For fans of the noble art of darts, Christmas does come early every year. That’s because mid-December sees many of the World’s most talented darts players converge on Alexandra Palace, hoping to see in the new year £500,000 richer, having won the prestigious PDC World Darts Championships.
The fact that the tournament comes at this very festive time of year means that there’s an extra carnival atmosphere to the event. So it’s the one where the fans wear even more outrageous fancy dresses than usual, and the scenes become pretty raucous and wild.
But up on the oche, where the real action takes place, the players maintain the icy coolness needed to play in the biggest darts tournament.
This year’s event kicks off at 7 pm, UK time on Friday December 15th. It reaches its thrilling conclusion with a final that starts at 8 pm on Wednesday, January 3rd, following two and a half weeks of some of the highest quality darts you’ll ever see.
The PDC World Darts Championships is held at Alexandra Palace, or Ally Pally, as it’s affectionately known. The venue as hosted dart events before the PDC made it the home of the PDC World Championship. The News of the World Individual Darts Championships was staged there for many years and was, in its time, the biggest darts event in the World.
Darts Fans will also know the former BDO World Dart Champions; now, the World Darts Federation (WDF) World Champions is still very much alive at the Lakeside Country Club. This year, the WDF event is staged before the PDCs from the 2nd -10th of December.
The PDC World Darts Championships is the event most dart players now wish to win. However, the few players who qualified for both the PDC and WDF World Championships had to decide which of the two events they wished to compete in as both the PDC and WDF rules state they cannot play in both.
The PDC World Darts Championships features 96 players that have managed to qualify from events staged around the World or by their PDC order of merit ranking. The higher-ranking seeded players enter the tournament in round two.
The PDC World Darts event is played in a set format, which some players prefer. It is a straight knockout, with the winner progressing to the next round and the loser packed off home. Each set is a best of five legs, so should a player lose the first set 3-0, they are effectively only one set down and still have a great chance for a comeback
As to who will make it through to the final, the darts odds are already throwing up some clear favourites.
Last year’s runner-up is hotly tipped to be in the running again this year. Currently ranked No. 3 in the World, many believe this will be the year that he claims his fourth-ever PDC title following wins in 2014, 2017 and 2019. Key to his winning style is the great speed that he generates playing the game. So when the momentum is behind him, the 34-year-old Dutchman is almost unstoppable.
They call him “The Iceman” because he always manages to keep his cool even in the most pressurized situations. This may be a skill he picked up as a professional rugby player, and it puts him in a great place today. He’s only won the tournament once, in 2021, when he defeated Gary Anderson 7-3 in the final. Last year he reached the quarter-finals – where the considerable noise from the crowd led to him wearing ear defenders.
Just turned 33 in September. Michael Smith seems to be a player at the height of his powers right now. He was the 2022/23 winner, beating Michael van Gerwen 7-4 in a very closely fought match. It could have gone the way of van Gerwen had it not been for the clinical finishing of Smith. This was especially impressive when he clinched the title for the first time with just eleven darts in the deciding set of the eleventh leg.
At just 28, Luke Humphries is seen as something of a rising star in the darts fraternity – and has earned the almost unavoidable nickname of “Cool Hand Luke”. In his last appearance in the World Championships, he made it through to the fourth round, and this year, he’s predicted to go further still.
“The Flying Scotsman” as he is affectionately known, may be 52, but he’s still capable of giving his juniors a good run for their money. Among his many honours, he’s won the World Championships twice and was runner-up three times to Gerwyn Price in 2021, Michael van Gerwen in 2017, and Adrian Lewis in 2011. Famous for his smooth throwing style, he’s no stranger to controversy, for example, when he accused Mensur Suljovic of gamesmanship in 2020. So here’s hoping his tournament goes as smoothly as his action this time around.
There’s an extra cause for celebration this year as, to celebrate thirty years of the tournament, ten previous winners will be brought together on stage in London to recall their victories in a special event titled “A Night with the Champions” to be held on November 27th.
Here’s hoping that this year’s event will generate just as many great moments.