World Darts Championship Preview
THE biggest-ever World Darts Championship begins on Friday at London's Alexandra Palace, as 72 players begin the 16-day battle for the Sid Waddell Trophy and a record £250,000 first prize.
The tournament, which spans the Christmas period before the final is held on New Year's Day, sees stars from 20 countries competing for the World Championship title, which is held by Phil Taylor following his amazing triumph last year.
The Stoke legend came from 4-2 down against Michael van Gerwen in January's final to win five sets without reply and claim an unrivalled 16th World Championship title, which he has added to with six other televised titles during 2013.
Although he was defeated by van Gerwen in the final of the recent Players Championship Finals in Minehead, Taylor - the 10/11 favourite with sponsors - is in confident mood as he prepares to start his title defence against either Rob Szabo or Ian Moss on Friday night.
"It's a hard game to prepare for because you're not sure who you'll be playing and obviously they'll be on a high after winning their first round, so I've got to make sure I'm ready," said Taylor.
"You've got to get out of the blocks fast because any top player is going to be vulnerable early doors.
"I'm very motivated and I'm really looking forward to this World Championship. My parents always told me that you're only as good as your last tournament, and I just got beaten in the final, so I've got to move on and enjoy it at Alexandra Palace.
"It should be a great tournament."
The opening night will kick off when three-time World Champion John Part - the first-ever Alexandra Palace winner in 2008 after the tournament's move to the London venue - takes on Dutch debutant Mareno Michels.
Welsh ace Richie Burnett, another former World Champion, takes on Dean Winstanley as the Yorkshireman returns to the venue where he hit a nine-darter last year, while rising star Peter Wright takes on Joe Cullen.
Wright has broken into the world's top 16 this year, winning his maiden ranking title and reaching the UK Open semi-finals in June, and is hoping to continue his progression at Alexandra Palace.
"I've put a lot of work in to get here," admits Wright, a second round loser to van Gerwen 12 months ago. "I'm the most improved player on the circuit this year, but I'm not doing it up on that stage yet and the most important thing is doing it up there.
"There's more to come from me. I believe that I can get to the semi-finals or the final of the World Championship with the form I'm in. If it clicks up there, watch out!"
The first round continues on Saturday with a double session at Alexandra Palace, including former semi-finalists Terry Jenkins and Wayne Jones in action, Mark Walsh's clash with Finland's Jarkko Komula and the meeting between Stoke's rising star Ian White and Australian number on Kyle Anderson.
Anderson lost to Steve Beaton in the first round on his World Championship debut last year, but said: "When I went to the World Championship last year, I was nervous going onto the big stage and playing in front of that amount of people.
"It was amazing and I admit I did feel nerves, but hopefully this time around I've learned from my mistakes and I can progress this time."
Saturday's evening session sees former finalists Andy Hamilton, Gary Anderson and Mark Dudbridge in action, while Robert Thornton takes on young German Max Hopp and Paul Nicholson meets Stuart Kellett.
2012 runner-up Hamilton will play the winner of the preliminary round game between Julio Barbero and Andree Welge, with 2011 finalist Anderson meeting Dudbridge as the 2005 runner-up returns to the big stage after missing last year's event following shoulder and elbow surgery.
"It's going to be massive to be back on that stage and on the TV screens," said Dudbridge. "It makes me smile even thinking about it.
"It's something that I'll relish because it's an amazing buzz and I didn't know if I'd ever get there again.
"It's been difficult but I've tried to stay positive, and I kept going on the circuit even when things were going bad, and hopefully now everything can change for me.
"This is one more step back on the ladder, and hopefully I can keep going up. I'm buzzing again, I'm so up for the challenge."
Sunday's play includes five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld beginning his bid for a sixth title as he plays emerging Welshman Jamie Lewis, with Dave Chisnall playing John Henderson, Jamie Caven facing Jelle Klaasen and Brendan Dolan up against Danish debutant Dennis Lindskjold or Colin Osborne.
Osborne was a late replacement in the event after the withdrawal of Philippines Qualifier Edward Santos, and the former UK Open finalist said: "It's obviously not the way I wanted to qualify but it's a great opportunity for me and I've got to try and make the most of it.
"It's been a tough couple of years for me, and though things haven't been going my way I've been trying my heart out and stuck at it. Sometimes you need a bit of luck and hopefully this will be the break I need to start turning things around."
Monday sees the eagerly-awaited clash between Belgian brothers Kim and Ronny Huybrechts, with Mervyn King taking on top American Darin Young, Ronnie Baxter playing debutant Ricky Evans and Steve Beaton taking on either South Africa's Devon Petersen or Malaysian qualifier Mohammed Latif Sapup.
2013 runner-up van Gerwen takes on the winner of the preliminary round game between Zoran Lerchbacher and Ben Ward on Tuesday, as the Dutch ace bids to follow up his Premier League Darts, Dubai Masters and Players Championship Finals wins this year with darts' biggest prize.
"I'm really excited and I'm very confident," said van Gerwen, the 3/1 second favourite with . "I'll need to prepare myself well and I can't underestimate whoever I play in the first round.
"Winning the Players Championship Finals was great for my confidence and it showed everyone that I can still win tournaments, and they need to watch out for me in the World Championship.
"There are so many good players, though, that anything can happen and you need to play really well to win."
2010 finalist Simon Whitlock is also in action on Tuesday, as he plays Ross Smith, while Colin Lloyd faces Beau Anderson - the older brother of Kyle - and Vincent van der Voort meets Matt Clark.
Two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis headlines Wednesday's first round games as he takes on Swindon veteran Dennis Smith to open his challenge for a treble of Alexandra Palace triumphs.
"I think that winning a third World Championship would really take me up to another level in the sport," said Lewis, July's European Champion and the 6/1 third favourite"
"To win it three out of four years would be massive too and I'm going to Alexandra Palace to do a job, to win the World Championship."
The first round will conclude on Thursday in a line-up stacked with big names, headed by three-time semi-finalist James Wade, the number six seed, taking on Darren Webster and 2004 finalist Kevin Painter's meeting with German Tomas Seyler.
Former Lakeside Champion Mark Webster plays Austrian ace Mensur Suljovic, while number eight seed Wes Newton plays either Holland's Gino Vos or Hong Kong's Ting Chi Royden Lam.
The second round then continues the event's pre-Christmas action, with play being held until Monday December 23 before a three-day festive break.
The final second round game kicks off the post-Christmas period, with the third round, quarter-finals and semi-finals then taking place before the event climaxes with the final on New Year's Day.
The World Darts Championship is live on Sky Sports HD, with coverage of the semi-finals and final set to be in 3D.
The event will also be broadcast live worldwide with coverage in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and across the Middle East, as well as online through www.LIVEPDC.TV.
A record number of over 45,000 tickets have been sold for the World Darts Championship, with any remaining tickets on sale through http://pdc.seetickets.com or www.viagogo.co.uk, with ticket & hotel packages on sale through www.thomascooksport.com.
Selected Outright Odds
10/11 Phil Taylor
3/1 Michael van Gerwen
6/1 Adrian Lewis
25/1 James Wade
25/1 Raymond van Barneveld
25/1 Simon Whitlock
33/1 Dave Chisnall
50/1 Gary Anderson
50/1 Robert Thornton
50/1 Andy Hamilton
50/1 Kim Huybrechts
66/1 Justin Pipe
80/1 Peter Wright
100/1 Wes Newton
100/1 Mervyn King
E/W 1/2, First Two
For full tournament odds, visit www..com
will offering the best-price outright odds on Phil Taylor for mobile customers throughout Friday December 13. For more information, visit www..com.
World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Friday December 13 (7pm)
John Part v Mareno Michels
Rob Szabo v Ian Moss (P)
Peter Wright v Joe Cullen
Phil Taylor v Szabo/Moss
Richie Burnett v Dean Winstanley
Saturday December 14
Afternoon Session (12pm)
Mark Walsh v Jarkko Komula
Colin McGarry v Per Laursen (P)
Wayne Jones v Kevin McDine
Terry Jenkins v McGarry/Laursen
Ian White v Kyle Anderson
Evening Session (7pm)
Julio Barbero v Andree Welge (P)
Robert Thornton v Max Hopp
Gary Anderson v Mark Dudbridge
Andy Hamilton v Barbero/Welge
Paul Nicholson v Stuart Kellett
Sunday December 15 (7pm)
Dave Chisnall v John Henderson
Dennis Lindskjold v Colin Osborne (P)
Raymond van Barneveld v Jamie Lewis
Brendan Dolan v Lindskjold/Osborne
Jamie Caven v Jelle Klaasen
Monday December 16 (7pm)
Ronnie Baxter v Ricky Evans
Devon Petersen v Mohammed Latif Sapup (P)
Kim Huybrechts v Ronny Huybrechts
Steve Beaton v Petersen/Sapup
Mervyn King v Darin Young
Tuesday December 17 (7pm)
Colin Lloyd v Beau Anderson
Zoran Lerchbacher v Ben Ward (P)
Vincent van der Voort v Matt Clark
Michael van Gerwen v Lerchbacher/Ward
Simon Whitlock v Ross Smith
Wednesday December 18 (7pm)
Andy Smith v Steve Brown
Morihiro Hashimoto v Paul Lim (P)
Justin Pipe v Arron Monk
Michael Smith v Hashimoto/Lim
Adrian Lewis v Dennis Smith
Thursday December 19 (7pm)
Mark Webster v Mensur Suljovic
Gino Vos v Royden Lam (P)
James Wade v Darren Webster
Wes Newton v Vos/Lam
Kevin Painter v Tomas Seyler
Friday December 20 (7pm)
Wright/Cullen v Jenkins/McGarry/Laursen
van Barneveld/J Lewis v Caven/Klaasen
Taylor/Szabo/Moss v M Smith/Hashimoto/Lim
Saturday December 21 (7pm)
Hamilton/Barbero/Welge v Burnett/Winstanley
Thornton/Hopp v Lloyd/B Anderson
K Huybrechts/R Huybrechts v White/K Anderson
Sunday December 22
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)
Dolan/Lindskjold/Santos v G Anderson/Dudbridge
Painter/Seyler v Nicholson/Kellett
Whitlock/R Smith v Walsh/Komula
Evening Session (7pm)
Newton/Vos/Lam v Part/Michels
Chisnall/Henderson v M Webster/Suljovic
van Gerwen/Lerchbacher/Ward v W Jones/McDine
Monday December 23 (7pm)
Wade/D Webster v A Smith/Brown
King/Young v Baxter/Evans
A Lewis/D Smith v van der Voort/Clark
Friday December 27
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)
Pipe/Monk v Beaton/Petersen/Sapup
Newton/Vos/Lam/Part/Michels v Thornton/Hopp/Lloyd/B Anderson
Hamilton/Barbero/Welge/Burnett/Winstanley v K Huybrechts/R Huybrechts/White/K Anderson
Evening Session (7pm)
Whitlock/R Smith/Walsh/Komula v Painter/Seyler/Nicholson/Kellett
Taylor Szabo/Moss/M Smith/Hashimoto/Lim v Wright/Cullen/Jenkins/McGarry/Laursen
Chisnall/Henderson/M Webster/Suljovic v van Barneveld/J Lewis/Caven/Klaasen
Saturday December 28
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)
A Lewis/D Smith/van der Voort/Clark v King/Young/Baxter/Evans
Wade/D Webster/A Smith/Brown v Pipe/Monk/Beaton/Petersen/Sapup
van Gerwen/Lerchbacher/Ward/Jones/McDine v Dolan/Lindskjold/Santos/G Anderson/Dudbridge
Evening Session (7pm)
Sunday December 29 (7pm)
Monday December 30 (7pm)
Wednesday January 1 (8pm)
Preliminary Round - Best of seven legs
First Round - Best of five sets
Second Round - Best of seven sets
Third Round - Best of seven sets
Quarter-Finals - Best of nine sets
Semi-Finals - Best of 11 sets
Final - Best of 13 sets
All sets are the best of five legs. For all matches using the Sets format, there will be a tie-break in the deciding set only, where the final set must be won by two clear legs until the score in that set reaches 5-5, when a sudden-death leg would be played.