VAN GERWEN & WHITLOCK SET UP BETVICTOR WORLD MATCHPLAY SEMI-FINAL
World Champion van Gerwen, the pre-tournament favourite with sponsors BetVictor, came through a see-saw battle with number nine seed Dave Chisnall 16-12 as he moved through to the last four in Blackpool for a second successive year.
The Dutch star trailed 3-0 early on as Chisnall made a superb start, only for the world number one to hit back to level - despite Chisnall hitting seven perfect darts in the game^s fifth leg.
Van Gerwen then moved ahead for the first time at 5-4, and though Chisnall broke back to level, he then finished double 16 before taking out 130 to defy two 180s from the Englishman in leg 12 as he took a 7-5 cushion.
The next four legs were shared to leave van gerwen 9-7 up, before Chisnall stole the next on double four before levelling with a stunning 11-darter - hitting two 180s to van Gerwen^s one and then taking out 96.
A further four maximums were hit in the next two legs as the pair again traded 180s, and a later 81 finish from Chisnall was cancelled out by a 126 bull checkout from van Gerwen as he levelled at 11-all.
The duo were then matched with double top finishes to remain locked at 12 legs apiece, but van Gerwen struck the game^s key blow in the 25th leg with a brilliant 129 bullseye finish to break and move 13-12 up.
He then hit tops to create some breathing space and took out legs of 14 and 13 darts to complete a superb victory.
"It was an amazing game and I^m proud of my performance," said van Gerwen. "Dave tested me but I produced some great darts at the right moments, especially the 129 finish to go 13-12 up.
"Dave was fantastic and he put me under pressure at the start but I came back very strongly and I thought I dominated the game and was the better player after that.
"I knew I had an extra gear, but fair play to Dave because he played some great darts. He never gives anything away and that makes it even sweeter to win this game.
"I^ve never won this tournament before and that^s my aim this week, but this win means a lot to me and I^ve got to focus on the semi-final now."
Chisnall was also defeated by van Gerwen in last year^s quarter-finals in Blackpool, and admitted: "The last session killed me off and I have to work on the longer format because I ran out of steam.
"I could have been 5-0 up at the start but Michael^s the world number one and I knew I^d have to dig in. He hit a lot of bull finishes and was great on that tonight.
"I enjoyed it, though, and it^s more experience for me on the big stage. It^s been a good tournament for me and I^ve battled hard."
In the night^s other quarter-final, Australian ace Whitlock had to come from four legs down for the second successive match as he gained revenge for a narrow defeat to Wade at the same stage.
Wade, the 2007 champion, stormed out of the blocks with a thrilling start as he opened the game with a 180 in a 13-darter, broke Whitlock in leg two and also took the next two legs to move 4-0 up with an average around 110.
Whitlock kick-started his challenge with seven perfect darts in the fifth leg, missing out on a possible nine-darter but taking the leg in 13 darts on tops to get off the mark.
He also took the sixth leg before Wade scored 180 and 174 in a superb 13-dart leg to move 5-2 up - only to see the former European Champion storm into the lead by taking the next seven legs without reply.
The run included back-to-back 14-dart finishes and a key 126 checkout on the bull for a 12-darter in leg 13, as Wade waited on 24.
The left-hander produced a 12-darter of his own to stem the tide at 9-6, but Whitlock finished 74 and double eight as he moved five legs clear of the former champion.
Wade won three of the next four legs as he pulled back to 12-9 to threaten a comeback, but Whitlock steadied any nerves by hitting tops and then took out a key 110 checkout to break and move 14-9 up.
The Australian then landed his tenth 180 of the game as a 14-darter moved him to the brink of victory, with Wade punishing one missed double for the match in the next to land tops only for Whitlock to hit two 180s in another 14-dart leg to seal his semi-final spot.
"I feel fantastic," said Whitlock, who previously reached the semi-finals in 2010 in Blackpool. "I had a mission in my mind tonight - I lost a close game to James last year and I wanted to get some revenge over that, and I did.
"I was very focused tonight and even at 4-0 down I was confident I could come back. I was 4-0 down against Raymond van Barneveld and 4-0 down here, but I^ve got a big heart, I never give up and I^ll always fight all the way.
"I believe in myself and I^m playing my best darts for four or five years, and I^m really confident at the moment. My confidence is sky high and I^m a different Simon Whitlock to four years ago, much more experienced.
"I want to win another major this year and I^m on course to do that, but I^ve got to take one game at a time. You^ve got to increase your game in every round and hopefully I can play a little bit better in the semi-finals, but my game is very good at the moment."
Wade conceded: "The first five legs were easy, but after that he played far better than me and that^s why he won.
"Simon^s such a stern, stubborn and solid player and he blew me out of the pond. He played better than me on the night and it was one of those games where it just wouldn^t happen for me."
The quarter-finals conclude on Friday night, with reigning champion Phil Taylor - who hit a stunning nine-darter in his second round win on Wednesday - facing Fleetwood^s Wes Newton and world number three Adrian Lewis taking on former Premier League champion Gary Anderson.
Following the opening two quarter-finals, van Gerwen and Taylor are now the 6/4 joint-favourites with sponsors BetVictor, with Adrian Lewis 6/1 to win the title, Whitlock rated at 8/1, Anderson at 10/1 and Newton 66/1.
BetVictor World Matchplay
Thursday July 24
James Wade 10-16 Simon Whitlock
Michael van Gerwen 16-12 Dave Chisnall
Friday July 25
Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
Gary Anderson v Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor v Wes Newton
Quarter-Finals - Best of 31 legs
* Each game must be won by two clear legs, with up to a maximum of five additional legs being played before the sixth "extra" leg is sudden-death.
James Wade v Simon Whitlock
0-0 - James Wade wins the bull and will throw first.
1-0 - Wade opens the game with a 180 and adds a 134 score before hitting tops for a 13-darter.
2-0 - Whitlock kicks off the leg with a 180 but is punished for a missed dart at double ten as Wade finishes 81 on double 12 to break.
3-0 - Wade fires in a second 180 before landing tops to win a third leg.
4-0 - The 2007 champion breaks throw again by finishing 71 on double ten.
4-1 - Whitlock sets up a possible nine-darter with two 180s before adding a seventh treble 20, only to miss the treble 15 on the 141 combination. However, the Australian returns to finish tops for a 13-darter to claim his first leg.
4-2 - Whitlock lands a 180 to leave 40, and takes out double ten to continue his revival.
5-2 - Wade opens with a 180 and also scores a 174 during the leg, before hitting tops for a 13-darter.
5-3 - Wade misses a dart at tops to finish 78, and Whitlock takes out double ten to punish the miss.
5-4 - Whitlock adds a fifth 180 before returning from a missed bullseye - to finish 121 - to return on double eight.
5-5 - Whitlock fires in a 165 score to leave 44 before levelling the game on double 16 - winning a fifth leg in the last six.
5-6 - Whitlock opens with a 180 and maintains his momentum by winning a fourth successive leg, breaking throw on double nine to lead for the first time in the match.
5-7 - Double ten sees Whitlock move two legs clear.
5-8 - Whitlock opens with 140 and 180 before producing another hammer blow, taking out 126 on the bull to break throw again, with Wade waiting on 24.
5-9 - Whitlock wins a seventh straight leg - and his ninth in the last ten - as he finishes a third-dart double 16 to leave Wade once again waiting on a finish.
6-9 - Wade finishes 81 on double 13 to produce a 12-darter as he claims his first leg in eight.
6-10 - Whitlock takes out 74 on tops to win his tenth leg of the game.
6-11 - Both players initially miss the bull for ton-plus finishes - Whitlock on 170 and Wade on 124 - before the Australian returns on double eight to move five legs clear.
7-11 - Whitlock misses tops for a 114 finish, and Wade finishes 64 to hit back.
8-11 - Whitlock opens with his ninth 180 of the game, but Wade takes out double ten to reduce the gap to three legs.
8-12 - Whitlock initially misses double 16 and eight, but Wade wires double 14 for a 108 checkout to allow the Australian back in on double four.
9-12 - Wade cuts the gap once more by landing double top.
9-13 - Whitlock restores his cushion by pinning double top.
9-14 - Wade fires in his fourth 180 of the game - and his first since leg seven - but misses a dart at tops to allow Whitlock in to snatch a 110 finish to break throw.
9-15 - Whitlock lands his tenth 180 of the match before hitting double top for a 14-darter to move a leg away from the final.
10-15 - Whitlock misses double top for a 116 finish to complete the win, and Wade hits the same bed to keep his hopes alive.
10-16 - Whitlock lands two 180s in the leg before hitting double ten to secure his semi-final place.
Michael van Gerwen v Dave Chisnall
0-0 - Dave Chisnall wins the bull and will throw first.
0-1 - Chisnall takes out 81 on double 13 to claim the opening leg.
0-2 - The St Helens ace breaks throw on tops to double his lead.
0-3 - van Gerwen bursts his score on 16 - hitting double 16 instead of double eight - to allow Chisnall in to finish 77 on tops.
1-3 - Chisnall misses three darts to take out 40, and van Gerwen powers in a 145 checkout to get off the mark.
2-3 - Chisnall opens with two 180s to set up a possible nine-darter, and hits a seventh treble 20 before missing the treble 15 on his 141 combination - matching Simon Whitlock in the evening^s opening game. Van Gerwen replies with a 180 to leave 44, and when Chisnall misses two darts at tops, the World Champion posts double eight to break and reduce the gap to one leg.
3-3 - van Gerwen fires in a 171 score before landing double eight to level the contest.
3-4 - Chisnall regains the lead by finishing 61 on double 18 to win his first leg in four.
4-4 - Double nine sees van Gerwen level.
5-4 - van Gerwen lands his second 180 of the contest before breaking throw on double 16 to lead for the first time.
5-5 - Chisnall breaks back immediately to level by finishing a tricky third-dart double 19.
6-5 - van Gerwen breaks throw again on double 16 to move back ahead.
7-5 - Chisnall lands two 180s to leave 41 after nine darts, but can only watch on as van Gerwen takes out 130 on the bull.
7-6 - Chisnall hits back on double top.
8-6 - van Gerwen takes out 76 on double eight to move two legs clear.
8-7 - Chisnall fires in a 180 before finishing 75 to reduce the gap.
9-7 - van Gerwen scores 123 and 177 before landing double 11 to regain his cushion.
9-8 - The Dutchman misses darts at double top and ten to win the leg, allowing Chisnall in to finish 68 on double four.
9-9 - An amazing leg sees Chisnall hit two 180s to van Gerwen^s one, and when the World Champion misses tops for an 82 finish, the St Helens man finishes 96 for an 11-darter.
9-10 - The pair again trade 180s before Chisnall finishes 81 on double 12 for a 12-dart leg.
10-10 - Both players hit 180s - taking the tally to seven in three legs - before van Gerwen breaks back to level with a 12-darter on double 16.
10-11 - van Gerwen posts another 180, but Chisnall takes out 81 once again as he moves back ahead.
11-11 - van Gerwen opens with 177 and 140 before checking out 126 on the bullseye for a third ton-plus checkout of the game.
11-12 - Chisnall takes out 64 on tops.
12-12 - van Gerwen posts tops, for a 70 finish, as he levels.
13-12 - The duo trade 180s once more - Chisnall with his tenth of the game - before van Gerwen breaks by checking out 129 on the bull.
14-12 - Tops sees van Gerwen move two legs clear as he edges towards the semi-finals.
15-12 - van Gerwen lands his eighth 180 of the game before returning from a missed bullseye to finish double eight in moving to the brink of victory.
16-12 - van Gerwen misses double 14 for a 148 checkout to claim the win, but returns on double seven to secure the win with a 13-darter.