Darts World’s regular look at those players whose career or contribution to the sport of darts may have been overlooked, under-credited or faded with time.
During a recent interview with Darts World magazine, three-time World Champion Glen Durrant raised an eyebrow or two when he stated that a certain player was in fact “a far better player than me”.
Although Durrant added that it was some time ago that he had battled with Chris Thompson, it was still a very generous compliment. So, who is ‘The Hitman’?
The story starts at the 1985 Yorkshire Boys Club Championships in Hunslet. Thompson, then aged just 13, was persuaded to enter and emerged as the champion, without dropping a leg!
A very talented young player, at the age of 16 and already standing over 6 feet tall, Thompson ventured into the pub leagues in York. He soon claimed the York individual title, beating a host of top local players including Barry Noble and Stuart Holden, earning himself an invitation to the Yorkshire Super League in the process.
After a couple of successful seasons, Mick Nixon, captain of Humberside, recruited Thompson to his county squad. This proved excellent experience for Thompson as he had the opportunity to play alongside high quality players such as Vijay Kumar and John Pickering. After a further season in the Yorkshire Super League, Thompson was then invited to join the full Yorkshire squad and he lent on his fellow player and friend, Stuart Holden, for advice:
“By this time Stuart Holden had become a close friend and advisor. He thought that it was too early for me to join Yorkshire and encouraged me to remain with Humberside. I took this advice and ended up playing over 50 games for Humberside. After a few more invites from Yorkshire, Stuart eventually advised me that the time was right for me to join the “big boys” at Yorkshire”.
Following six consecutive wins in the Yorkshire B Team, Thompson was promoted to the Yorkshire A-Team, a huge landmark in his career. He eventually went on to play over a hundred matches for Yorkshire and was made captain of a team that included the likes of John ‘Boy‘ Walton, Scott Waites, Martin Atkins and Garry Thompson, under the famed management of Peter Senior.
Thompson’s next career milestone was qualifying for the News of the World Grand Finals, beating Lancashire’s Paul Williams in the final qualifier, thus making his television debut.
In 2000 Thompson claimed the Yorkshire Classic beating John Walton in the final, whilst he also struck up a very successful pairs partnership with Martin Atkins, with whom he remains close, both as a player and a friend.
Whilst progressing in the BDO, Thompson had kept a close eye on the PDC circuit and in 2007 he ultimately decided that the prize money available was too enticing to ignore:
“I decided to leave the BDO circuit and concentrate on the PDC, this was the best move I ever made”.
In his second season in the PDC, Thompson reached the quarter-finals of the UK Open, losing out 10-5 to Vincent Van Der Voort. This proved a springboard to further success as he went on to reach eight pro-tour semi-finals, including “the most memorable day” of his darting career in Las Vegas. On that day he defeated Gary Mawson, Kirk Shepherd, Mark Walsh, Terry Jenkins, and Andy Hamilton.
In the quarter final the invincible Phil Taylor awaited. Thompson states that he “played the game of my life” in beating the ‘The Power’ 6-5, with an average of over 114 before losing to Simon Whitlock in the semi-final. The next day Taylor took his revenge beating Thompson 6-0, costing him a place at the World Matchplay.
Later that year ‘The Hitman’ reached the World Championships for the first time. His first-round opponent at the Alexandra Palace was Darts World columnist Colin Osborne who showed his experience in defeating the York man 3-1.
Subsequently, Thompson’s form dipped and he struggled, eventually losing his tour card. Sadly, efforts to try and win a new tour card were unsuccessful and he took the difficult decision to quit his career within the PDC.
‘The Hitman’ still plays locally once a week at his local pub The Green Tree in York and says:
“I really enjoy the social aspect of the local league again.
However, my will to win has never deserted me, and my opponent, whoever they are, will always get 100% from me, I have always played to win no matter what the circumstances.
People always ask me if I miss the darts and my response is always “a bit, but I miss the friends I have made, and the crack we had, a lot more”.
- JR Lott with Chris Thompson
- Pix: PDC
- Originally published in Darts World Magazine (569) April 2020