The biggest event in the world of darts is coming back to the Ally Pally this Christmas, as the prize money becomes the highest in its history. The total pot this year is £1,250,000, £200,000 more on last year’s total, with the champion taking home £250,000, the same as last year. Michael van Gerwen is the reigning world champion, and current world number 1, after beating the ever-eccentric Peter Wright in last year’s final. The biggest shock of the tournament came as Phil Taylor lost in the second round to 32-seed Michael Smith, who was beaten in the third round by eventual runner-up Wright. The last six tournaments have all been won by the current top 3 ranked players, van Gerwen, Taylor (3 times) and Adrian Lewis (twice).
Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor – the 16-time World Champion is the favourite amongst the bookies, having been on a diet in a bid to get fitter and ready for this year’s tournament and Taylor did win the Grand Slam of Darts in November, his sixth, so perhaps he has gained some form and confidence in the build up to the World Championships. He will need to play better than last year’s second round exit if he is to add to the trophy cabinet this time round.
‘Mighty’ Michael van Gerwen – currently world number 1 and the reigning Champion, Mighty Mike will be looking to retain his title in the coming weeks. Having won the World Grand Prix in Ireland in October, MVG comes into tournament in form and as the man to beat in many people’s minds. He’s been drawn against Englishman Joe Cullen is the first round who has already beaten van Gerwen this year, so it won’t be a guaranteed victory for the Dutchman.
Gary ‘the Flying Scotsman’ Anderson – recently won the Players Championship Finals so comes into this tournament brimming with confidence. The fourth seed was runner-up in 2011 and lost to van Gerwen in the third round of last year’s tournament. A good bet at 7/1 with some bookies as he is yet to win the World Championship, but this could be his year.
Adrian ‘the Jackpot’ Lewis – World Champion in 2011 and 2012, he knows how to win on the Ally Pally stage. He has made at least the quarter finals in the last 5 years, so he is almost a certainty to make that stage, if not further, again this time around. 2014 has seen Lewis win the UK Open in March and lost to Anderson in the final of the Players Championship Finals.
James ‘the Machine’ Wade – despite never winning the competition, Wade has managed to make at least the quarter finals in 6 of the last season, so will undoubtedly be in with a shout when it comes to the New Year. Wade did, in November, win his first major in 3 years, the Unibet Masters, after coming back from 9-2 down to beat Mervyn King 11-10, so he will be hopeful of continuing that form into the festive period.
Ones to Watch
Michael ‘Bully Boy’ Smith – the 22nd seed beat Taylor in the second last year, but the fairytale run couldn’t continue as he was beaten by Wright in the next round. He’s beaten the likes of Raymond van Barneveld and Anderson already this year so he knows how to win, could be a dark horse.
Paul ‘the Asset’ Nicholson – Darts’ very own most hated player as a result of his demeanour on stage and a few feuds with better players in the past. He’s a bit of a boiling cauldron but I feel like it could come off for him this year.
Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright – the most eccentric, brightly coloured darts player in history, Wright should not be discounted in this tournament having been runner-up last year. He reached the final of the Players Championship Finals and won on the European Tour in July so has some form behind him.
One of ‘The Snakebite’s’ many hairstyles
Raymond ‘Barney’ van Barneveld – the former world number 1 has slipped down the rankings in recent years but he still knows how to win tournaments, having won the Betway Premier League in May. He also knows how to win at Ally Pally, conquering there in 2007.
Personally, I can’t look passed van Gerwen to win this competition on January 4th, but I feel that if he was to lose his title, the likes of James Wade and Adrian Lewis will be taking full advantage.