What do 1978, 1995, 2008 and 2020 have in common? A lot, if we’re talking about the BDO World Darts Championship.
The first world champion, Leighton Rees, hailed from Wales. His 1978 success was matched 17 years later by Richie Burnett. Three decades on from Rees’ inaugural triumph, Mark Webster took the title. And now, another Welshman will win the BDO World Darts Championship. We can only hope that this is no grim narrative where the trophy heading to Cymru bookends the history of this famous competition.
First, it’d be remiss not to mention the two world champions already crowned. Mikuru Suzuki was brilliantly ruthless in doing what nobody else can; beating Lisa Ashton comfortably. Of course, the 3-0 scoreline was a little harsh on the Lancashire Rose. But Suzuki seems to be unstoppable at the BDO World Darts Championship, and her win makes her the fourth winner of multiple women’s titles. She’s the only woman to appear in at least one final without losing, and the fourth person overall to do so after Phil Taylor, Jocky Wilson and Glen Durrant – esteemed company, indeed.
The youth final went much the same way. Keane Barry, a class above all year, was the same again on the Indigo stage. Darting stardom seems inevitable for the fast-flinging Irish sensation. It wasn’t to be this year for Leighton Bennett against a player he’d do well to use as a benchmark. Barry has three years on Bennett, and the English youngster had the 2019 title already. By the time he’s 17 years old, Boom Boom might well eclipse the player who takes the bragging rights this time around. We’ll see plenty more of these two.
But it’s Jim Williams and Wayne Warren who are the focus on Sunday. Two Welshmen, two players in their first final, and two men who might not ever defend this title, should they win it. It’s bound to be an emotional final.
Can Williams live up to his destiny?
When Glen Durrant switched to the PDC, it was expected that good friend Jim Williams would step into that massive chasm left by the three-time, back-to-back world champion. Those shoes are hard to fill, but the Quiff is on the cusp of doing just that.
Having won the World Trophy in the summer, Williams came into this tournament with some major-winning pedigree. Expectations were high – but his World Darts Championship chances were almost dashed at the first hurdle by Gary Stone. Williams, very much playing his B-game, survived.
The 35-year-old felt that conditions on stage weren’t quite right for that game. As if to prove it, he improved markedly in the next game, where the lighting wasn’t such a distraction. Ryan Hogarth and Paul Hogan were simply cast aside. Once Wesley Harms and Richard Veenstra departed, the second seed became the bona fide favourite.
What Williams needed to show his credentials was the chance to mix the bloody-minded determination that accounted for Stone with the classy darts that dazzled Hogarth and Hogan. In his 6-4 semi-final success against Mario Vandenbogaerde, he got just that. The Belgian refused to lay down; Williams kept punching until he got the KO. Even in spite of victory against an excellent opponent, he’ll know that he can do much better. He may need to do better in order to see off his final opponent.
Now the World Darts Championship title awaits, and Duzza’s chosen heir looks to fulfil his darting destiny.
Warren the golden oldie targets record
In January 2018, Phil Taylor became the oldest ever World Darts Championship finalist. Two years on, Wayne Warren just about edges the record. Can he do what even The Power couldn’t, and become world champion at 57 years old?
This is Warren’s third World Championship in a row, having played at just two before – in 2005 and 2013. He may have plenty of experience in darts, but at the highest level of all, he’s had to learn on the job.
The Yank was way off the pace against Justin Thompson, and was almost punished. It’s a story similar to Williams’, and the parallels run through the tournament. Andy Hamilton and Chris Landman were obliterated; Scott Mitchell was never going to make it easy, but Warren saved his best legs for the right times and won out.
The fifth seed is known as a prodigiously strong scorer on his day. What wasn’t clear was whether he could put every element of his game together to take himself all the way. Now Warren finds himself in the World Darts Championship final – and he’ll be more confident than anyone about his chances. Whatever happens, he’s immortalised in darting history.
Pride of Wales
On paper, Williams is the favourite. Anyone who has reached the semi-finals (at least) in six out of the last seven majors will be seen as someone who knows how to handle the big occasion.
His knack for starting games well (perhaps with the exception of the Stone match, in which he fluffed a chance to go 2-0 up) and Warren’s trend of building into a match more slowly suggests that the Quiff could hit the ground running.
But that’s no guarantee. What we do know is that both have got better as they’ve gone on, perhaps peaking with their semi-final wins.
What tips the balance Warren’s way is that, in addition to his scoring (28 maximums in his last two games), he has found more consistency in finishing. The slew of missed doubles that held up his win over Landman was replaced by a 58 per cent checkout success rate against Mitchell.
Overall, Williams is the more consistent player; Warren is as prone to fireworks as he is to a damp squib. The latter’s unpredictability makes this final a bit harder to call.
After this tournament, both will move on – likely to Q-School. We don’t know how many of the Indigo alumni will return in a year. We don’t even know if there’ll be a tournament in a year’s time.
All the more reason to enjoy this ride while it lasts.
BDO World Darts Championship 2020 schedule
Sunday January 12 (starts 19:00)
Jim Williams vs Wayne Warren (Men’s Final)Tags: BDO, BDO World Darts Championship 2020, Jim Williams, Wayne Warren
Author: Ed McCosh