The BDO World Darts Championships get under way this weekend and our Chris Hammer attempts to pick the winners of both the men's and women's titles.
Recommended bets: BDO World Darts Championship
- 1pt Richard Veenstra at 9/1
- 1pt Wesley Harms at 10/1
- 0.5pts Harms v Veenstra final at 25/1
- 0.5pt e.w. Wayne Warren at 28/1
- 0.5pts e.w Paul Hogan at 40/1
- 0.5pts e.w Laura Turner at 40/1
- 1pt Anastasia Dobromyslova at 9/1
A new era of the BDO World Championships away from the Lakeside begins this weekend but poor ticket sales, a huge slash in prize money and the subsequent withdrawal of Queen of darts Fallon Sherrock have overshadowed the build-up.
And of course it never helps being staged hot on the heels of the PDC's extravaganza, where Sherrock was among those to produce history-making storylines and provide millions of fans around the world with high-quality darting drama.
It speaks volumes that by just walking through the doors of the Alexandra Palace ahead of her first-round match with Ted Evetts she earned about the same as she would have by becoming the ladies champion.
There's not one darts fan who has their finger on the pulse of the game away from the bright lights of the PDC who will have been shocked by any of these developments after another difficult year for the organisation but it’s no less saddening.
That said, the early pictures of the tournament's new venue - the Indigo at the O2 - do at least look eye-catching and while many will miss the familiarity of the tournament's spiritual home, now is not the time to look back.
There's two tournaments to be won...
BDO Men's Tournament
Obviously there's no Glen Durrant to dominate the betting - and indeed the tournament - this year after he sailed successfully off into sunset following his third successive Lakeside crown 12 months ago.
Duzza wasn't the only player from last year's line-up to earn PDC Tour Card at Q School, as 2018 runner-up Mark McGeenery, Jamie Hughes, Conan Whitehead and Scott Baker joined him in the big league although it was a huge surprise to see both Jim Williams and Scott Waites and miss out.
I tipped them both at 25/1 each-way for world title glory - just like McGeeney the previous year - only for the eventual history-making champion to end their dreams in the semi-finals and final respectively. Unsurprisingly, they're not available at those prices this time but with Durrant out of the equation, there's plenty of other contenders with eyes on the prize.
- (1) Wesley Harms v Andreas Harrysson/John O’Shea
- (16) Scott Waites v Martin Adams
- (8) Willem Mandigers v Michael Unterbuchner
- (9) Scott Mitchell v Leighton Bennett
- (5) Wayne Warren v Thompson/Williams
- (12) Andy Hamilton v Herewini/Stainton
- (4) Dave Parletti v Chris Landman
- (13) Gary Robson v Chaney/Hazel
You don't need me to tell you this is a ridiculously tough section of the draw to call.
And what's particularly remarkable is that 14-year-old Leighton Bennett is the tournament's sixth favourite - with some bookies - despite being in the top quarter of death!
Last year's Youth champion is the youngest ever player to qualify for the senior draw after a quite incredible year which has seen him climb inside the BDO world top 20, dominate the Junior Darts Corporation and beat Phil Taylor in an exhibition event in Germany having also given him a run for his money inside the Tower of London.
Former champion and this year's English Masters winner Scott Mitchell is going to be pretty worried about the prospect of entering the history books in defeat although there's certainly no disgrace losing to someone who will win a host of big majors by the time he's, well, 16?!
The absolute dream for a darts purist is for Bennett to end up facing the legendary Martin Adams, who is back on the World Championship stage after his run of 25 consecutive appearances was ended ahead of the 2019 edition.
But the three-time champ, who won the first of his three Lakeside crowns aged 50 back in 2007, has a stinker of a draw against the 2019 runner-up Scott Waites.
The 2019 runner-up has done is usual thing of enter just a selection of tournaments yet still do enough to qualify because he's just that good - so ignore his lowly seeding of 16 and pay more attention to the fact he's second favourite.
After the disappointment of missing out on a PDC tour card, he won the Isle of Man Open thanks to a crushing victory over Richard Veenstra while he also went all the way to the final of the World Masters but his hopes of lifting the prestigious trophy for a second time were ended by John O'Shea.
The Irishman, who nearly quit the sport due to leg pain before upsetting the odds in dramatic fashion with a run that few would have predicted, could face Waites in round three if he gets past Andreas Harrysson and then the top seed Wesley Harms.
Then there's eighth seed Willem Mandigers floating dangerously and last year's semi-finalist Michael Unterbuchner, who is hoping to recapture the form that helped him do so well at the 2018 Grand Slam of Darts.
Did I say this was a tough section?
I expect the winner of a potential clash between Harms and Waites to go all the way to the final so I'm going to take a chance on the Dutchman at 10/1 for the title.
Harms has never actually reached a BDO major final, let alone win one, while the last of his two runs to the last four of BDO World Championships was back in 2013.
The 35-year-old endured a few tough seasons since then struggled to show his best form at the Lakeside - so he'll no doubt be one of those players pleased to see the back of it and hope a change in setting and atmosphere inspires a new vibe in his game.
Harms enjoyed his best ever season in 2019 by winning seven titles, reaching three other finals and the latter stages of many others - it's now time for him to back this all up on the biggest BDO stage of them all.
Those who watched the Grand Slam of Darts will remember he crashed out with three defeats but he did at least average near a ton in a narrow 5-4 loss against Ian White to show everyone a glimpse of what he can do.
Now in terms of a big-priced contender in this top half, I'm going into the second quarter where Wayne Warren looks a tasty price at 28/1.
At 57, the Welshman is one of the most experienced players in the draw although it's only relatively recently that he's become a major threat in the BDO.
In 2018 he reached the quarter-finals of the World Championship, World Masters and Zuiderduin Masters and he's followed that up with another impressively consistent season to climb up to five in the world.
Warren won the Antwerp Open and was also runner up at the England Open and England National Championships, losing to Williams and Harms respectively.
It's a relatively softer quarter of the draw he finds himself in although former PDC World Championship finalist Andy Hamilton may have a few admirers at 40/1 ahead of his second appearance in this event as he continues his quest to climb back up the darting ladder.
The 51-year-old has yet to land a title since joining the BDO circuit in April 2018 and although there's been some encouraging performances at points I think it would take a little leap of faith to expect him to go the distance here. But what a sensational story it would be if he did.
- (3) Richard Veenstra v Pascaru/Hood
- (14) David Evans v Cameron/Fullwell
- (6) Nick Kenny v Dennie Olde Kalter
- (11) Mario Vandenbogaerde v Sebastian Steyer
- (7) Martijn Kleermaker v Gino Vos
- (10) Adam Smith-Neale v Hogan/Raman
- (2) Jim Williams v Gary Stone
- (15) Ryan Hogarth v Tricole/Montgomery
Jim Williams backers will be pretty relieved to see him in a relatively softer half of the draw and he'd be mightily disappointed not to reach his maiden World Championship final.
His good friend Glen Durrant knocked him out in the 2018 quarter-finals and the 2019 semi-finals en route to his second and third titles so it's no surprise to see him just 13/8 to go one step further this year.
The talented Welshman, who was on my staking plan 12 months ago at 25/1, is 3/1 favourite for the title and it's easy to see why.
Williams had a pretty tough time in the immediate aftermath of that 6-3 defeat to Duzza as he made a mess of Q School before suffering some early exits until a run to the German Masters semis.
In recent months he's won the BDO World Trophy and the English Open, beating the likes of Richard Veenstra, Warren and Harms while he was runner-up at the Welsh Open and reached the semi-finals of the British Open.
Williams got blown away by Michael van Gerwen in the Grand Slam of Darts but he recovered to beat Ross Smith before a narrow defeat against Adrian Lewis, averaging over 90 in both as he gained more experience of the PDC's big stage environment.
However, for better value I'm going to select Richard Veenstra at 9/1 and Paul Hogan at 40/1 in this half.
Just like his compatriot Harms, the talented 'Flyers' is still searching for his maiden major title in the BDO but he's come mightily close in the past couple of the seasons having reached the finals of the 2018 Zuiderduin Masters and the 2019 World Trophy, losing to Durrant and Williams respectively.
His awful performances at the Grand Slam of Darts, in which he averaged in the 70s twice and lost all three matches by an aggregate of 15-3, could well put prospective backers off but he's definitely a lot better than that.
The fifth seed bagged three titles in the past 12 months - matching his tally of 2018 - as well as reaching two other finals aside from the World Trophy so he'll have no shortage of confidence.
Finally, I've got to advise a small each-way punt on 'Crocodile Dundee'.
A two-time quarter-finalist in years gone by, the 56-year-old from Dudley came agonisingly close to ending Durrant's three-year title run before it even began in 2017 when leading 3-0 before collapsing to a 4-3 defeat while he's also built a reputation for causing no end of shocks in the PDC's UK Open when qualifying as a Riley's 'Amateur' Qualifier.
That same year - in which he also enjoyed a nine-darter to win the British International Championships - he sensationally beat both Gary Anderson and Adrian Lewis at the UK Open before losing to eventual runner-up Gerwyn Price while in 2018 he stunned Michael van Gerwen's conqueror Jeffrey de Zwaan before a 10-9 defeat to Price again.
Hogan is a canny operator and shouldn't be underestimated. At last year's World Masters he lost to Scott Waites 3-2 in a high-class match in which both players averaged in the mid 90s - well above the tournament's mean - so hopefully he can spring some surprises.
BDO Women's Tournament
- (1) Lisa Ashton v Paula Jacklin
- (8) Lorraine Winstanley v Casey Gallagher
- Vicky Pruim v Corrine Hammond
- (5) Deta Hedman v Laura Turner
- (3) Aileen de Graaf v Kirsty Hutchinson
- (6) Beau Greaves v Tori Kewish
- (2) Mikuru Suzuki v Maria O’Brien
- (7) Anastasia Dobromyslova v Sharon Prins
In the absence of Fallon Sherrock, who withdrew from the tournament in the wake of her heroism at the Alexandra Palace, Lisa Ashton is favourite to become a five-time women's world champion.
Twelve months ago the Lancashire Rose was stunned by Mikuru Suzuki in the very first round although, as it turned out, it wasn't really a shock after all.
The Japanese star, who was the first Asian woman to compete on this famous stage, went on to become the first female champion to come from outside Europe and did so without dropping a set
More significantly, she's also the first Asian world champion - male or female - in either the PDC or BDO organisations and the landmark triumph helped her shoot to darting stardom.
Her average of 90.12 against Lorraine Winstanley, boosted by two 180s at the start of a leg, was the first above 90 in the final of the women's tournament, which has been running since 2001.
Since then, the 37-year-old has won two more titles before giving PDC's men several scares at the Grand Slam of Darts and the recent World Championship.
She won seven legs in three matches in Wolverhampton, including three in a narrow defeat to Gerwyn Price, as well as recording averages in the mid 80s, while she came so, so close to making history against James Richardson at the Ally Pally.
Suzuki was left waiting on 36 in a nervy deciding leg following a mesmerising comeback in which her three 100+ checkouts raised the roof - and although she couldn't create history, Fallon Sherrock admitted the performance gave her real inspiration ahead of her clash with Evetts.
Ashton is marginally favourite at 2/1 having won five titles in 2019 including four since September at the BDO World Trophy, the British Classic, the British Open and the World Masters although Suzuki, who is 5/2, only played in the first of those.
Interestingly the defending champion's biggest threat could be the 2012 and 2013 winner Anastasia Dobromyslova, who famously defeated Vincent van der Voort to became the first woman to beat a man on TV at the 2009 Grand Slam.
The Russian has beaten Suzuki in all three of their previous meetings, including two this season, and has also come into some fine form recently having reached the World Masters and World Trophy finals as well as the semis of the British Open and British Classic. She lost all four matches to Ashton.
At 9/1 she's got to be worth consideration although she is in the same half as 15-year-old Beau Greaves.
In an era where so much has been said about the future of the BDO, just imagine the scenes - and irony - if the teenage sensation, who is among the front runners in the betting, can triumph alongside Bennett?!
My long shot in the women's tournament is Laura Turner, who has been a brilliant voice for the ladies game and indeed the sport as a whole during Sky Sports' coverage of the PDC World Championship.
Although she was in work mode at the Ally Pally during those incredible performances from her tour rivals at the Ally Pally, the whole experience and being part of that atmosphere must surely given her the same kind of motivation as Sherrock gained from watching Suzuki.
Her odds of 40/1 are disrespectfully big and might be some kind of overreaction from her disappointing Lakeside debut 12 months ago when losing 2-0 to Dobromyslova and averaging under 60. But a lot has changed since then.
Turner has beaten Deta Hedman, who she plays first, three times out of four in 2019 including once in the Isle of Man Open final while she's been runner-up three times since June and narrowly lost to Sherrock in the British Classic semi-finals.
The only top player she hasn't defeated yet is Suzuki but they've only met twice and their paths will only cross her should they both reach the final.