Dave Chisnall v Shane Tichowitsch
Dave Chisnall announced his arrival as a major player on the PDC scene at last year’s World Championships, beating Phil Taylor 4-1 in the second round. Although he went on to be eliminated at the hands of Andy Hamilton at the last-16 stage, his reputation has continued to traverse an upward trend culminating in his number one ranking on the Pro Tour Order of Merit this season.
Drawn against Australia’s Shane Tichowitsch in the first round this year, Chizzy looks to have an ideal opportunity to progress. But given Chisnall’s propensity to throw in an absolute shocker of a performance from time to time – a 6-0 defeat to Wayne Jones at the Players Championship Finals a fortnight ago being a prime example – I’d stay well clear of the match odds and handicap markets for this one. The Englishman is 1.11 to win the match and 1.85 to do so with a -2,5 handicap.
Instead, let’s have a little play on the 180s market. Chisnall is one of the heaviest scorers in the game when on song, but he doesn’t hit quite as many treble 20s as his reputations suggests and often needs to be pressured into action to start flowing with the big scores. Keep the stakes small, but Under 5.5 maximums looks a good bet at odds of 2.15.
John Part v Joe Cullen
John Part is possibly the grittiest, most dogged flinger that the game of darts has ever seen. If ever there was a player that knew what it meant to win key legs at crucial junctures in matches, then it has to be the big Canadian.
The three-time world champion hasn’t had the best of years in front of the cameras, although a nine-darter in Blackpool was a highlight, but year after year he comes alive at the Ally Pally. The set-play format is ideal for Part’s game, having made a career out of winning deciding legs in sets on the biggest of stages.
He and Joe Cullen have met three times previously, with the Englishman shading it by 2-1. But they’ve never met on a stage quite as big as this one and I fully expect Part to justify his 1.48 favourite price tag.
My bet, however, is the 1.95 on this one having more than 17.5 legs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see every set go to a deciding leg here, and if Cullen can win at least one of them then we’ll sail past that threshold.
Phil Taylor v Michael Mansell
Phil Taylor begins his quest to retain the world title he last won three years ago with a relatively facile opening round match against Michael Mansell. Despite being known as a relatively slow starter in Major tournaments The Power has only once lost more than a single opening round set once since the format of this tournament switched from Group stages to straight knockout. In fact a 3-0 win for The Power is commonplace in the opening exchanges at Ally Pally.
Mansell, meanwhile, has only ever beaten the equally inexperienced Per Laursen in front of the television cameras and this should be a real walk in the park for Taylor.
Odds of 1.02 in the match Odds market indicate just how comfortable Taylor should find this one. The Power knows the importance of laying down a marker at the beginning of these championships and could quite easily whitewash the Northern Irishman here. A punt on Under 12.5 legs allows him to make two slip-ups in the match, and that looks an outstanding bet by my calculations at odds of 1.75.
Under 5.5 maximums @ 2.15 in Chisnall v Tichowitsch
Over 17.5 legs @ 1.95 in Part v Cullen
Under 12.5 legs @ 1.75 in Taylor v Mansell