Sunday 28 June 2020

It's ranked, thank god

PDC had a quick update a couple of days ago (removing the Kurz winning an Ally Pally spot headline which had a 404 error), their Summer Series is ranked, which is a clear enough indication that these events should be close to full strength, the points will count towards the Matchplay (obviously), and they're also chucking in a Grand Slam spot to whoever tops the rankings for these five events. That seems fine, they're probably going to have to rework a bunch of things with that event anyway (how the hell do they decide the non-PDC spots with their calendar decimated?) so throwing one spot at it looks alright to me.

As such, let's first throw up a new FRH rankings - we've not had an event since March, but these are a living, breathing thing which has seen 11 events drop off the radar since the last update, and two legends of the game in Ronnie Baxter and Prakash Jiwa fall off the rankings completely, but for now, the top 20:

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

Whitlock drops off completely, the big mover is Durrant (obvious when you think about it), Ratajski moves to the number 2 ranking for overseas players, also we see Dimitri crack the top 20 for what I think is the first time - having a very deep worlds run is going to have helped out massively with that.

So who's going to get in the Matchplay? The seeds look close to set looking at the PDC's Matchplay race, and in any case, the last two men in (Durrant and Ratajski) are going to be clearly safe on the Pro Tour anyway. Whitlock's only a couple of grand ahead of these two, and not close on the Pro Tour, but let's be realistic - Bunting, who's the last man out, is 18k back, which is going to require a heck of an effort to get in, even if you bink one you still require four quarter finals in the remainder to sneak in by a grand - assuming Whitlock stands still and does nothing. That seems a pretty huge long shot. So we'll just look at the Pro Tour race, we'll assume these are the seeds (courtesy of PDC's article):

For future reference I need to name files better, far too many images that start "matchplay". We'll also assume anyone that is Pipe and above is safe on the Pro Tour, as he's 5k clear of 17th right now - so Cullen, Dolan, Noppert, de Sousa, Wattimena, de Zwaan, Clayton, Clemens and Pipe are fine. One or two players might get above him, but all of the players below these as well isn't going to happen. So let's put together a list of the seven provisionally in, and down to 6k below the last man in (which oddly enough doesn't include Chris Dobey, but it's right, since the last Matchplay on the Pro Tour he's been pretty ordinary):

rank player cash money best 4 pro tour 2020 ppt
10 Jamie Hughes 22750 qf-16-16-64 90.80
11 Keegan Brown 22250 qf-32-32-32 90.35
12 Dimitri van den Bergh 22000 16-64-64 89.57
13 Steve Beaton 21500 qf-qf-32-64 90.32
14 Vincent van der Voort 21250 16-16-16-32 88.65
15 Ryan Searle 19000 win-32-32-32 90.69
16 Kim Huybrechts 18750 sf-32-64-64 90.84
17 Steve West 18500 32-32-64 89.49
18 Ricky Evans 18000 16-16-32-64 90.96
19 John Henderson 17750 32-32-32-64 92.65
20 Luke Humphries 17500 16-32-32-32 93.37
21 Ron Meulenkamp 15750 64-64 90.21
22 Stephen Bunting 15500 sf-16-16-64 91.62
23 Willie O'Connor 15250 qf-32-64-64 92.01
24 Ryan Joyce 15250 16-32-32-64 91.58
25 Mervyn King 15000 32-64-64-64 90.72
26 Devon Petersen 13250 sf-16-64 95.21
27 Mickey Mansell 13000 qf-16-32-32 89.69
28 Dirk van Duijvenbode 13000 sf-16-32-32 92.78
29 Ross Smith 13000 qf-16-32-64 90.92

Best four pro tour just considers the eight events played in that series. Let's start from the top - Hughes and Brown have enough of a combination of money in the bank, quality of play and results to be safe as houses. Beaton's probably the same. Dimitri hasn't been playing quite as well, or getting results, but with a semi final lead on enough people, he ought to be able to put one thing into place. Vincent's a funny one, statistically he's not been good, but he's been getting results, so again with enough in the bank he should be able to grind out enough to be safe.

This leaves a bunch of people scrapping for two spots I think. It really doesn't need much to be able to force your way in - but you need to be showing enough to not only get in, but to stay in, as there's a lot of people that are in the mix. There's a bit too much of a gap for the bottom four on this list, although Devon and Dirk are playing well enough that they can put together one really good event and throw themselves right up into the mix. King I think is in real trouble, just not getting results, Joyce looks in a much better position. O'Connor looks better again - higher standard of play, and has shown in fairly recent memory enough to be able to punch a ticket to Blackpool. Bunting is maybe similar. Meulenkamp we can probably chuck out, 2020 has not been kind to date. Humphries is probably the one player who's outside who can power in - his scoring is really good, he's not that far behind and he's been getting fairly consistent money, although having one very good run is going to help out a lot. Henderson's not playing that much worse, but results are a little bit worse, scoring's a little bit worse, and most people would feel he's not quite at Luke's level as of right now. Evans isn't showing enough to have any sort of edge among that group from 15th to 20th that makes me think he'll claim a spot, and West certainly isn't.

So can Searle and Huybrechts hold on? Searle definitely has a chance, he's won one this year and looks to have got the bad run he had well behind him at this stage, while Huybrechts I think is a bit more vulnerable - that semi final was in the one where we had all the withdrawals (although in fairness he did beat some good players), and he got 2k for free as a result of Belgium being the only place this year to hold a Euro Tour.

Outside of a Dobey bink, I don't think there's anyone outside of this list that's realistic, Damon Heta maybe, but he's even further behind than Dobey is so it's that much more of an ask.

One key thing here that's often overlooked is what the fields for these events are going to look like. The thing about the Pro Tour list is that those who are going to creep in are typically going to be around the low 20's and high 30's in the Pro Tour rankings right now - exactly those sorts of players who are going to get low seeds, and hence run into an elite player in the last 32 potentially, that can greatly limit your earning power. Is it better to know you're not going to get a seed in the first two rounds (although there's some really, really good non-seeds you can hit obviously) and be sure you're going to hit an MvG, Wright etc and have a good chance of ending up with 1k tops, or do you want to roll the dice on ending up in a random sector of the draw and get an easier seed, albeit in round 1 or 2? Tricky one to call, once we get entrant lists we can probably project a fair bit easier.

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Not dead

No post for a week, but that's really only because there's not been a great deal happening - we're in kind of a holding pattern re: the PDC, there's nothing happening in the BDO other than Warren firing shots at Jacklin(s), outside of Modus there's not a great deal being played anywhere. Steve Brown's dipping his toes into the senior game, although quite what they're aiming to do that the WDF wouldn't, I'm not sure. There's little news about the Matchplay - the long overdue news that we can go down the boozer in a couple of weeks is clearly a prerequisite, although I'm thinking it's still a huge longshot that it is played in Blackpool. Maybe if they have huge numbers of fans refunding/postponing their tickets they can think about it, but I'm really not sure how they can think it'll run as scheduled. That's about it really, I've got some huge upgrades to the master computer coming soon which'll be nice when we do finally get back up and running.

Sunday 14 June 2020

Some brief thoughts on the Challenge Tour

Just been watching a bit of the German Superleague - passed on the Clemens/Bilderl game, which was as one sided as you might have thought, but the standard on the finals day is so much better than the group stages, it's almost night and day - we're not seeing tons and tons of legs drag past 18 darts, the conventional averages are high, it's all very watchable. The semis are Clemens/Kurz and Horvat/Unterbuchner, which you might have expected, maybe Klose having won his group could have kept things a bit closer and perhaps Siepmann could have taken Dragutin out, but he didn't. That first semi should be quality, I think I'll tune into the whole event.

So, why am I going on about the Challenge Tour now? Basically, I've had a thought similar to what I posted briefly about regarding the German event a couple of days ago. Why does the Challenge Tour need to be a free for all?

The big problem the Challenge Tour has had is that it's hugely oversubscribed - at least for the first few events, I'm sure the numbers drop a bit once we get towards the end of the season and lesser players realise they're not going to finish high enough up to get any perks. As such, rather than just one level of Challenge Tour, why don't we have two?

In such a system, I would be thinking that you cap a Challenge Tour tier 1 event at 128 players, just like the Pro Tour. Let's say that the top 24 from last season's CT (minus players who got onto the tour obv) and the top 24 points scorers from Q-School (split between however many venues they use) get a free pass to every event. That leaves 80 spots to fill the field. Have the first weekend operate as normal - logistically it makes sense to have four events over three days, one tournament Friday, one tournament then play down to last 64 in a second on Saturday, then play that to its conclusion and a further event on Sunday. If, of course, they don't do like I've suggested previously and schedule that first weekend either immediately before or after the Dutch Open in the Netherlands.

The second weekend is then held with just 128 players per tournament over a weekend (with 32 boards, two per day is very easy), containing the 48 players by right, and 80 filled up from the Challenge Tour Order of Merit. Of those 80, the top 40 can stay on to the next weekend, and the bottom 40 don't get to play - these are replaced by 40 players who have won their way through a second tier event, either run at the same time or in between the two.

Repeat these cycles, although in each one you'd only consider money won from the previous weekend so that players who've just "promoted" have a chance to stay up, if you want to play the full Challenge Tour you have to earn your way in and get results.

Friday 12 June 2020


It's a bit later than anticipated, but finally we have a reveal as to what the PDC is planning to do - five events, running from July 8-12 (which is a Wednesday to Sunday) down in Milton Keynes, in the same venue where they held the snooker that has an on-site hotel next to MK Dons' ground (and, critically, a KFC). There's not been a massive amount more at this stage, other than that the events are currently ranked, although that is apparently subject to change if large numbers of non-UK players can get here.

What we know at the moment is there's three and a bit weeks to go until that point, and they're due to revisit the quarantine rules two weeks tomorrow (assuming BA, Ryanair etc don't win their judicial review before then, which frankly they should). Regardless of what happens at that point, it gives plenty of lead time for players to sort their travel arrangements, and even if the comical quarantine rulings stay (which are pretty much unenforceable and you've got to be pretty dumb to get caught out by them), it'd still leave the window for someone to fly in that Monday and stay in the hotel for two weeks, incorporating the events into the quarantine time.

What we don't know at this stage is plenty - it's probably easier to watch Matt Edgar's video that he put out today, as he covered a lot of what I'm thinking, but I'll summarise:

- Matt was wondering if there'd be an event, indicating unranked, to get people back into the swing of "live" darts, and how the logistics would work of running the event. I think we've got to assume that they'll have the thing set up a day or two before to allow for some walkthroughs, demonstrations and practice, maybe they could have done the first event unranked and the next four as ranked, but there's a lot of a backlog to catch up on so doing them all ranked seems fine.

- Matt also wondered if these events are going to count towards Matchplay qualification. Fair point, there's no indication one way or another, but one would assume yes.

- One thing that isn't clear is if these are going to operate as normal Players Championship events, and if they can't get all 128 tour card holders in (it is interesting that it is worded "The Summer Series will see all 128 Tour Card Holders given the chance to compete") whether they're going to call up Mitchell etc to fill the field. One would also assume yes, although the scheduling is right across the next couple of Challenge Tour days - then again, the concept of being able to run a Challenge Tour within the next month is lol.

There'll probably plenty of internal discussions that'll clear up a bunch of things, but that's my thoughts right now. Just glad we know something is going on, and we can start to get back to some sort of normal schedule. If they're not moving the Matchplay dates, one would think that they'll do something similar in August to further catch up on the missed Pro Tours.

There's also a decent interview between Matt Porter and, if I remember rightly, Phil Barrs, where they talk a whole lot of things, Matt doesn't really tell us anything new, but I think it's worth the watch.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

German finals

We're powering down to the last round of the German Superleague next weekend after group B finished up, in one half we've got Clemens against Bilderl, who crept in with a last game victory over Langendorf to claim the last spot, then we have Kurz against Münch, while in the other half big surprise winner Klose will face off against Unterbuchner, while Siepmann will play against Horvat. Let's post some stats up:

Surprising to me how high Bilderl finished up, so credit where it's due, but it's definitely highlighting that the top half of the draw is that much stronger with all of the top four players in overall average in that half. There's not a great deal of top quality going on, even Clemens is several points below his best, and out of the 1k+ legs we saw, we only saw 26 go in twelve or less, which is a fair bit off the pace. Still, you only improve while playing competitive games, there's plenty on the line and not a huge deal to choose between them. There were a few decent spots last weekend - Kohnlein's performance against Bilderl was very good, Horvat had a nice couple of cameos against Langendorf (but lost), with the finals day being longer hopefully the standard will improve.

Still waiting on Pro Tour news, hopefully we get something tomorrow, meanwhile Richard Veenstra condemned Paul Hogan to a second RDL final defeat, seemed like a competent enough standard throughout. Didn't actually watch it, I'll probably catch up tomorrow although Richard's stream quality didn't seem the greatest so I'll see how it goes. If we do get some PDC news, I'll probably post tomorrow with thoughts.

Saturday 6 June 2020

Matchplay is on, apparently

So the PDC announced yesterday that the Matchplay will be taking place on the original dates as scheduled. This seems batshit insane to me, especially as Porter is saying "it's still our intention... to stage it with a crowd", the words coming to mind being thinking, wishful and extremely in some order. They've got a backup plan in place with an alternate venue supposedly, which I've got to be thinking they're going to use in all likelihood.

That leaves the question why they didn't push it back to increase the probability of crowds? Two possibilities here - either the Winter Gardens isn't available in later August (why that'd be the case when everything still seems to be blanket cancelled for months, I've had a gig in September cancel on me this week), or it's contracts. Probably the latter, Sky will likely be demanding that they have the event at that time, and if they pushed it back to a later date in August, it'd coincide with other sporting events that'll be starting to get under way.

The other question is how they handle qualification. They do state that they intend to resume Players Championship events from July, which doesn't leave a heck of a lot of time to get them in, unless they book out a venue for a week (using the Milton Keynes venue they're using for the snooker which has an on location hotel might be possible, especially given it's been rumoured as an alternate Matchplay venue). There's still the question of what happens to ranking money that was earned for Euro Tour events that are either not taking place at all, or are taking place after the Matchplay - I'm guessing the PDC will quietly ignore those issues. They correctly note that this is all subject to further coronaparanoia restrictions, but the whole quarantine issue is easily enough dealt with if foreign players use the hotel as their location (as with the West Indies touring, they are able to effectively train at whichever of Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl they are at while they are technically quarantined), they can even play while doing so. There may be some issues with the likes of the Australian players who may not be able to leave their country (surely Kyle can say he's had it and is fine to leave?), but if it's down to a minimal level then, while it'd be harsh for the likes of Kyle, Damon or Simon, I think they just have to move on with it and work out any qualification issues later.

Nathan Aspinall won the Home Tour. As I've just posted on Twitter, it is a fucking good job that Anderson didn't win it - if anyone was placing outright bets for the event when it was believed he wasn't even going to be in the field, that'd create one hell of a situation.

Remote Darts League is coming to its conclusion. I think if they want to include ladies in any future event, it's got to be less players and carefully selected. Outside of their match against each other, with a theoretical maximum leg difference of -168, Pace and Osborne managed -144, and the other two only picked up three points outside of the matches on the ladies night (with Turner beating Herewini on an opening night where the whole logistics has got to have been hugely working against him for a first attempt), Winstanley also got a point against Darren. It's looking like the next couple of nights should provide a real close battle for playoff spots, Richardson and Hogan look safe as houses, while the guys on 18 who are finished (Butler, Tricole, Cameron) will surely be overhauled by some combination of O'Shea (John), Williams, Veenstra, Chaney or possibly Thompson. With the remaining groups being JOS/Veenstra/Chaney/Thompson and then TOS/Williams/Richardson/Hogan, I'm thinking the last two spots will surely come from whoever has a real good night tonight. I'll probably watch bits and pieces of it (annoyingly it clashes with a big monthly event in another game I follow) as there's going to be a lot on the line in this one.

Still not a lot really happening elsewhere, apparently someone's worked out that Gordon Mathers has qualified for Ally Pally on account of the DPA cancelling the remainder of their season, if that's actually how they're going to do it or not isn't entirely clear, the DPA's website wasn't working the last time I checked and it's now redirecting somewhere else entirely, and there's nothing on the PDC's website either. Des continues to put out poorly written letters to the counties, can someone just take a bolt gun to the head of the BDO already.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Still waiting for news

As the Home Tour meanders to its conclusion, with Ando and Klaasen having got through the first semi final group, and with the Remote Darts League getting towards the same stage with what looks like it could be a pretty exciting fight for playoff places, only Hogan really looking safe along with Richardson if he does work with his games in hand tonight, we're still waiting for the big PDC news as to what the hell they're going to do with live darts going forward. Until then, what's to mention?

Well, Wolfie got a nine darter today. Nice work from Martin, seems like he's been playing his best stuff in quite some time.

Duzza posted an interesting question on Twitter earlier, namely whether once we're past the coronaparanoia stage, is there any sort of future for "online" darts? That's a good question, and I'm thinking there's still going to be a bit of a market, although it'll be somewhat different - obviously it's still going to be predominantly focussed around non card holders because PDC protectionism, but where there's going to be a market is in matching up players against each other that normally wouldn't play each other, or would rarely do so, for geographical and financial reasons. We're seeing the RDL do this somewhat with how they've invited some of the better Australasian and North American players, where I can see things properly going is some sort of affiliated tour face offs - it may be a little bit tricky with some of the time differentials, but I think there'd be a market for the PDC to get their affiliates to arrange some of their tour weekends at the same time, and then tack on a day to provide a streamed "tour vs tour" event. There's a few things going for this - you'd have all the players in the same venue anyway, so you'd be able to put a bit more effort into production quality, and it'd probably be reasonable enough to chuck a few quid at the players for an extra hotel night in terms of expenses.

A sensible trial event for such a thing would be DPA vs Asian Tour, if only so you eliminate much of the time differential issues that might some up with other alternatives - Japan/Korea is only an hour different, if at all, from anywhere in Australia you might think about playing an event in, places like Singapore and the Philippines would be perfect for Perth and only a couple of hours off the rest of the populated areas. Get the logistics right with everyone working on the same sort of time of the day, and then work on the rest later, although as long as you're placing the Americas so that they'd play anything from Europe from the east coast and anywhere else from the west coast, it wouldn't be insurmountable in the slightest.

Monday 1 June 2020

Milton Keynes? Really?

That's the latest rumour that's been thrown about in terms of the Matchplay, seemingly in the venue where they're currently holding some worthless snooker event. Whatever they need to get it on I guess, if they're working on a no crowd scenario then maybe it mitigates it, maybe they need to push it back and the existing venue isn't available. Who knows. Hopefully by the end of the week we know a lot more as to what the hell is going on with the schedule.

First group of the German Superleague is done, Clemens obv won by a mile, if I was picking one of the other cardholders to get through I'd have gone with Bunse over Siepmann, a little bit of a turnup for the books I think, not yet thrown the stats into the master computer but I don't see a massive rush to do so. Münch and Unterbuchner also got through, if it's not Bunse then these are probably the players with the greatest pedigree, Stein was a bit unlucky to miss out on a playoff spot (three players from 3rd-5th were tied and split by, I assume, leg difference), Gotthardt also had a decent showing. Kniest seemed a fair bit out of his depth, but if he was one of the guys that got called up late then it's perhaps understandable.

One thing I think they should consider doing next year is to bar tour card holders from entering this, and have them simply get a bye through to the finals stages (if they want it - it'd be understandable if Hopp or Clemens gave it a miss as neither should need the help to get into the worlds), which should keep the initial league stages a lot more competitive. Probably need to change the finals format and increase the number of players to 12 - if they were to do that this season, you'd have the five guys that had a card plus seven that didn't, do something like two pools of six on a Saturday, have the winners go straight through to the semis and 2nd/3rd play off in a quarter finals. I think that'd work quite nicely. Another thing they could try for the league as a whole is to not keep the same lineup every week - if you've got 16 players, only have the top 12 keep their spot for a previous week, and the other four spots are filled out by a qualifier the previous evening. Or from a parallel 2. Liga that runs in an alternate week or something like that. There's lots of things that you could try.