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The 2022 World Darts Championship Preview

World Darts Championship

The Cazoo World Darts Championship is a hugely popular darts tournament that is held each year in Alexandra Palace in London. The competition boasts the largest number of entrants of any darts tournament. A total of 96 darts players can enter the tournament either through automatic berths by placing in the Order of Merit or the Pro Tour Order of Merit, or they can qualify through international qualifiers. As darts is becoming increasingly popular around the world, there is an ever-growing number of international darts players joining the competition each year, with entrants coming from countries such as Brazil, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Japan, and many more.

The international reach of the competition has greatly improved the World Darts Championship. Twenty years ago, the competition only had a handful of non-UK darts players, ten years later that number rose to a third, and in modern times, the competition has over half of the contestants hailing from countries around the world.

History of the World Darts Championship

In 1992, the top darts players decided to form an association that would become the organising body for all top darts tournaments. This organisation was called the World Darts Council, which later became the Professional Darts Corporation, or PDC, and the council launched the inaugural World Darts Championship in 1994. The event caused some controversy at the time because the British Darts Organisation, or BDO, had its own World Championship. The BDO, however, had failed to promote the sport and the World Championship games were the only televised game, which made it extremely difficult for darts players to make a living off playing the sport.

The WDC thus created their tournament and started it ahead of the BDO's World Championship. It was held in the Circus Tavern, in Purfleet Essex, and was contested by 24 players who came from England, Scotland, Ireland and the US. In the finals, Dennis Priestley beat Phil Taylor 6-1, becoming the champion of the inaugural event.

In the following year the sponsor of the tournament was changed from Skol, a Scottish brewery named after the Scandinavian word for cheers, to Proton Cars. The budget for the tournament was cut, and the cash prize for the winner dropped from £64,000 to £55,000. Phil Taylor, who had reached the finals in the previous edition, made it to the finals again where he overcame Rod Harrington to win his first WDC World Championship title.

In 1996, the sponsor for the competition was changed again, with Vernon Pools replacing Proton Cars. The competition also featured 24 players and was held in the Circus Tavern, though the prize fund was increased to £62,500. Phil Taylor and Dennis Preistley reached the finals, for the second time in the history of the competition, and this time Phil Taylor won to defend his title.

1997 was the last year before the controversy between the organisers of the original competition and the new WDC finally settled their disputes in court. An agreement was made that the BDO would finally acknowledge the WDC as a legitimate organising body and darts players had the right to choose which organisation they wanted to play under. The WDC in turn dropped its claim to being the only governing body of darts, and the association was renamed to the Professional Darts Corporation.

Phil Taylor’s Winning Streak

Phil Taylor, who had already won in 1995 and 1996, went on to win six more successive titles, making a winning streak from 1995-2002. He beat some top darts players in the competition to defend his title such as Peter Manley, Dennis Priestley (on multiple occasions), and the Canadian darts player John Part. The prize fund for the competition increased each year; in 1999 it was over £100,000, by 2002 it had reached over £200,000. Taylor enjoyed his success until Part finally ended the winning streak in 2003. They met in the finals, and Part managed to win in a tight match, beating his opponent 7-6 in a best of 13 sets match.

Taylor returned to the finals in the following year, and beat Kevin Painter in a match that also ended 7-6. He then went on to beat Mark Dudbridge in 2005 by 7-4, and beat Peter Manley by 7-0 in 2006. That year saw a massive jump in the popular interest and money put into the tournament. The competition was now run by Ladbrokes, and the prize fund had leapt up to £500,000.

Taylor reached the final in 2007 but lost to Raymond van Barneveld, a Dutch darts player, who won the match 7-6. In the following year, John Part and Kirk Shepherd played in the finals. This was the first final in the 18 year history of the competition in which Taylor did not play, as he was knocked out in the quarter finals. Part beat Shepherd 7-2, to become a multiple time champion. It was also a special year for the World Darts Championship because the tournament was moved from its long-time home in the Tavern Circus to Alexandra Palace. Also based in London, Alexandra Palace offered a far more luxurious setting for the competition and hence also increased the revenue.

In 2009, Taylor won the World Darts Championship again, in a revenge final against van Barneveld. Taylor made the finals in 2010 as well, beating the Australian darts player Simon Whitlock. That year the prize fund jumped to £1,000,000.

The New Era

Adrian Lewis won the competition in 2011, beating Gary Anderson 7-5 in the finals. Lewis went on to win the next year, in 2012, as well, beating Andy Hamilton in the finals. Star Dutch player Michael van Gerwen made his first appearance in the finals in 2013, where he met Taylor. Taylor beat the young Dutch darts player in a close competition that ended 6-4, but the players were far closer on average scores with Taylor on 103.04 and van Gerwen on 100.6.

Van Gerwen returned to the competition in 2014 and reached the finals again, where he beat Scottish darts player Peter Wright. Fellow Scot, Anderson made the finals in 2015, where he beat Taylor in a close match that ended 7-6 to Anderson, but the average points score was 97.68 to 100.69 to Taylor.

Anderson replicated his feat in 2016, reaching the finals and playing against Adrian Lewis, who he beat in a similar way. In 2017, Van Gerwen and Anderson played in the finals, with the Dutchman winning his second title. In 2018, the World Darts Championship saw an all-English final between Rob Cross and Taylor. Cross won, to become the fourth Englishman to win the title.

In 2015, William Hill had become the primary sponsor for the event, and the result was large jumps in the cash prize. The prize jumped from £1,250,000 to £1,500,000 in a year, and went up to £2,500,000 by 2019. In the final of that year, van Gerwen met Michael Smith in the final, whom he beat to win his third championship title. In 2020, van Gerwen made the finals where he faced Peter Wright, who beat him. Wright had taken revenge for the 2014 finals and won 7-3, but the average points scored were 102.88 and 102.79, with van Gerwen having the higher points.

In 2021, Gerwyn Price became the first Welsh darts player to win the competition when he beat Gary Anderson 7-3 in the finals. The following year, Wright returned to beat Michael Smith in the finals, winning his second title.

Nine-Dart Finishes

The World Darts Championship has been a huge source of excitement and drama, and in darts, it does not get much better than scoring a nine-dart finish. Raymond van Barneveld threw the first two, in 2009 and 2010, and Adrian Lewis threw the first one at a final, in 2011 when he beat Gary Anderson. Lewis threw another nine-dart finish 4 years later against Raymond van Barneveld in the 2015 3rd round.

Dean Winstanley and Michael van Gerwen both threw nine-dart finishes in 2013, and both Terry Jenkins and Kyle Anderson threw nine-dart finishes in 2014. Gary Anderson threw a nine-dart finish at the semi-final against Jelle Klaasen in 2016, a tournament he would go on to win.

In 2021, James Wade threw a nine-dart finish in the first round against fellow Englishman Stephen Bunting. In 2022, William Borland, Darius Lavanauskas, and Gerwyn Price all threw nine-dart finishes, making it the single year with the most nine-dart finishes.

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