Longest game of the World Cup
“Aubergine King” wins heated darts battle
By Kevin Schulte, London
12/30/2022, 12:22 p.m
The Darts World Cup is enriched by a memorable game. Dutchman Dirk van Duijvenbode beats European champion Ross Smith 4-3 in an epic thriller. The game is not only dramatic from a sporting point of view, there is a curious scene on the stage in London’s “Ally Pally”.
When Dirk van Duijvenbode used his first match dart, there was no stopping the eccentric Dutchman. The 30-year-old runs across the stage like he’s been bitten by a tarantula, waves his arms around wildly, looks in the direction of his friends, who are cheering him about ten meters below the stage and walking just as steeply. It is almost surprising that van Duijvenbode still has the strength for a jubilant scene like this after the longest and most competitive game of the 2023 World Darts Championship in London.
It wasn’t the highest-class game of this darts world championship, but it was the most spectacular. Van Duijvenbode and Ross Smith deliver an epic darts thriller over almost two hours. The Dutchman leads 1-0 and 2-1 in the sets, then Smith turns the game to 3-2. And gives his first match dart on bullseye in the sixth round. At this moment, the Englishman misses the round of 16 by a few millimeters. Van Duijvenbode uses the chance to equalize 3:3.
In the deciding leg, Smith is not impressed at first, leads to 1-0 and 2-1, but then misses three more match darts on double 20, double 10 and double 5. Van Duijvenbode pulls his head out of the noose again. 3-3 in sets, 2-2 in legs. Smith hits back to 3:2. Because in the “Decider” in World Cup games it takes two legs to win the set, the match comes to a head. 3:3, 4:3 Smith, 4:4, 5:4 Smith, 5:5.
Decision in “Sudden Death”
A game at the World Darts Championship couldn’t be more balanced, dramatic or competitive. There is usually only one game, if any, at the World Championships each year that is decided by sudden death. That day is today. At 5:5 in the final set, a single leg has to decide between victory and defeat. Ross Smith is allowed to start, a big advantage for the reigning European champion.
Smith seems to be able to take advantage of this, earning his fifth match dart overall, but misses double five again. The Dutchman is much more uncompromising, uses his first chance to win on double 20 straight away. “It wasn’t my best game. I should have led 3-1. At a certain point, as an experienced dart player, you know that this will be punished. For Luckily I was able to turn the game around. I told myself I needed this one chance to win, then I’ll take it,” said van Duijvenbode at the press conference after the game.
The ‘Aubergine King’, as van Duijvenbode is known because of his previous job on an aubergine farm in the Netherlands, was also asked in the media room at Alexandra Palace why he got Ross’ cheers after a mid-game leg win Smith aped. The Englishman acknowledged the action with an annoyed expression. “Quite simply, he said I celebrated more than he celebrated his European title in my first game here at the World Cup last week. Then today I see him go off every single 180 like it’s the first of his life “, so the explanation of van Duijvenbode.
For the world number 14. it is now against his Dutch compatriot Michael van Gerwen in the round of sixteen on Friday evening. This is the top favorite for the world title, so “the pressure will definitely be on Michael,” the “aubergine king” makes it clear. “If I lose to him, people in Holland will say: you lost to the best.”
Nevertheless, van Duijvenbode believes he has a chance against the three-time world champion, but his performance from the Smith game will not be enough. “I’m still a long way from showing my best game at this World Cup. If I do my best, I can beat any opponent. The problem is: Michael is very good at handling pressure.”
Surprise victory for Stephen Bunting
After Dirk van Duijvenbode, two Englishmen also made it into the round of 16 on the 12th day of the tournament at the Darts World Championship. Stephen Bunting surprisingly won 4:2 against compatriot Dave Chisnall. Both actors surprised the nearly 3,000 spectators in “Ally Pally” with a world-class performance. In the end, Bunting used his third match dart to win.
In the run-up to the tournament, the 37-year-old surprised everyone by saying that he could become world champion. Apart from the surprising participation in the semi-finals two years ago, “The Bullet” has not been able to convince at all in recent years. Bunting is only 21st in the world rankings. So it was very surprising that Bunting put so much pressure on himself.
Former world champion Rob Cross also withstood the pressure on Thursday. The Englishman prevailed against compatriot Mervyn King and easily won 4:1. In the round of 16, Chris Dobey, who conquered Anderson, is waiting for “Voltage”, the nickname of the trained electrician Cross. In the quarter-finals it could then continue on New Year’s Day against Michael van Gerwen. Or against Dirk van Duijvenbode.