Reigning champion Gary Anderson and Rob Cross were eliminated from the 2019 Paddy Power Champions League of Darts in Saturday’s opening day in Leicester as Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen secured semi-final spots.
A dramatic start to the £250,000 tournament saw Anderson produce some outstanding darts, only to lose to both Michael Smith and James Wade.
Smith came from 3-0 and 5-1 down to defeat the Scot 10-7 in the afternoon session at the Morningside Arena, before Wade came from 9-7 down to snatch victory in a dramatic deciding leg.
Those results, coupled with two victories for world number one Van Gerwen, mean that Anderson now cannot qualify for the semi-finals on Sunday evening, with Smith and Wade facing a shoot-out to join the Dutchman in the last four.
Van Gerwen was in irresistible form as he followed up last week’s World Grand Prix triumph with two confident victories, averaging over 100 as he saw off both Wade and Smith.
The World Champion came from 4-2 down to defeat Wade 10-8, claiming the final two legs to break the deadlock, before fending off Smith’s fightback from 5-0 down to eventually close out a 10-6 triumph in a strong day.
“I’m very pleased,” said Van Gerwen. “It’s always nice to win your first two games and you can see my confidence.
“I’m playing good darts and I want to do well here because I’ve never won this tournament before and that’s my goal this weekend.
“I’m through to the semi-finals but I still want to win my last game on Sunday afternoon against Gary. It’s always great playing him and I want to keep this form going into the semi-finals.”
Wade showed his class to deny Anderson a match dart in their Group A clash after falling 9-7 down, following a 14-darter with a brilliant 121 checkout to force a deciding leg which he won on tops with his rival waiting on 40.
“I’m happy because I’ve still got a chance,” said Wade. “In my opinion, Gary’s the best player in the world when he’s on form but I did enough at the right times and did the job.
“I was quite disappointed to lose to Michael but Gary gave me the opportunities and I made the most of it.”
In Group B, Peter Wright secured his qualification for the semi-finals with wins over Daryl Gurney and Gerwyn Price.
2018 finalist Wright overcame a slow start to the afternoon by coming from 3-0 down to defeat Gurney 10-7, pulling away from seven-all to close out the win.
He then saw off Price 10-8 in arguably the match of the day, averaging 103 and hitting finishes of 161 and 125 as he defied checkouts of 130 and 109 to book a last four place.
“It’s really good that I’m through but I still want to finish top of my group and go on to win the title now,” said Wright. “It’s a brilliant tournament and I’d love to win it.
“I’ll be treating the game against Rob like it’s a straight knockout to get myself in the right frame of mind for the semi-finals. I’m not happy with how I’m playing and I know there’s more to come.”
Gurney and Price will now face off on Sunday afternoon for the right to join Wright in the semi-finals.
Price had defeated Cross 10-5 in the afternoon session, while Gurney’s 10-6 defeat of the world number two means that the 2018 World Champion now cannot reach the semi-finals.
Gurney followed up his evening session win over Cross by shaving his head for the Cystic Fibrosis Care charity, having raised over £15,000 through donations which included £5,000 apiece from Paddy Power and his sponsors Winmau, as well as contributions from rival players and PDC Chairman Barry Hearn.
Sunday afternoon’s final group stage games will be followed in the evening session by the semi-finals and final at the Morningside Arena, with a £100,000 first prize on offer.
The eventual winner will also be presented with a specially-commissioned commemorative belt, which has been produced by sponsors Paddy Power.
Pre-tournament favourite Michael van Gerwen is now 4/6 with Paddy Power to claim his first Champions League of Darts title, ahead of Wright (9/2), Wade and Smith (10/1), Price (12/1) and Gurney (14/1).
Sunday’s final stages will be broadcast live on BBC Sport in the UK, on PDCTV-HD for Rest of the World Subscribers and through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7.
2019 Paddy Power Champions League of Darts
Saturday October 19
Peter Wright 10-7 Daryl Gurney(Group B)
Gerwyn Price 10-5 Rob Cross (Group B)
Michael Smith 10-7 Gary Anderson (Group A)
Michael van Gerwen 10-8 James Wade (Group A)
Daryl Gurney 10-6 Rob Cross (Group B)
Peter Wright 10-8 Gerwyn Price (Group B)
James Wade 10-9 Gary Anderson (Group A)
Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Michael Smith (Group A)
Sunday October 20
Afternoon Session (1315 BST start)
Rob Cross v Peter Wright (Group B)
Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price (Group B)
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson (Group A)
Michael Smith v James Wade (Group A)
Evening Session (1830 BST start)
Winner Group B v Runner-Up Group A
Winner Group A v Runner-Up Group B
Group stage matches – Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals and Final – Best of 21 legs