Mulling Over The Matchplay

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The Betfred World Matchplay returns to our TV screens this weekend from the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, with MVG, Gerwyn Price, Peter Wright, Jonny Clayton and Luke Humphries amongst the players in action.

2023 marks the 29th staging of the competition, with World No.3 Michael van Gerwen coming in as the defending champion after he beat Price 18-14 in last year’s Final. Gerwyn Price is in action this Saturday live on Sky Sports as he prepares to face former BDO World Champion Stephen Bunting in the 1st Round.

Maiden Matchplay Champion?

There is a strong opportunity for a new name on the trophy at this year’s Blackpool darting jamboree. MVG, Rob Cross, Gary Anderson, James Wade and Dimitri Van Den Bergh are the only previous winners in the 32 man draw. Mighty Mike is only joint favourite with Michael Smith and Gerwyn Price and none of the other three are less than 20-1 outsiders.

Meanwhile, there is a veritable list of new names tipped for trophy. Josh Rock, Luke Humphries, Jonny Clayton and Dave Chisnall are all seen by the bookies as having a strong chance. It, perhaps, should be born in mind that in the past 15 years only Dimitri Van Den Bergh – whose win was behind closed doors – featured World Champion and that since the turn of the century no player has claimed the Blackpool showpice as their Maiden Major

Another Welsh Win?

After another recent World Cup triumph could one of the Welsh team lift another giant trophy? Gerwyn Price has enjoyed a return to his very best darts this year, winning four nights in the Premier League as he topped the table for the first time and qualified for his maiden Finals Night. Price fell at the final hurdle against Michael van Gerwen at the O2 Arena but has claimed success winning the European Darts Open and defending the International Darts Open in Riesa, after beating Mighty Mike 8-4 in the Final on the European Tour.

Jonny Clayton will hope for a better outing in Blackpool this time around after his campaign was cut short 12 months ago, as he lost on the opening night against debutant Rowby-John Rodriguez. Jonny has claimed Players Championship 12 earlier in the year in Leicester, as well as the Austrian Darts Open after he beat Josh Rock 8-6 in the Final in Graz. He comes into the Winter Gardens on the back of two impressive runs in the recent Pro Tour competitions, reaching the Quarter Finals in both Events at the Morningside Arena.

Clayton will open his World Matchplay campaign on Monday in the Final 1st Round match, facing recent World Championship Semi Finalist Gabriel Clemens.

Wright Again?

World Number 2 Peter Wright searches for his 2nd World Matchplay crown, after beating Dimitri van den Bergh 18-9 in the Final back in 2021 in what was an impressive tournament for Snakebite, averaging over 100 in 4 out of his 5 matches.

Peter averaged over 105 in his Second Round 11-5 victory over Joe Cullen, and repeated the trick in the Final where he scored 105.90 over 27 legs in Blackpool. His best display though came in the Semi Finals against Michael van Gerwen after clinching a 17-10 win over the Green Machine with a staggering 110.37 average.


The Red Dragon player has had a mixed year winning the Nordic Darts Masters back in January as well as the Czech Darts Open, after he beat Dave Chisnall 8-6 in the Final in Prague. Wright will face reigning UK Open Champion Andrew Gilding in the penultimate 1st Round match at the Winter Gardens.

Luke Humphries comes into the Betfred World Matchplay on the back of a late surge in form, including a 9-dart leg in winning his first Pro Tour Event of the year on Monday.

Cool Hand Luke defeated Dave Chisnall in a last leg decider to win Players Championship 15 in Leicester, as well as including a 105.64 average in beating stablemate Jonny Clayton 6-3 in the Quarter Finals. The 28-year-old claimed his 5th Euro Tour after successfully defending the European Darts Matchplay crown, beating Dirk van Duijvenbode 8-7 in the Final at the start of the month.

Luke like the Jonny will hope for a better outing in Blackpool this time around, after the World Number 6 crashed out to Nathan Aspinall early on. Luke has been one of the most inform players recently within the Professional Darts Corporation, being the most successful player on the PDC European Tour in 2022 with 4 wins on the circuit.

Humphries will open his World Matchplay campaign on Sunday evening as he prepares to face 2020 Grand Slam of Darts winner Jose de Sousa in the 1st Round.

Dutch Delight?

As well as providing the event with its defending champion, in the person of Michael van Gerwen, The Netherlands has also provided one of the years other form players with Dirk van Divenbode playing attention grabbing darts so often that its difficult to remember that he is yet to win a major trophy.

Attention will, of course, be focused on The Green Machine who has already added another Premier League to his palmyres in 2023 as well as European and World Series Tour crowns. Judging from his performances at the Poland Darts master last week he is over his dental surgery and back firing on nearly all cylinders.

Despite being the reigning champion it should perhaps be noted that MVG does not have a great Blackpool record. Three titles and one runner-up spot during his 11+ years of darting dominace is scant return and reflects a lesser record at the most prestigious, longer format, ranking events.

Another Dutch Darting moment will be the return of icon Raymond Van Barneveld to the Winter Gardens Stage. RVB has done superbly to play his way back to Blackpool and fairytales are certainly not impossible. Ryan Searle, on such a big occasion, may have not faced this type of ‘event’ match before and may be vulnerable. However the 5-time World Champion does not have a great Blackpool record and things will get tougher from their on in.

Aubergenius has had another year of forward movement. He has picked up three Pro Tour titles already and missed out in a last leg decider on his first European Tour title. During the last 12 months the Dutchman has looked as if it is a matter of time and location where he breaks through into the next level.

It may be that Dirk needs to win incrementally and spends another year or two beginning to pick up other ranking titles. However, it should be remembered he knows how to reach major TV finals and has played well in them. Could he skip a stage or two and claim the totemic Blackpool title for his own?

Bullyboy’s Treble Top?

If you were to be asked to put the PDC’s top ranking events in order of prestige or difficulty to win you might well go for The World championship, The World Matchplay and The Grand Slam of Darts. To win these three events takes sustained efforts and form, they are energy sapping and can be incredibly intense. All three also demand that you defeat the very best players, over longer formats, in consecutive games.

Michael Smith broke his major duck at the 2022 Grand Slam and then captured a long awaited World Championship. Could he grab the triple crown in Blackpool? If so he would become one of only three, Phil Taylor and MVG being the first two, to hold them at the same time.


With Covid raging and much turmoil afoot many selected Gary Anderson to collapse from his lofty position in the PDC ranking a few years ago. He was defending considerable sums and, understandably, not keen to travel etc.

Yet within months he had reached the finals of both the World Matchplay and World Championships themselves. The former back-to-back World Champion, and previous Blackpool winner, is not one to be written off lightly. If he can upset the in form Dave Chinsall early on then who knows…..

The Betfred World Matchplay starts on Saturday 15th of July live on Sky Sports.

2023 Betfred World Matchplay Draw: 

Michael Smith (1) v Steve Beaton

James Wade (16) v Chris Dobey

Danny Noppert (8) v Martin Schindler

Nathan Aspinall (9) v Krzysztof Ratajski

Gerwyn Price (4) v Stephen Bunting

Joe Cullen (13) v Mike de Decker

Rob Cross (5) v Daryl Gurney

Dave Chisnall (12) v Gary Anderson

Peter Wright (2) v Andrew Gilding

Ryan Searle (15) v Raymond van Barneveld

Jonny Clayton (7) v Gabriel Clemens

Dimitri van den Bergh (10) v Ross Smith

Michael van Gerwen (3) v Brendan Dolan

Damon Heta (14) v Josh Rock

Luke Humphries (6) v Jose de Sousa

Dirk van Duijvenbode (11) v Kim Huybrechts

The Women’s World Matchplay also scheduled for the 23rdof July from the Winter Gardens as Fallon Sherrock defends her title.


Words: Harry Masterson and CJ Harris-Hulme

Images: PDC

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