Snakebite Returns for World Title Defence
With just days now before the start of the 2023 Cazoo World Darts Championship, Peter Wright will headline the opening night of action as he plays either Micky Mansell or Ben Robb in the final match on Thursday night.
The current World Number 2 edged out Michael Smith at the start of this year to claim his second world title, winning 7-5 to cap of a fantastic 2021 having also won the Matchplay six months earlier. Wright also went on to claim a Euro Tour title, beating Dimitri van den Bergh 8-6 in the Final of the German Darts Open, winning the event for the second time with his first back in 2017.
The Red Dragon star has played some remarkable games on the world stage, beating Gary Anderson with an average of 104 over ten sets in last year’s Semi Finals, to reach his third World Final. The Flying Scotsman averaged 102 himself but it was the 52-year-old who found many purple patches on the oche, reeling off the first three sets to put his compatriot straight on the back foot.
The reigning World Champion missed the recent Players Championship Finals due to family reasons but will be raring to go in North London, as he prepares for another title defence.
World Number 1 Gerwyn Price will be on the hunt for his second World Title at the Ally Pally, with the Welshman suffering a defeat to Michael Smith last year at the Quarter Finals stage in one of the games of the tournament.
The Iceman claimed two victories on the Pro Tour in 2022, beating fellow Red Dragon star Gian van Veen 8-4 in the Final of Event 29 with an average of 102.25. Price also came from 6-3 behind to beat Rob Cross in the Semi Finals of PC 7 in Niederhausen, before beating Latvian international Madars Razma 8-4 in the Final.
The former three-time Grand Slam winner also found the winning formula on the Euro Tour, winning the International Darts Open at the start of the year having beat Peter Wright 8-4 in the Final at the SACHSENarena.
The former World Champion comes into this year’s World Championship as the Number 1 seed and will face either Luke Woodhouse or Ukrainian debutant Vladyslav Omelchenko in the Second Round. Price could also face a rematch with Raymond van Barneveld in the Third Round, with the great Dutchman getting the better of him twice at the Grand Slam of Darts, a challenge the Red Dragon man would relish.
Luke Humphries has enjoyed one of the years of his darting career, claiming four Euro Tour titles in Czech Republic and Germany to top the European Tour Order of Merit, with Michael van Gerwen in second.
Cool Hand has reached the Quarter Finals three times at the Ally Pally, losing last year to Gary Anderson 5-2 having beat Rowby-John Rodriguez and Chris Dobey in the earlier rounds. The Red Dragon man’s amazing year has put him as the number five seed for the 2023 World’s, having started the year outside the top 16 on the Order of Merit.
Humphries will face either Players Championship 23 winner Keegan Brown or German star Florian Hempel, who caused a huge upset last year in knocking 2020 Matchplay champion Dimitri van den Bergh out before Christmas.
Jonny Clayton performed well at the recent Players Championship Finals, going on to reach the Semi Finals having beat European Championship winner Ross Smith and youngster Callan Rydz in the previous rounds.
The Ferret became the first player to finish top of the Premier League under the new format, earning nine points more than Michael van Gerwen with four night wins out of sixteen. The Pontyberem thrower also won on the World Series stage, dropping just two legs from his Semi Final and Final matches to win the New South Wales Darts Masters, beating James Wade 8-1 in Wollongong.
Clayton in the Second Round will face either former World Champion Steve Beaton or Danny van Trijp, who will make his debut on the World stage.
Ryan Meikle has taken his game to another level in 2022, reaching the Quarter Finals of the Hungarian Darts Open as he prepares for his fourth World Championship campaign.
The Barber after a strong year on the European Tour qualified for the European Championship Finals in Dortmund, however lost to reigning World Champion Peter Wright in the First Round. The Englishman also lost to the colourful Scot on his last outing on the World Stage, having beat German Fabian Schmutzler 3-0 in what was his first win in North London.
The 25-year-old will be in First Round action once more this year, as he prepares to face Women’s Series Number 1 Lisa Ashton in the First Round with the winner to face former Five Time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld.
Jamie Hughes will also take on his fourth World Championship campaign, having reached the Second Round as his best finish back in 2021. The Red Dragon man qualified as the 28th Seed for the competition after a fantastic 2020 campaign that saw him reach the Quarter Finals of the UK Open.
Yozza has been consistent on the Pro Tour stage, including an average of 108 in beating Belgian Brian Raman 6-3 in the Last 16 of Players Championship 19 before being beat by fellow RD man Luke Humphries in the Quarters despite scoring over a ton throughout.
The 36-year-old will face the Dutchman Jimmy Hendriks in the First Round, with a clash against Players Championship 21 winner Brendan Dolan awaiting the winner in Round 2.
Richie Burnett secured his spot at the Ally Pally in the nick of time, edging out fellow Red Dragon man David Evans 7-3 in their decisive match at the Barnsley Metrodome, a venue well known for the PDC Pro Tour events.
The Prince of Wales won the BDO World Championship back in 1995 having beat Raymond van Barneveld 6-3 in a year where he went into the tournament as the second seed. The 55-year-old qualifies for the Ally Pally having earnt his tour card back in January, going through Q School in Wigan.
Burnett will face Czech Republic International Adam Gawlas who recently played at the Grand Slam of Darts in the First Round, with the winner to face 16th seed Ryan Searle.
Robert Owen goes into his World Championship debut this year, having qualified through the Challenge Tour after finishing second on the Order of Merit over the 24 events played.
The Welshman impressed at the return of the Red Dragon Champion of Champions, reaching the Semi Finals having lost to eventual winner Alec Small 2-0 at the Depot in Cardiff. The 38-year-old beat 2012 BDO World Champion Christian Kist in the Final of Challenge Tour 16 5-2, having got the better of Red Dragon man Robert Thornton in the Semi Finals.
Owen will face a difficult First Round clash against Andrew Gilding with Goldfinger reaching two Finals on the Pro Tour and one Final on the Euro Tour in 2022, with the winner to face 12th Seed Dave Chisnall in Round 2.
The 2023 Cazoo World Darts Championship kicks off on the 15th of December live on Sky Sports with Red Dragon star and reigning World Champion Peter Wright headlining the opening night at the Palace.
By Harry Masterson