The winners and losers of the 2023 German Darts Championship have been revealed now that the dust in Hildesheim has settled. It has proven to be one of the PDC’s more disruptive events when it comes to player rankings, as Ricardo Pietreczko walked away with his first PDC title and a rankings boost. Meanwhile, English legend and darts’ favourite lefty James Wade slipped from the PDC’s top 16 for the first time in as many years.
All eyes are on Ricardo Pietreczko, or Pikachu, following his win over the Scottish Snakebite, Peter Wright. After a frustrating season that saw Pietreczko losing at either the first round or the semifinal, and rarely in between, the German’s persistence paid off as he won his home nation’s biggest darts competition at 8-4. It was his last chance to bag a 2023 European Tour event, his first ever, along with his first PDC title. What’s more, he did it by beating a two-time world champ, who is ranked #3 worldwide.
Nothing gets the crowd excited like a drastic ranking shift. Going into the event at 63rd in rankings, Pietreczko left at 53rd place. In any sport, this kind of tectonic shift in rankings lights up the betting and odds markets as new players defy expectations and test the commitment of old-guard fans along the way. Pietreczko didn’t win in the UK, Austria, or the Netherlands, but that made his last-minute German victory more unpredictable and entertaining for everybody involved.
Pietreczko didn’t just see Peter Wright off to become German darts champion; his time in the semifinals started with a shock upset – a 7-6 win over Michael Van Gerwen. At the time, Van Gerwen was the only man in the competition who ranked above Wright at #2 in the PDC’s rankings. During that semifinal game, he hit seven doubles after attempting nine of them. Then Pietreczko came into focus in the final, hitting eight of eight. By winning the championship, Pietreczko gets to claim £30,0000 prize purse plus a spot in the Grand Slam of Darts in November.
As older, top-ranking players like Van Gerwen and Wright fall to a player called Pikachu, fans have received news of another historic rankings slip that was confirmed after the championship. After a stint of non-participation, English darts legend James “The Machine” Wade has officially slipped out of the PDC’s top 16 list in the Order of Merit. This is the first time it has happened in 17 years, the span of his entire career. Once a prodigy in the sport, he had claimed the second spot that Van Gerwen now sits at.
The Machine was still going strong in 2018 when he made it to the World Series of Darts Finals. However, subsequent events were interfered with by champs like Van Gerwen and Wright. Then, at the 2023 World Championship, Wade was knocked out in the second round by Welshman Jim Williams (rank #55), and as a result, he fell from the top ten in rankings. He missed out on the Premier League and is yet to qualify for the Grand Slam of Darts. This is a problem, considering he has semifinal spots that he should be defending for the PDC World Darts Championship.
Due to this lull in action from him, fans anticipate that the former mechanic will slip further down the PDC’s Order of Merit rankings. However, if Pietreczko has proved anything, it’s that rankings don’t dictate the game. The best player, new or old, can leapfrog tens of places if they win the right games at the right time.
As winter sets in and the World Darts Championship gets closer, we’ll learn more about Wade’s place in the future of professional darts. In the meantime, Pietreczko’s November showing at the Grand Slam in Wolverhampton will show us if Pikachu has staying power or if his German win was just a flash in the pan.