Champion Smith Leads Ally Pally Restart

Red Dragon Darts


Defending champion Michael Smith came through a bruising match with Latvia’s Madars Razma, defeating the number 32 seed 4-1.

‘Bully Boy’ averaged 93.73 and hit 7 180s against Razma, who troubled Smith with his arrhythmic pace.

12 days have passed since Smith’s impressive opener against Kevin Doets, and perhaps it was always going to prove hard to pick up where he left off. Smith’s first set against Madars Razma was certainly shaky, with the Latvian withstanding the defending champion’s pressure, particularly in leg 3. Following the throw, it was won by Razma in a decider.

An opening out of 110 from Smith under the cosh calmed the nerves. Openings to break the Latvian’s throw would come and go, but he knuckled down to take the set 3-1 with a break in the closing leg. The defending champion was looking more up to the part.

A steady 15 darter opened up set 3 for Smith, before Razma punished some awry doubling in leg 2. Perhaps the double segments seemed that touch smaller for the Latvian, whose early brash confidence seemed more diminished. A break in leg 3 before the all-important consolidating hold of throw sealed another set for the defending champion.

With no interval to ruminate over, Razma got right back to business. An early break piled the pressure on Smith, before an easy hold left him a leg from going all-square. A fuss-free hold of throw would follow from Smith, though he remained up against in the set. Not quite. Razma would yet stumble, and Smith would clean up after a failed attempt of his own at 170. The number 1 seed was now throwing for the set and had a chance to put clear daylight between himself and his opponent. And do that he would, winning the leg to take a 3-1 lead.

Set 5 required a step up once again for Smith, and he duly delivered. After a 14-dart opener from Razma, an outstanding 11-dart leg was followed up by a 15 darter.

“I actually thought it was going in!” Smith said of the perfect leg attempt. “It summed up my performance though, it wasn’t the best but I was pleased to get over the line.”

Razma’s rhythm or lack thereof clearly disturbed Smith, something he commented on post-match to Sky’s Polly James. “He kept speeding up, slowing down and then stepping back. Every leg he was giving it too. Everything changed from how he plays on the floor and in the practice room.”

Not quite the adept performance of almost a fortnight ago, but enough to see him through.

Beginning the session, Luke Littler continued his Ally Pally rampage, defeating Matt Campbell 4-1.

The first two sets ran like clockwork for Littler, who faced a tougher struggle against Andrew Gilding in round 2 but remained a strong favourite for this one. Opportunities did come for Campbell in legs 1 and 3, but it was Littler who gained an early advantage with the whitewash.

If Campbell had got off to a poor start, things were about to get worse. A 14-darter was followed by a 12-darter completed with a 130 out. A more humble 56 checkout would leave him at the halfway mark already.

Given the Canadian had delivered one of the biggest scalps of the tournament so far in his defeat of James Wade, you might have expected sterner stuff. A first leg on the scoreboard certainly helped, before a break of throw in leg 2 with a 101 out put him on the verge of a set of his own.

If the 16-year-old needed to prove he could scrap his way through sets, this one proved it, as he took the next two legs to force a decider. And remarkably it would yet be Littler’s set, Campbell left to rue more missed opportunities.

The following set followed a similar script, Campbell now keen to make his mark and not go down without a fight. It too went to a decider, but this time it was Campbell’s to win, a perfectly placed Shanghai on 120 proving the trick.

After opening set 5 with two scores in the 140 range, Matt Campbell may well have fancied his chances of a steal. But a 164 from Littler extinguished those hopes. The Canadian would level, but after that it was Littler who did all the talking, cruising to a 3-1 win in the set and 4-1 win in the match.

Three-time world champion Michael van Gerwen put himself in a promising position for a fourth with a 4-0 rout of Richard Veenstra.

In a fluctuating market, MvG has been pinned by bookmakers as the favourite. This was certainly the performance of one. Van Gerwen kicked off set 1 with a 13 darter on double 16, before Veenstra restored parity. A 19-dart hold was followed by a highly impressive 11 darter to win the set and establish a lead he would never shed.

The second set from Mighty Mike was then nothing short of extraordinary, a 15 darter then two 11 darters following Veenstra’s opening hold of throw. The former BDO/WDF world semi-finalist may have impressed on debut, but he was to require much more to even challenge MvG on this occasion.

After conceding the opening leg of set 3, it seemed crucial that Veenstra pushed his compatriot in this stanza. And push him he did, forcing a decider in leg 4 with a 120 out and 12 darter. But it would still be the number 2 seed’s set, Veenstra failing to capitalise.

There is a deftness to which MvG plays which can make the exceptional look ordinary, and his set 4 finishing flourish was certainly along those lines. Inside 3 legs, ‘Flyers’ would be sunk. A whitewash, completed with a 130 checkout and 12 darter, offered a clear statement to the rest of the draw. Perhaps not yet the out-and-out favourite, but up there.

The tournament is being broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria & Switzerland based subscribers).

2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship
Wednesday December 27
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x Third Round
Luke Littler 4-1 Matt Campbell (3-0, 3-0, 2-3, 3-2, 3-1)
Michael van Gerwen 4-0 Richard Veenstra (3-1, 3-1, 3-2, 3-0)
Michael Smith 4-1 Madars Razma (2-3, 3-1, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1)

Thursday December 28
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x Third Round
Florian Hempel v Stephen Bunting
Joe Cullen v Ryan Searle
Ross Smith v Chris Dobey

Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x Third Round
Gerwyn Price v Brendan Dolan
Luke Humphries v Ricardo Pietreczko
Ricky Evans v Daryl Gurney


Images: Simon O’Connor/PDC

Grab a 50th Anniversary Darts World package 581 here or the current print Issue 584 here :

The Darts World 50 limited edition dart set is available to order (Here) in your choice of pack/bundle.

Darts World Extra 14: Ally Pally Special – Download or read the full version FREE


Latest articles

Newsletter Signup

Previous article
Next article

Related articles

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here