72 players. 71 matches. One winner. The PDC World Darts Championship is back, and it isn’t going anywhere for the rest of the year. On day one at the Ally Pally, we’ve got the reigning and defending world champion, the Premier League champion, the Players Championship champion, the Grand Slam of Darts champion, the World Series champion, the Masters champion, the European Championships champion and the holder of the record of the highest average in any World Championship game in history.
And that’s just Michael van Gerwen. There are four games on an opening night that could provide shock and delight. We won’t know until the players take to the oche.

Steve Beaton vs William O’Connor

The 2018 championships are kicked off by a former world champion, though 1996 Lakeside winner Steve Beaton hasn’t had so much luck in the PDC showcase. Despite appearing in every World Championship since 2002, Beaton hasn’t got past the second round in his last 12 attempts. Hoping to be the sixth man to dump the Bronzed Adonis out in the first round is debutant William O’Connor. The Irishman has a stony demeanour and a solid action, and neither are likely to waver under the pressure of being on the Ally Pally stage. But there is no action as silky-smooth as Beaton’s, and not many in the field have the Coventry thrower’s wealth of experience.
This one is unlikely to set the stage alight, but could well be the tightest tussle of the night. O’Connor has reached the last 16 of the UK Open and the Players Championship finals this year – a better showing than Beaton – but the elder statesman might just edge this, and seal a second-round tie with Dave Chisnall or Vincent van der Voort.

James Wilson vs Krzysztof Ratajski

It’s the end of an era. After the Worlds, we say goodbye to the Jammie Dodger, as James Wilson rebrands himself as ‘Lethal Biscuit’. Before donning his new and astonishing party ring-bedecked shirt, Wilson has a job to do. The former BDO number one has been handed a potential banana skin in the form of Krzyzstof Ratajski, who is the first Pole to represent his nation at the Ally Pally since Krzyzstof “The Thumb” Kciuk. Ratajski has skipped out on a Lakeside appearance to appear in the PDC championships, and the World Masters champion will not want egg on his face in the form of a first round exit. Wilson lost 3-0 to Kim Huybrechts on his Ally Pally debut last year.
If he repeats his nervy, stuttering Grand Slam performances, he may find Ratajski extremely tough to hold off. But Ratajski has played one PDC major match so far, and his second appearance comes on the biggest stage of all. Not to mention the likely clash with Michael van Gerwen if he wins…

Michael van Gerwen vs Christian Kist

The quest for world title number three begins here. Michael van Gerwen, the all-conquering tungsten titan, has had plenty to celebrate this year. Aside from the birth of his daughter, and Phil Taylor’s imminent retirement, the Dutchman’s dominance on the oche has brought plenty of cheer. Most observers would agree that it would take not just a stroke of luck, but a Christmas miracle, to topple Mighty Mike. The first obstacle between van Gerwen and glory is Christian Kist. The undoubtedly talented Kist has suffered horribly with arthritis in 2017, which at times has made him impossible to watch.
Even van Gerwen will be desperate to see Kist unhindered by the condition at the Ally Pally. However, this is case of seeing how many legs Kist can steal, not sets. Unless he pulls a Rene Eidams, the world champion’s defence will surely get off to a simple start.

Gerwyn Price vs Ted Evetts

It has been an interesting year for Gerwyn Price. Two major finals – the UK Open and the World Cup of Darts – came and went, and the Welshman’s form abandoned him. Failing to win more than a single game at any of the other majors meant the Iceman’s optimism early in the year has melted away. Jonny Clayton ended his Players Championship hopes with a comfortable win; a repeat of the Ferret’s victory at last year’s World Championship. Price has been in the last three World Championships, and gone out at the first hurdle every time. That all bodes well for debutant Ted Evetts. SuperTed was outstanding in beating a host of top players, including Robbie Green and Brendan Dolan, to seal his Ally Pally spot.
Evetts is no stranger to the big averages, and even notched a nine-darter on the Pro Tour this year. Price is a consistent scorer and is very reliable on tops, but his temperament tends to cost him dearly when things aren’t going well. If Evetts keeps his cool, there’s a major day one shock on the cards.

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Author: Ed McCosh