This past weekend, the second most important and prestigious PDC Darts tournament of the year got underway at the Empress Ballrooms, Winter Gardens in Blackpool. The World Matchplay Championship, saw a number of key first round games played over the course of the weekend and the top players in the world are all in Blackpool trying to land the £150,000 top prize.

The event has become popular as one of the biggest tournaments of the year for fans, with tickets selling out usually well in advance of the tournament. It’s seaside location and summertime slot in the calendar, means it is usually one of the most eagerly attended and for players, it is arguably the next biggest tournament to win after the World Championship.

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Let’s start this look ahead to the tournament with a recap of a little of the history of this massive darts tournament, perhaps second only to the World Championships and also we will look at the results that have already been confirmed in the first round over the course of the weekend.

PDC World Matchplay a History

The World Matchplay is a tournament played to a different format to the Legs and Sets scoring system used in darts in events like the World Championship. In this tournament, it is a straight race to a stated number of legs.

The tournament was first founded in 1994 and has been held each year at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool ever since. It is one of the most coveted trophies in the game, rated second only to the World Championship in prestige. In the 25 years that the tournament has been held, there have been just eight different winners.

Phil Taylor is the reason for that as he has landed an incredible 16 victories in the tournament, with Rod Harrington and Michael van Gerwen both having two victories apiece. Players that have won the event once include Larry Butler (who won the first ever tournament), Peter Evison, Colin Lloyd, James Wade and last year’s winner Gary Anderson.

In 2018, the trophy awarded to the winner was renamed the Phil Taylor trophy in honour of the now retired former darts superstar.

One thing to note about the scoring in the World Matchplay is that games are a race to a stated number of legs, however if the score, in a race to 10 games, reached 9-9, players then have a further six legs to win by two legs. If not, a sudden death final leg is played to decide the winner.

The winner of this year’s tournament will take home the largest prize in the event’s history with the prize money being swelled by an extra £200,000 for this year’s event, from £500,000 last year, to £700,000 this year, with £150,000 for the Champion.

World Matchplay Darts Round 1 Results

The top 16 seeds in the world earned their spot at the World Matchplay with another 16 players battling through qualifying to join them in the tournament. The first round of matches kicked off on Saturday and produced the following results (seedings shown in brackets):

  • Michael van Gerwen (1) 10-6 Steve Beaton
  • Adrian Lewis (16) 4-10 Glen Durrant
  • James Wade (8) 13-12 Jeffrey de Zwaan
  • Mensur Suljovic (9) 10-1 Jermaine Wattimena
  • Michael Smith (5) 10-7 Jamie Hughes
  • Dave Chisnall (12) 9-11 Max Hopp
  • Gary Anderson (4) 10-6 Danny Noppert
  • Nathan Aspinall (13) 5-10 Mervyn King
  • Rob Cross (2) 10-3 Chris Dobey
  • Darren Webster (15) 5-10 Krzystof Ratajaski
  • Gerwyn Price (7) 12-13 Stephen Bunting
  • Ian White (10) 10-0 Joe Cullen

The most exciting matches came on the first day of action when James Wade edged out Dutchman Jeffrey de Zwaan 13-12 in a last leg decider and then in another one of those games, former BDO World Champion Stephen Bunting got the better of seventh seed Welshman Gerwyn Price in what was another cracking match.

Surprise results have included defeats for Dave Chisnall, Adrian Lewis, Nathan Aspinall and Darren Webster so far, while poor Joe Cullen was the only player not to win a leg in the tournament as he was hammered 10-0 by Ian “Diamond” White in the final game on Sunday evening.

There are still four first round matches to be played today starting at 7pm this evening and they are as follows (odds for each shown)

  • Jonny Clayton (14) (8/11) v Keegan Brown (11/10)

Welshman Clayton has had a fine season and deserves to be the slight favourite here, but Brown too is starting to get back to his best and this could be a very close game and I am going to back an upset here with Brown just about eking out a win.

  • Simon Whitlock (11) (4/5) v John Henderson (Evens)

After a poor few years, Simon Whitlock is getting back to something like his best form and he faces a tough task against Aberdonian big John Henderson. This is another game that will be very close but I think Whitlock has better consistency and scoring power and as such, I am backing the Aussie to land the win here.

  • Daryl Gurney (3) (4/9) v Ricky Evans (7/4)

Irishman Daryl Gurney has been in great form of late and is many people’s favourite to win the title in Blackpool. He should make swift progress against Ricky Evans who did well to qualify for this tournament but looks a bit out of his depth here.

  • Peter Wright (6) (2/7) v Vincent van der Voort (11/4)

After a poor start to the year, Peter Wright has dropped down the rankings but has returned to form in style, especially on the floor. He hasn’t quite turned that round in major TV tournaments as yet but I think he will be far too strong for the rapid-fire Dutchman van der Voort here.

World Matchplay 2nd Round Preview

The Second Round lines up as follows:

  • Michael van Gerwen v Glen Durrant
  • James Wade v Mensur Suljovic
  • Michael Smith v Max Hopp
  • Gary Anderson v Mervyn King
  • Rob Cross v Krzystztof Ratajski
  • Stephen Bunting v Ian White
  • Wright/Van der Voort v Whitlock/Henderson
  • Gurney/Evans v Clayton/Brown

Who will be the overall winner?

Michael van Gerwen is the 11/8 favourite to win the tournament and the only surprising thing about that is that the Dutchman is not odds on favourite, chiefly due to a bout of poorer form of late. He is the smart money bet due to those odds, but for me, I think the value bet may well be to back Peter Wright each way to reach the final. He’s in the lower half of the draw, so won’t meet van Gerwen in the final and with seeds in that part of the draw tumbling, I think Wright has a great chance to reach the final here.

Back van Gerwen to win at 11/8 and Wright each way to reach the final at 9/1 with bet365.