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.