December is perhaps the most highly anticipated month of the year for darts fans. December sees the beginning of the World Championship, the coveted title that dart players of all levels all over the world dream of winning. This year’s tournament would be bigger and better than ever with the field increased to 96 players including 2 ladies qualifiers. The total prize money also took a massive jump from £1.8 million to £2.5 million seeing the overall winner earn a life changing £500,000. Michael Van Gerwen began the tournament as the favourite but each and every competitor could visualise their name in lights come the 1st day of January.
Rob Cross, the defending World Champion was handed a tough opening draw against a strong young Dutch prospect, Jeffrey De Zwaan. Many pundits were predicting an early upset, but ‘Voltage’ held his nerve and showed why he was the reigning king of the darts world with a 3-1 win. His convincing performance with a 102.93 average and 4 180’s silenced the critics and threw any early nerves aside. The ever consistent Gary Anderson accounted for the Irish Matchplay qualifier, Kevin Burness with a 3-1 victory. It was also plain sailing for Van Gerwen who brushed aside the challenge of Alan Tabern 3-1, despite a fan throwing a drink over him prior to the walk on. There were several big hitters who were brought down on their visit to the Alexandra Palace stage in 2018. The first big name to fall was the world number 2, Peter Wright who was conquered by the Spaniard, Toni Alcinas. The number 48 player on the order of merit despatched ‘Snakebite’ with a comprehensive 3-1 victory. Round 2 also saw the departure of Mensur Suljovic who lost out 3-1 to the Somerset man, Ryan Searle. Raymond Van Barneveld, the five time champion of the world also exited the competition in his first game along with Darren Webster, Joe Cullen, Ian White and Gerwyn Price.
Dave Chisnall continued his good run of form with a sweeping 4-0 victory over the Belgian star Kim Huybrechts. The trend of top seeds being eliminated continued into round 3 which saw ‘Superchin’ Daryl Gurney run into an in form Jamie Lewis who emerged victorious 4-3 in a thrilling encounter. Jamie Lewis looking to replicate the wonders he worked last year when he reached the semi-final stage. Gary Anderson survived a scare against Jermaine Wattimena. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ powered through the Wattimena challenge to triumph 4-3. Adrian Lewis and Rob Cross both recorded emphatic victories to progress to round 4 of the Championships. A surprise package was starting to emerge from section 4 of the draw. 27 year old Nathan Aspinall was making waves on his World Championship debut. Having knocked out The World Grand Slam Champion, Gerwyn Price in round 2, Aspinall sent Kyle Anderson and Devon Petersen packing to book his place in the quarter final. Ryan Joyce and Luke Humphries caused major upsets in round 4. Joyce put out ‘The Machine’ James Wade in a tight encounter 4-3. Luke ‘Coolhand’ Humphries shocked the defending World Champion Rob Cross with a blistering performance to send ‘Voltage’ home. Humphries recorded a 99.71 average and hit 7 180’s on his way to victory. Michael Smith has been dubbed by many as a future World Champion. He’s a natural talent and he showed this on the ‘Ally Pally’ stage. He put an end to Luke Humphries fantastic run with a 5-1 victory in the quarter final.
The semi-final line up was rather unusual. The first semi-final turned out as expected, Michael Van Gerwen would face Gary Anderson. The second semi-final included ‘The Asp’ Nathan Aspinall. The underdog had come through each challenge that the World Championships could throw at him and he reached the semi-final on merit. He overcame the might of Brendan Dolan, 5-1 in the quarter final to make a date with ‘Bully Boy’ Michael Smith. Gary Anderson and Michael Van Gerwen have had some enthralling battles over the years. Two of the most naturally gifted players to ever grace the big stage would meet once more to battle it out for a spot in the big final on New Year’s Day. The so called ‘people’s final’ unfortunately did not live up to the billing with the ‘Green Machine’ running away with the match. He dominated the game and closed out a 6-1 victory with 11 180’s. It was in fact the semi-final between Smith and Aspinall that impressed most. Despite a dominant performance from Michael Smith, he was given a great challenge by Aspinall as the debutant impressed darts fans worldwide, earning himself a contract with Target Darts in the meantime.
It was the first time in over 30 years that both finalists were under the age of thirty. The 27 year old St Helens man was seeking his first televised major, but first he would have to defeat the relentless scoring power of Van Gerwen. The merciless MVG hit the ground running and raced into a 4-0 lead. The natural Smith fought hard and showed his determination, but it was not enough to knock Van Gerwen off his perch as the best player in the world. ‘Mighty Mike’ romped his way to a 7-3 victory and his third world title. It was a very memorable tournament which saw many underdogs progress to the latter stages of the competition. There were shocks and mesmerising performances from the very first round. Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price, to name but a few were looking to mount a serious challenge to the world crown, but both fell at the first hurdle like many other big names. But this could not have been further from Michael Van Gerwen’s mind as he powered his way to the pinnacle of world darts without moving out of third gear.