Sunday, 16 February 2020

That was the weekend that was

Lot of darts been played this weekend - let's start with what's just finished, where Jim Williams claimed the Scottish Open title, defeating Steve Hine in a very high quality final, at least from Jim, who was averaging well over a hundred for most of the game, only tailing off down to two figures right at the end. Steve didn't really turn up in the final, but put in a near ton average in the semi against Martin Adams, frequent Challenge Tour contender Darren Beveridge being your other semi finalist. Quite a few familiar names going deep, Gary Stone and Paul Hogan making the quarters along with recent UK Open qualifier Jason Heaver and Neill Duff, James Richardson hit the last sixteen, Mike Warburton had a decent run to that stage, similar for former Dutch Open finalist Ryan Hogarth. In the ladies, Beau Greaves and Fallon Sherrock were clearly better than anyone in the field, and it was the former who was victorious in the final, no real shock names going deep.

To the PDC - Ryan Searle claimed a surprise first title on the Saturday over Michael van Gerwen to put himself right into Matchplay contention, pure consistency really, only the one average below 95 (still managing 93 in a 6-5 win over Durrant), and only the one above 100, in the semi over de Zwaan. Wins over Price and Smith as well, very solid run. Today saw Krzysztof Ratajski back in the winners circle, edging the final 8-7 over Ian White, with Peter Wright getting a second semi final, Danny Noppert being the other semi finalist who prevented van Gerwen from getting any of the first four events. Few surprise board winners here, Karel Sedlacek was able to take out both Rob Cross and Luke Humphries, Daniel Larsson got what seems a fairly comfortable run but still needed to get the wins, while Maik Kuivenhoven went one better to beat Larsson and make the quarters, a second quarter final of the season showing much improved form of late.

If Wikipedia's to be believed, Kevin Burness, Rhys Hayden, Robert Owen and Lewy Williams have made the UK Open - Burness and Owen we know a fair bit about, Hayden's been in and around the Development Tour for a while now along with some Challenge Tour appearances, and did make the BDO worlds back in 2015 as a wildcard qualifier, while Williams is a completely new name to me, probably as he's been known more as Lewis, must also be fairly young having played a lot of the Development Tour in 2019.

New FRH rankings:

1 Michael van Gerwen
2 Peter Wright
3 Gerwyn Price
4 Rob Cross
5 Michael Smith
6 Nathan Aspianll
7 Daryl Gurney
8 Dave Chisnall
9 James Wade
10 Ian White
11 Glen Durrant
12 Gary Anderson
13 Mensur Suljovic
14 Adrian Lewis
15 Krzysztof Ratajski
16 Chris Dobey
17 Simon Whitlock
18 Stephen Bunting
19 Joe Cullen
20 Jonny Clayton

No changes, although White's within 3k of Wade now, and Bunting's only about 100 behind Whitlock. Noppert's decent weekend gets him up to #27, Searle breaks into the top 40 at the expense of Steve West, while Kuivenhoven is now up to #110.

There's a few things that I want to go over on this weekend's events (need to look at the Euro Tour qualifiers as well I guess), but I want to withhold judgment on everything until I've got all the stats into the master computer, which I'll look to do tomorrow mostly, maybe some tonight. So check back Tuesday I guess?

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Mishmash of things

Few things to talk about:

- They've announced the PC5/6 entries, a little bit strange to see Dobey not playing in either, Larsson I can kind of understand (there's a Nordic/Baltic weekend the week after, so getting back in the area perhaps?), Thornton and Whitlock also miss the Saturday so that gives Dennant and van de Wal a shot in that one, along with Mitchell and Collins getting into both. Shows just how huge that winning an early Challenge Tour really is.

- Scottish Open is showing on Dart Connect, which is nice.

- Tour Card holders qualifiers tomorrow for Belgium and Sindelfingen, seems like it's fairly well attended, DvdB and Huybrechts get a free pass for the first one and Clemens/Hopp for the second, early chance for people to have a couple of good games and get decent ranking money into the bank. Someone did post up the seedings on Twitter, there's a few up there that are fairly surprising to be honest.

- They've announced the US exbo players, and it looks pretty vanilla. It's the top eight in the world minus Michael Smith and plus Sherrock. Obviously Sherrock has forced their hand somewhat, but unless they're going to do something special with the other events (and as they probably forcefeed Whitlock into Australia as one of the PDC eight, that's further limited), it seems the days of the World Series being a stepping stone for those around 11-25 in the world is more or less gone. I know there's the Contenders now, but that's one game.

- I bet on Cross each way in the first two PC events, but was that a good idea? Someone talked about form in non-ranking events on Twitter, obviously those are meaningless, but if we look at, say, from September onwards (so it gets a few of the back end floor events, as well as one of his major wins, if we just do after his last major win there's little sample), he's barely scoring 92 a turn! It's notthing like when there was a clear three or four away in the 2019 full sample, of which Cross was one of them. Above him in that sample (and, for Cross, this is nearly 350 legs) are Dobey, Humphries, Clayton, de Zwaan, Pipe, Suljovic, Chisnall, Ratajski, Clemens, de Sousa and White, along with the entirety of the Premier League players sans Gurney. That's a substantial list. Now it'd obviously be silly to start ringing alarm bells about someone who's won two major titles in slightly more than the last six months, but punting on Cross at 20/1 may not be the automatic investment it first looked like.

- Better each way tips based on that list might be White at 35, de Sousa at 66, Clemens at 60, Ratajski and Suljovic at 45 are probably still good, Pipe at 150 appears excellent, maybe also chuck Huybrechts in at that price as well.

I'm away this weekend so don't expect anything substantial until Sunday evening at the earliest.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Ten things we learned from Players Championship 1/2

Before said ten things, new FRH rankings:

1 Michael van Gerwen
2 Peter Wright
3 Gerwyn Price
4 Rob Cross
5 Michael Smith
6 Nathan Aspinall
7 Daryl Gurney
8 Dave Chisnall
9 James Wade
10 Ian White
11 Glen Durrant (UP 1)
12 Gary Anderson (DOWN 1)
13 Mensur Suljovic
14 Adrian Lewis
15 Krzysztof Ratajski
16 Chris Dobey (UP 1)
17 Simon Whitlock (DOWN 1)
18 Stephen Bunting
19 Joe Cullen
20 Jonny Clayton

Duzza moving up is just because of his scores being front loaded and Ando's being the reverse. Similar to Dobey, albeit to a much lesser extent so that Glen can survive Gary binking an event and still holding the #11 spot. Lower down, Mickey Mansell's impressive weekend gets him into the top 60, Dirk van Duijvenbode is less than 50 points outside the top 90, while Jeff Smith backing up yesterday with another board win pushes him within 3500 points of the top 100.

So, what did we learn? Let's see:

10) We should appreciate the stupidly good quality we have in the PDC right now

Five nine darters over the weekend! A quarter final where both players average over 113! Let's appreciate what we have right now, it's by far the strongest PDC field we have ever had.

9) Sometimes it takes a year to warm up

I don't think the tour card system is ideal, and I think you all know that, but at least it does give players two years to have a shot at it. It may just be variance, but we've seen quite a few second year card holders have a very good opening weekend. Maik Kuivenhoven's the obvious one, but there's a few others - Mike van Duivenbode didn't do too badly, Conan Whitehead looked decent, maybe having a bit of a winter break has helped them hugely. We'll see in the weeks to come.

8) Lisa Ashton can hang at this level

Maybe not something we learned, as I think most of us knew that she could, but the performance she put in against an extremely underrated player in Christian Bunse is just underlining the point.

7) Luke Humphries is going to bink something soon

Would it surprise you if I said that Luke had the highest points per turn of anyone this weekend? Just look at the averages he put in in losing efforts against Chisnall and Bunting. He's simply playing too well not to get a bit of a break in something real soon.

6) Dirk van Duijvenbode is good at darts

He's finally made a big run through to a semi final. Dirk's been putting in good showings for a while now, but this weekend he's seemingly cut out a few of the bad legs that have cost him in the past, except for that last leg against Jeff Smith on the Saturday event. Who knows, if he had put that one away we could be talking about him a lot more than what we are doing right now. Perhaps this is the confidence spark that'll mean we do take more notice.

5) James Wilson - what the heck?

That's a couple of worrying results - a 77 average against Alan Tabern, then an 82 average against Martin Atkins, which gives him the lowest points per turn of any non-Aaron Beeney cardholder this weekend, only Barrie Bates also dropped below 80 other than those two. That's a concern given we thought he'd turned the corner three to four months ago. I'd hate him to go into an Alan Norris type of downward spiral.

4) Jason Lowe's performance at Q-School isn't a fluke

He may not have lit things up massively this weekend, but his scoring is such that if he can keep playing at this level, or close to it, he should be able to generate enough good Pro Tour runs to get himself into the worlds. This weekend, over less legs of course, he was scoring better than Gerwyn Price was. That's not bad at all.

3) Jeff Smith didn't have just one good run

There's been plenty of players that have had one decent run to a Players Championship final and then done little after that, but backing it up the day after with another board win, taking down Daryl Gurney and Danny "top points per turn Dutchman this weekend, yes really" Noppert before being stopped by van Duijvenbode is a statement of intent. There's a string of events that'll come thick and fast, if he can ride this run of form he could put himself into the equation for non-worlds majors.

2) We have no idea who is the best any more

While I've said that Humphries topped the points per turn table this weekend, Wright, White, Anderson and Aspinall were all separated by less than a quarter of a point. van Gerwen was about a point behind Wright. Floor favourites Ratajski and de Sousa are in the top ten along with Damon Heta. Price and Smith (Michael) are just outside. It's a huge mess and I love it.

1) There's plenty of new card holders that might be here to stay

I've mentioned a few already, but let me chuck some other names around. Kcuik didn't get a win, but scored very highly in defeat and that'll even itself out over the course of a year. Wesley Harms scored real nicely. Mike de Decker looked competent. Kleermaker's scoring profile is pretty confusing but he's not shown anything that makes me think he won't be able to give himself a chance of top 64 in two years time. Ciaran Teehan and Nick Kenny looked useful in spots. It'll be an interesting race for tour card spots in two years time, that's for sure.

Some other things I should throw out that you might have missed unless you have all day to read Twitter - there was a weekend of Eastern Europe qualifiers for the Euro Tour, and the guys making it are from all over - Pratnemer, Koltsov, Gawlas, Kanik and Pero Ljubic got a spot at one each, that's five different nationalities right there, while Scott Taylor and Adam Smith-Neale got through UK Open qualifiers to further strengthen what's looking like a scary set of "amateur" qualifiers.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Players Championship 1 Live Blog

1800 - And that wraps up Players Championship 1. What a run for Gary, defeating Christian Bunse, Simon Whitlock, Gerwyn Price, Rob Cross, Joe Cullen, Adrian Lewis and Jeff Smith to grab the title. Smith himself beat two major winners and two major finalists to get as far as he did, surprising runs for the likes of Maik Kuivenhoven, Steve Brown and Conan Whitehead, mental day. I won't be doing this tomorrow - going to be trying to get to Sheffield assuming the game isn't called off due to health and safety snowflakeness, but I'll be back some time in the evenings with updated FRH rankings (Smith not in the top 100 yet, but he's close) and some summary.

1754 - An 86 checkout seals an 8-4 victory for Gary Anderson and the first Players Championship title of the year. A mediocre scoring leg in leg 11 for Smith left him outside checkout range after twelve darts, Anderson didn't need asking twice to finish in five visits, a solid hold from there denies the Canadian, who'll surely be very happy with his day's work despite the final result.

1751 - Smith gets a solid hold, then hits a 180 to apply the pressure. Jeff can't check out 84, but Anderson misses three darts at double himself and Smith steps back in to break and trail 6-4.

1748 - Smith is unable to generate more than one dart at double on throw in leg seven and Anderson breaks - Smith has a dart at bull for a twelve to break straight back (after Anderson missed the same), but hits the 25 and Anderson holds to go two away from the title.

1744 - After a couple of routine holds, Smith had a half chance to break, but lost his scoring approaching a finish and couldn't get a dart at double. 4-2 Anderson.

1737 - Final under way, the Flying Scotsman with the flying start, a break-hold to get the first two legs, Smith held leg three to get on the board.

1719 - Smith completes a 7-2 victory, putting in a 99 average to defeat Dolan and reach the final.

1713 - A 130 checkout from Gary Anderson sees the twice world champion into the final, after Adrian Lewis apparently missed double 19 for a 158 checkout of his own. Meanwhile in the other semi final, the former Lakeside finalist takes advantage of a mediocre leg from Dolan to break and lead 5-2, two legs away from a dream return to the PDC.

1708 - An eleven dart break from Gary Anderson gives him a 5-3 lead in the race to seven, while Jeff Smith is on throw with a 4-1 lead over Brendan Dolan.

1702 - Both semi finals are under way. Anderson and Lewis are a couple of legs ahead, Anderson leads 3-1, while Jeff Smith is also up an early break.

1643 - Dolan does indeed complete the semi final matches, serving out a 6-3 win. Not a spectacular performance, but solid enough to get through.

1637 - A great final leg from Jeff Smith, leaving 32 after twelve darts, was enough after finishing last dart to advance to the semi finals on his return to the PDC. He will likely face Brendan Dolan, who has taken control of his quarter final and leads 5-2.

1632 - Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson will face off in one semi final, having beaten Steve Beaton and Joe Cullen respectively. Dolan and Kuivenhoven are on throw after five legs, while Wright has got the break back but still trails 5-4.

1623 - Anderson and Lewis have broken in each of their games and lead 3-1. Jeff Smith and Peter Wright have exchanged holds, Smith leading 4-1.

1618 - Jeff Smith is off to a real quick start against Peter Wright, a hold-break-hold series sees the Canadian halfway to the finish line. Anderson and Cullen are tied after two legs.

1613 - The quarter finals are all getting started momentarily - we have Brendan Dolan/Maik Kuivenhoven, Peter Wright/Jeff Smith, Adrian Lewis/Steve Beaton and Gary Anderson/Joe Cullen. An all-Scottish final looks the favourite, but it's wide open.

1607 - Brendan Dolan completes the quarter final lineup with a 6-5 win over Ross Smith - who seemingly missed a match dart at double five to break in the deciding leg, allowing Brendan back in to clean up 80 and advance to face Kuivenhoven.

1600 - Peter Wright finishes off his game with Whitehead, averaging just over a ton in a 6-3 victory. Only Dolan/Smith remains in the last sixteen, they're level after eight legs.

1556 - Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis have completed their victories (Anderson killing the last of my bets) to reach the quarters, Anderson in particular looking great with a 106 average. Steve Beaton will join them after knocking out Mickey Mansell for the loss of just one leg.

1553 - The remaining five games are all going one way - Anderson is 5-2 up over Cross, Dolan and Beaton lead Smith and Mansell 4-1 respectively, Lewis is 5-1 up over Webster, while Wright's just broken to lead Whitehead 4-2.

1548 - Joe Cullen joins Smith and Kuivenhoven in the quarters after a 6-1 rout of Nick Kenny, albeit one where he averaged under 90. Dolan is two legs away from the quarters as well, Ross Smith not having troubled the scorers to date.

1546 - Maik Kuivenhoven makes his first Pro Tour quarter final, ending the run of Steve Brown with a 6-3 win, averaging a fraction under a ton. With an opponent of either Brendan Dolan or Ross Smith, who's to say he can't go further?

1539 - First player into the quarters is Jeff Smith, a trio of bad scoring visits from Nathan Aspinall on throw in a deciding leg was enough to keep him outside of finishing range after twelve darts, Smith got to 86 and cleaned it up. Cullen's quickly up to a 2-0 lead over Kenny, Kuivenhoven is just ahead of Brown 3-2, the other games are yet to start or only a leg into the match.

1528 - Four very close games close out the round of 32 - a clash of world champions between Glen Durrant and Steve Beaton went all the way, with the Adonis nicking it 6-5, Wright rolled off the last three legs to beat John Henderson 6-4, Adrian Lewis prevailed over Derk Telnekes by the same scoreline, while in a repeat of the Matchplay final, Rob Cross and Michael Smith also went to a last leg shootout, Smith left tops after twelve against the throw (I guess, from 104 the previous visit, he may have missed a match dart?), but Cross stepped in and finished 90 in two darts to clinch it. Gary Anderson next for Voltage, doesn't get any easier.

1518 - Nick Kenny and Joe Cullen will match up for a quarter final spot after they win their respective boards. Hendo holds a slender lead over the world champ at 4-3, while Ando's just taken out Price 6-3. Smith and Aspinall are just kicking off the last sixteen.

1513 - Huge shock as Brendan Dolan knocks out Michael van Gerwen 6-4 - it looked like he'd fucked it up after being broken straight back from 4-3 to 4-4, but got another break and held it out, being let off after not killing 64, van Gerwen not finishing 67 to extend the game. Mansell cleaned up his game 6-1, Ross Smith took a decider against Jamie Hughes, while Nick Kenny and Maik Kuivenhoven are a break up. The Price/Ando game is currently 3-2 to the Scot.

1503 - Frustrating loss for van Duijvenbode, averaged 100 but lost out 6-4 to Jeff Smith. Mansell is out to a 4-1 lead over Adam Hunt, while Brown's nicked the decider over Teehan. MvG and Dolan are level at three legs each.

1455 - Beaton dropped a leg but finished Searle off in the following leg, while Wayne Jones was able to get the break to throw for the match at 5-5, but got broken by Aspinall straight away to lose. Telnekes survived a fightback from Jeffrey to be our last player in the round of 32, 6-5 the final score there. No other games are nearing conclusion, closest ones are Smith/van Duijvenbode and Teehan/Brown, both tied at three.

1449 - Ando beats Whitlock 6-1, game looked good for three legs but then meandered to Anderson taking the rest in six visits. Beaton's 5-0 up over Searle, Telnekes leads de Zwaan 5-2, while Whitehead/Kleermaker is in a decider. Jones has pegged Aspinall back to 5-4.

1445 - van Duivenbode completes the comeback from 5-2 down to get through to a winnable board final. Only three last 64 games left, Beaton, Anderson and perhaps surprisingly Telnekes currently hold the advantage in those games. Aspinall is closing in on a board win over Wayne Jones, leading 5-2.

1441 - Darren Webster's the first player to win his board, Labanauskas took that deciding leg, while Darren Penhall's been pulled back to 5-5 by Mike van Duivenbode.

1437 - Rush of results coming in - Jamie Hughes beats Ron Meulenkamp 6-4, Glen Durrant beats Wesley Harms by the same score, Brendan Dolan whitewashes John Michael, Adam Hunt dumps out another seed in Danny Noppert, while Evans and Labanauskas are in a deciding leg.

1431 - Several last 32 ties getting going, Aspinall/Jones and Whitehead/Kleermaker are under way. Dolan's looking good to get to MvG with a 3-0 lead over John Michael, while Adam Hunt has a break lead over Danny Noppert. Price has just completed the second round win 6-3 over Adrian Gray, so the dream Price/Ando matchup is still on, until Whitlock ruins everything.

1428 - DvD makes no mistakes and finished the game 6-1, nice 105 average. Webster/Sedlacek is the first last 32 game under way, Labanauskas is a break up over Evans, while Gray is hanging around against Price trailing 4-3. Durrant is down to Harms by the same scoreline.

1425 - Some better news for the Irish followers - Ciaran Teehan's just knocked out Stephen Bunting 6-2, and the way the draw is looking he could easily reach the quarters. Wayne Jones knocks out a seed in Keegan Brown 6-1, while if anyone can blow a 5-1 lead, it's Dirk van Duijvenbode, who's at that scoreline against Ted Evetts.

1418 - Mansell's completed the big upset win 6-1 - he played great, but Daryl was averaging down at 80. Some odd underperformances today. MvG's just taken out Heta 6-3, Lewis has beaten Clemens by the same scoreline (other than Cross, I think that's all my bets done), while Adie got through a scrappy game against Clemens 6-3.

1414 - A quick further word on that Sedlacek/King game - Mervyn took the first (in eight visits), but then lost the rest and ended up averaging just 71. I hope that it's not injury related and it's just a bad game, Mervyn's been playing too well this last twelve months to be unlucky enough to suffer a setback like this might be. Hendo's taken the decider, while Martijn Kleermaker beats Edgar to make the last 32 and face Conan Whitehead.

1410 - We know our first board final of the season - it will be Darren Webster against Karel Sedlacek for a spot in the last sixteen. Who saw that one coming? Ross and Jeff both made it safely through, Cullen completed the win over Clark 6-1, Nick Kenny's just beaten Josh Payne, Mansell's now 5-0 ahead, while van Gerwen has a 4-2 lead over Heta. Kuivenhoven's just eliminated Stevenson as Henderson/Woodhouse is in a deciding leg.

1405 - Ando completes our round two lineup, fine performance against Bunse winning 6-3. Steve Brown nicked that match mentioned below, Joe Cullen's in a big lead over Matt Clark, while Gurney is in a spot of bother down 3-0 against nine dart hero Mansell. Sedlacek is also holding a good lead over Mervyn King right now.

1359 - Barrie Bates couldn't pick his game up against Rob Cross, a low 70's average saw an inevitable 6-0 result. Ando's a break up on Bunse in the last round 1 game, the pair of Smiths, Ross and Jeff, are looking good with 4-1 leads in their second round ties. Steve Brown against Alan Tabern is poised nicely at four legs each.

1352 - Drama on board 3 as Darren Penhall has nicked it in a decider against Steve West, I'm not quite sure how, needing 79, West ended up needing 2 after his visit, but he didn't get a chance to come back for it. Conan Whitehead has beaten Daniel Larsson 6-0 to make round three, while Aspinall and Webster have knocked out North and Waites respectively, both 6-1, to reach the board final.

1348 - Welcome (back) to the PDC, Gary Blades. A first round win is nice, starts against Peter Wright, twelve minutes later he's out with Wright averaging 107 in a whitewash victory.

1346 - Just the stream boards lagging behind - Anderson/Bunse is only just starting, while every other board is done or in a decider. Adam Hunt and Ted Evetts are through, Meulenkamp and Labanauskas won those deciders, Robert Thornton and Ryan Searle have also recently reached the last 64.

1338 - Good debut win for Ciaran Teehan over Justin Pipe, Whitlock's just completed the win over Hamilton, while Meulenkamp/Klaasen and Labanauskas/Razma are in deciding legs.

1335 - Edgar TV's not yet cancelled as he powers past Martin Atkins (Wigan) 6-1 to play Kleermaker next. Good showing from Wayne Jones to put away Joe Murnan and make the second round, Derk Telnekes has just won a decider over Martin Schindler, while Hamilton's still battling on what's now clearly the slowest board but still needs a couple of breaks.

1331 - Lisa Ashton's going to need to wait until tomorrow for the first ladies' win on the Pro Tour, Dolan finishing the game off 6-2. Dimitri's going to wonder how on earth he lost to Ryan Joyce, while Simon Whitlock's the last seeded player in first round action, currently with a comfortable lead over Andy Hamilton. The first second round games are starting soon, Woodhouse easily beating Barnard and Sedlacek edging Huybrechts to complete round one on their respective boards.

1325 - Mixed fortunes for the Dutch seeds - Danny Noppert is through over Ryan Murray, just topping the hundred average, but van der Voort was blitzed 6-1 by Dirk van Duijvenbode.

1321 - Just noticed in the Dobey game that van Duivenbode hit a nine. Two for the day already!

1320 - Dobey was unable to complete the comeback, so Mike van Duivenbode joins Stevenson and Kuivenhoven on a wide open board 3. Seeds safely through we haven't mentioned are Mervyn King, Michael Smith (against Ryan Joyce, which has upended the Bunting match for untelevised game of the year - 110 plays 106 averages!) and Ricky Evans. Lisa Ashton's just been broken to trail Dolan 3-1.

1313 - What a game that Bunting game was. Eleven holds, none longer than fifteen darts. Early contender for best match of the year that nobody saw. Adrian Gray finally fell over the line against Mark McGeeney, while Dobey's pulled it back to 5-5.

1310 - Fine game that Damon Heta game, both averaging over 100. He'll play MvG next. O'Connor's pulled back Hughes to 5-5, but in the decider gifted Jamie six darts at 97, he needed five of them but is eventually over the line. Kleermaker's completed the win over de Sousa, while Bunting and Humphries went all eleven legs before the Bullet grabbed the decider.

1306 - Heta's through, while Keegan Brown spanked Steve Lennon 6-1. Dobey and de Sousa are both in trouble at 5-2 down.

1302 - Hendo's not wasting any time, he's taken out Jesus Noguera to be the first of the lower seeds to advance. Jamie Hughes is right behind him, while de Zwaan's in a bit of trouble being 5-4 down to Carl Wilkinson.

1258 - Just a couple of second game on matches to finish now, Damon Heta and Adrian Gray in dominant positions. Wesley Harms is through after a high standard game against Jamie Lewis, both averaging 98 or better, and he'll play Glen Durrant next up.

1255 - Mickey Mansell's through to face Daryl Gurney. Wouldn't mention it normally, but as he hit a nine I feel I should.

1253 - Matt Clark has denied Callan Rydz a dream start as a tour card holder, pulling back from a 5-3 deficit to take a 23 dart deciding leg where Rydz must have had a couple of match darts. Barrie Bates is through to face Rob Cross, winning despite not finishing any legs in fifteen darts or better.

1248 - Nick Kenny, Conan Whitehead and Scott Waites all pick up a first win of the season, and will all face unseeded opponents in round two so have every chance of going further. Alan Tabern's just now joined them with a comfortable win over James Wilson.

1241 - Gary Blades is through to face Peter Wright, the averages may look a bit low but there was a 32 dart leg in there that's going to throw things. Just noticed Beeney's average against Cullen, ouch. Clemens completed the win, while Richard North's one away against Leitinger.

1237 - That was some performance by Price, getting back to back four visit kills then a fifteen darter to win it from 5-3 down, adding to another four visit kill earlier in the match, best performance of the day by some distance. Ross Smith has just gone through in the first unseeded game to get through to face Rowby in round two, while Blades and Clemens are just a leg away from winning as well.

1231 - Another seed's gone down, this time Dave Chisnall - he was able to force his way back from 3-0 down to 5-5, but Jeff Smith got over the line. Gerwyn Price survived a deciding leg against Jason Lowe, while fellow Premier League stars Glen Durrant and Daryl Gurney have also made round two as all of the first set of games complete.

1227 - We've got a bit of a seedocalypse going on - James Wade and Krzysztof Ratajski are surprise early casualties, while Rob Cross was nearly another to go out, needing a last leg decider against Mike de Decker, who was waiting on a two darter after twelve in the final leg.

1225 - Mensur Suljovic is another seed to have gone out, with Simon Stevenson putting on his best display in months to advance 6-3, while Nathan Aspinall survived a deciding leg against Kciuk in a high quality matchup.

1222 - Huge casualty as Ian White's been put out by Darren Webster, was close throughout before two five visit legs from 4-4 put the Demolition Man through to round two.

1220 - Larsson and Cullen were the first two to go through, Adrian Lewis is also through with a 6-0 drubbing of Leung, while Jermaine Wattimena's the second seed down, losing 6-4 from a 4-0 lead to Rowby John Rodriguez.

1214 - Jonny Clayton is in a bit of trouble, down 4-1 to Daniel Larsson, while Jeff Smith has just been pegged back to 3-1 against Dave Chisnall. Joe Cullen's nearly the first player through with a 5-1 lead over Aaron Beeney.

1201 - Games are now under way, I'd be pretty surprised if any of the top 16 seeds were to lose, but there's a few players that if they do show up could cause it to be a bit trickier than they'd expect.

1156 - Players are starting to warm up - looks like they've picked the van Gerwen board as one of the stream board, which makes perfect sense with Mitchell, Heta and Ashton on there, and they've also gone with the Price board, with Anderson and the Whitlock/Hamilton game on that one as well, it makes perfect sense, can't think of another board other than possibly the White board I'd have considered, so decent choices for anyone watching on streams.

1107 - Final quarter:

Price, Lowe, McGeeney, Gray, Whitlock, Hamilton, Anderson, Bunse
Cross, de Decker, Siepmann, Bates, M Smith, Joyce, Ward, Thornton
Ratajski, Payne, Kenny, Shepherd, van den Bergh, Meikle, Borland, Kantele
Cullen, Beeney, Rydz, Clark, Evans, van de Pas, Labanauskas, Razma

Nice draw for Lowe having won the first card of the UK school, not sure how Whitlock is still seeded, a first round tie with Hamilton could have been a major semi final a decade ago, Gary's obviously the huge wildcard and the idea of a Price/Ando game in the last 32 is huge. Not a bad board for either Cross or Smith there. Can't really see the seeds being threatened on Ratajski's board either, Kenny's got a winnable debut game I guess. Beeney gets a seed first up, Evans/van de Pas might be fun, we've got an all-Baltic first round tie as well. Not a bad board for Rydz to be on at all.

1102 - Third quarter:

White, Webster, Waites, Dekker, King, Reyes, Sedlacek, Huybrechts
A Lewis, Leung, Clemens, Krcmar, de Zwaan, Wilkinson, Schindler, Telnekes
Gurney, Baker, Derry, Mansell, Noppert, Murray, Hunt, Boulton
Durrant, Pallett, Harms, J Lewis, Beaton, van der Meer, Searle, Carlin

That's a real interesting board White's on. Darren Webster first up is probably the pick of the first round, Waites is in there, while King's subsection has a couple of European players in that 33-64 bracket looking to rediscover form along with the newcomer in Sedlacek. The Lewis board is OK, we'll see how Kai Fan Leung does, Clemens/Krcmar should be competitive, I'm not sure how Telnekes will do but Schindler's a decent test, and a second round game against de Zwaan would be a good one. The Gurney board looks dull to be honest, can't see past both seeds making the last 32. The Durrant board looks a bit the same, a Durrant/Harms second round game would be a good one to look at I guess.

1057 - Second quarter (seeds are bolded, should have mentioned before, should be obvious):

Wright, Zonneveld, Blades, Jacques, Henderson, Noguera, Woodhouse, Barnard
Clayton, Larsson, Whitehead, Alcinas, de Sousa, Kleermaker, Edgar, Atkins
Chisnall, J Smith, Robinson, Hopp, van der Voort, van Duijvenbode, Evetts, Brooks
Aspinall, Kciuk, Leitinger, North, K Brown, Lennon, Jones, Murnan

Ought to be safe enough for Wright, although the Hendo section is interesting with Noguera making his debut as a tour card holder and the winner likely playing Woodhouse who can upset anyone on the day, Clayton being on the same board as de Sousa kind of scuppers the coverage I have with my each way bets, Jonny should be fine to make the last 32 but Jose has got what looks like a tricky opener. Chizzy's board should be fun, not the draw Smith would want on his return, while Hopp, DvD, Evetts and Brooks are all dangerous youngsters who can do damage, so van der Voort will need to be on his toes. Looks a great board for Nathan, Leitinger has a winnable debut match, Brown/Lennon's not a bad opening fixture at all.

1052 - Draw is out, first quarter:

van Gerwen, Mitchell, Nentjes, Heta, Dolan, Ashton, Michael, Meeuwisse
Wattimena, Rodriguez, R Smith, Petersen, Hughes, O'Connor, Meulenkamp, Klaasen
Suljovic, Stevenson, Worsley, Kuivenhoven, Dobey, van Duivenbode, West, Penhall
Wade, S Brown, Wilson, Tabern, Bunting, Humphries, Teehan, Pipe

Welcome to the PDC Scott... real interesting draw for MvG, Heta in round 2 then Dolan in round 3, a seed to start for Ashton as well. Board 2 looks competitive, I think there's reasonable arugments for anyone to get our of that one. Board 3 looks like a seeds special, unless Steve West has returned to form then I can't see any of those troubling Suljovic or Dobey, while on board 4, if Wilson's got a bit better then Wade might be in for a bit of a fight, Bunting against Humphries is an all-contenders clash, while one of my tips in Pipe gets newcomer Ciaran Teehan.

As there's no real football on today, at least not that I'm going to, as an experiment I'm going to liveblog the first Players Championship event. We should have the draw within the next 20-30 minutes before play starts at noon, so I'll have a look at what appears interesting once that's available, then start running through the matches as they take place.

As a reminder, the each way punts I've gone for are Cross at 22/1, half the amount on each of de Sousa and Clemens at 66/1 as well as Clayton at 80/1, then half the amount again on Pipe at 150/1. I may add one or two once the draw is out if anything looks very tempting, but I doubt it. More shortly.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Five things to watch for in Players Championship 1/2

Finally we're back into the bread and butter of the pro circuit - with everyone apart from Kyle Anderson showing up, it's probably the strongest Pro Tour set of events ever. There's not been a huge amount to talk about this week, they've shifted the next Challenge Tour weekend to three days, which is fine, it's over the Easter weekend so that's one bit of good planning. Of course, as mentioned earlier, this wouldn't be needed if they actually had a little bit of ingenuity in terms of administration. They've also postponed some of the previously announced Asian Tour events apparently, seeming lack of Mexican beer or something.

So, Pro Tour. Numbers 1, 2 up to however many you want to hazard a guess at is how the Q-School winners will do, but as I've already posted on who I'm wanting to see most out of those, I won't repeat myself here, so let's see what else we need to look for:

5) Will we have a nine darter?

It seems inevitable. It's such a strong and large field that someone will surely pin one over the two days, let's just pray it's on a streamed board.

4) How will those struggling to keep their card start off?

I'm thinking more in terms of those that are defending a huge amount from 2018, rather than those who have nothing to defend but simply had a bad first year of a card. Jamie Lewis, Benito van de Pas, Richard North, maybe chuck in the likes of Steve Lennon as well who had a not great 2019. Getting a good start is going to be crucial for these types of players.

3) How will the other new guys do?

Scott Mitchell's replacing Kyle just on the Saturday (he has an exbo on the Sunday which he won't cancel, fair enough to honour previous commitments) and Robert Collins will get a stab on the Sunday, but we're also going to see Jesus Noguera, Callan Rydz and Ciaran Teehan play for the first time, at least as tour card holders - Rydz we've seen a few times last season, but Noguera only got into one or two Pro Tour events, and Teehan I think is on debut.

2) Who else higher up can halt a slide?

Darren Webster has looked a bit better in the last couple of months than previously, but is defending a hell of a lot as he looks to cling on to the top 32 spot he currently holds. Similar with Simon Whitlock and the top sixteen. John Henderson and Steve West are only just in the top 32 as things stand, and West in particular could easily plummet this year. Even higher up than those, Mensur seems like he should be defending a lot, Gary Anderson will be, while Daryl Gurney is maybe a little bit falsely high and will lose a major win by the end of the season.

1) Who's going to make a statement in the first ranked event of the year?

The big four, as far as I'm concerned, are van Gerwen, Price, Wright and Cross, I think they'll all want to lay down a marker, but Cross is down at eighth favourite for this, which seems a little bit ridiculous, but he'll probably be the one most out of these who could do with getting a result. The likes of White, Chisnall, Wade and Lewis who are floating just outside those Premier League places could do with solid performances. Can the up and comers like Dobey, de Zwaan, Wattimena and Hopp solidify a top 20 spot and push through to the top sixteen? Will Glen Durrant continue to climb the rankings at the same rate he did last year? Can the youngsters (relatively speaking, at least for some) just inside the top 32 like Brown, Noppert, van den Bergh and Evans hold off those pushing for a place after a good 2019, the likes of Dolan, Humphries, van der Voort, Clemens and O'Connor are all pushing in the right direction and won't care whose place they'll take.

Each way stabs at PC1 and PC2? I'm already on Cross at a ridiculous 22's, White did look tempting at 50's but he's since been backed into 33's, Clemens and de Sousa at 66's look like they're well worth the effort, Justin Pipe at 150's and Clayton at 80's look to be decent value a bit further out. I may post something more tomorrow or Saturday morning - probably I'll just wait until after PC1 and reevaluate for PC2, I'm on those five already and can't see myself investing more.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

So what's happened this weekend?

Quite a few events on to note, van Gerwen went out of the first round of that exbo to Clayton in what would have been something the model would have jumped all over if it weren't a friendly, but let's skip that. UK Open qualifiers are in full flow, Jason Heaver won the first last weekend but it's all about Fallon Sherrock again, who won one of them yesterday, along with Adam Huckvale, who's not had a bad couple of weeks at all following finalling a Challenge Tour, Jamie Clark, who won one in Scotland and didn't have a bad Q-School or first Challenge Tour weekend but is relatively unknown, which leaves Kelvin Self, who if dartsdatabase is to be believed has been around forever, but played 2017-18 on the Challenge Tour without doing a massive amount.

First weekend of the DPA tour took place, with Gordon Mathers, Robbie King and Kyle Anderson claiming titles - Kyle's the only tour card holder that isn't playing the first weekend of the Pro Tour, maybe spending a bit of time back home is what he needs right now.

Then of course, we have the Dutch Open - it's Brian Raman against Ross Montgomery in the final, pretty poor showing from the Dutch who couldn't get anyone into the quarters (although they do have both the ladies finalists), watched Ross' semi final against Warren, Wayne being able to hit a few 180's and check out nicely enough but simply couldn't score with any consistency, and rage threw what could have been the last dart after yanking one at tops into single one, but Ross briefly let him back in before breaking to claim the final set 3-1. Annoyingly, they only had a limited amount of boards with Dart Connect, so it's only complete from the quarters onwards, unless some stats show up elsewhere, and it was cheeky of them to put the semis in a separate "men's set play" section, making me think they weren't doing the final session on account of it being on TV anyway. Whoops for me.

What do we have this month? Premier League starts but I don't care about that - packed series of Pro Tour events, with two events each of the first three weekends before the first Euro Tour in Belgium - will be interesting to see who the qualifiers will be, with de Decker getting a card, he can't be the hot favourite. Will Vandenboegarde play? Can Ronny Huybrechts get things together and do enough to win through? Can Raman claim a title this week and then get into the PDC event at the end of the month? I'm really interested to see who turns up and plays. There's also a Development Tour weekend that very same weekend, sigh, there's only so many weekends to play in but it does annoy me a little bit whenever that happens. Meanwhile on the WDF scene, there's the Scottish Open on the 15th-16th, as well as a couple of smaller events in Slovakia, whether they're actually tracked anywhere we can get information from is a different question. We'll see.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Getting Challenge Tour events finished quicker

OK, here's a follow up to the previous post. I've gone through the timestamps of every game from the last 128 onwards of Challenge Tour 1, and then the first match played on each board in Challenge Tour 2. Here is what the board usage looks like:

This should just about fit in the blog template I have in place, if it looks shit on mobile I apologise, but it probably needs to be large enough that you can get a good view of what's going on. Putting things simply, each board is a line that goes along horizontally. The time along the top of the image is real time, and then everything in the actual chart is showing when an actual match is played on that board, and in which round.

Needless to say, I've been cheap and done this on Google Sheets (if you want to see the raw sheet, drop me a line and I'll send you the link), but to give you a clue, the dark and light purple are the round of 128 games, the horrible electric blue is the last 64, then it carries on through orange, green and so on until we get to the final. Then we have the second event start, where we colour in red the first game being played.

Now let's be extremely clear - these board assignments are not exact - they should be through the round of 64, but they've certainly shifted players around here and there, hence why if you look at board 15, there are two light purple blocks - namely because board 24 was so far behind at the time, they started their game somewhere else, which I've assumed to be board 15, as there was no other board available for the entirety of the time which that game was being played. There's similar things elsewhere. What actual boards are being used is not the big thing though. The key thing is to do the following. Draw a big rectangle from around half two in the afternoon to five o'clock on boards 17-32. See how many games are being played in that area.

This is an enormous resource, which when you're trying to play over 600 matches in one venue in one day you can't really afford to pass up, particularly when your scheduling requires the vast majority of players to come back the next day and do the same thing again. Even if we assume that it takes, I don't know, half an hour to switch all the Dart Connect tablets to the new system (which I guess is a huge overestimate, given they started event 2 within 10 minutes of event one being done), then you have 32 hours worth of board time on boards 17-32 alone to start the second event of the day. Looking at boards 9-16, they were all done not long after 3pm - that's another 25 hours of board time, being very conservative with setup time again.

Let's call it an even 50 hours of board time. That is going to be a massive underestimate, but I want to make a point about minimum gains - I think it's fair to do this, as you may have a bit added administration from what I want to say below. You can see from the chart I posted up that the time from an average nine leg match starting to the next one starting, barring huge lag while you're waiting for a player to finish a game on a slow board or section of the draw, is maybe 20 minutes. That would allow you to get through 150 games.

150 games. In a Challenge Tour event of the size we've had this weekend, that will eliminate HALF THE FUCKING FIELD before the first event has even finished. Just imagine how much quicker the event will finish if you do that.

How can you administer that? It seems easy to me. Let's talk through it:

- Halle 39, where they held the Euro Q-School, appeared to have half the boards on one side and half on the other. I assume Challenge Tour venues are arranged similarly, or at least in a similar fashion for all intents and purposes. Arrange the boards so that, if you label the board winners 1-32 going down the draw, the odd numbered boards are on one side of the venue, and the even numbered boards are on the other, and that from the last 32 onwards, you use the relevant odd numbered board (e.g. winners of boards 1/2 and 3/4 play on boards 1 and 3. Winner of that plays on board 1, etc etc), so the end of the first event is all played on one side of the event away from any clusterfuck on the new event.

- Register for both events at the same time. I assume this is done already. If not, do so, if someone is wanting to register for just the second event, they have a deadline of three hours after the first events starts (which here would be around 13:30). If you can't handle registration for two events at once, start registration for the second event immediately after you've drawn the first. There's enough hanging around in the early stages for people to do so at some point while they wait.

- Immediately draw the second event.

- Highlight who has been eliminated from the first event already (this is a simple vlookup for the Excel geeks among us if you just grab a player list from Dart Connect of the live first event) so we can easily see what games can be played straight away.

- Start allocating matches to begin some small amount of time after the last of boards 17-32 have played their last game. Here you need to be able to work on the fly a little bit, given you're going to have players still active in the first tournament, but if you've done the first step you should be able to be ahead of the game to some extent. For ease of allocating games, you just need to do a bit of manual allocation for who will play the first couple of games - on the first set of games you're going to play, just allocate as many games as possible to players on board 1-4, maybe 5-8 if there's some space, whose boards are going to be in use for the first event through to the very late stages. Once they've got a head start, you can start assigning games to the boards that players would ordinarily be on, and given an hour you've got every other board available for everyone else to catch up.

This is not hard to do. It is not hard to do in the slightest. It just needs a bit of careful planning and organisation, which you would think an organisation with the word "professional" as the first word of their name would be able to do. Then again, if they can't work out if Alcinas was to retain his card until a few days before Q-School, then what do I know?