The 2019/20 World Darts Championship gets underway on Friday December 13th, with all 16 days of action broadcast on Sky’s dedicated channel Sky Sports Darts. The World Championship features 96 of the best players in the World, all battling for a share of the £2.5 million prize pot on offer.
The tournament is the highlight of the darting calendar, with the iconic Alexandra Palace once again playing host to the event. The field of 96 will be battling it out to win the Sid Waddell trophy, a handsome cheque of £500,000 and a place in the darting history books.
This is the 27th edition of the PDC World Championships, although only eight players have ever got their hands on the coveted trophy. Phil Taylor dominated the tournament for nearly two decades, winning the title 14 times between 1995 and 2013. Last year Michael van Gerwen won his third title, beating Michael Smith in the final. Two-time winners include John Part, Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson.
There have also been three players who have a single title to their name, Dennis Priestley, Rob Cross and Raymond van Barneveld. The popular Dutchman is making his final competitive appearance in this event before he retires from the sport, and he’s sure to get a good send off from the appreciative Ally Pally crowd. There are numerous players making their debuts at the event this year, including the two female qualifiers Mikuru Suzuki and Fallon Sherrock
Format and Draw
The format sees the top 32 players from the PDC Order of Merit enter the competition at the second-round stage. The first-round features 32 qualifiers from the ProTour Order of Merit take on 32 qualifiers from around the globe.
The first and second round matches are played over a best of five set format, with three legs required to win one set. The third and fourth round are best of seven set matches, the quarter-finals are best of nine sets and the semi-finals are best of 11 sets. The final, which takes place on January 1st, is a best of 13 set marathon.
(1) Michael van Gerwen v Jelle Klaasen/Kevin Burness
(32) Ricky Evans v Mark McGeeney/Matt Campbell
(16) Jonny Clayton v Ryan Joyce/Jan Dekker
(17) Stephen Bunting v Arron Monk/Jose Justicia
(8) James Wade v Ritchie Edhouse/Boris Koltsov
(25) Steve Beaton v Kyle Anderson/Xiaochen Zong
(9) Ian White v Darius Labanauskas/Matthew Edgar
(24) Max Hopp v Gabriel Clemens/Benito van de Pas
(5) Gary Anderson v Brendan Dolan/Nitin Kumar
(28) Steve West v Ryan Searle/Robbie King
(12) Nathan Aspinall v Andy Boulton/Danny Baggish
(21) Krzysztof Ratajski v Jamie Hughes/Zoran Lerchbacher
(4) Michael Smith v Luke Woodhouse/Paul Lim
(29) Dimitri Van den Bergh v Josh Payne/Diogo Portela
(13) Adrian Lewis v Cristo Reyes/Lourence Ilagan
(20) Darren Webster v Ryan Meikle/Yuki Yamada
(2) Rob Cross v Kim Huybrechts/Geert Nentjes
(31) Danny Noppert v Steve Lennon/Callan Rydz
(15) Joe Cullen v James Wilson/Nico Kurz
(18) Jermaine Wattimena v Luke Humphries/Devon Petersen
(7) Peter Wright v Rowby-John Rodriguez/Noel Malicdem
(26) Keegan Brown v Mickey Mansell/Seigo Asada
(10) Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort/Keane Barry
(23) Jeffrey de Zwaan v Raymond van Barneveld/Darin Young
(6) Daryl Gurney v Justin Pipe/Benjamin Pratnemer
(27) Glen Durrant v Jose De Sousa/Damon Heta
(11) Mensur Suljovic v Ted Evetts/Fallon Sherrock
(22) Chris Dobey v Ron Meulenkamp/Ben Robb
(3) Gerwyn Price v William O’Connor/Marko Kantele
(30) John Henderson v James Richardson/Mikuru Suzuki
(14) Simon Whitlock v Harry Ward/Madars Razma
(19) Mervyn King v Ross Smith/Ciaran Teehan
The main contenders
The top quarter of the draw features the number one seed and three-time defending champion Michael van Gerwen. ‘Mighty Mike’ has been in great form towards the end of the year, winning the World Grand Prix, Champions League, World Series Finals and Players Championships Finals, and he should be travelling to London full of confidence. At last year’s event he only dropped a single set in each match on his way to the final, where he saw off Michael Smith relatively comfortably 7-3. He also averaged over 100 in all of his matches last year, and has to be the man they all have to beat heading into the tournament this year.
The other top seeds in this section of the draw are James Wade, Ian White and Jonny Clayton. In an illustrious career, Wade has never made the final of the World Championships, and although he doesn’t come here in the best of form, is clearly a dangerous opponent for anyone on his day. Ian White has been performing well in floor events for years, but in the last 12 months has taken his floor form to the stage, winning two events on the European Tour earlier in the year. ‘Diamond’ also reached the semi-finals of the Players Championship Finals last month, and is certainly capable of having a good run this year. Clayton is a former Players Championship Finals runner-up, and although not in the best of form in recent events, he could be a dangerous last-16 opponent for MvG if they both progress through the draw. Amongst the other seeds in this section, Stephen Bunting and Ricky Evans reached the quarter-finals of the Players Championship Finals and European Championships respectively in recent months.
There are plenty of unseeded players in the tournament who will fancy their chances of causing an upset or two at the event. In the top quarter Gabriel Clemens certainly comes under that category, the German has been throwing some big averages recently, and reached the last 16 of both the Grand Slam of Darts and Players Championship Finals.
The second quarter is headlined by last year’s runner-up Michael Smith. ‘Bully Boy’ has had a disappointing season by his own high standards, but since finishing as runner-up at the World Matchplay, he has reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and European Championships, so shouldn’t be too disappointed with his season.
This quarter also features three other players who made the final eight at last year’s tournament. The first of those is fifth seed Gary Anderson, the Scotsman has been hit by injury this year, but his run to the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam underlined that the two-time World Champion is still a player to be reckoned with. Nathan Aspinall reached the semi-finals at Ally Pally last year, and followed that up with a win at the UK Open. ‘The Asp’ hasn’t done too well in the end of season events, but he’s still been throwing some big averages, and shouldn’t be ruled out of another big run. Brendan Dolan may be unseeded for this event, but he’s another player throwing well recently, and reached the quarter finals twelve months ago.
Krzysztof Ratajski has had another good year in the floor events, and also won an event on the European Tour this year, he’s seeded 21 for this tournament and on his day can beat anyone. He has a tough draw however, with Jamie Hughes, another winner on the European Tour, a potential second round opponent. Two-time former winner Adrian Lewis is also in this section of the draw, ‘Jackpot’ has had some good performances in recent months, most notably reaching the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam.
The third quarter looks the most open of all, with Rob Cross and Peter Wright the highest two seeds in the section. Both players have looked really good at times in the last 12 months; Cross has picked up two big titles at the World Matchplay and European Championships, without reaching the same standard as he achieved when winning this event in 2018. Wright has thrown some enormous averages this year, and his best performances towards the end of the season have been runner-up spots at the Champions league and Grand Slam.
Dave Chisnall is seeded 10 for this event, and having reached the final of the World Grand Prix in October, will be looking to go one better at Ally Pally. Chisnall reached the quarter-finals here last year, and was also a quarter-finalist in 2017.
This section also includes a trio of Dutch seeded players with hopes of toppling the more established stars. Jeffrey De Zwaan, Jermaine Wattimena and Danny Noppert have all played well in patches this season, and it would be no surprise to see any one of them go deep in this tournament.
The recently crowned World Youth Champion, Luke Humphries, is unseeded for this event, but has the potential to cause plenty of problems, as he did last year when beating Stephen Bunting, Dimitri van den Bergh and Rob Cross on a run to the last 16. This section also plays host to Raymond van Barneveld, in what will be the Dutchman’s last competitive action on the PDC stage. ‘Barney’ takes on American Darin Young in the first-round, with a meeting with Jeffrey De Zwaan the prize for the winner. RvB has played well in the season ending events reaching the quarter-finals of the World Series and Players Championship Finals – could he give his fans another memorable World Championship?
The favourite to progress from the bottom quarter is Welshman Gerwyn Price. ‘The Iceman’ has been on fire in recent months, and is generally considered the second-best player in the World right now. Price retained his Grand Slam title in November, and was a runner-up at both the European Championships and Players Championship Finals. His rivalry with Michael van Gerwen has caught the imagination of the darting World, and he’s more than held his own in their recent encounters on the big stage.
Glen Durrant is the second favorite for this section of the draw, and has had a tremendous first year on the PDC circuit – reaching the semi-finals of the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Grand Slam. The three-time BDO World Champion is looking to become the first player in history to hold both the BDO and PDC titles at the same time. However, ‘Duzza’ has arguably the toughest second-round draw of any seeded player, facing either Damon Heta or Jose De Sousa in his opening match. Heta won the Brisbane Masters earlier in the summer, whilst De Sousa looked unplayable when taking home two floor events earlier in the year.
Daryl Gurney is the sixth seed in the tournament, and although his game is a little inconsistent right now, a semi-final appearance at the European Championships will give ‘Superchin’ some confidence heading into this event. Mensur Suljovic, Chris Dobey and Mervyn King are amongst a host of seeds with chances from what is an interesting section of the draw.
Based on current form, two players are head and shoulders above the rest at the moment, and there’s a good chance they will meet in the final on New Year’s Day.
Having decent form in the big TV tournaments heading into the World Championship is a good indicator of a big performance at the main event, and nobody has a better record than MvG. The Dutchman has won the World Grand Prix, Champions League, World Series Finals and Players Championship Finals in recent months, so comes here in excellent form.
‘Mighty Mike’ is also a three-time winner of this event, and last year only lost a single set in each of his five matches to reach the final. He also averaged over 100 in all six matches, including a 102 average in the final itself.
Gerwyn Price has been playing excellent darts for some time now, but he’s reached a new level in the recent months. Price defended his Grand Slam crown last month, and also reached the final of the European Championships and Players Championship Finals during the end of season tournaments. ‘The Iceman’’ has even won over the crowd in recent events, seemingly gaining more support every time he takes to the stage. The only negative about Price is his record at Ally Pally, the Welshman has never made it past the third round here, but he’s playing better than ever and should put on a good show at this year’s event.
Should the pair meet in the final, Price has every chance of defeating the World Number One. Their rivalry has been excellent to watch over the last couple of months, in which time they’ve faced each other four times. Van Gerwen has won three of those matches, but in terms of legs during that time, it’s 40 wins apiece.
Most darting neutrals would love to see a Michael van Gerwen vs Gerwyn Price final, and given they are in opposite sides of the draw, it is perfectly feasible. They are the two players in the best form, and both are hungry for more success. Reaching a World Championship isn’t easy, but if both competitors play as they have been doing, we can expect some fireworks between the pair on New Year’s Day.
If Gerwyn Price fails to come through the bottom half of the draw, then it could be Dave Chisnall who takes advantage. ‘Chizzy’ has been playing well in the last couple of months, with an appearance in the World Grand Prix Final a highlight for the Englishman. Chisnall has always been one of the best 180 hitters in the game, but he showed in the double-start format of the Grand Prix, that he can be pretty good on the outer ring as well.
Players who reached the last eight of the previous World Championship and who have reached a big TV final in recent months have a good record at the World Championship. Chisnall is one of only two players fit that criteria this year, the other is Michael van Gerwen, so the omens are good for Chisnall. As well as reaching the quarter-finals last year, ‘Chizzy’ also reached that same stage in 2017.
The draw could have been kinder to the tenth seed, but at the same time it could have been worse. He’ll face either Vincent van der Voort or Keane Barry in the second-round, with either Jeffrey De Zwaan or Raymond van Barneveld a likely third-round opponent. With Peter Wright and Rob Cross also in this quarter, it’s a tough section of the draw, but Chisnall has been playing well of late, and should put in a bold show this year.
Back into the top half of the draw, and last year’s runner-up Michael Smith may be worth following once again. Smith had a tremendous run to the final 12 months ago, only coming up short on New Year’s Day to Michael van Gerwen in the final.
Smith hasn’t had the best of years on the tour, but he was runner-up to Rob Cross at the World Matchplay in the summer, and since then has reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and European Championships. ‘Bully Boy’ is very much a rhythm player, and when he’s on form can be very difficult to stop.
The main reason to support Smith is that he’s been handed a favourable draw this year. Gary Anderson, Nathan Aspinall, Krzysztof Ratajski, Jamie Hughes and Brendan Dolan are all in the Smith’s quarter, but all are in the other section of the quarter, meaning Smith would only have beat one of them to reach the semi-finals. Before that he will have to see off Luke Woodhouse or the legendary Paul Lim in the second-round, and then the likes of Dimitri van den Bergh or Adrian Lewis to reach the last eight – but all are very winnable matches for the fourth seed.
With a favourable draw and the experience of reaching the final last year, this looks like a good chance for Smith to have another decent run at Ally Pally.
In six of the last ten years of the Championship, at least one player from outside the World’s top 16 has made it to the semi-final or better, so it’s worth scrolling down through the rankings to find an outsider to make the last four. Attention turns back to the bottom quarter, where if Gerwyn Price can’t improve on his Ally Pally record, Mervyn King may pick up the pieces.
King has had a fairly consistent second-half of the year, reaching the quarter-finals at the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals. In two of the those matches it took Michael van Gerwen to beat him, whilst he lost to Michael Smith in the other, so no shame in any of those defeats. In the most recent of those tournaments he also knocked out Dave Chisnall and Rob Cross, so he’s clearly in decent form at the moment.
Merv’s record at the PDC World Championship could certainly be better in recent years, you have to go back to 2009 to find his best performance, a semi-final appearance. But in his younger years King had a good record in the BDO equivalent, reaching the final twice and semi-final three times between 1997 and 2007. He also has a good record at the World Matchplay more recently, which suggests that the set play format doesn’t necessarily hinder the 53-year-old.
‘The King’ is seeded 19 for this tournament, so gets a bye in the first round, and will then face either Ross Smith or Ciaran Teehan in round two. He’s then seeded to face Simon Whitlock, Gerwyn Price and Daryl Gurney if he is to come through the quarter, but King is playing well enough to give the top players in this quarter something to think about, and is worth supporting at 25/1.