THE 2009 Blue Square UK Open begins on Thursday night at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, with 129 players competing for £200,000 in prize money in ‘The FA Cup of Darts’.

A favourite with fans and players alike for the unique multi-stage set-up and free draw after each round, the UK Open was first held in 2003.

Both Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld have won the event twice since, while James Wade follows up his recent Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts victory by defending the Bolton title he won a year ago.

Those three will enter alongside the remainder of the top 32 seeds at the third round stage on Friday night, with the remaining 97 players competing in the opening two rounds on Thursday.

Professional players competed in a series of eight Regional Finals held around the UK in a bid to win places in the event, where they are joined by 31 amateurs who won through the free-to-enter Holsten Qualifiers.

The first round games include American Gary Mawson, the 2008 UK Open runner-up, taking on Doncaster-based amateur Darren Weaver, while former World Champion Richie Burnett meets experienced pro Alex Roy.

Anastasia Dobromsylova, the Russian former Women’s World Champion, drew Telford-based amateur Andy Roberts – with the winner then facing Steve Beaton in round two.

“I have already beaten Steve, so it would be a great opportunity for me to play him again,” said Dobromyslova. “But I can’t really think about my second game now because is Andy is a good player and I have to play him first.”

The first round also features 2004 UK Open champion Roland Scholten, who has been battling a shoulder injury for almost a year, against Derek Williams, as well as experienced star Chris Mason’s clash with another Holsten Qualifier, Steve Penney.

Three-time World Champion John Part’s clash with top-ranked Irishman Mick McGowan will open up the second round action on the main stage at Bolton.

Scottish star Gary Anderson meets Australian number one Paul Nicholson, a World Championship quarter-finalist five months ago in arguably the tie of the night.

“A lot of people have said to me it’s the hardest draw but I see it as a great opportunity,” said Nicholson.

“I’ve got him early. When players get into a tournament they tend to play better so it’s probably the best time to play Gary – if at all!

“You want to prove yourself against great players and Gary is without a double one of the best in the world.”

Wayne Mardle returns following mumps to take on either Les Fitton or Mark Cox, Holsten Qualifiers who both have experience on the big stage.

Friday’s third round will see Taylor return to action for the first time since suffering a semi-final loss to Mervyn King in the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts Play-Offs.

Taylor has been a quarter-final loser to Raymond van Barneveld at the last three UK Opens, but has hit four nine-darters in the history of the event.

“You can’t always be in good form and although I was gutted it’s not the end of the world,” admits Taylor. “I was practising well before I played Mervyn but I didn’t seem to hit form.

“Sometimes you can’t always put it right within a week or two and it might take five or six weeks.

“But I love the Reebok Stadium, it’s a great venue and seems to bring the best out of me and a lot of other players, and I’m looking forward to the UK Open.”

Taylor is 21/20 to win the UK Open with tournament sponsors Blue Square, and Wade is rated at 6/1 to retain his title.

Raymond van Barneveld is 8/1 to claim a Reebok Stadium hat-trick, with Gary Anderson at 9/1 and Premier League runner-up Mervyn King 20/1 to pick up his first major PDC title.

The Blue Square UK Open will be screened live in its entirety on Sky Sports, with play from 7pm-11pm on Thursday and Friday and from 1pm-5pm and 7pm-11pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets are still available for the Blue Square UK Open, with prices starting at £10 via 0844 871 2932 or in person at the Reebok Stadium Box Office.

Blue Square UK Open
Schedule of Play – Thursday June 4

First Round
Board One
Alex Roy (Watford, ENG) v Richie Burnett (Cwmparc, WAL)
James Barton (Bradford, ENG) v Toon Greebe (Den Bosch, NED)
Gary Welding (St Helens, ENG) v John Kuczynski (Zion Grove, USA)
Gary Mawson (North Royalton, USA) v Darren Weaver (Doncaster, ENG)
Board Two
Michael Smith (St Helens, ENG) v Dave Ladley (Scunthorpe, ENG)
Darren Latham (Heywood, ENG) v Andy Boulton (Kilwinning, SCO)
Anastasia Dobromyslova (Ellesmere Port ENG/Tver, RUS) v Andy Roberts (Telford, ENG)
Louis Blundell (Chorley, ENG) v Ian Jopling (Aldershot, ENG)
Board Three
Gary Stephens (Billingham, ENG) v Ken Mather (Little Hulton, ENG) (Preliminary Round)
Harry Robinson (Alston, ENG) v Chris Cooper (Worksop, ENG)
Roland Scholten (Den Haag, NED) v Derek Williams (Liverpool, ENG)
Dyson Parody (Gibraltar) v John MaGowan (Donaghadee, N IRE)
Phil Currie (London, ENG) v Steve Dolan (London, ENG)
Board Four
Matthew Campbell (Hindley, ENG) v Stuart Bousfield (Runcorn, ENG)
Peter Wright (Lowestoft, ENG) v Chris Hornby (Eston, ENG)
Les Fitton (Radcliffe, ENG) v Mark Cox (Swindon, ENG)
Andy Pearce (Stoke-on-Trent, ENG) v Johnny Haines (Swindon, ENG)
Board Five
Adrian Genery (Colchester, ENG) v Chris Loudon (Glasgow, ENG)
Ian Critchett (Portsmouth, ENG) v Kevin Beare (Lancaster, ENG)
Graham Usher (Scarborough, ENG) v Glen Durrant (Middlesbrough, ENG)
Mather/Stephens v Robbie Parker (Newcastle, ENG)
Board Six
Duane Garfield (Oldham, ENG) v Dave Smith (Pontefract, ENG)
Paul Cook (Swindon, ENG) v Mike Langley (Malmesbury, ENG)
Steve Evans (Pennal, WAL) v Mark Layton (Llandrindod Wells)
Par Riihonen (Stockholm, SWE) v Steve Grubb (Clandown, ENG)
Board Seven
Chris Mason (Wolverhampton, ENG) v Steve Penney (Poole, ENG)
John McGuirk (Hemel Hempstead, ENG) v Stuart Pickles (London, ENG)
Stephen Hardy (Ilford, ENG) v Coen Wiekamp (Colchester, ENG)
David Fatum (Phoenix, USA) v Paul Rowley (Shrewsbury, ENG)
Board Eight
Stuart Monaghan (Leeds, ENG) v Alan Davie (Newcastle, ENG)
Lee Williams (Hyde, ENG) v Alan Caves (Hayes, ENG)
David Smurthwaite (Middlesbrough, ENG) v Mark Jodrill (Haslington, ENG)
Joe Cullen (Bradford, ENG) v Justin Pipe (Frome, ENG)
Second Round
Board One
Mick McGowan (Balbriggan, IRE) v John Part (Oshawa, CAN)
Wayne Mardle (Romford, ENG) v Fitton/Cox
Paul Nicholson (Melbourne, AUS) v Gary Anderson (Rooksbridge, ENG)
Dobromyslova/Roberts v Steve Beaton (Leamington Spa, ENG)
Board Two
Kirk Shepherd (Birmingham, ENG) v Steve Brown (Bristol, ENG)
Nick Fullwell (Stourbridge, ENG) v Andy Smith (Studley, ENG)
Monaghan/Davie v Wright/Hornby
Tony Ayres (Billingshurst, ENG) v Cullen/Pipe
Board Three
Martyn Turner (York, ENG) v Dave Honey (Droitwich, ENG)
Jason Clark (London, ENG) v Campbell/Bousfield
Hardy/Wiekamp v Jan van der Rassel (Hoogerheide, NED)
Michael Barnard (Romford, ENG) v Steve Maish (Southend-on-Sea, ENG)
Board Four
Matt Clark (Worsley, ENG) v Roy/Burnett
Tony Eccles (Hartlepool, ENG) v Barton/Greebe
Fatum/Rowley v M Smith/Ladley
Usher/Durrant v McGuirk/Pickles
Board Five
Ken Dobson (Eston, ENG) v Paul Knighton (Crook, ENG)
Welding/Kuczynski v Parody/MaGowan
Mason/Penney v Riihonen/Grubb
Colin Monk (Basingstoke, ENG) v Larry Butler (Fairborn, USA)
Board Six
Adrian Gray (St Leonards-on-Sea, ENG) v Dave Askew (Redhill, ENG)
Scholten/D Williams v Critchett/Beare
Smurthwaite/Jodrill v Chris Thompson (York, ENG)
Blundell/Jopling v Kevin Dowling (Coventry, ENG)
Board Seven
Genery/Loudon v Robinson/Cooper
Wes Newton (Fleetwood, ENG) v Latham/Boulton
Garfield/Dave Smith v Denis Ovens (Stevenage, ENG)
Evans/Layton v Currie/Dolan
Board Eight
Cook/Langley v Mark Lawrence (South Elmsall, ENG)
L Williams/Caves v Wayne Atwood (Caerphilly, WAL)
Mawson/Weaver v Pearce/Haines
Dennis Smith (Swindon, ENG) v Mather/Stephens/Parker

ENDS

NOTES:
The third round draw will be made at the conclusion of Thursday’s second round. Draws for subsequent rounds will also be made at the close of the respective round before.

The prize fund is the largest in the history of the Blue Square UK Open, increased by £22,000 from last year to:
Winner £40,000
Runner-Up £20,000
Semi-Finalists £10,000
Quarter-Finalists £6,000
Fifth Round Losers £4,000
Fourth Round Losers £2,000
Third Round Losers £1,000
Total £200,000

The previous Blue Square UK Open champions are:
2003 PHIL TAYLOR def Shayne Burgess 18-8
2004 ROLAND SCHOLTEN def John Part 11-6
2005 PHIL TAYLOR def Mark Walsh 13-7
2006 RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD def Barrie Bates 13-7
2007 RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD def Vincent van der Voort 16-8
2008 JAMES WADE def Gary Mawson 11-7

The top 32 players from the UK Open Order of Merit, who enter at the third round stage on Friday, are:
Blue Square UK Open Order of Merit
Phil Taylor (Stoke-on-Trent, ENG)
Mark Walsh (Abbots Langley, ENG)
Colin Lloyd (Chelmsford, ENG)
Jamie Caven (Derby, ENG)
Robert Thornton (Stevenston, SCO)
James Wade (Aldershot, ENG)
Dennis Priestley (Mexborough, ENG)
Colin Osborne (Derby, ENG)
Wayne Jones (Wolverhampton, ENG)
Terry Jenkins (Ledbury, ENG)
Andy Hamilton (Stoke-on-Trent, ENG)
Mark Dudbridge (Bristol, ENG)
Alan Tabern (St Helens, ENG)
Co Stompe (Amsterdam, NED)
Kevin McDine (Irthlingborough, ENG)
Raymond van Barneveld (Den Haag, NED)
Vincent van der Voort (Purmerend, NED)
Jelle Klaasen (Breda, NED)
Kevin Painter (Daventry, ENG)
Andy Jenkins (Portsmouth, ENG)
Peter Manley (Carlisle, ENG)
Michael van Gerwen (Boxtel, NED)
Adrian Lewis (Stoke-on-Trent, ENG)
Steve Hine (Coventry, ENG)
Mervyn King (Bradwell, ENG)
Lionel Sams (London, ENG)
Ronnie Baxter (Evesham, ENG)
Mark Frost (Stoke-on-Trent, ENG)
Brendan Dolan (Belcoo, N IRE)
Barrie Bates (Bedlinog, WAL)
Mark Webster (Denbigh, WAL)
Darren Johnson (Mexborough, ENG)

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