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Stuart Dalgleish 28th Nov 2013 - 16:03

Players Championship preview - Dave Allen

THE Cash Converters Players Championship Finals kicks off on Friday in Minehead, with Phil Taylor aiming to win his fourth title in the event against rivals including a rejuvenated Raymond van Barneveld and new father Wes Newton.

The £250,000 event, televised live on ITV4, will be held across three days at the Somerset complex, with 4,000 fans packing the Butlins Minehead Resort for an action-packed weekend of darts.

Friday sees the first round split across two sessions of play, with reigning champion Phil Taylor - who defeated Kim Huybrechts 13-6 in last year's final to take the title for a third time - opening his challenge against Paul Nicholson, who knocked out the Stoke legend on his way to the title in 2010.

"It would be fantastic if I can win this title again," said Taylor. "It's a special event because you've had to play well this year just to qualify, so you know everybody's in form.

"Every match will be tough and especially so against Paul. We've had some really good games recently and this will be another because it's a short format so we both know we've got to get a good start."

With the event featuring the leading 32 players from this year's PDC ProTour Order of Merit, which is comprised of prize money won away from the big stage in a series of 32 European Tour events, Players Championships and UK Open Qualifiers, Holland's Michael van Gerwen is the number one seed.

The Premier League Darts champion won nine events and picked up £125,350 in prize money during the year - and takes on the number 32 seed Jamie Lewis, the emerging Welsh youngster - in Friday's first round.

Another Dutch ace, five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld, is also in confident mood heading to Minehead, having enjoyed a fortnight's break from playing since his first round defeat in the Grand Slam of Darts recently.

"I feel a lot better and more energized for this event," said van Barneveld, who plays Mervyn King on Friday night.

"Mervyn beat me in the Grand Slam of Darts the last time we played and that knocked me out. It was very tough for me because I'd won my first two matches and was thinking that I was probably through, so I've learned from that and I don't want to lose to him twice.

"Last year, I won the Grand Slam of Darts and then lost in the first round at Minehead, so it would be nice to do it the other way around this time!

"He's a hard hitter, he's a 180 man and he's always good on double 16, so you can't give him any chances - but you can't give any other player a chance now.

"I've known him for so long and we're good friends, which makes it harder, but hopefully I can get a good result in Minehead which will prepare me for the World Championship."

Number nine seed Wes Newton will face Andy Smith in their opener, only four days after helping to give birth to his second baby boy at home in Fleetwood after partner Stacey went into labour in the early hours of Monday morning.

"We're delighted and very proud to have another baby, but it was an incredible night," admitted Newton. "Our first son only took 90 minutes and they say that your second child can be quicker - but this was less than ten minutes from start to finish.

"Obviously we knew that there was a possibility Stacey could go into labour while I was away playing in a tournament, so it's lucky I was at home!

"Last year, Adrian Lewis went back to Stoke for the birth in between his first and second round matches, and I didn't want to be in that position - I certainly wouldn't have made back to Fleetwood it in time!

"I've not had chance to get any practice in this week with everything that's happened but I'll go to Minehead and focus on my darts now.

"I want to do as well as I can there - the longer I stay in the tournament the more sleep I can get!"

Number two seed Dave Chisnall, who won his third tournament of the year in a Players Championship in Barnsley last weekend, will play resurgent Dutchman Jelle Klaasen in their first round contest.

Peter Wright, the number three seed, plays World Youth Champion Michael Smith, while Brendan Dolan - whose second ranking title last Sunday moved him up to fourth in the final ProTour Order of Merit - meets Wayne Jones.

Belgian ace Huybrechts, last year's runner-up as he reached his first major final in Minehead, will play seven-time major finalist Terry Jenkins in their first round, with the 28-year-old having won his first three ranking events during 2013.

The tournament begins on Friday afternoon as Ian White - who, like Dolan, has won his first two ranking events this year - plays Ronnie Baxter, while Gary Anderson plays Stuart Kellett, Jamie Caven plays Colin Lloyd and Steve Beaton meets James Wade during the opening session.

John Part, who won March's UK Masters title at the Butlins Minehead Resort, kicks off Friday evening's first round games against Andy Hamilton, before last year's Players Championship Finals semi-finalists, Simon Whitlock and Justin Pipe, clash.

Robert Thornton then plays Richie Burnett, King takes on van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis faces Kevin Painter, before Taylor takes on Nicholson, van Gerwen plays Jamie Lewis and Chisnall concludes the first round against Klaasen.

The tournament continues on Saturday with the second round games split across two sessions, with the quarter-finals being held on Sunday afternoon before the event concludes with the semi-finals and final on Sunday evening.

Cash Converters Players Championship Finals
Schedule of Play
Friday November 29
First Round
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)
Ian White v Ronnie Baxter
Kim Huybrechts v Terry Jenkins
Wes Newton v Andy Smith
Gary Anderson v Stuart Kellett
Brendan Dolan v Wayne Jones
Jamie Caven v Colin Lloyd
Peter Wright v Michael Smith
Steve Beaton v James Wade
Evening Session (7pm)
John Part v Andy Hamilton
Simon Whitlock v Justin Pipe
Robert Thornton v Richie Burnett
Mervyn King v Raymond van Barneveld
Adrian Lewis v Kevin Painter
Paul Nicholson v Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen v Jamie Lewis
Dave Chisnall v Jelle Klaasen

Saturday November 30
Second Round
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)
Dolan/Jones v Part/Hamilton
Huybrechts/Jenkins v White/Baxter
Caven/Lloyd v Whitlock/Pipe
Beaton/Wade v Newton/A Smith
Evening Session (7pm)
Chisnall/Klaasen v Anderson/Kellett
Thornton/Burnett v King/van Barneveld
Wright/M Smith v Nicholson/Taylor
van Gerwen/J Lewis v A Lewis/Painter

Sunday December 1
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)
Evening Session (7pm)

Draw Bracket
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Jamie Lewis (32)
Adrian Lewis (16) v Kevin Painter (17)
Steve Beaton (8) v James Wade (25)
Wes Newton (9) v Andy Smith (24)
Kim Huybrechts (5) v Terry Jenkins (28)
Ian White (12) v Ronnie Baxter (21)
Brendan Dolan (4) v Wayne Jones (29)
John Part (13) v Andy Hamilton (20)
Dave Chisnall (2) v Jelle Klaasen (31)
Gary Anderson (15) v Stuart Kellett (18)
Jamie Caven (7) v Colin Lloyd (26)
Simon Whitlock (10) v Justin Pipe (23)
Robert Thornton (6) v Richie Burnett (27)
Mervyn King (11) v Raymond van Barneveld (22)
Peter Wright (3) v Michael Smith (30)
Paul Nicholson (14) v Phil Taylor (19)

First Round - Best of 11 legs
Second Round - Best of 17 legs
Quarter-Finals - Best of 17 legs
Semi-Finals - Best of 19 legs
Final - Best of 21 legs
Prize Fund
Winner £60,000
Runner-Up £24,000
Semi-Finalists £15,000
Quarter-Finalists £10,000
Second Round Losers £6,000
First Round Losers £3,000
Total £250,000

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