It is, unofficially at least, the second biggest tournament of the darting calendar, and a full five months or so from the World Championship it is the World Matchplay Darts that really whets the appetite for oche oracles as the standout summer showpiece.
It is the standard format with 32 players entering the field in the first round and battling it out in straight knockout style for a place in Sunday July 24’s final. The first round is a best-of-19 leg affair, and this increase incrementally up to the finale, which is a mammoth best-of-35 leg marathon.
Phil Taylor is the 15-time champion here, and he is on record as saying he loves this event which takes place at his spiritual darting home of the Winter Gardens, Blackpool. Having lost just seven matches in 22 years at the venue, it is not difficult to see why.
But Michael van Gerwen – who else? – is the defending champion after defeating James Wade 18-12 in last year’s final, and the Dutch destroyer will be looking to retain yet another title. Can he be stopped?
Outright Winner Betting Tips
As is common these days, we’ve looked for picks on the opposite side of the draw to MVG in an attempt to get our selections as deep as possible into the tournament. Two such tungsten tossers are Gary Anderson and James Wade.
Anderson in particular is of interest at 9/2. He is the most recent tournament winner, claiming the Tokyo Masters crown, in which he beat MVG in the final. That was the world champion’s third World Series victory in a run of form that puts his Premier League woes firmly behind him. He averaged over 100 in each of his last three matches in Japan as well, which suggests the Flying Scotsman has the wind in his sails at the moment.
A tricky opener against Alan ‘Chuck’ Norris will be assuaged by a rather more comfortable second round tie against the victor of Terry Jenkins and Justin Pipe, while a potential quarter-final dust-up with his protégé Michael Smith or former BDO world champ Jelle Klaasen could pose problems – but that’s to be expected in an event as prestigious as this. A semi-final against possibly Phil Taylor or James Wade is to be expected.
And then there’s the possibility of a final with Van Gerwen, whom Anderson has defeated in their last two meetings (both of which were finals incidentally). There is nothing to fear here in backing the Flying Scotsman, and his potential run to the final is a lot easier than MVG’s, put it that way.
Stage of Elimination Betting Tips
Michael van Gerwen – Runner-Up (5/1)
We know how good MVG is and how much he wants to win every event that he enters, but the cards have been stacked against him in Blackpool. He’ll be given a game by Jamie Caven in the first round, while both Vincent van der Voort and Kyle Anderson – potential last 16 combatants – are capable of throwing outstanding darts.
And then into the business end, where probable meetings with Dave Chisnall (whom MVG has beaten in ten of their last eleven encounters) and either Peter Wright and Adrian Lewis are tough but eminently winnable.
Then there’s that likely final against Anderson or Phil Taylor, and be under no illusions this tournament is no playground for the folically-challenged Dutchman. He has only made two final appearances here in seven attempts, winning one and losing the other (Taylor trounced him back in 2014). As such, the numbers suggest another final defeat is certainly possible here.
Match Betting – First Round
The first round of any big tournament tends to be rife with betting potential, and here’s a little acca that pays at a very generous 4/5.
- Terry Jenkins vs Justin Pipe – Under 8.5 Maximums (8/13)
- Dave Chisnall vs Benito van de Pas – Over 16.5 Legs (4/5)
- Adrian Lewis vs Mark Webster – Lewis Most 180s (8/15)
Terry Jenkins is experiencing a run of poor form at the moment, and that mood will not be helped by the slow, methodical and idiosyncratic throw of Justin Pipe. The Bull will find it nigh on impossible to find his rhythm, and this match is likely to degenerate into a rather turgid affair as a result.
Benito van de Pas is one of the fastest improving players on tour, and that is highlighted by the fact that his best performances in darts’ four biggest tournaments came either in 2015 or 2016. He may not have the weaponry to see off Chisnall, but expect their match to go deep into its best-of-19 legs.
And finally Adrian Lewis, who has been playing some decent stuff on the World Series tour. He is a lovely fluent player on his day, and that translates itself into power scoring. Mark Webster, after a brief resurgence last year, is another struggling for rhythm on the TV stages.