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.