Sadly, this week there was an event adored by fans missing from the calendar for the first time in over forty years. The BDO World Championship was a staple not just of the darting year but of the sporting calendar, held on 43 occasions at 4 different venues. This year, following the folding of the BDO, the event has not taken place, but to fill the void (and to share some positive memories as the UK faces lockdown again), I asked some darts fans to share their favourite memories from the BDO Worlds, as well as sharing my own.
Derrick from High Roller Radio – 1983 final (Keith Deller v. Eric Bristow)
“Bristow did a percentage shot, Deller did the business!” It’s one of the very first matches I remember watching, Keith Deller versus Eric Bristow in the 1983 world final, and I recall it clear as day, especially its dramatic ending. Darts wasn’t that popular in Canada back then, and there was no chance it would ever be telecast in our country, so I was thrilled when my dad produced the VHS tape. An aspiring broadcaster back then, I sat there and listened in awe to this play-by-play guy named Sid Waddell. Even though I couldn’t understand all the words he was saying, through his English accent, I was certainly enthralled with what I was hearing. He was exciting, and different, and I liked it. It was magic. Bristow is one of my all-time favourites, but I didn’t mind the result. I love underdogs too. “He had to qualify to get here,” is a line I’ll never forget. It perfectly described the magnitude of the upset. Had to qualify first, then navigate the field, and then beat a legend of the game, and with a 138 no less. Dramatic. Historic.
Oche Balboa – 2015 semi-final (Martin Adams v. Glen Durrant)
My favourite Lakeside match was Glen Durrant vs Martin Adams. It had everything – good drama, high scoring, missed doubles and a missed 9 darter from Adams. Durrant should have won the game but made a mistake of going for the 16s. Adams proved that he could still throw a high standard. Absolutely brilliant from a memorable Lakeside with a great final too.
Andrew Sinclair – 2007 final (Martin Adams v. Phill Nixon)
There were a lot of candidates I could have opted for here and having an hour-long chat with Richard Ashdown about his favourite memories this week didn’t make my decision any easier! The iconic finals between Phil Taylor and Mike Gregory, and Glen Durrant and Mark McGeeney stand out because of their length and the drama of the missed tournament doubles. Andy Fordham’s win in 2004 was probably the most popular victory in tournament history and certainly yielded one of the loudest crowd reactions. Wayne Warren’s win, which I was in the building for, was prominent in my thoughts too but ultimately there was only one game I could pick. The game that made me a fan of this sport 14 years ago and one I watch multiple times a year. Martin Adams beating the late Phill Nixon to win his first BDO World title.
I’d seen odd bits of the 2007 tournament but I’d never watched a game of darts all the way through. We didn’t even plan to watch the final. I just remember the TV was left on BBC One and the final came on so I watched it. As a 9-year-old, well 9-and-3/4-year-old as I was so keen to tell anyone who would listen, your attention naturally drifts to the next passing fancy. I watched the first six sets but I couldn’t say that I watched every dart. I saw the little number 1 next to Martin Adams’ name on the scoreboard and as he raced into a 6-0 lead, I knew he was good. I liked him. I liked his jolly demeanour. I also felt sorry for Phill Nixon, who the commentators kept saying was a nice guy and had done so well to make the final, as he wasn’t playing that badly but he was getting whitewashed. Then it happened. Whether it was Phill stabbing the darts into his leg or what, I don’t know. Maybe it was an element of nerves kicking in for Martin as he approached a moment he’d chased for more than a decade. But Phill came back. He took it one leg at a time and got it to 6-1. I thought ‘Yay, go Phill!’. Then it was 6-2. ‘Nice one!’. Then it was 6-3. ‘Surely the comeback isn’t on.’ 6-4. ‘It is on, isn’t it?’ 6-5. ‘It absolutely bloody is!’ Martin missed four match darts along the way and Phill pulled it back to 6-6. Excitement, shock and disbelief in equal measure.
I remember every moment of those closing sets as though they happened yesterday. It was the comeback of all comebacks. It was the stuff of legends. It was an epic tussle. It was true sporting drama, something I hadn’t experienced that much by that point, and I loved every second of it. That final set, in particular the opening leg which Martin won in 12 darts against the throw, remains one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.
In later years I learned more about averages and by that metric alone, this final won’t win any awards. But as the old adage goes, averages aren’t everything.
I think that game means so much to me because it made me a darts fan. If Phill hadn’t come back and Martin had wrapped it up 7-0, I’m not sure I’d have made a concerted effort to come back. On the flipside, if Phill had come back and won, would Wolfie have ever achieved the dominance he managed in the BDO in the following years? What would have Phill gone on to do if he’d won? Obviously his life was cut tragically short in 2013 but that win could have taken him to new heights. When the two were drawn to face each other in the opening round of the 2008 tournament, it seemed beautifully poetic.
Ray Stubbs told me in an interview last year how he remembered the TV viewing figures kept going up and up as more people tuned in to see what this man from County Durham, the Ferryhill Flyer, was managing to do. Those people tuning in that day saw something special. It’s my favourite game of all time and for me, one of the greatest spectacles the sport has ever produced.
dartsweb – 2015 final (Scott Mitchell v. Martin Adams)
For mine, I have to choose another game involving ‘Wolfie’. Similar somewhat to Andrew’s story of his favourite game, I stumbled across the 2015 final by accident, I think largely because I couldn’t find anything else to watch on that particular Sunday evening! I attribute some kind of strange fate to making me switch over to watch the darts that night, because something definitely clicked. I was aware of the sport before that point but had never watched it properly, so was enthralled by the drama that ensued that particular evening. It was a fascinating final and as a first-time viewer, it set itself up perfectly – intimate crowd, first-time finalist against the older, more experienced former winner in Martin Adams.
When Scott eventually wins their incredible tussle, I absolutely love his reaction – it seems like he just doesn’t know what to do! I think that’s brilliant because we all, even if you have no prospect of becoming a world champion (like me), imagine what we’d do in that moment, but you can never truly foresee how you will feel when it actually happens. Watching the final was certainly the moment that the seed was sown, and a few months later I got my first dartboard and gradually began getting ever more engrossed in the sport, leading to the creation of this very blog in 2016. So thanks to Scott and Martin, and thanks to the BDO World Championship!
Thanks to Derrick from High Roller, Oche Balboa and Andrew Sinclair
Image Credits: Live Darts, Shropshire Star, BBC, Mastercaller and Bournemouth Echo