The Old Guard Has The Last Laugh

Much of the chatter going into this World Championship was centered around the up and coming stars and those who had thrived during lockdown or ‘bubble events’.

Surely Jose de Sousa would finally thrive at the Alexandra Palace? Could Dimitri van den Bergh be a dark horse for the crown? These and other similar remarks were grist to the pundit’s mill, probably the bookies as well.

But, the World Championships is not like any other event. The title, the prestige, the history, and the prize money (and ranking points) create a set of variables that no other event comes close to matching.

Instead, it’s been those with long and distinguished records that have thrived. Players who know how to win again without using too much energy. Those who manage themselves over three weeks and produce what is needed at a given moment. These are the old-school pros who have shone through in the 2021 event.

Dave Chisnall’s demolition of MVG was simply the coming together of factors that gave Chizzy the best chance he has had in years to reach the semi or even continue further.

Michael was coming off the back of a crunching contest with Joe Cullen, Dave has scoring power that can pressure anyone, and there was no crowd noise or external pressure. As Paul Nicholson once said to me, of Chizzy, “the guy is a 180 machine”.

Gary Anderson has wound himself up nicely and often thrives in such circumstances. Look back to July and how he did similar at the World Matchplay. Grumbling about his darts, his grip, the set up and many other things, seemed to focus the Scotsman and help him develop something of a siege mentality. He is doing the same here at Alexandra Palace.

Despite not being a member of the ‘old guard’ by the length of service Gerwyn Price also benefits from all the same experience. He had played well and won trophies with and without crowds and whether they have been with him or not. After his run to the semi here last year he has simply gone about his business this year.

Doing enough to win each match and never looking too concerned. The former rugby star’s remarks, to Darts World, this summer are worth another look. The Iceman made it quite clear that he regarded the Premier League and World Series events as nothing more than free practice and that it was the big Autumn/Winter majors he was after.

Meanwhile quietly moving through the draw has been one, Stephen Bunting. Many seem to have written of the Liverpool ace and it’s been a mystery to those of us who know how good he is and that he has been steadily getting back to that place for some time now. Here at the World’s, he is putting together a superb run.

The Liverpudlian’s draw has suited him down to the ground, no easy opponent but none that do anything unexpected either. The Bullet has simply concentrated on producing his best available effort each time and it’s worked. No live crowd and a less stressful experience is particularly useful for Stephen, who is a sensitive soul, whose equilibrium is being strongly helped by the consistency of his 2021 experience.

Other old guarders have had strong events, and dealt swiftly with rising stars, making life easier for some of their fellow seasoned pros. Merv King despatched Jose de Sousa with aplomb and Joe Cullen, despite still being thought of as a youngster, finally, produced a run here.

Those of the rising star description have only shown up in flashes. Devon Petersen looked strong but faded badly against Anderson, similar can be said of Ryan Searle and Gabriel Clemens, although the German Giant was always going to react to dethroning Peter Wright.

The few genuine newbies to perform have also flattered to deceive, with Jason Lowe’s efforts being the highlight. The Cradley Heath thrower lived up to his unflappable reputation and showed he is capable of doing serious damage. If he stays as engaged as he has seemed this year he could have a fine late-blooming career.

In Anderson, Bunting, Chisnall and Price we have semifinalists who all over 35 and have been to, at least, a semi-final previously. Two have claimed World titles, another is a multiple major winner whilst Chizzy has won major BDO trophies and reached multiple Premier event finals. In short, the old guard who just play their own game and are less reliant on other factors have risen quietly (except Gary!) to just where you would expect them to be.

Unless of course, you bought the ‘changing of the guard’ story that the punditocracy has been peddling.

Lead Image: L Lustig (PDC)

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