Phil Taylor overcame a scare against New Zealand’s Rob Szabo as he opened the defence of his Ladbrokes World Darts Championship title with a 3-1 win over the qualifier on Friday night, as John Part, Peter Wright and Richie Burnett joined him in winning through to the second round at Alexandra Palace.

World Darts Championship

Prince of Wales – Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Reigning champion Taylor was left reeling when Szabo – the New Zealand national champion who had won through his preliminary round game with Ian Moss 4-3 in his televised debut earlier in the night – took the game’s first set 3-1, finishing 128 and 105 in the process.

The Kiwi also led in the second set, but missed two darts at tops to lead 2-0 in the set as Taylor took out 115 to kick-start his challenge, winning eight legs in a row before completing victory in four sets.

“It was a really tough game,” said Taylor. “I’m pleased to get through that because it was a strange game.

“Any top player would have struggled tonight because you didn’t know what Rob was going to do – he was unpredictable but he’s a very good player and he deserved to win that first set.

“I’ve got a week now until the second round and I’ll be ready for that – I can go away, and get my head down and prepare for next week.”

Three-time World Champion John Part also overcame a scare before he defeated Mareno Michels in five sets, despite the Canadian winning the first two sets 3-2.

Part also led 2-0 in the third, but Michels finished 136 as he hit back to win the set to keep his hopes alive, before punishing a miss at tops for the match from the 2008 champion in the fourth set’s decider by taking out 120 to level the game.

Part had seen Andy Hamilton claw back from 5-1 down to win 6-5 in the Players Championship Finals recently, but this time held off the fightback by winning the game’s deciding set without reply to secure his spot in the last 32.

“I made hard work of things but I managed to get the win,” said Part. “I dug in and I feel pretty good about it, but Mareno hit some pretty good shots at the right time.

“It was frustrating for me. He took out the 136 as I was about to win 3-0 in sets, and then he had the 120. It’s tough knowing that you missed a few doubles and lost a match [against Andy Hamilton] and then you’re playing in the World Championship, up two sets to nil and all of a sudden it’s two-two.

“That’s hard, but I had to exorcise the demons and I did. I hit the doubles and hopefully that puts that to rest.

“I’m not quite where I want to be and I know I’ll get there, but the good thing is that I get another chance now.”

World Darts Championship

Snakebite – Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Rising star Peter Wright, who has jumped into the world’s top 16 this year, produced a performance to match his colourful attire by seeing off Joe Cullen in straight sets.

Despite Cullen taking out 147 to level the opening set at two-all, Wright won the opener on double eight before taking the second set in a decider with a fine 121 checkout.

The Scot then sealed victory by taking out 151 on tops to win the third set 3-1 and condemn Cullen to a first round loss for a fourth successive year at Alexandra Palace.

“It wasn’t easy and I was a bit nervy to be honest, so I feel fortunate to have come through in straight sets,” said Wright. “His 147 was great and I knew he was going to get it, but I think my 121 really turned the match.

“If I had been one set each it would have been a different story. It’s good to have a win, and I can go and do some Christmas shopping now before coming back for the second round!”

The opening night’s other winner was Welsh ace Richie Burnett, as the former Lakeside Champion saw off Dean Winstanley 3-1.

Burnett edged the game’s opening two sets in a deciding leg, taking the second with a brilliant ten-dart finish, and though Winstanley won the third without replace, the number 28 seed took the fourth 3-2 to complete the victory.

“I’m over the moon with that,” said Burnett. “I was happy to get the winning double but I tried my hardest and played well, because Dean gave me a really good game.

“If I’m feeling good then I can be really good and I’ve got the game to trouble anyone, but I’ve got to be consistent. That’s the way I am but that makes me interesting – but I’m more confident now because I’ve had a win on TV for the first time in six or seven months.”

Saturday sees play continue with a double session of preliminary and first round games at Alexandra Palace, with the afternoon’s action featuring former semi-finalists Wayne Jones – who plays Kevin McDine – and Terry Jenkins, who will face either Colin McGarry or Per Laursen.

Stoke’s rising star Ian White takes on Australian Grand Prix champion Kyle Anderson, and Mark Walsh meets Finland’s Jarkko Komula.

The evening session sees two previous World Championship finalists clash as Gary Anderson meets Mark Dudbridge, with another Alexandra Palace runner-up, Andy Hamilton, playing either Spanish debutant Julio Barbero or Andree Welge.

Former UK Open Champion Robert Thornton plays German teenager Max Hopp, and Paul Nicholson is up against emerging Cheshire ace Stuart Kellett.

Ladbrokes World Darts Championship First Round Results

Friday December 13
John Part 3-2 Mareno Michels
Rob Szabo 4-3 Ian Moss (P)
Peter Wright 3-0 Joe Cullen
Phil Taylor 3-1 Rob Szabo
Richie Burnett 3-1 Dean Winstanley

Saturday December 14
Afternoon Session (12pm)
Mark Walsh v Jarkko Komula
Colin McGarry v Per Laursen (P)
Wayne Jones v Kevin McDine
Terry Jenkins v McGarry/Laursen
Ian White v Kyle Anderson

Evening Session (7pm)
Julio Barbero v Andree Welge (P)
Robert Thornton v Max Hopp
Gary Anderson v Mark Dudbridge
Andy Hamilton v Barbero/Welge
Paul Nicholson v Stuart Kellett

Preliminary Round (P) – Best of Seven Legs
First Round – Best of Five Sets

Match Information
JOHN PART 3-2 MARENO MICHELS
(3-2, 3-2, 2-3, 2-3, 3-0)
JOHN PART avoided a major scare to progress to the second round of the 2014 Ladbrokes World Darts Championship with a five-set victory over Mareno Michels.

The three-time World Champion moved into a two-set lead to open up the tournament and looked on course for a comfortable victory after taking the opening two legs of the third set.

However, the 29-year-old Dutchman, making his Alexandra Palace debut, won five legs in a row to get back into the contest before forcing a deciding set thanks to a dramatic 120 checkout, after Part had missed five chances to win the match.

But the Canadian managed to put that disappointment behind him as he won the final set without reply to end Michels hopes and confirm his place in the last 32.

“I made hard work of things tonight but I managed to get the win,” admitted the Canadian. “Mareno’s a good player and showed that on stage, and the 120 finish did leave me shocked, but I recovered well to win the final set and I’m happy to be the first player through to the second round.”

Match Information
First Set
1-0 – Michels hit a 180 only for Part to take out 60 in two darts on tops.
2-0 – Part hits a 180 of his own and lands double five to break.
2-1 – Michels wins his first leg of the match in style with a 136 checkout.
2-2 – Michels hits double 16 to win the fourth leg.
3-2 – Part hits a pressure double six at the first attempt with Michels waiting on a two-darter.

Second Set
1-0 – Michels misses the bull for a 161 finish, before wasting six further opportunities at doubles over two visits, and Part steals the leg on double top.
1-1 – Part hits a second 180 but Michels wins the leg with a two-dart 61 finish.
1-2 – Michels hits his second 180, but misses the bull for a 125 checkout before returning to post double eight with third dart.
2-2 – Part misses bullseye for 164 finish before landing double four to level.
3-2 – The Canadian hits a timely maximum and lands double eight to edge the second set.

Third Set
1-0 – Part lands double eight to take the lead in set three.
2-0 – The Canadian posts a 180 and steps in following a miss from Michels at tops to land double 16 in moving to the brink of victory.
2-1 – Michels keeps his hopes alive with a 13-dart finish, landing double 16.
2-2 – The Dutch ace takes the set to a decider by scrambling home double four to deny Part a shot at 66.
2-3 – Michels lands a 180 before winning the decider on double 12, with Part unable to finish 164 as the Dutchman takes the set.

Fourth Set
0-1 – Michels misses three darts at double 16 and eight, but Part fails to set up a double when needing 80, allowing the debutant back in to hit double eight and lead in the fourth set.
0-2 – The tension rises as both players initially miss their chance to win the leg, with Part off-target with four darts at doubles before Michels lands double two with his third dart to move two legs clear in the set.
1-2 – Michels misses five darts to win the set, and Part returns on double four to hit back with his first leg in six.
2-2 – Part hits a fifth 180 before landing double two having missed four previous chances to win the leg.
2-3 – The Canadian registers another 180 but a missed dart at tops for the match proves costly as Michels hits a 120 checkout courtesy of treble 20, double 20 and double ten.

Fifth Set
1-0 – Part makes a positive start to the deciding set by confidently landing double 18 at the first attempt.
2-0 – The Canadian hits double ten to break his opponent’s throw and move a leg away from triumph for the second time.
3-0 – Part ends Michels’ hopes as he lands double eight with a pressure third dart to progress to the second round.

ROB SZABO 4-3 IAN MOSS
NEW ZEALAND’S Rob Szabo secured a first round clash against 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor with a 4-3 victory PDPA Qualifier Ian Moss on the opening night of the 2014 Ladbrokes World Darts Championship.

Moss made a confident start to the match to win the opening leg before the 49-year-old from Wellington found his range and won the the next two legs to lead.

The New Zealander looked on course to win the fourth leg for a 3-1 lead, only for Moss to convert a 118 finish to level before the PDPA Qualifier claimed the fifth leg to move a leg away from victory.

However, Szabo held his nerve to land double five in the sixth leg after his opponent missed a dart at tops to win the match, before securing the match in style thanks to a 100 finish.

Match Information
0-1 – Moss lands a 140 to take charge of the opening leg, which he wins on double ten to break throw.
1-1 – The New Zealander finds his range to leave 45 after just 12 darts before landing double five to level.
2-1 – Szabo hits double top at the first time of asking after Moss wastes opportunties to regain the lead.
2-2 – The PDPA Qualifier takes out an excellent 118 finish with Szabo waiting on double 12 for a two-leg advatange.
2-3 – The 50-year-old from Witney wins a second leg in a row thanks an accurate attempt at double top.
3-3 – Szabo misses double ten for a 140 checkout, but Moss is off-target with one dart at double top to win the match and the New Zealander lands double five with a pressure third dart to set up a deciding leg.
4-3 – Szabo holds the advantage of throw and takes out a 100 finish on double top to secure a first round tie against Phil Taylor.

PETER WRIGHT 3-0 JOE CULLEN
(3-2, 3-2, 3-1)
PETER WRIGHT condemned Joe Cullen to a fourth successive first round exit at Alexandra Palace as he won through their first round encounter with a straight-sets win in the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship.

The world number 16, who lost to Michael van Gerwen 12 months ago, claimed a high-quality first set in the deciding leg on double eight, after Cullen produced a brilliant 147 checkout to level in leg four.

The second set fell into a similar pattern of the first as Wright once again won the in the deciding leg thanks to a 121 checkout, with his opponent waiting on a double.

Wright, who has been one of the improved players on the PDC circuit in 2013 in his rise to 16th in the world, took the first two legs of the third set and, despite Cullen taking out 76 to win the third, the UK Open semi-finalist hit a fantastic 151 checkout to seal a second round spot in style.

“I was a bit nervy to be honest and I feel fortunate to have come through in straight-sets,” admitted Wright, who ended the match with a 98 average.

“The key to win was that 121 checkout to win the second set. Joe was on a double to go one set all and if I didn’t hit that the match could have ended up completely differently.”

Match Information
First Set
1-0 – The colourful Wright starts the match confidently by recording a 13-dart finish, completed on double 12.
1-1 – Cullen hits back by taking out 71 on double 16.
2-1 – The UK Open semi-finalist regains the lead thanks to an accurate attempt at double 16.
2-2 – Cullen stuns Wright with a fabulous 147 checkout, with his opponent waiting on double 12 for the set.
3-2 – Wright hits double eight – with Cullen waiting on the same double – to claim a high-quality opening set.

Second Set
1-0 – Cullen fails to hit double seven for an 88 finish and Wright hits double 16 at the fourth attempt to break throw.
1-1 – Wright registers the first 180 of the contest but wastes three opportunities at doubles and Cullen edges the leg on double five.
2-1 – The world number 16 hits a second maximum in as many legs before landing double top to regain the lead.
2-2 – Wright is off-target with two darts at tops to win the set and Cullen makes his opponent pay as he hits double eight.
3-2 – Cullen fires in a maximum only for Wright to reply with a 121 checkout to seal a two-set lead.

Third Set
1-0 – Wright starts the set well as he hits double ten for a 14-darter.
2-0 – Cullen misses a dart at the bullseye and Wright lands double eight to move a leg away from victory.
2-1 – Cullen hits double eight to convert a 76 finish and keep his hopes alive.
3-1 – The Yorkshireman leaves 40 after 12 darts, only for Wright to take out a 151 checkout to seal the win in style.

PHIL TAYLOR 3-1 ROB SZABO
(1-3, 3-1, 3-0, 3-2)
PHIL TAYLOR came from a set down to end the spirited challenge of New Zealand’s Rob Szabo in a dramatic first round contest at the 2014 Ladbrokes World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.

The defending champion was left by stunned by his unheralded opponent, who landed checkouts of 128 and 105 to win the opening set and leave Taylor trailing.

Szabo won a fourth leg in a row at the start of the second set but two missed darts for a 2-0 lead proved crucial as Taylor hit back with finishes of 115 and 114 in the process of taking the next eight legs in a row to move a leg away from victory.

Szabo continued to fight and won the next two legs after Taylor wasted six opportunities to win the match, levelling the fourth set.

Taylor, though, wasted two more chances in the deciding leg – but Szabo was unable to take out 160 and the world number one hit double 16 to end a tricky contest.

“That was a very difficult match from the mental side tonight,” admitted a relieved Taylor. “Rob’s a very dangerous opponent and very difficult to play. I knew nothing about him coming in, which made me a little nervous approaching the game.

“I wasn’t put off when I went a set down. He produced some really good finishes and deserved the lead, but the second set was going against me and those ton-plus finishes had to go just to get level!

“I was feeling really tense in the last leg. If he took out the 160 to force a deciding set I might have gone. The relief of hitting the double 16 to end the game was huge.”

Szabo, a 48-year-old builder from Wellington said: “I really enjoyed that tonight. I was very nervous in my preliminary round game but I showed a little of what I can do against Phil and gave him a fright.

“I knew Phil wasn’t quite there early on and I took out some really good finishes to take the first set. If I managed to hit those shots at double top to move 2-0 up in the second set things could have different.

“I’ve loved the experience and I have signed dart board from Phil to take home with me. I hope to be back here again at Alexandra Palace next year.”

Match Information
First Set
1-0 – Szabo hits a 140 to settle any early nerves, but Taylor wins the opening leg on double 16 to break throw.
1-1 – The New Zealander hits back immediately as he takes out a 90 finish to level.
1-2 – Szabo lands the bullseye for a fantastic 128 finish to move ahead of the reigning champion.
1-3 – The New Zealand national champion continues his fabulous form on the finishing as he converts a 105 finish to leave Taylor stunned.

Second Set
0-1 – Szabo wins a fourth leg in a row thanks to an accurate first dart at double 19 after Taylor misses one dart at tops.
1-1 – Two missed attempts at double top from Szabo prove costly as Taylor converts a 115 finish to win just his second leg of the game.
2-1 – Szabo kicks off the leg with a 180 and leaves 47 after 12 darts, but Taylor hits a 114 finish, landing tops for the second leg running.
3-1 – Taylor produces his best leg so far as he lands his first maximum of the game and completes an 82 finish on double 16 for a 12-darter.

Third Set
1-0 – Taylor kicks off the leg with a 180, but the winning double proves elusive for the world number one as he initially misses four attempts at double five, but Szabo fails with two shots at double top and Taylor returns to land double two with his third dart.
2-0 – Taylor converts an 80 finish to break the New Zealander’s throw.
3-0 – The 16-time World Championship hits a third maximum before landing double 16 to win a sixth leg in a row and take the set without reply.

Fourth Set
1-0 – Taylor lands double 16 for the second successive leg and now looks on course for victory.
2-0 – The world number one moves a leg away from the last 32 as he hits double 16 once again.
2-1 – Szabo hits a second 180 and lands double top at the first attempt, after Taylor had missed a dart at the bullseye to end the contest.
2-2 – Taylor takes command of the leg with a 180, but four more chances to win the match go begging and Szabo hits double top with a pressure third dart.
3-2 – Taylor struggles again on the doubles as two more chances go begging, before landing double 16 to progress to round two.

RICHIE BURNETT 3-1 DEAN WINSTANLEY
(3-2, 3-2, 0-3, 3-2)
RICHIE BURNETT secured a place in the second round of the 2014 Ladbrokes World Darts Championship as he overcame the challenge of Dean Winstanley with a four-set victory.

Burnett edged the opening set after Winstanley wasted three opportunites to take an early lead, before taking the second set – which featured brilliant 11 and ten-dart finishes from the Welshman – in another deciding leg.

Winstanley, who produced one of the highlights of last year’s competition with a fantastic nine-dart finish, hit back to take the third set without reply in a little over five minutes.

The Welshman stemmed Winstanley’s flow with back-to-back 14-darters to kick-off the fourth set, before the former Lakeside Championship runner-up forced a deciding leg by taking the next two legs.

The Yorkshireman almost sent the match into a deciding set, but he hit the wire of double top for a 105 finish and Burnett took out 64 on double 16 to book a place in round two.

Match Information
First Set
0-1 – Last year’s nine-dart hero holds throw on double ten to take the opening leg.
1-1 – Burnett holds throw to take the second leg on tops.
1-2 – Winstanley misses two darts at double six before landing double three to regain the lead
2-2 – Winstanley is off-target with one dart at the bullseye, and Burnett hits double 18 at the first attempt.
3-2 – Winstanley is made to pay for two more missed chances to win the set, and Burnett completes a 56 finish on double top to steal the first set.

Second Set
1-0 – Burnett starts the second set superbly as he records two 180s in an excellent 11-dart-finish.
1-1 – Winstanley misses double 18 for a 107 finish but an error in counting from Burnett – when he finishes the wrong checkout – sees Winstanley return to hit the double at the second time of asking.
2-1 – The Welshman recovers from the mistake of the previous leg to land double four after the Yorkshireman was off-target on double ten for a 128 checkout.
2-2 – Winstanley forces a deciding leg as he hits double eight to complete a clinical 14-darter.
3-2 – Burnett kicks-off with a 180 and wins the leg on double eight for a fabulous ten-darter as he establishes a two-set lead.

Third Set
0-1 – Winstanley hits a 180 to leave 32, which he takes out at the first time of asking.
0-2 – The former Lakeside Championship runner-up hits a score of 174 to leave 32, which he converts on double eight after Burnett missed the bullseye for a 167 checkout.
0-3 – Winstanley hits double top to wrap up the set in quick time and get back into the contest.

Fourth Set
1-0 – Burnett starts the set well as he posts a sixth 180 before taking the leg on double 16 to complete a 14-dart-finish.
2-0 – The 1996 World Champion leaves Winstanley on the brink of defeat as he hits double top for another 14-darter.
2-1 – Burnett is off-target with one match dart at tops, and Winstanley holds his nerve to land double ten with his third dart.
2-2 – Winstanley keeps up the fight as he hits double ten to force a deciding leg.
3-2 – Winstanley hits the wire of double top for a 105 finish to take the set, and Burnett converts a 64 checkout on double 16 to win the match.

About The Author