Sunday, 12 August 2018

This is why van Gerwen is the GOAT

Opponent having three clear match darts at his favourite double? Hit three bulls because you can.

Wright's route on 81 does ask a question though - going treble 19 is fine, and not going the bull route is fine with van Gerwen not on a shot, but he doesn't hate tops (or, for that matter, D18), so why not go 25/bull first dart yourself?

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Melbourne and a few other thoughts

Was kind of surprised to see Cadby lose out to Whitlock in the opening round, which would have set up a mouthwatering potential clash against Michael van Gerwen, was also generally surprised at the low number of legs won overall, at least compared to the New Zealand lads the previous weekend - sure, Damon Heta edged out Kyle Anderson in his game, but outside of that and the Cadby game the six players averaged less than two legs a piece, only Ray O'Donnell (no, I don't know him either, but he seems to have had a string of alright results on the domestic circuit) managing more than two, which looks to be more down to Barney missing every single double on the board more than anything. I doubt I'll watch any of it - I didn't watch last night and tape delay really doesn't cut it when ITV4 could be showing it live instead of five episodes of Pawn Stars back to back. I may watch Smith/Cross on catchup, which Smith just edged 10-9 with a 122 out in the decider - I want to know if the 18 that Cross hit with his last dart at 50 before that was an attempt at bull or a set up. I guess it was a shot at bull (dartsdata pointed at small 18 at least), but setting up would have been so cool to see. It also had a crazy leg where both players were on double after 9 darts, oh my.

While talking about Australia, there was talk on the Weekly Dartscast this week about whether Oceania should get its own PDC ranking event. Burton and Alex were very much in favour of this, and I think it'd be a decent idea, but it would need to be thought out very carefully.

Firstly, it's a very, very crowded calendar already. I don't think you could run something like this in addition to the World Series events, I think it would have to be one or the other - keep one of the Australian ones and have the ranking event replace the other.

Secondly, the logistics would have to be a nightmare. It's one thing to invite eight big names over, who are easily making enough money from sponsorship and the game in general to be able to go halfway around the world for an exhibition. If it's a ranking event then you need to allow the PDC players in general the chance to qualify. Let's say they did it on the scale of a European Tour event - have the top 16 in Pro Tour order of merit seeded, 16 from a general PDC qualifier, and then 16 from domestic qualifiers (perhaps consider having 2-4 from an Asian qualifier to integrate the tours a bit more?) - now if you have it on the same prize scale as the European Tour, let's say that some random guy that doesn't necessarily have a huge amount of sponsorship qualifies. I don't know who, let's say someone like a Stephen Burton, Peter Jacques or Chris Quantock. Not unreasonable to say that that sort of level of player could make it, you only need to look at who comes through the UK qualifiers for the Euro Tour events, none of them bad players but none of them a household name. Are they really going to want to spend god knows how much in flights, hotels and time to draw Cadby in the first round, lose 6-1 and pick up a grand for their trouble? They're probably going to make a loss on the event unless the PDC or sponsors kick in a healthy bit of cash to compensate, either that or they have the prize fund at a level somewhere above the Euro Tour but below a major, which would be kind of ridiculous.

Finally, it would suck for the majority of the PDC's viewing audience. You either show it live at a not great set of hours (particularly for a afternoon session) or you do it on tape delay. Neither's going to be that attractive for either the audience or the sponsors.

Elsewhere in the BDO, van Tergouw managed to win the other event in Belgium last weekend. Now that's notable as the best young player in last year's FRH awards has managed to get a win at the senior level, and he's been quiet this year (apparently he hasn't been playing as many events), and he took some big scalps - the guy that knocked out Baetens the round before, Jim Williams, Mandigers and then Durrant in the final. Maybe now he'll kick on and really make an impression, but the BDO seems to be imploding - they had a cancelled event this month, there's rumours that the worlds won't be at Lakeside and they're nowhere near a TV deal... maybe imploding isn't the right word as that implies a sudden collapse, whereas the BDO's been a trainwreck waiting to happen for years. It'll be interesting to see what the new chairman who's known only as the guy that isn't Chisnall's manager will do.

I think the key thing is to make tournaments that are more attractive to viewers, and develop a connection between the players, but at the same time not go mad and try to do something huge. Personally I'd like to see them try something similar to the Premier League, albeit on a smaller, more condensed scale. I think it'd be feasible to have a ten player event coincide with a series of ladies knockouts over three nights - have four boards, one stage and three set up in a UK Open style, and stream the lot. Top four men and the top two performing ladies return to a finals day, which you could then look to get TV coverage for. It's a lot easier to get some channel to cover for one evening rather than the five bloated days that the World Trophy was. The initial nights would be pretty easy to schedule as well - something like this:

With careful fixture scheduling you can get every single mens' player on the stage of an evening as well as the ladies final. Quick race to six matches, you can get it done within three hours pretty comfortably. Having a series of three events will also allow the opportunity to get to know the players a bit more on a regular basis, it certainly doesn't help the BDO that they've got a pretty huge churn rate (be it players leaving to the PDC, becoming old or crap, etc etc) and most viewers will not watch the BDO outside of the worlds and will have no idea who 80%+ of the field actually are. Still, it remains to be seen what they do in order to try to stay relevant.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Principles of counting etc

There's been a few posts on Reddit recently discussing varying strategies for counting - some people getting it, some people missing the point, some people not even being remotely interested in anything that doesn't fit their view of what to do, so for something a bit different I thought I'd wrap up a few things that have been mentioned and a few things I've posted about before in, if not a guide to 501 strategy, more a "things to think about when playing", so without further ado, FRH's 10 part guide to not doing stupid stuff when playing 501:

1) Throw darts at whatever target maximises your chances of winning the leg

This should be obvious, but that's the whole point of the game - it's not to get high averages, it's not to get a high checkout percentage, it's not to try to keep the chance of an outshot alive throughout a whole visit, or even to set up an outshot - it's to throw the darts that give you the most chance of winning each leg. This might be conventional thinking, this might be something unorthodox, and for many players this'll just be a case of scoring as many points as possible, but look through some of the other articles I've posted and think about what you're doing.

2) If your opponent is not on a finish, score

Do not faff about trying to go for bull finishes or taking bull finishes, if you're on something like 128 just hit a straight ton or a 96, don't even think about using the 18's route, don't start on bull on 132 or 135, those sorts of things. Your opponent cannot hurt you, you have six darts at a minimum to win a leg, play as if you'll use them all, set up a proper double, don't come back needing 25 or 14 etc.

3) If your opponent is on a finish that he's not likely to get, score

It's amazing that even when pros will only check out 170 2% of the time, the other pro will start doing crazy stuff just because he might go out next time, even though he probably won't. This is clearly going to depend on the level of your opponent, if you're playing someone in the pub you need not really worry about him killing something in the 90's, but if it's going to take something remarkable relatively speaking for your opponent to check out in the next visit, then don't damage your own chances, if they hit a remote shot, good luck to them. Besides, not going for an out that may damage your chances is fun if they're interpreting it as you saying "you're not going to finish", even if you couldn't care less what he does.

4) Count early and count often

By paying attention to what you're on early in a leg you can stop yourself having problems later on. Let's say we kick off 20-19-T18 to leave 408. Start counting right now. 60 doesn't leave you a route out in six darts. 100 leaves 308, which also doesn't leave you an out in six darts unless you switch straight away and then hit three trebles, or switch later but hit two trebles first. Going for something earlier rather than later to get back on a number where straight 20 throwing will leave you an uninterrupted path to an outshot is usually a good idea. That said...

5) Be aware of your own limitations

If you're on, say, 232, don't start going for the bull last dart having started 20-20 if you're a beginner and haven't hit any significantly large outshot. Just keep hitting the bigger targets unless it's not going to cost you hugely to deviate from the 20's. As a newer player, when in doubt, just score as much as you can.

6) Look to use the bull earlier rather than later when approaching an out

This is a simple one to avoid two things - one, avoiding ending up on an outshot that'd involve a bull finish rather than a finish on a big double - if on 221, and you start two 20's, if you're good enough to have a 156 out in your locker, go bull third dart to leave it (or 131) rather than needing to hit the small bit if you do start two trebles next visit. If taking a 25 rather than 20 to cross a key figure and make your out easier it's usually best to do so, e.g. on 101 last dart you'd want to think about it to bring a single-single-double kill into play rather than being north of 80 and possibly only getting a dart at the bull when you return (and possibly a trickier cleanup if you hit 25 when going for the out). The other point is to avoid downside should you hit bull rather than 25 - if you're on, say, 141 and hit a single 20 first dart, rather than go for the bull last dart in hand, go for it now - hitting treble 20 and then bull leaves 11, if you hit the bull second dart instead to leave 71 with one dart in hand, you can now switch to 17's, 13's etc to still leave a double. If being "too good" on the last dart at bull is going to hurt you then you've gone for the bull too late.

7) Be aware of some key numbers and don't switch if it risks you not crossing them

This works both when finishing and when setting up - it's things like not going the Mervyn King route on 80, as a miss at treble 16 means you don't get down to 60 to still leave a single double out. It's also things like not doing the same on 88, so you can cross under 70 and leave a big number for bull if you need to go for it. This, of course, needs to be balanced against point one - if you've done your maths and know that you finish more often on, say, 90, by going treble 18 and then two doubles, then don't go 20's first just to leave a single darter for bull, you already know your route works better and not crossing a key number is factored into your calculations. Higher up, it's not just trying to get under 350/340, 310/300, 270/260 etc, it's also being aware of things like switching to 18's and not 19's last dart on 358. You're crossing 340 but if you go 19 you do so in such a way that even a 180 doesn't help you. It also works the other way around, like knowing to switch first dart on 271, as four 19's will leave a shot at 25 to leave an out - going 20 and leaving 251 means you need two trebles, a 25 can't help you at any point from there.

8) Your throwing style should dictate whether to split or not

If you've left something like 10 or 38, think about how your darts go into the board. The point of splitting these is to give up one dart at a double to leave an easier one, which you may waste anyway if you hit an odd numbered single going for one. By going straight at it, you only get three darts (assuming we don't hit) if you miss outside every time. If your darts go in like an Adrian Lewis or a Benito van de Pas, is it really an advantage going straight at double 19 when if you miss outside you're probably going to block the bed anyway? It's the same the other way around on double 5 if your darts go in like a Phil Taylor or Dean Winstanley. If you want to go at it, go at it properly. Of course, the other way around, go on the outside - leave a marker to work in if the marker will help you.

9) Most of these points are not set in stone

This is mostly psychological, if you think that hitting a bull out will get things going for you or unnerve the opponent, or you can't hit a certain double to save your life in a given session, then change things up if you think it'll help your game. This just leaves one last tip:

10) Advice from professionals who last played 10+ years ago is probably wrong

Well, the title of the blog should give you a clue... I feel we're a bit at the age where poker was about 15-20 years ago, where newer players were getting the point of the game (e.g. in tournaments they were not interested in concepts of "tournament life") and playing in such a better manner than the older guys that they'll start to accelerate away from everyone else. If an older commentator looks at a younger player's visit and doesn't understand why he's going a certain route, it's likely exactly that - and a part of the reason why you're in the commentary box and the newer guys are still making money at the game.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Quiet week

Nothing really much I wanted to say on the Matchplay final that hasn't already been said, it was a great performance by both players, probably not quite hitting the level of excitement that the Cullen game had, probably due to having money on that one I guess, but there you go.

We had the Auckland World Series event finish earlier, van Gerwen won it, it's really only interesting in these to see the general level of the host players, who didn't do that bad really - McGrath managed to beat Smith, which is a bit of an upset, while Robb and Hurring were able to take it to a decider and both missing at least one dart for the match, while Parry and Puha got four legs each with a 90+ average, an average Pusey also managed against Gary Anderson. Pity that Cadby didn't show due to visa issues (how does that work between Oz and NZ exactly anyway) as getting a read on him would have been good. Of the others, Harris is probably their best right now but drew van Gerwen, while Irwin's their guy at the 2019 worlds, and he lost to Peter Wright. At least it's good to see that some of the first round games were competitive, although the way things worked out it gave Barney a real free run to the final, as he got McGrath in round two and then got Whitlock while van Gerwen got Wright.

In the BDO, it looks like Durrant won in Belgium yesterday, with the Hammer hitting a nine in an early round, and he made the quarters - as did Wes Newton, who lost to eventual finalist Andy Baetens. Wayne Warren made the semis, so showing a bit of what he was doing at Lakeside, while the other semi finalist is some guy from Germany I've never heard of. That should push Hamilton up to where he's close to a Lakeside invite by the looks of things, but I'm damned if I'm going to interpret the BDO's arcane ranking system. Looks like Bruce Montgomery beat Andy Boulton in the Granite City Open last weekend, a few familiar names in the later stages in John Goldie, Brian Woods and Jim Walker.

It was also interesting to listen to the interview from Chizzy's manager in relation to the BDO chairmanship - a lot of what he says makes real sense. Their website is pretty poor and their social media isn't great, what it really needs is a sense of what they want to be. What that is remains to be seen.

The next two weekends we've got the two Australian World Series events, where Cadby should play, then a week off before the Pro Tour kicks off again with a vengeance - a Euro Tour in Germany, two midweek Players Championship events, then another Pro Tour in the Netherlands makes for a hectic ten days, with another Euro Tour events the weekend after as we get towards crunch time for the majors. Should be exciting.