So, with the preliminaries and mini drams are over its time for the survivors to battle it out over a longer stretch.
This years group stages have been full of emotional value, a few controversial elements and a very high standard of darts. The sheer number of players, from both codes, averaging over 100 during the group stages gives an indication but the the number of players winning games with lower average scores also tells a tale of matchplay skills being as important, if not more so, as averages!
In Part II, we cut through the hype and suggested the likely last 16 and the likely scores between the codes, not always the obvious choices either, despite many close calls, we did pretty well.
Qualifiers: Not a bad effort here, out of the 16 to make it through we identified 12. Three more could still have qualified on their last game. Steve Beaton & Larry Butler also confirmed the suggestions that they would cause drama and defy expectation in their groups!
PDC vs BDO
The BDO repesentatives had a very mixed time. Adams demonstrated what we have always known, that he can play! The rest, had very good moments, provided some great stories and drama, but could not quite live with the consistent level of those who play PDC on a professional basis. This being the first time that they have been split evenly across the groups with none of their fellow code members or other invitees to play with.
The PDC then come out of the group stage 15-1 up. The only elite level player in the 8 BDO representatives comes through comfortably and could well have made a Premier League case for 1 or more BDO members.
A special mention for, PDC qualifier, Johnny Clayton, who made a superb debut in beating Terry Jenkins and acquitted himself very well overall. It has been a while since a PDC wildcard qualifier made a dent at the GSoD but Clayton gave it a great shot, hopefully he will use it as inspiration to go further.
The BDO have provided the better stories and drama so far, Andy Fordham qualifying, and then overcoming enormous emotion to win a game, and compete in his others, will live long in the memory of anyone with a sporting soul! Gert De Vos hitting a 115 average, after being distinctly average in his early games, was a great reminder that huge talent exists in darts whatever code, age or nationality you look at.
Then, of course there is Wolfie. He seems very relaxed and non- fussed about the whole affair, the huge advantage of no ranking pressure? However the skills he honed as ambassador for BDO darts and England are being used to the max as he goes along charming folk all the way.
Do not underestimate the cunning of the Wolf! He has prepared well and is very determined!
So far then it would be fair to say that both organisations have performed well this week and done themselves no harm at all.
Best of 19 – A Sterner Test.
With the large averages, seen so far, it would appear that many players are in superb form. This may be a bit misleading. With PDC rankings now at stake it was clear that many players hit the gas earlier than previously in this event, they looked ready to go from the off and produced superb bursts of play. That will be more difficult for many of them to sustain over the coming rounds with longer matches in store. A look at the challenges in store should give us more insight.
Thornton v Green
The Thorn is in fine fettle, after victory in the World Grand Prix he could kick on again here and be a threat for the title. Kong has done well to recapture some form in the last couple of months, after injury, but will do well to last the pace.
(Thornton to win by 3 or more legs.)
Taylor v Jenkins
Terry has played himself back into the top ten with some solid stuff. Despite a few wobbles in the group, he seems to always do that at ‘the Slam. Taylor however is majorly motivated, or determined to create that impression. The Fordham stuff is over and it will be simply a matter of finding his long game. The extra games have given The Power more time to work out some of the recent niggles and this match should give him opportunity to kick on another level.
(Taylor to win by 3 or more legs)
Anderson v Webster
These two have had a few interesting moments at the GSoD but i think this one will be more predictable. Anderson simply needs to get off to the quicker start to put any doubts to bed here. Webby is getting back which is superb to see but this may be a bridge to far, too soon.
(Anderson to win by 3 or more legs)
Wade v RVB
Both did exactly what was required of them in the group stages. Barney flattered to deceive against Anderson but did the job in the other games, Wade controlled his group very well and eased through. This is a bit of a 50/50. Barney needs run here to assist his overall rankings and the pressure may tip the balance to Wade.
(Wade to win in a thriller)
MVG v Beaton
On a personal level Steve qualifying was one of the stories of the Grand Slam, he looks very focused and determined. His group was the toughest overall and he played it perfectly. He will again be a huge underdog but don’t forget his incredible win over Taylor here a few years back.
The Adonis has enough talent to beat anyone on a given day. MVG however has moved into the mode of Bristow & Talyor. Not happy with winning, in imperious fashion, he is starting to add the bullying mentality to his overall persona. It is an interesting development given his rivalry with Anderson who plays the opposite role, jovial and carefree, and sets up a long term rivalry very well.
Steve must start well and not let the Green Machine get away. If he does we could be in for a classic. However I suspect that MVG will not allow him in.
(MVG to win)
Adams vs Huybrechts
This one is very interesting. Lets be honest, although has has played exceptionally well Wolfie has been incredibly lucky in his opponents and has again in the last 16. He has played players with very strong BDO links who have history with or against him and who have been burdened with extra ranking pressures whereas he is free to just play. Again here he has drawn a recent BDO convert who he will be familiar with and feel he has nothing to fear from. Kim is still playing pretty well but will have to be consistent, keep the rubbish out of his head, and play the darts Adams produces on the day, not the past or the hype. One slight bonus for Kim is that Jelle Klassen, who was in Adams group, is part of the same playing stable , thus discussions or tactical advise may have taken place. To Kim’s advantage is the legs format. If he can get a run under his belt, Adams cannot use a swift surge to peg him back.
(Adams to win 10-8)
Smith v Chizzy
Usual, blow for blow, game here. The two St Helens men will simply try to blast each other off the stage. The rhythm of the game will be superb and may lead to more 9 dart chances. Funnily enough these two have not met on TV before. Chizzy has the better record in head to heads and has done better on TV overall.
(Chizzy to win by 3 legs or more)
Snakebite vs Jackpot
The game should be much like the Chizzy – Smith match, quick fire, no messing about and some superb spells of darts. Wright seems slightly off the boil, to me at the moment, so Jackpot should take advantage, of this now being a ranking event, and go on a good run.
N.B. Jackpot may well be building for something a bit special at the Worlds, just an inkling!
Adrian to win by 3 legs or more.
The escape from the group stage may lead to a drop in intensity for this round and thus I have gone for most games being relatively comfortable for the winner. The clash between Adams and Huybrechts is the one which could ignite the round. If Kim falls for the Wolfie factor, as did Ian White, he could be swept up but if he just plays his own game the way he has been Adams will be under severe pressure in a longer format and may struggle. The rest of the event could then become a parade of the usual suspects with the main question being whether Taylor can get back and reassert himself over Anderson & MVG. Either way a promising event is at hand after a great start.