He reached the final in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Now Gary Anderson has set his sights on a fourth consecutive Ally Pally showdown after kicking off the 2018 World Championship with a 3-0 win over Jeff Smith. The Flying Scotsman fired in a staggering seven 180s in just 11 legs as he set up a second round meeting with Mark Webster or Kai Fan Leung.
Anderson almost started perfectly with Shanghai to break, but drifted into the double one. Double 19 was no problem, however, and a maximum immediately followed at the beginning of the second leg. Smith, not a particularly powerful scorer, could not lay a glove on Anderson in the opening stages. Busting nine by pulling into the single 18 went unpunished, allowing the Scot to hold. Smith was unable to punish Anderson’s slacker darts, meaning the first set was won without a hitch.
The second set started with a bang. Two 180s was followed by a single 20, a chorus of boos, and two more perfectly placed dart to set up double eight and the first ten-dart leg of the championships. Smith averaged 95 against Luke Humphries, but struggled to lift his average above 70 in the opening stages. His finishing was his magnum opus in the prelims, but he wasn’t getting much of a chance to prove it. When tasked with 36 in the second leg of the second set, however, the Canadian finally got his first leg on the board. Had Anderson converted bull for a 170 checkout, the Silencer may have been silenced for good. That said, a 180 and a 177 in the third leg of the set did that. The 11-darter was followed by four more perfect darts to start the following leg. Tops meant a 12-darter and a two set lead for Anderson, whose average had ballooned from 83 to 105.
A 132 average across the second set is a hard act to follow. It was Smith who laid down an early challenge, opening with a 171, but consistent scoring was proving to be a real struggle. But Anderson missed three darts at a finish, allowing Smith a chance at double 16. His three darts were wayward, but yet more Anderson misses meant Smith could claim just his second leg of the match. The seventh 180 saw Anderson through to an easy win in the second leg of the set, and 134 set up tops and a break of throw. A maximum-deficient Smith could only watch on helplessly as Anderson piled on the points. A 177 left 42 and, after Smith passed up the chance of a 96 checkout, Anderson had the chance to finish the job. Four missed match darts later, the job was done.
Author: Ed McCosh