Saturday 7 December 2019

Worlds 3/16 - Wade, Edhouse, Koltsov, Beaton, Anderson, Zong

If 2018 was the season of Wade showing he still had the ability to win major titles, 2019 was the year of Wade dominating the floor - wrapping up four Players Championship titles before the Matchplay, including the rarity of a double over one weekend in April, before adding a fifth in September. It's only that he played somewhat of a truncated schedule following his fourth win (only playing four of the remaining twelve events) that prevented him from being the number one seed for the Players Championship finals, being edged out by Gerwyn Price. That early season form saw him play well enough to get through to the Premier League final day, as well as the Masters final, not a bad start to the year at all. It was enough to get me to back him each way for this event at half the price he is now... as such, it's a bit of a surprise that he's not been able to do more on TV in ranking events, with just the one quarter final in Blackpool, and maybe he could have done a bit more - the UK Open in particular, a last sixteen loss to Ross Smith was probably avoidable, in Dublin he probably should have taken out Mervyn King, can't do too much about hitting an unplayable Jonny Clayton in the European Championship, then in the remainder he lost a deciding leg to Adrian Lewis and then ran into MvG. It'll be tough for Wade to run really deep given the section of the draw he's in, but the game's definitely there.

Ritchie Edhouse being here can be put down to one weekend really - the opening Challenge Tour weekend, where he was able to claim a win over Scott Taylor, as well as reaching the last 32 or deeper in the other three events. Because of the way the PDC calendar worked out, that put him number one in the Challenge Tour rankings for enough entry deadlines for more or less the first half of the Pro Tour - it's a bit of a silly system to not have it as a year rolling scoring system, but it is what it is, and Edhouse took enough advantage of it to get to the worlds. Making the most of his floor form, Ritchie was able to win his board twice, first with a notable win over Ian White, secondly with wins over van den Bergh and Gurney, as well as pick up enough 500 quids here, grands there to finish nearly high enough in the Players Championship order of merit to make Minehead - missing out by one win on what would almost certainly have been a main stage game against a big seed. He'd need a bit more to get here, and did well enough to five European Tour events, ending with a 5-5 record, with a best run early where he beat Brendan Dolan and Adrian Lewis to make the last sixteen. It was unfortunate that the last of those events clashed with the final Challenge Tour weekend, giving Edhouse a decision to play for the card or play for the worlds, but he's here now.

Edhouse's opponent will be a familiar face to him in Boris Koltsov, who has similarly been very good on the Order of Merit, nearly doing enough to win a tour card but finishing a few hundred quid short of doing so. Koltsov qualified from winning the Eurasian event, an interesting one in that it was streamed with some fun technical issues, leaving them to score using a clipboard and marker pen for the home viewers, he wasn't really challenged that much though and is very much Russia's number one player. Boris's Challenge Tour win came over Dave Prins on the same day as Edhouse won his, and this allowed Koltsov to accumulate plenty of floor experience, not being quite so consistent as Ritchie, but with a better peak, beating Wattimena and Michael Smith along the way to the quarter finals in June. He's also played in some European Tour events, getting through a crowded regional qualifier three times, generally beating the players he should and losing to those he should, but a loss to Richard North from an almost won position will have hurt. Koltsov's at least been on this stage before, which could make a difference, but has yet to get more than the preliminary win he got on debut five years ago.

Steve Beaton will, this year, tie the record for most world championship appearances at 29, and he's not showing any signs of slowing down any time soon. It's been a relatively quiet year, but there's been some peaks, primarily in the UK Open, where a potentially hard opening draw against Gary Anderson was no problem, a 10-8 win being replicated against Keegan Brown and Dimitri van den Bergh before being blitzed by Michael Smith. Beaton wasn't able to get a televised win outside of that run, mostly tough draws, but was close to edging out Ricky Evans at Minehead, but it's on the floor where he's done the best work. Nothing spectacular, three quarter finals being his peak in the Players Championship series, but he was close to being an ever present on the European Tour - he qualified for the first eight in a row, being very close to taking one to the final where he lost 7-5 to Ian White in the semis in Sindelfingen, a week after he lost to the same player in the quarters after defeating both Michael Smith and Rob Cross in Austria. Beaton would sneak into the seedings for a couple, and only miss out on one event. If this level of consistent performances continues, a thirtieth appearance in 2021 seems inevitable.

2019's been an incredibly frustrating year for Kyle Anderson, a bit similar to 2018 really. His level of play has been right up there - a season long points per turn score of over 92 is top-20 standard. He's just not been able to convert it into results often enough - a continual string of running into great players not making mistakes or narrow 6-4, 6-5 sorts of losses. It started out alright, with three quick quarter finals potentially making a good platform, but Kyle would only win his board on one further occasion in the season, leaving him drawn against Joe Cullen in the Players Championship finals, and Cullen did little wrong to win 6-2. Kyle would make six European Tour events, but just couldn't force his way past a seed, running into Gerwyn Price, Adrian Lewis, Daryl Gurney and Michael van Gerwen, the ten grand he did win not being quite enough to get him to Göttingen. As a result of that, and being just the wrong side of the Matchplay and Grand Prix cutoffs, his only other TV appearance of the year (outside of the Australasian World Series tour) was in the UK Open, where he'll want to forget a drubbing handed out by Josh Payne. Kyle seems like a confidence player, if he can get a first round win here, then the second round seems winnable as well.

Kyle's opponent will be the young Chinese qualifier Zong, who won his regional qualifier to make a return here after a year's absence. Last time out he didn't look too bad, averaging in the mid 80's but losing in straight sets to Bernie Smith, and it's that sort of average he apparently put up in the qualifying tournament. We know a little bit more about Zong than we did last time - he's appeared in the World Cup again this year, but the Chinese team could only manage the one leg against the United States, and he also appeared in the World Youth Championship. There he was unfortunate to get drawn in a group with eventual winner Luke Humphries, but did get a win over Keelan Kay, where he seemed a bit inconsistent, he did get four of his five legs won in six visits, but then also had a leg he lost where he had seven visits without hitting a big treble. Zong did play the Development Tour weekend while he was there, only being stopped by Wessel Nijman, Berry van Peer and Justin van Tergouw, but had a good win over Dawson Murschell and another win where he went 15-15-15-14 darts to sweep Stephen Rosney with a ton plus average. We'll see which player turns up, there's a wide range of outcomes in this one.

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