Ochepedia (and Coach): When The Cyclone Hit Barnsley!

The Cyclone, Mickey Mansell to his friends, is one of the nicest people on the darts circuit and has had many an impressive moment on the Pro Tour. But why did he suddenly blow so hard after such a calm spell?

Darts News - ‪MICKEY MANSELL WINS HIS FIRST EVER PDC... | Facebook‬

One of the best things about having the services of, ‘Darts’ Official Statistician’, Christopher Kempf is that it allows Darts World to combine his unsurpassed numerical knowledge with the Darts World teams long-standing knowledge of many of the game’s other elements.

Here, Ochepedia, as Christopher is known, looks at the numbers behind Michael’s superb and, for many, unexpected return to the darting limelight. Our ‘Coach’ has known and watched Mickey for almost a decade and provides the ‘behind the numbers‘ comments:

Ochepedia – Even today, it seems so unlikely that Mickey Mansell could have won Players Championship 8, blasting his way through a talented field of World Champions and top-16 players to claim his first PDC title. After all, this is the same Mickey Mansell who has not even made a quarterfinal for the better part of four years. The £10,000 earned by the Northern Irishman in his debut win, while all but securing a tour card for the 2019 season, does not even put Mansell into the top 64 in the world. 

(CoachMickey is a superbly talented player, he combines precision with a very patient, calm, and unruffled style. Not much on the board unsettles him and he uses very little energy during his matches.)

How, then, do we account for the fact that Mansell dispatched his opposition by a combined score of 42-11, never allowing any opponent to throw match darts? How does a player so unheralded make such quick work of four Premier League alumni? 

The answer is consistency. Of those 42 legs won by the Clonoe Cyclone, 39 were finished in 18 darts or less. Almost irrespective of his foes’ output, Mansell’s average remained in the mid-90s for leg after leg as the man from County Tyrone dished out 15 and 17 darters, hour after hour. Moreover, if his record of 19 checkouts in 24 attempts (79%) in which he had 3 darts at a double placed him at the level of the world’s top players, his achievement of 23 2-dart checkouts (3-39 odd, 41-98, 100) in 35 attempts placed him well above it. 

Mickey Mansell
Many forget that Mickey is hugely experienced.

(Coach: Michael has played almost everyone on the tour over his nine or so years in the PDC. They all know he can play at a very high level and he has defeated most if not all of them before. However, they were, perhaps, used the sub-par Cyclone that has been blowing somewhat weakly for a couple of years before. This event saw Mickey play as he used to.)

All of the exciting and statistically notable features of darts – the 180s, the high checkouts, the 11- and 12-dart legs – are entirely superfluous to a player who plays with such consistency. And in fact, Mansell had zero finishes of 101 or greater, resulting from 30 attempts; only 3 legs in the tournament won in four visits to the board, and a mere 11 180s scored in 53 legs. Perhaps a few stylish visits would have boosted his average or given the commentators something to laud, but one cannot win by a larger margin than a 6-0 whitewash, and Mansell had three of those on Sunday. What need had he to run up the score even further?

(Coach: Once Michael gets moving, and settled he can be very difficult to stop, it takes someone who can outscore him for a long spell and knock him out of his ‘zone’. That day no one managed both!)

Mickey Mansell’s triumph may be the clearest indication yet seen of the effectiveness of 140s in winning legs. The second treble hit in a visit to the board (yielding a 140) gives the biggest boost, in terms of number of darts needed to reach a finish, a double, or win the leg, to a player’s fortunes. The third treble is, of course, always welcome, but the extra benefit tends to be wasted in a leg that the player will win anyway if he hits a 140.

Even 100s, which Mansell also recorded at a prodigious rate, when backed up by solid combination finishing, put just enough pressure on opponents by limiting the number and increasing the difficulty of finishes they can attempt. With 52 100s and 52 140s in 53 legs – very nearly one of each per leg – Mansell wrung every last bit of effectiveness out of each treble scored.  Rarely does a player record an average of nearly 107 with his first 9 darts of the leg whilst hitting so few 180s, as Mansell did on Sundays – but if so few 180s resulted in a leg difference of +31 for the day, they were not missed.

(Coach: Now this makes real sense, I have always advocated for the ‘two out of three’ type of approach. It suits Mansell as he is not a show pony who hits 180s in bunches.)

If you like your darts fast and furious, replete with 110+ averages and 170 checkouts, Mickey Mansell may not be the player for you. In that respect, normal service will resume on the PDC circuit once Michael van Gerwen and Rob Cross return for the Premier League and for the German Darts Open. But the fact that Mansell is not the best player in the world is perhaps even more a testament to his achievement in Barnsley this past Sunday. The world number 66 managed to win a tournament by the widest possible margin with a minimum of effort – a feat almost without precedent in the current era of professional darts.

(Coach: Those of us who know Mickey and witnessed his efforts on the Pro-Tour, and during the very first Q-School, are seldom surprised by anything he achieves. His patience and resilience are exemplary and it is always pleasing to see him rewarded!)


  • Intro: DW Editorial Team
  • Italics: Coach.
  • Pix: PDC

LIGHTS, CAMERA - BUT NO ACTION

Lights, Camera – But no action

LIGHTS, CAMERA - BUT NO ACTION
Photo; DG Media/PDC Europe

Five players battle to stop the rot and get back on TV

Every year in darts new stars emerge and old stars pack away their competitive tungsten for good, but 2017 is unique for the possibility of witnessing so many of the veteran PDC darts players – with whom darts fans grew up and have enduring allegiances – fail to qualify for TV events. By no means are the careers of players like Andy Hamilton and Vincent van der Voort ending, but they may be entering into a phase of their competitive life that involves fewer triumphant entrances onto televised stages and more grinding in the typical PDC floor venues of Wigan and Barnsley. The following five players, absent remarkable returns to form, are very much in danger of disappearing from the televised stage. The darts world will be saddened if they do; but there are dozens of young players currently making their mark on tour that would be all too pleased to bring the veterans’ years-long runs in major tournaments to an end.

WES NEWTON

Wes Newton played one of his most recent televised matches in December 2015, when he described a 1st round victory over Cristo Reyes at the 2016 World Championship as his “worst ever performance”, in which he won the first set of the match with a 67 average. His open and honest approach to his lapse of form has won him countless new fans, but since then he has not reached the quarterfinal of any tournament he has entered, causing him to fall from the 26th ranked player in the world to number 64 today, placing him on the brink of losing his tour card for the 2018 season. Recovery from a shoulder injury has proven difficult for the Warrior. Newton has accumulated only £2,250 in the first 16 ranking events held in 2017 and he intimated on Twitter last month that Unicorn had discontinued his sponsorship. Newton’s tour card guarantees him entry to the remaining 10 Players Championships and 7 European Tour UK qualifiers, so it is possible that with deep runs in a few tournaments Newton could qualify for the Players Championship Finals or stabilize his Order of Merit rank and mount a comeback from there. If Newton is forced to win back his tour card, he would certainly be a favorite to do so at the 2018 Q School.

ANDY HAMILTON

The Hammer described failing to qualify for the 2017 World Championship – which ended a 12-year run of appearances at that event – as “a new low point” in his career. Currently ranked 54th in the PDC, Andy Hamilton is likely to retain his tour card as he is defending very little in the way of earnings from the second half of 2015. But that is unlikely to satisfy the tenacious Stoke native, a World Championship finalist as little as five years ago, Hamilton’s form hinted at a comeback in the second weekend of last April, in which he beat three top-64 players (Wes Newton, Jamie Lewis, Ronny Huybrechts) and qualified himself for the German Open. A last-16 finish at a Players Championship has put him within a few hundred pounds of the pace to qualify for the Players Championship Finals, but other televised tournaments have fallen out of reach for him this year. Hamilton’s unique throwing action looks increasingly outmoded in a PDC stocked with technically proficient young players, but it has worked marvelously for the three-time ranking title winner in the past and he has given no indication of giving up the fight.

VINCENT VAN DER VOORT

A weary Vincent van der Voort confessed to Dan Dawson after losing to Max Hopp in the 2017 World Championship that persistent pain from a back injury was threatening to bring his darts career to a close, much to the dismay of darts fans for whom his quick throwing style and wildly popular walk-on music have been major attractions to the game. Whether back pain continues to try Vincent’s endurance in May is an open question, as Vincent has not elaborated on his hint at an impending retirement. Within three months of that interview, however, the Dutch Destroyer smashed his way through to the fifth round of the UK Open, taking out a 106 finish in a deciding leg to dump out fellow Dutchman Jelle Klaasen. van der Voort, however, is defending substantially more money earned in 2015 than he is earning this year, and has fallen to 27th in the Order of Merit. If Fast Vinny fancies another go on the Ally Pally stage, he will have to fight hard for it, as he has not advanced beyond the second round of a Players Championship event this year and is well behind schedule on earnings to qualify for the World Matchplay or the World Grand Prix.

JAMIE CAVEN

The world number 32, Jamie Caven, has clung on to his top-32 position gamely for months thanks to appearances in Blackpool and Dublin, but he will find further defense of his ranking difficult in light of the recent successes of Steve West, John Henderson and Christian Kist on and off the European Tour. Caven is not matching his successes on the 2015 European Tour with corresponding exploits on the 2017 circuit, and disappointed himself with a first round loss to Kevin Painter at Ally Pally in December. Without an appearance on the Euro Tour thus far, Caven nonetheless put forth an encouraging finish at the third Players Championship, in which he whitewashed James Wilson and secured a £1500 prize. Of any player in danger of falling under the radar of televised darts, Caven is probably most secure in his current position, as his mediocre 2015 campaign leaves him reasonable targets to meet as he defends earnings from two years ago. A 6-5 loss to Matt Clark in a deciding qualifier match for Sindelfingen suggests that Caven is close to breaking through for a good result; but the dropped last-leg decider nevertheless netted him not a single penny.

BRENDAN DOLAN

A recent glance at the list of Dolan’s 2017 ranking cashes revealed an astonishing fact – that Brendan Dolan, a mainstay of televised darts and a legendary History Maker for his throwing of the first-ever double-start perfect leg, could miss the majority of major tournaments this year. Dolan was seeded throughout his 2015 European Tour campaign, which guaranteed him a four-figure cash for every appearance he made, but this year the Ulsterman has not appeared at any European Tour event, having lost to Darren Webster and Steve Beaton in matches that would have qualified him for an outing in Germany. A mere £3,500 of ranking money earned in the Players Championships puts him nearly out of the race for Blackpool and Dublin – a great shock for a player who had acquitted himself so well at Ally Pally just months ago. Dolan is ranked 26th in the PDC – comfortably within the top 32 for the time being – but he must turn his game around quickly if he wants to stay in that position.

PDC Getting Caught In The Crossfire: Cross Dazzles In Second Run To A Quarterfinal

PDC Getting Caught In The Crossfire: Cross Dazzles In Second Run To A Quarterfinal

PDC Getting Caught In The Crossfire: Cross Dazzles In Second Run To A Quarterfinal
Photo; DG Media | PDC Europe

When Michael van Gerwen threw 18 perfect darts – including a perfect leg – at the 2016 UK Open, his opponent could only stand back and watch. Rob Cross, then a Riley’s qualifier with only a few months of professional darts experience, lost to MvG 9-5, overwhelmed by the three most spectacular legs ever thrown in Minehead. Yet after the match, he appeared to be in remarkably high spirits.

Upon reaching a second European Tour quarterfinal in a match in which he smashed up world number 38 Steve West, Cross remarked that his 2016 encounter with the world number 1 encouraged him to commit to playing professional darts in the PDC. “The belief went [into] me, and I thought, you know what? I can do this, I can play like him”, he said. His belief is now nearly a reality. Cross pushed van Gerwen to a last-leg decider in a thrilling Players Championship match last weekend, and moved into the top 32 on the Pro Tour just yesterday. The man from Hastings is no longer just the answer to an MvG-related trivia question – he is one of the toughest opponents a professional can face, whether on stage or on the floor.

Just ask Luke Woodhouse, Cross’ first-round opponent on the first day of action in Sindelfingen. Cross took a 5-0 lead over his Scottish opponent, averaging over 100 until the eighth leg of the match. Woodhouse was thus forced to check out 120 and 121 just to claw his way back into the match, but would have needed another 12-darter in the ninth leg to counteract Cross’ efforts on his own throw and further extend the match. Cross hammered out four maxima in his first five legs, building an insurmountable lead.

Or ask Simon Whitlock, who has now lost to Rob Cross in two Euro Tour events. After a slow start in which Whitlock broke his throw, Cross punished the Wizard’s careless double 17 leave and big-number bust in the very next leg with a 115 finish. The bewildered Aussie could only manage to hit five trebles in his next 33 darts, allowing Cross to accumulate a second break of throw and a second three-figure finish. By punishing Whitlock’s miss of double 20 for a 78 finish in the seventh leg, Cross again seized a huge lead (5-2) over his opponent, and pushed Whitlock to the brink of an early exit with consecutive 180s in the next leg, leaving 45 after nine darts. Whitlock recovered superbly, however, just missing the bull for a 170 finish and capitalizing on Cross’ bust to save the match. Under pressure from heavy scoring from Whitlock, however, Cross retained his composure after surviving a second missed dart at the bull to finish another match with an average above 95.

Or ask Steve West. West had set the standard for the match with an 11-darter in the third leg, but Cross was able to keep pace with him as he pounded out treble after treble. By producing multiple clinical 13- and 14- dart legs, Cross left no margin of error for his opponent. West threatened a 10-darter in the fifth leg and appeared to be set to narrow his deficit to 3-2 behind Cross.  But six darts were not enough for West to hit double 8 for a 16 checkout, while his opponent needed only five to clean up 128 and push ahead to a 4-1 lead. Had Cross not needed nine darts to win the match from a score of 100 in the last leg, he might have averaged 110 rather than the 103 with which he finished. But even had West held his throw in that leg, Cross’ large lead would have demanded a level of excellence from West that he was not quite able to produce.

It took one of the most sensational scoring performances of the year from Dave Chisnall (8 180s, two nine-dart attempts, and a 121.5 average with his first 9 darts) to take Rob Cross down. In a match against the world number 5, Cross showed some room for improvement, especially on darts under pressure at doubles 10 and 5. Chisnall suffered from a bout of double trouble himself, but his heavy scoring gave him as many chances as he needed to find the double beds with his darts and capitalize on Cross’ misses in the first and last legs. The experience Cross needs to best Chisnall and van Gerwen will come soon, especially as he finds himself in contention to qualify for major televised tournaments. The casual darts fan may find himself intimately acquainted with Rob Cross come the summer if he can prove to Blackpool as he did to Sindelfingen that he too can be like Mike.

Who’s the next German Darts superstar ?

 

The promising German talent that is ‘The Wall’ Martin Schindler.
Photo : PDC Europe

Germany represents darts’ largest emerging market. The demand for professional darts on the continent is so strong that the PDC has scheduled nine European Tour events to be held in various German cities in 2017, and is reportedly planning expansion of Premier League Darts to a night in Berlin. While the reception for darts in Germany has been extraordinary, the quality of German professional darters relative to their British and Dutch counterparts has not kept pace with interest in the game. In 29 European Tour events held to date in Germany, only two quarterfinal spots have been filled by home-nation qualifiers. Because the PDC is now broadcasting 10 weekends of darts from Germany, there are more opportunities than ever for German players to make a name for themselves. Of those players, we are likely to see much more of the following seven players.

ROBERT ALLENSTEIN

Allenstein is best known for his uproarious celebration after beating Steve Hine in the 2016 German Darts Championship, but has long attained good results on the BDO circuit, including a last-32 finish at last year’s Winmau World Masters. His three appearances on the European Tour have demonstrated competence, if not excellence. No other player feeds off the energy of his fans as much as does Allenstein, however, and a first-round upset from the young German is always an exciting prospect.

 

JYHAN ARTUT

Jyhan Artut has represented Germany in every World Cup of Darts to date, holds the German record PDC stage average, and has made five trips to the Alexandra Palace in the past eight years, forcing Gary Anderson to memorably contest a last leg decider in the 2012 World Championship. But Artut is no longer the force in German darts that he once was. Winless on the European Tour since 2015, Artut qualified for only two German events last year, losing to Ricky Evans and Chris Dobey. Rumor has it that he may be replaced on his national World Cup team by a younger player, perhaps Martin Schindler. Artut has given the darts world a number of exciting moments (including a ridiculous bull-19-bull 119 checkout), but he is being increasingly overshadowed by his younger compatriots.

RENE EIDAMS

 

Eidams nearly pulled off the greatest upset in the history of the World Championship, coming within two legs of eliminating world number 1 Michael van Gerwen. “The Cube” threatened to do it again at the 2016 German Masters, but missed the bull for a 164 finish to raise the roof in Munich. Against players other than van Gerwen, Eidams has met with far less success. After the rematch with MvG, Eidams has only qualified for one other European Tour event since, losing 6-1 to Steve West. Still in his 20s, Eidams’ challenge will be to bring the courage and skill demonstrated against Mighty Mike to matches against lesser opponents.

 

MAX HOPP

No German player has the extensive experience of winning on the international stage possessed by the 20-year-old Hopp, who memorably scored a first-round defeat of Mervyn King in the 2015 World Championship. His high averages – Hopp stands above his peers by regularly averaging above 90 – and consistency on the doubles have proven the young darter to be a formidable opponent in any setting. Hopp was a quarterfinalist at the 2016 European Matchplay in Hamburg, in which he came within two legs of eliminating #2 seed Peter Wright, missing a 121 finish that would have forced a decider. That was as close as any German has come to a semifinal, before or since, but the young Max Hopp has demonstrated the potential to advance even further in the long career that stretches out in front of the young man.

 

DRAGUTIN HORVAT

Bursting onto the darts scene with a magnificent run to the quarterfinals in the 2016 International Open in Riesa, Horvat switched national allegiances from his native Croatia to join the ranks of German players in 2016. Three consecutive victories over top British players included a last-leg decider break of throw that eliminated Gerwyn Price and a 99 average against top PDC professional Ian White. But since that marvelous weekend, Horvat has been unable to reach the same form. Demolished by Simon Whitlock at his first World Championship, Horvat qualified for the 2017 German Masters only to take a single leg off Michael Smith and average 83. More experience on the European Tour for a player who had only qualified for his fourth event last week will help him bring his A game more often to duels with the seeds.

 

BERND ROITH

Roith is something of an elder statesman of German darts. The 57-year old man from Tuebinghen won a tour card in 2012 and made an appearance in that year’s World Cup, but had enjoyed little success in the PDC in recent years. A perpetual contestant in almost every Q School, UK Open Qualifier and host nation European Tour qualifier of the past decade, Roith is nothing if not dedicated. That dedication has begun to pay off in 2017 with two appearances on the European Tour and an assured performance against Stephen Bunting in Saarbrucken.

 

MARTIN SCHINDLER

The teenaged Schindler is perhaps the most exciting young talent in German darts, and has kicked off his PDC career in style by winning £7000 in six European Tour appearances, as well as a last-16 showing at a Players Championship event. The fact that has been beaten by wide margins in many of his Euro Tour matches has not dampened the enthusiasm of darts experts for the solid throw of “The Wall”, and the level of success he has attained thus far augurs well for a bright darting future.

Even if the above players have given little indication of becoming the German Taylor or van Gerwen, recall that German darts is very much in its infancy. With more PDC darts events taking root in Germany, that country’s darts scene is set to explode thanks to its bumper crop of young talent.

Happy Bet German Darts Open – Checkmate for White in Virtuoso Performance – Game of the Day

Ian White dabs his way into the Quarter-Finals of the German Darts Open.
Photo : PDC

CHECKMATE FOR WHITE IN VIRTUOSO PERFORMANCE

Ian White and Mervyn King have long been on a form incommensurate with their lack of experience in hoisting trophies on satellite television. White, in particular, has never reached a televised semi-final, nor won a European Tour event, much to the bewilderment of the fans and players who regularly see him record high averages and skilfully punish opponents’ mistakes. The misfortune of a cramped draw in the top half of the German Open bracket saw him face the highest-ranked qualifier in Mervyn King, denying one the chance to advance to a much-needed ranking quarterfinal.

The English veterans’ smooth actions and relaxed demeanours were on display in Saarbrucken this afternoon, in a match that produced the highest combined average of the tournament’s first three rounds and improved in quality leg on leg. White seized the initiative in the third leg, denying King a chance at any finish by drilling 7 of 8 darts into the treble 20 bed, en route to an 11-dart break of throw. King retaliated with a maximum in the first visit of the very next leg, but again White, whose average had risen well above 100, forbade his opponent a look at a 121 finish by cleaning up 84 in one visit – this time won with an emphatic bullseye.

King’s rejuvenated scoring power put a finish within the reach of 11 darts, but with White ominously waiting on 84 for a third consecutive leg, King dropped his last dart into his favourite double. White’s impeccable defence of holds of throw, however, forced his opponent to threaten a 12-dart break. Having failed only once to check out on a two-dart combination, White completed finishes of 52, 74, 84 and 84, all in legs in which he threw first. King came closest to a break in the sixth leg, hitting a treble 20 with his first dart at a potential 139 finish, but then proceeded to thwart his progress by a bad miss of treble 13, after which an irritated King could only manage to leave 54 and watch the man from Stoke clear up the aforementioned 52 in two darts.

King’s 106 finish in the seventh leg came on his own throw. This proved no help to the Norfolk ace, who again attempted a big finish (148) to break White’s throw after trading maxima with his opponent. Another five-visit hold from White spelled disaster for King as he found himself trailing 3-5.

If a few erratic darts at double 16 from White raised King’s hopes in the 9th leg, who by that point had already thrown 5 180s, his opponent was happy to crush them with a 10th leg 13-darter that saw his average rise almost to 107, his second highest ever produced in a stage match. It was a display that augured well for White’s impending clash with Michael van Gerwen, and demonstrated also the level a player must reach if he hopes to checkmate Mervyn King.

The Resurrection of Dave Chisnall

It was double-delight for Dave Chisnall in Belfast after wins over the Stoke duo of Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor.
Photo : Michael Cooper

 

There remains one Premier League player who has not yet won a major title, after Peter Wright’s March triumph at the UK Open in Minehead. And that player, Dave Chisnall, appeared until last night to be almost certain to miss the Premier League playoffs, further prolonging that drought. Holding the advantage of throw against Gary Anderson in the final leg of his April 13 match, Chisnall scored 481 points with 9 darts only to confine himself in the madhouse. Missing seven match darts en route, Chisnall unexpectedly surrendered a point to the world number 2.

The paradoxical nature of Chisnall’s game was encapsulated by that leg. How can a player so proficient in power scoring fold so catastrophically under pressure when faced with momentous darts at doubles? Sitting on eight points, six behind fourth-place Raymond van Barneveld, Chisnall faced the prospect of needing four wins in five matches – and at least one against either Michael van Gerwen or Gary Anderson – to secure a place in the semi-finals.

The fight back began against a man who had thrown a nine-darter and a 111 average in the previous week’s edition of Premier League Darts. Dashing off three maxima in his first three legs against Adrian Lewis was hardly unusual fare for the treble-thrasher Chisnall, but by cleaning up those three legs with five darts at double, Chizzy denied Jackpot an attempt at any finish. Lewis returned the favour on his next two holds of throw, aided by 180s at the start of both, but the St Helens darter held throw with a clinical two-dart 96 finish and a checkout from 212 in four darts, seizing a 5-2 advantage. With help from some untimely missed doubles from Lewis – and a wayward dart at single 1 – Chisnall shook off final-leg nerves to finish the match in the madhouse, winning the leg with a single dart at double 1. Having recorded a 104 average and a superb 54% checkout rate, the challenge for Chizzy then became transferring that authoritative form to a second match across two hours’ break.

In fact, Chisnall managed to bring an even higher average (105) to the duel with Phil Taylor, giving the 16-time world champion only eight darts at double in four legs with which to challenge him. Though Chizzy did not manage to complete any three-figure checkouts all night, and none greater than 50 in his second match, he was never under pressure to hit a big finish for the sake of saving the match and succeeded time and again in setting up simpler checkouts. With both Taylor and Lewis playing somewhat below par, the task for Chisnall was merely to play sensible darts and stay relaxed.

Chisnall, who has struggled with his endgame all year long, broke Taylor’s throw on tops after a lovely setup from 176, following a similar setup of tops in three darts from 179. His superb setup play put the pressure on an insufficiently motivated Taylor to hit the ton-plus checkouts; and when the Power failed to deliver, Chizzy coolly hit the doubles. Furthermore, by splitting a score of 18 three times last evening, eschewing double 9 for double 4 and subsequently hitting it, Chizzy showed a confidence lacking in many of his previous games in 2017. Having no answer for his opponent’s 11-darter in the eighth leg, Taylor missed two doubles in the ninth leg to save the match, giving Chizzy the opportunity he needed to claim the fourth of four points available to him on the night.

Chisnall bailed out his Premier League campaign in a Dublin doubleheader last night, showcasing a massively improved finishing game and dispatching two of the most accomplished darters in darts’ history. Now four points closer to the O2, Chisnall now looks twice as dangerous of an opponent as he did last week, and an infinitely more plausible playoff contender.

German Darts Masters – Top Three Picks

Van Gerwen ws in sensational form in Jena with a tournament average of over 108.
Photo : PDC Europe

Here are my top three picks from this Weekend’s Happy Bet German Darts Masters

1st round review: Jeffrey de Graaf 6-5 Ricky Evans

For some players, a European Tour event is not necessarily about making a run for the title or challenging Michael van Gerwen. The few thousand pounds’ difference between a good day at the office and a disappointing early exit can mean holding on to – or losing – a tour card, or qualifying – or not – for a major televised championship.

Such was the calculus involved in Jeffrey de Graaf’s German Masters campaign. De Graaf, a winner of multiple BDO events, had not even made a quarterfinal in his two-year PDC career and, with his ranking hovering around #60, faced the prospect of losing his tour card for 2018 if he could not put forward better performances.

De Graaf, having met his opponent only once four years ago, encountered in the first round almost for the first time the unusual challenge of playing the fastest darter in the world. The prospect of trading arrows with Ricky Evans did not daunt the Dutchman, however, as he threw two maxima in the first two legs. These scoring bursts earned de Graaf first crack at the doubles in both legs, but three darts failed to find their marks and Evans, hitting doubles 16 and 5 with admirable precision, took out 68 and 85 finishes to pull out to a 2-0 lead.

Thanks to anemic scoring from Evans, de Graaf narrowly averted disaster after missing the bullseye by eventually hitting double 2 to hold his throw in the third leg. Due to his failure to attempt a finish in his next two legs against the throw, and due to Evans’ incredible throwing speed, de Graaf soon found himself at the bottom of a 5-1 hole.

Winning five consecutive legs with an opponent throwing match darts is never a likely prospect, but with de Graaf, his confidence seemed to build as the deficit decreased. Evans suddenly began to throw erratic darts at the trebles, allowing de Graaf to miss the several darts at doubles that had cost him earlier in the match. Leaving 60 after 9 darts in the eighth leg, and 84 after 9 in the tenth, put breaks of throw out of throw for the rapidfire Englishman. The Dutchman was fortunate to survive a match dart in the ninth leg, but compounded fortune with skill by checking out 25 and denying his opponent more match darts.

Having reached an improbable last-leg decider, Jeffrey de Graaf fired off five perfect darts to begin the leg – a remarkable display of confidence under pressure. Even after a nervy visit in which he scored 24 points, Evans could not get to a double in five visits and conceded a spectacular comeback victory.

Although de Graaf was to fall victim to another player’s comeback in the third round – that of Jelle Klaasen, who survived four of de Graaf’s match darts – the £3000 haul from the German Masters was the biggest Pro Tour cash of his career, and made his tour card substantially less vulnerable.

Quarterfinal review: Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Raymond van Barneveld

Raymond van Barneveld threw his last stage 160 finish on the first day of this year, in an epic losing effort in the World Championship semifinal. He threw a second one tonight – in what is becoming a gesture of futility for him – against the same ruthless opponent.

Michael van Gerwen, having averaged above 110 twice in his two preceding games, seized a 3-0 lead against Barney in Jena in typically ruthless fashion, demolishing finishes of 114 and 164 in his first two legs, without allowing his opponent a single dart at a double.

From 3-0 down the task of beating MvG is impossibly daunting. But Barney, ever the battler, was keen to give it a go. A poor scoring effort from Mighty Mike in the fifth leg saw the elder Dutchman clear to a 14-dart hold of throw, and then van Barneveld denied his opponent a chance at a 70 finish with a spectacular 160 finish.

If that 12-dart break gave the impression that the tide of the match was turning, van Gerwen was all too happy to dispel that myth. Firing off seven perfect darts in the sixth leg (but not eight, much to the Jena crowd’s chagrin) failed to end the nine-darter drought on the European Tour, but allowed an immediate break for MvG, putting him 4-2 up and throwing first in three of the next five legs.

By missing a crucial dart at double 16 in the next leg, van Barneveld watched an opportunity to punish van Gerwen slip away. From that point, the younger Dutch star was all too happy to concede the eighth leg – against the throw – to Barney, and with the advantage of throwing first in the ninth, blow Barney off the stage with a second 11-darter.

It was all too reminiscent of that Ally Pally epic, even apart from the 160 finish. Raymond van Barneveld was producing top quality darts, especially on the doubles and averaging over 100 for most of the match. But it wasn’t enough in January and it wasn’t enough tonight. A comfortable 6-3 win for Mighty Mike against one of the Dutch darting legend left the Green Machine looking unstoppable in Jena.

Final review: Michael van Gerwen vs Jelle Klaasen

This was not the final anyone could have wanted. Watching two opponents play a match in which they pretend that the other does not exist is unnerving in an environment where cordiality is common and politeness, if grudging, is the norm.

Jelle Klaasen and Michael van Gerwen hate each other. Though they would each like to defeat the other as completely as possible, only one man is capable of inflicting a defeat as severe as the personal rift that separates the two.

Mighty Mike threw down the gauntlet in the first leg, capping off an 11-dart hold of throw with a two-dart 93 finish. Had he needed them, MvG may have had as many as 18 darts to win the leg, but the world number 1 was in no mood to waste time. After capitalizing on Klaasen’s missed darts at doubles 20, 10 and 5 in the second leg, van Gerwen struck back with a 70 finish, and within two and a half minutes of the match beginning, MvG was already a third of the way to lifting the German Masters trophy.

In his previous match against Simon Whitlock, van Gerwen’s earlier proficiency on the doubles seemed to desert him. Small signs of that uncertainty showed in the fourth leg, where MvG missed two darts at double 12, allowing Klaasen to finally get on the board courtesy of a two-dart 80 finish.

This proved to be an entirely academic concern, for even though MvG needed all three darts to clean up a 40 finish in the fifth leg, Klaasen would have needed a 140 finish to deny van Gerwen three more darts at the double. The Cobra, who managed only a single ton-plus finish out of the 26 legs he won on the weekend, posed no threat to the world number 1’s efforts on his own throw.

A 14-darter in the sixth leg and a 180 – Klaasen’s only one of the final – to start the seventh might have portended trouble for MvG, had the Green Machine not hammered out a second 11-darter, denying Klaasen even a chance at the 100 finish he had left after nine darts. An ominous bounceout in the final leg may in fact have cost Jelle a chance to save the match, but as MvG closed out the match with a 13-dart break of throw, a Klaasen comeback would have looked perishingly unlikely even had he saved the eighth leg.

In producing one of his highest averages of the year, Jelle looked remarkably untroubled by wrist problems which had dogged him in the Premier League. Somehow players always seem to put forward their best efforts when playing Michael van Gerwen, and Klaasen can certainly take comfort in his 98 average and solid performance.

But he’s lost too many times to MvG to be consoled by that, and a final victory over van Gerwen will continue to elude him.