Kyle Anderson takes on China’s Xiaochen Zong in round one of the PDC World Championship.

This is the latest in a series of match previews for the World Championship first round. Last time out, we looked at Raymond van Barneveld versus Darin Young. We’ll be looking ahead to every opening round tie in the run-up to the Ally Pally action.

Facts and figures

Match time/date: 12:30, December 15

Head-to-head record: First meeting

Previous meeting: N/A

Best major performance this season: Round 4, UK Open (Anderson); N/A (Zong)

Previous PDC World Championship appearances: Anderson 6, Zong 1

Best PDC World Championship performance: Last 16, 2015, 2016, 2018 & 2019 (Anderson), Last 72, 2018 (Zong)

Twitter: Unicorn Darts

Preview

Above this preview is a picture of Xiaochen Zong with John Part, taken in December 2017. That was the same month in which Zong, at just 19 years of age, flew across the world to play in the PDC World Championship. He went out, but set a national record average in a darts major. It was a shade over 86, not something to worry the game’s top players, but in context it was a sign of serious potential.

Two years on, Zong is still China’s top player, alongside World Cup of Darts partner Yuanjun Liu. At 21, the Dandong-born thrower will likely be at many more World Championships to come. He appeared as an international qualifier for the World Youth Championship last month, but couldn’t get out of a group featuring eventual winner Luke Humphries. Despite representing the most populous nation on the entire planet, there’s zero external pressure on Zong. Every step forward is another win for himself and Chinese darts.

Kyle Anderson might feel differently about the situation. A mix of a loss in form and some off-the-oche concerns (which aren’t mutually exclusive) contributed to a sub-par season for the Aussie. It’s hard to point out any significant run of good form throughout the year. That being said, true class still shines through; Anderson still found time to smash in a nine-darter against Steve Lennon at a Players Championship event in July.

The Ally Pally is, of course, the scene of Anderson’s more famous perfect leg against Ian White six years ago. The Original lost that match, a stat endemic of his overall failure to kick on at the World Championship. After losing his opening match at the only two majors he qualified for in 2019, Anderson needs a win. And if he does overcome Zong, Steve Beaton is statistically the most vulnerable seed in the pack. Perhaps a morale-boosting run is in the offing for the popular 32-year-old.

Prediction

Zong carries the future of Chinese darts on his shoulders, and will one day strike a blow for his nation at the World Championship. December 15 won’t be that day. He faces a man who needs a win, and when Anderson gets his eye in, the big scores come thick and fast. Of course, a sub-par Original represents a big opportunity for Zong; but it still feels a little too soon. Kyle Anderson 3-0 Xiaochen Zong looks harsh on paper, but keep an eye out for a 21-year-old prospect who has the potential to cause an upset.

Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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Author: Ed McCosh