This year with Steve West, Cristo Reyes, Rob Cross, James Wilson and Christian Kist five players will give their debut in the Blackpool. Steve West, Christian Kist and James Wilson all will stand on the stage of Blackpool's Winter Gardens on the first evening of the tournament against Michael Smith, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright and all three will have not too many chances to progress. Christo Reyes will play against Robert Thornton during the afternoon session on Sunday and he will have quite a good chance to progress to round two where he would meet either Peter Wright or James Wilson. Rob Cross - this year's shooting star of the PDC - will play on Monday evening in the very last first round match against Ian White - a match difficult to predict. White didn't show in great form recently so Cross will have a chance to progress and his opponents in the second round would be Adrian Lewis or Steve Beaton - not unbeatable either.
Steve West, Christian Kist and James Wilson all switched during the last few years from the BDO to the PDC.
Kist was the surprise winner of the BDO World Championship 2012 - as one of the qualifiers. What is more Kist - out of work due to gout - at this time had only played darts full-scale for one year. He was a member of the winning Dutch team in the WDF World Cup later the year and together with Jan Dekker won the pairs event as well. Those were the highlights of Kist's BDO career and after a first round defeat through James Wilson in the BDO World Championship 2014 he announced his switch to the PDC.
Till know he couldn't celebrate big achievements in the PDC but this year he qualified for seven from the till now eight European Tour events. Beside he threw a nine-darter during the sixth UK Open qualifier this year.
Another player who defeated Christian Kist during his time in the BDO was Steve West. Kist lost to him in the last 16 of the Winmau World Masters. Englishman Steve West lives for many years already in the Netherlands where he is very popular. He played on the BDO Circuit till 2012 and qualified 2008 - 2012 for the BDO World Championship but every time lost first round. One of his tournament wins in his time with the BDO was the German Gold Cup win in 2008.
After the BDO World Championship 2012 West took part in the PDC Qualifying School and got his first Tour Card. In the same year he had hip surgery and couldn't play for some time. So in 2014 he had to enter Qualifying School again winning a one year Tour Card this time. He had to return to Qualifying School 2015 again. While West's first years in the PDC were quite unremarkable he in 2016 for the first time reached a Players Championship final but lost to Michael van Gerwen. A short time later he hit the headlines when he eliminated Phil Taylor in the first round of the World Grand Prix. 2017 he gave his PDC World Championship debut but lost first round against his former BDO colleague and good friend Mervyn King. West impresses with great matches and high averages from time to time but is not yet able to show consistently good performances all the time.
James Wilson is the third debutant on the first evening of the World Matchplay. Wilson started to play darts when he was six but only joined the BDO Circuit in 2007. It took him till 2012 till he could celebrate some success and moved to up to fourth place of the ranking. He reached the quarterfinals of the Winmau World Masters and took for the first time part in the BDO World Championship where he lost first round to Stephen Bunting. He again met Bunting in the final of the World Masters 2013 and again was beaten. Wilson got revenge by beating Bunting in the final of the Zuiderduin Masters. Wilson entered the BDO World Championship 2014 as the number two ranked player, defeated Christian Kist first round but lost despite a great performance in the quarterfinals against Alan Norris. In February 2014 Bunting switched to the PDC and Wilson moved up as the BDO number 1 but lost both in the Winmau World Masters and in the BDO World Championship 2015 first round.
On the day after his World Championship defeat he announced his switch to the PDC, took part in Qualifying School and got a Tour Card for two years. Till now he didn't win any events but he collected enough price money to qualify by the Pro Tour Order of Merit for the World Match play.
I can't imagine that one of those three debutants will win his first round match. Of course upsets happen. But Michael Smith, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright in their present from will be hard to beat. Might be should Steve West be able to show one of his great performances he will be out of the three the most likely to surprise.
In the afternoon of the second World Matchplay day Spaniard Cristo Reyes will stand for the first time in Blackpool at the oche. Reyes comes from Tenerife where English dart players like to go for their holiday. Might be that's how he came into contact with the sport. About his darting career before the PDC not much is known. In 2014 he won the Iberian qualifier for the PDC World Championship 2015 and reached the last 16 - a success he probably owes to his strength of nerves. In his first round match against Wes Newton something strange had happened. When it was 2:2 in sets and 5:5 in legs the caller forgot to let the players throw for the bull which contradicted the rules for the sudden death leg. When the mistake was realized the leg was abounded and the players had to rectify the throw for the bull and start the leg again. Reyes won the throw for the bull and won leg and match seemingly unimpressed while Newton was completely knocked out of his stride. Reyes managed to win his next match against Kevin Painter as well but then lost to Gary Anderson.
Though till now Reyes got now win on the PDC circuit he is moving up the rankings and could be a real danger for the out of form Robert Thornton in the World Matchplay. His most likely opponent in round two would be Peter Wright - probably at the moment still out of his league.
The last of this year's debutants on stage of the Empress Ballroom will be Rob Cross who is this year's PDC shooting star. Cross is 26 - the youngest of the debutants - and his career is on the upward path since last year's UK Open where he lost as an amateur qualifier under the last 32 to Michael van Gerwen. Cross after this joined the Challenge Tour and won three of the events. As top of the table of the Challenge Tour Order of Merit he got a Tour Card.
In 2017 he again took part in the UK Open and reached the fifth round and he won this year two PDC Players Championships. In the European Darts Open in Leverkusen at the beginning of this month he managed to get his revenge and defeated in high-class match van Gerwen under the last 16 6:2. After this result Cross goes into his World Matchplay debut match against Ian White even as slight favourite as White seems to be a little out of form at the moment. But of course White is much more experienced as Cross who is still collecting experience in big tournaments. Should Cross survive the first round he could be a danger for Adrian Lewis or Steve Beaton as well and might even cause an upset. But I tend to think neither Lewis nor Beaton will not be overawed by Cross.