It was very foggy when I walked up to the Alexandra Palace on my first "long" day of darts. The venue gain looked almost booked out while once again the press room was quite empty. That had been different during the last years, especially when on days when players like Michael van Gerwen stood on stage. Instead you can find more Germany in the press room this year. I've already talked to journalist from "Sportbild" and the "Süddeutsche" and today Patrick and Kevin from a German darts forum turned up as well.
Even before the afternoon session started on the stage of the Alexandra Palace the JDC final took place. The winner of that final - sadly without spectators and not in front of the TV cameras - was young Dutchman Maikel Verberk who defeated the winner of the JDC European Championship Jim Moston with 4:0.
The World Championship day again begun with a Preliminary Round match - between Masumi Chino from Japan and Tengku Sha from Malaysia. The Japanese appeared with a large content of flags and supporters, but the very slim and tall Chino from the beginning looked like the weaker player though he was cheered loud by the crowd. It looked the first set none of the two players really wanted to win till Chino finally hit the double. But in the other two sets it was "clear advantage" for Sha, who this year won one of the World soft-dart tournaments. Sha won 2: and will meet in the last match of the afternoon Benito van de Pas. Should van de Pas have one of his weaker days Sha could have a chance. You can see more recently that the so called exotics start to make and impact and are no longer only cannon fodder.
Next on stage were Terry Jenkins and Josh Payne and for Josh it was his debut in the Alexandra Palace though it didn't look like it and he was very well to keep up at least in the first set which he won after both players had missed several doubles. But one could see as well that Jenkins is a cool customer even when not all goes according to plan. High sores of his opponents don't impress him he just goes on playing his own game. Nevertheless in the fourth set Payne almost managed to level when Jenkins couldn't hit his double. But probably his nerves let him down and Jenkins won the match 3:1.
In the third match with John Henderson and Andrew Gilding two heavy weights came on stage. You didn't hear much of either player this year and they seemed to be quite evenly matched. Henderson first had a slightly better average and a slightly better quote on the doubles but all was pretty close. As always Gilding's strange throwing action fascinated me - he first poses himself sideways, takes a deep breath, sometimes he bops and then he turned his upper body so that he faces the board. And of course he stands far left at the oche - really unusual. Of all things this was the first match of the tournament which was decided in a sudden death leg.it was far from compelling as both players seem to lack stage presence and spirit.
In the end Gilding won and together with him the first spectators left the hall as well and so missed the last match of the afternoon-session. Benito van de Pas really had some problems with Malaysian Tengku Sha. It looked like Sha had no nerves at all, while van de Pas, as he admitted after the match, had been very very nervous as he felt all people awaited he would win the match despite him being a still young and not really experienced players who is still learning the ropes. As he told he had to fight as well because the match between Gilding and Henderson took such a long time. So the young Dutchman was quite glad he could rely on his doubles which helped him to win the match 3:1. But you can't say his opponent looked too unhappy when he left the stage - he had played to solid matches during his first PDC World Championship and could go home with his head held high.
Due to the over time of the Gilding/Henderson match the break between the two sessions was rather short and I just managed to it some bits before the evening session begun with another Preliminary Round match. This time we did see Malaysian Tengku Sha and Canadian Ross Snook on stage and it was till now the weakest of the Preliminary Round matches especially because Canadian Snook had a rather bad day at the oche. I think he's a much better player. Otherwise to be sure he wouldn't have beaten in the North American qualifier all the big names .Snook managed to improve a little bit in the second set but Viljanen stayed the stronger player and now will play in the last match of the evening against Michael van Gerwen. I would say of how I saw him play over the years he'll have no chance at all.
In the second match of the evening with Dimitri van den Bergh another dancer came on stage and he first dominated the match against Reyes. But after van den Bergh had won the first set Reyes got stronger and stronger. Van den Bergh put up as much resistance as possible and levelled 2:2. The deciding set the two stayed head to head throughout, but in the end van den Bergh lost 2:3. It looked like he was close to tears.
The third match almost ended in a Sudden Death leg again but somehow in the end Darren Webster managed to win the two clear legs he needed for the win. It definitely was a thrilling match, even more thrilling then the one before. And in all it was a deserved win - Webster had the higher average, he hit his doubles better and he threw more 180s then Bunting. But though one couldn't call it an upset it was at least a surprise and Bunting will slide down the rankings even more .he really can't say 2016 was a great for him.
You can't say much about the last match of the evening - Michael van Gerwen played a high-class match which he won 3:0 with the so far highest average of the tournament. In this case the Preliminary Round winner really only was cannon fodder.
The fog had lifted a little bit when I left the Venue. Instead the police had appeared. I am not quite sure what had happened and I didn't bother to ask but several drunken dart fans where in the middle of the street and all the traffic had been stopped. I visit the World Championship since 2008 but it was the first time I saw a police action.And that of all things when the Dutch minister of health and the Dutch ambassador had come to the Alexandra Palace to support Michael van Gerwen and Benito van de Pas.