Monday 9 December 2019

Worlds 12/16 - Chisnall, van der Voort, Barry, de Zwaan, van Barneveld, Young

Pretty good year for Dave, we often talked about Chizzy as one of the better players who'd yet to win a major - he's now back in that conversation after a moderately quiet couple of years. He was one game away from doing so - doing so at the Grand Prix, where after beating Gerwyn Price, Stephen Bunting, Nathan Aspinall and Glen Durrant, he'd run into Michael van Gerwen as he's often done in the past. He'd nick a couple of sets, but that big title still eludes him - however, getting to the final of the Grand Prix is a nice sign that he's patching the doubling problems that had plagued him in previous years. You don't get to the final of a double start event without being able to hit them. Aside from that event, it's been great all round - another couple of major quarter finals, Daryl Gurney and Peter Wright being a bit too strong, and he'd also add a European Tour title for the first time in years in Denmark - Ratajski and Suljovic would be very tough games to start, Wattimena, Clayton and Dobey from the quarter finals onwards in the final session would be the players he beat to grab the trophy. Two Pro Tour titles would also be added early in the season, being a who's who of players to beat, Aspinall, Cross (both times), Wade, Clayton, Durrant, Gurney being highlights. Could Dave have got closer to the win in other majors? Maybe, Simon Stevenson upset him in the UK Open, he'd ought to beat Max Hopp at Blackpool more often than not, but didn't, similarly against Mervyn King in the Players Championship finals. Still, 2019 has overall been one of Dave's better seasons.

Vincent's been a bit under the radar in 2019, but has been playing solid darts, generally being free of the back issues that have limited him in previous years being a huge help as van der Voort will look to repeat his win over Chisnall in this event two years ago. Vincent's back up close to the top 32 in the world through doing enough in the Pro Tour to make all the majors, and was able to push through to the quarter finals of the European Championship - Suljovic would be his first round opponent and only took a leg, and Chris Dobey in round two would lose by a wide margin. Gerwyn Price put him out, but only just, 10-8. His floor form to get into these positions was naturally good, two final sessions on the European Tour being the highlights - taking out Pipe, Whitlock, Price and Menzies to reach a semi final in Austria, and Boulton, Suljovic and Hopp to reach the quarters on home soil. On the Pro Tour, he'd win his board six times, pushing into the quarters half the time when he did, including a pair in one weekend - that gave van der Voort enough ranking money to get a top 32 seed for Minehead, he'd beat Arron Monk and have a match dart to knock out Ian White. While he was making the majors, he didn't get much traction in the ones not already mentioned, Luke Humphries would easily dispatch him in the UK Open, while Peter Wright and Nathan Aspinall weren't easy draws in Blackpool and Dublin respectively. From outside the top 32, just making the TV events isn't a bad result, hopefully Vincent can keep this form up and claim his position back in the top 32 again.

Irish darts is experiencing somewhat of a resurgence with the likes of Gurney becoming elite and the World Cup team making the final, and Keane Barry's one of the next wave of players coming through, the youngster having won the Tom Kirby memorial, previously won by the likes of Gurney, Willie O'Connor, Mick McGowan and most recently Kevin Burness. Barry won this event in a deciding leg, coming from a 5-2 deficit and surviving double figures worth of match darts from Liam Gallagher. Barry's been prolific on the youth circuit, he will face Leighton Bennett for the BDO's youth title, was one game away from reaching the PDC version, only losing to eventual winner Luke Humphries, will appear for an additional time on the Ally Pally stage in the JDC's final against Adam Gawlas, and won the World Youth Masters after ending up on the losing side of the final the previous two years. Keane's played some senior darts, being able to win a BDO event in Northern Ireland over Paul Hogan in the final in what looked to be a relatively strong field, while on the Development Tour, Barry was able to reach the last eight on seven occasions and finish in the top five averages over the course of the season at a shade under ninety (the only non-tour card holders as of right now in the top ten being Barry and compatriot Ciaran Teehan). Whether Barry will be able to handle the big stage against a veteran of nearly 20 world championships is the big question, he has enough of a game that he should be able to challenge, but this is a much different environment.

The youngsters (and Dutchmen) keep coming in this part of the draw with Jeffrey de Zwaan, who's up into the top 32 seeds as opposed to last year and, while he'll still possibly face a world champion in the last 64, he's at least the seed this time. This year hasn't been quite as spectacular as 2018, but Jeffrey's been doing all the right things as he continues to mature as a darts player. de Zwaan made two Pro Tour finals in the early season, the first being a runners up spot, mostly through a decent draw except from Glen Durrant in the quarters, James Wade being his final opponent, but a few weeks later he picked up the title over Stephen Bunting, picking up wins over Chisnall and Michael Smith along the way. These results, along with enough of a good record in the European Tour qualifiers saw Jeffrey make all but the Grand Slam in terms of majors. It'd be the European Championship that was Jeffrey's best run, beating Peter Wright and Jermaine Wattimena to get up to Michael Smith, who defeated him in the quarters, while de Zwaan was also able to pick up a win at Dublin, Steve Beaton falling in straight sets, but de Zwaan wasn't able to repeat his trick of eliminating van Gerwen in majors this time around. In the other majors, Jeffrey lost heavily to Wattimena in the UK Open, was able to force James Wade to a deciding leg at Blackpool but get edged out from there, while he'd suffer a surprise defeat to Simon Whitlock at Minehead in one of the weirder games I've seen this season. de Zwaan's still young enough to play Development Tour events, getting one win over Geert Nentjes, and like Barry just above, was only eliminated by Luke Humphries in the world youth championship. As for that potential world champion he might face...

It's the end of the road for one of the greatest players of all time - of course, it could have happened even earlier if his rage quit after the Premier League had have lasted more than a few hours, but it didn't, and he's here. Knowing he had basically no chance to retain his worlds spot through his main order of merit ranking, he needed to do something he's not done for a few years - do enough on the Pro Tour to qualify. Barney did so, helped primarily by one big run in March when he reached the final, he'd lose to Adrian Lewis there and have a generally easy path where the hardest opponent he'd face would be Keegan Brown, but that six grand was enough, coupled with four European Tour appearances and a couple of board victories elsewhere on the Pro Tour. Raymond was able to show some occasional glimpses to think that he may be able to do better than last year where he suffered an early reverse to Darius Labanauskas - not so much at the UK Open, where Simon Stevenson would cause what's still a stunning upset, but at the Players Championship Finals, Raymond would reach the quarters, beating Nathan Aspinall and Joe Cullen comfortably before crushing Glen Durrant 10-3, but would run out of steam and be easily and heavily defeated by Chris Dobey. A final in New Zealand was a decent run, and he did win his first game in the World Series finals then push Dave Chisnall close. Will this be a case of Barney passing the torch to de Zwaan? Maybe, but he's got a first round game to win first.

van Barneveld faces Darin Young in his opening game, the veteran American making his tenth appearance in this event following a good season on the CDC circuit, winning three events, most impressively a whitewash final victory over Jeff Smith with a 92 average, enough to be the highest ranked player on the whole circuit, qualifying as the highest ranked American. Young makes his first appearance in four seasons, last time out losing 3-1 to Terry Jenkins, and this year he was mostly seen in mid season, winning the opening pairs with Chuck Puleo in the World Cup, prior to losing to Zoran Lerchbacher in the last sixteen singles, then in the Vegas tournaments, Young would be defeated by Jeff Smith in the main worlds qualifier at the semi final stage, and be able to put up a low 90's average in the World Series against Michael van Gerwen, nicking four legs in the process. Young's typically been competent if not spectacular every time we've seen him, his standard being mid to high eighties - that shouldn't be enough to trouble van Barneveld over a long match, but if Raymond doesn't quite click, he could be able to get a steady string of six visit legs and possibly cause it to be Raymond's last ever game.

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