The first Darts World Championship, organised by the BDO (British Darts Organisation) took place in 1978 and ran as the main World Championship event for darts until 1993 – when a long-running dispute let to a split between the BDO and the WDC (subsequently PDC) over the way the sport was being run and promoted.
Eric Bristow was the original star of the championships, winning five titles, before being defeated in the final by his protégée, Phil Taylor in 1990. The BDO Darts World Championships continue to this day, starting a few days after the PDC event finishes, but with little fan fare.
The split between the BDO and WDC was fired by player discontent regarding the decline in television coverage of the start during 1989 and the early 1990s, with players uniting in their belief that the BDO was unable to reverse this decline. This led the world’s top 16 ranked players all breaking away from the BDO to start their own organisation, originally known as the World Darts Championship.
Although a legal battle went on for several years and the WDC renaming to the Professional Darts Corporation as part of the dispute, the new body undoubtedly legitimised their move, with PDC events now enjoying increasing mainstream popularity, with more events, massive prize pools, more sponsorships and bigger venues than even now selling-out darts events.
The BDO World Darts Championship was the original primary “world championship” for darts, but following the split in organisations between the BDO and the WDC (World Darts Council), the first new championship – then known as the WDC World Darts Championship – took place in 1994.
Following a long legal battle, the WDC was renamed the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) in 1997, with the championship also following the naming convention. Despite the BDO continuing to host their own World Championships, the PDC’s competition rapidly caught up with the BDO in the early years and overtook the BDO in terms of the total prize pool on offer in 2002. The PDC tournament now dwarves the BDO competition, with the top player in the PDC winning £500,000, while the BDO winner only picks up £100,000.
Until 2007, the PDC World Darts Championship was held at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet (in Essex, England), but was then moved to the larger Alexandra Palace as the competition continued to grow in popularity and has been held there since.
Although Dennis Priestley was the first winner of the competition back in 1994, it was the man he beat in the final, Phil Taylor, who go on to dominate the tournament – and darts in general – for the next two decades.
Indeed, after finishing as runner up in 1994, Phil “The Power” Taylor would go on to win the next nine consecutive tournaments, before being narrowly being beaten 7-6 in 2003 final by John Part. Taylor’s dominance recommenced thereafter, though, winning the next three PDC World Darts Championships, as well as a further three by 2013.
Ahead of the 2018 tournament, Phil Taylor announced his plan to retire from professional darts after the competition. He looked set for a fairy tale to finish too, after cruising his way to the final, where he was meeting fellow Englishman, Rob Cross, who had turned professional just 11 months earlier. However, Cross pulled off one of the biggest shocks of all-time, thumping Taylor 7-2 in sets to write his name into the history books.
While Michael van Gerwen took over Phil Taylor as the dominant force in darts around 2014, the Dutchman hasn’t enjoyed quite the same monopoly in the PDC World Darts Championship. Nevertheless, he’s still tasted success in 2014, 2018, plus in last year’s event, where he beat Michael Smith 7-3 in the final.
There will be a total of five previous PDC World Darts Championship winners at the 2020 tournament, with Michael van Gerwen (three), Gary Anderson (two), Adrian Lewis (two), Rob Cross and, of course, Raymond van Barneveld all bidding to lift the title again.
Records and Statistics
With 14 titles to his name and a further five final finishes, we’re a long time away – if ever – from anyone ever breaking Phil Taylor’s record for the most successes at the PDC World Darts Championship. But darts is very much a numbers game and there are lots of other records that being broken every few years at the competition.
The current number one, Michael van Gerwen, for example, is notorious for his consistently high averages – as he demonstrated in 2019. But in 2017, he smashed Phil Taylor’s previous best average at the competition (111.21) with a massive 114.05 average in his 6-2 win over compatriot, Raymond van Barneveld in the semifinal. What’s even more impressive is that in the very same game, Barney broke the record for the highest ever losing average, scoring 109.34 – the fourth-highest average that the competition has ever seen, but was still not enough to secure victory.
Michael van Gerwen was really on fire in 2017, though, as he also set the highest ever tournament average in the PDC World Darts Championships, with a huge 106.32 average as he went on to win the competition in style.
The Dutchman is also looking to build on another average record. Heading into the 2020 tournaments, he is on a roll of 19 PDC World Darts Championship matches in which he’s averaged 100 or more – an impressive record that dates back to 2016.
But nothing captivates a darts crowd like a nine-dart finish (i.e. throwing nine-perfect darts to win a leg). Surprisingly, Phil Taylor never managed to achieve such a feat during the tournament, but on the other hand, it’s only occurred nine times – the first of which occurred when van Barneveld captured the world’s attention when he achieved it during the 2009 quarter-final against Jelle Klaasen. He was also the second player to do so at the competition when he repeated the trick in the 2010 second round against Brendan Dolan. Other players to have also secured nine-dart finishes at the tournament are Adrian Lewis (twice), Dean Winstanley, Michael van Gerwen, Terry Jenkins, Kyle Anderson and Gary Anderson.
How the 2019 Competition Went
After a massive shock in 2018 which made mainstream news, the pecking order was restored in the 2019 PDC World Darts Championship, with Michael van Gerwen coming out on top. There were, however, a few shocks throughout the tournament with Barney crashing out in the second round to little-known Lithuanian, Darius Labanauskas.
There was also controversy as James Wade beat Seigo Asada in the second round, with the English player shouting in Asada’s face after winning in the second round and later admitting he wanted to “hurt” his opponent. Wade was then knocked out by debutant Ryan Joyce in the fourth round. And the second round shocks didn’t end there. In the fourth quarter section of the draw, the four highest seeds were all knocked out, with Peter Wright being beaten by Toni Alcinas, Devon Petersen beating Ian White, Gerwyn Price losing to Nathan Aspinall, and Joe Cullen defeated by Brendan Dolan.
In the semi-finals, Michael van Gerwen obliterated Gary Anderson by six sets to one, with Anderson narrowly avoiding a whitewash after winning a set with the score at 5-0 to van Gerwen. But it was the other semi-final in which the real thriller took place, with Michael Smith cruising to a two-set lead without dropping a set against Nathan Aspinall. However, Aspinall quickly stopped the rot to level the match at 2-2. Smith took the upper hand once again though, winning the match 6-3 in style, securing 17 180s – a record for Darts World Championship semi-final contest.
In the final, van Gerwen secured a comfortable 7-3 victory over Michael Smith, securing a solid average of 102.21 – meaning he averaged over 100 for every single round of the competition.