record breaking’ Englishman will retire after this tournament and will be hoping to find the same form that saw him produce a superb darting display at the World Matchplay which saw the Taylor of old sparkle his magic dust and claim his 16th title in Blackpool earlier this year.  It certainly would be a fairytale ending for Taylor but I think his time at the top is up but never say never.

 

The dark horses

Rob Cross has been a man on the charge this year. In his debut year on the PDC Pro Tour the former electrician has been put on some electrifying displays which proves he could be the real deal and the man to challenge for tournaments for years to come. The 27 year old finished runner up at the 2017 European Championship only losing out to World Number one MVG 11-7 after sticking with him for most of the game, it will be interesting to see how Cross does at his debut World Championship but if he can play the way he has this season and hold his nerve on the biggest stage of them all then there is no reason why he can’t make the latter stages and maybe upset the odds and go all the way on his debut.

 

Raymond Van Barneveld is a household name in the world of darts but has had a tough few years trying to rediscover the form that has seen him win five World Championships. The Dutchman’s last major win came back in 2014 where he took Premier League glory over fellow countryman MVG but has failed to hit the heights since then. The 50 year old is known for having one of the smoothest throws in darts and is a joy to watch when he is taking ton-plus checkouts for fun but he needs to  keep his A game going right through the match as his head goes down and he throws a few loose darts when he goes behind. On his day he can beat the very best and the Barney Army will certainly be hoping for him to return to former glories and light up the Alexandra Palace once more.

Dave Chisnall has been on the cusp of a TV title for years but has never quite had the midas touch to see him over the finishing line. The Englishman is well known for his big scoring and when he is a the top of his game will outscore anyone on the treble twenty bed but his lackluster finishing and slow starts in finals has been a downfall for the Englishman in recent years. The promise is there for a big win and it would be a real shame if he never won a TV title as his ability is there for everyone to see, I think a World Championship title may be too big of an ask at the end of the day but he can certainly be there or there abouts if his power house scoring can be coupled up with some decent finishing.

Verdict

With the form Van Gerwen is on he is quite rightly the heavy favourite for a third World Championship title, the only man I can see stopping  him is the Flying Scotsman Gary Anderson in what could be a repeat of last year’s final. MVG won that one quite comfortably in the end but Anderson will be all guns blazing to try and reclaim the title for the third time himself. Whatever happens over the coming weeks we are certainly going to have a festive feast of some great arrows!