In addition to the Gold-graded events in Denmark, England and Wales that saw six further players book their spots at the 2022 WDF World Championships, October’s packed schedule also included a further four senior ranking events across three regions, plus two Youth competitions in Russia. Andrew Sinclair recaps the action.
Almost 18 months after the Hub City Open, the Silver-graded Klondike Open at the beginning of October marked the return of WDF darts to Canada after the pandemic.
Shawn Burt proved the class of the 148-strong field in the Men’s Open, defeating Dawson Murschell 5-2 in the final to win his first ranking title in five years.
Nicknamed ‘Mr Intensity’, Burt was pushed to a last-leg decider by Nelson Tobin in the last 16 but was otherwise relatively untroubled, whitewashing Stan Harmon and Andrew Park before his meeting with 2012 Americas Cup Youth champion Murschell.
That victory in Alberta elevates Burt into joint-second in the Men’s Canadian regional ranking alongside Matt Campbell and Rory Hansen. With no more Canadian events scheduled before the end of the season, conversations are currently underway to determine who’ll join David Cameron at Lakeside in January.
Canada’s female representative at Lakeside is expected to be Darlene van Sleeuwen after she finished the season top of the regional table thanks to her K-W Tri-City Open victory and run to the final of the Quebec Open. Van Sleeuwen, a former World Masters participant, represented Canada at the last WDF World Cup in Romania.
Runner-up to van Sleeuwen in the regional rankings was former Canadian international Brenda Moreau, who picked up the first ranking title of her career in the Women’s Klondike Open. It was a victory long in the making for Moreau, whose last WDF tour final had been at this same event back in 2009.
Crystal Chiasson entered the weekend with a mathematical chance of catching van Sleeuwen but Moreau beat her 3-2 in the last 16. Successive 3-1 victories over Lee-Ann Walsh and Wenda Carter secured Moreau passage to the final, where an average of just over 60 was enough for her to defeat Michelle Spicer 4-2.
Nathan Osmond won the weekend’s Youth event, beating Bradley White 3-1, while Kylie Chapman picked up the Girls’ title after a narrow 3-2 win over Hailey McKay.
A host of North America’s top darting stars flocked to Virginia for one of the highlights of the American calendar in mid-October, the Silver-graded Virginia Beach Classic.
The star of the show was undoubtedly Leonard ‘Soldier’ Gates, who fired in a masterful nine-darter in his quarter-final victory over Larry Butler before averaging in excess of 102 in his 6-1 final triumph against Danny Lauby Jnr.
Talented youngster PJ Stewart, Canada’s ever-improving Jacob Taylor and the highly-experienced Elliot Milk were among Gates’ other beaten opponents as he sealed the 21st WDF ranking title of his career.
Gates now sits top of the Men’s USA regional ranking table, 24 points ahead of two-time event winner Jules van Dongen. ‘The Dutch Dragon’ reached the quarter-finals in Virginia before going down 4-3 to Milk.
Marlise Kiel put her name in the hat for Lakeside qualification by winning the Women’s Virginia Beach Classic, the seventh ranking title of her career.
Cleveland, Ohio-based, Kiel was in good form heading into the event having finished as runner-up in September’s Washington Area Open and she backed that up with three consecutive 4-1 victories over Brenda Roush, Tracy Feiertag and Cali West to make the final. Her opponent there was Julie Weger, who’d claimed the scalp of regional ranking leader Paula Murphy in the last 16.
The final was a back-and-forth affair, featuring four breaks of throw, and Kiel had to survive match darts in the tenth leg before taking out a 112 finish to edge it 6-5.
Kiel is now second in the regional rankings behind Murphy and ahead of Tennessee’s Dani Warmack with two more events left before the season’s end – the Gold-graded Seacoast Open and the Bronze-graded Oregon Open.
Ryan Avellino picked up his second title of the year in the Youth event, defeating Kaden Anderson 4-2 in the final.
October’s slate of senior ranking events came to an end in Hungary, with the capital Budapest playing host to the Bronze-graded Hungarian Classic and Silver-graded Hungarian Masters.
Deta Hedman was top seed for both Women’s competitions and she proved unstoppable, winning both finals 5-0 to seal her third and fourth titles of 2021 and the 218th and 219th titles of her long and illustrious career.
Beaten finalist in the Classic was Hungary’s own Adrienn Vegso, who was playing in her second final of the year after having also contested the title decider in July’s Apatin Open.
Elena Shulgina was aiming to win her third title of the year in the Masters but she was no match for Hedman, who now boasts a 183-point lead at the top of the women’s rankings with only 12 events left before the end of the season.
Veronika Ihasz’s run to the semi-final of the Masters means she now leads the Women’s Eastern Europe regional rankings by 30 points heading into the Czech Open, the final event of the season. The only players with a chance of catching her are the aforementioned Vegso and Czech thrower Jitka Cisarova.
Shulgina was just one of several Russians who’d made the trip over to Hungary for the weekend’s double-header and one of her compatriots, Aleksey Kadochnikov, won the second ranking title of his career in the Men’s Hungarian Masters.
Nicknamed ‘The Beard’, Kadochnikov had suffered an early exit the day prior in the Classic to Slovenian Open champion Benjamin Pratnemer but he flew out of the traps in the Masters, opening his account with whitewash triumphs over Daniele Petri and Dél Ákos.
In the quarter-finals he was forced to go the distance before beating top seed Nick Fullwell 5-4 and he was then involved in another last-leg thriller in the semi-finals, squeezing past fellow Russian Kirill Fadeev by the same scoreline.
Kadochnikov’s opponent in the final was England’s Antony Allen, who’d followed up his run to the semi-finals of the Classic by making the first ranking final of his career. The game was a tight, close affair that have gone either way but it was the Russian who emerged victorious, once again sealing victory in a last-leg decider.
Victory in the Silver-graded competition pushes Kadochnikov to the fringes of the top 16 in the men’s rankings, giving him a great chance of being seeded for the 2022 WDF World Championship.
While losing the final 6-5 may have stung, there is a silver lining for Allen, whose strong weekend in the Hungarian capital has put him in good stead for securing a Lakeside debut.
Mark Barilli hasn’t played at Lakeside since 2013 but the former Scotland international strengthened his chances of making a return by winning the first WDF title of his career in the Hungarian Classic.
After defeating Hungary’s Lehel Kaman 5-1 in the last 16, Barilli saw off Danish pair Brian Lokken and Ivan Madsen to reach the final. His opponent there was England’s Nick Fullwell, who was hoping to build on strong results earlier this season in Wales and England and add a third ranking title to his ledger.
However, he could prove no match for the Scot, who ran out a 6-3 winner and has now risen into the top 60 of the Men’s rankings.
Hungary’s sole home success of the weekend came in the Boys’ Classic, where Adam Sepsi beat compatriot Balazs Pazonyi 5-1 in the final. There was Hungarian representation too in the Boys’ Masters final but David Dobos was on the end of a 5-3 reverse against Slovakia’s Matej Cverha.
Both Girls’ finals during the weekend were contested by the same two players, Russian teenagers Aleksandra Zemtsova and Ksenia Klochek, and both had the same outcome, Zemtsova beating Klochek 5-3.
While Klochek may have lost in both Hungarian finals, she had far more luck on home soil during October, winning both the Gold-graded Novgorod Cup and the Silver-graded Aleksandar Kuchev Memorial.
In the former Klochek defeated Zemtsova 3-1 en route to the final, where she sealed the title in a last-leg decider against Yuliana Khityaeva.
Viktoria Dyachenko lost 3-1 to Klochek in the Novgorod Cup semi-finals and the following week she was beaten by the same scoreline against the same opponent in the final of the Aleksandar Kuchev Memorial.
Timur Tuchvatulin currently tops the Boys’ WDF rankings and that’s in no small part down to defeating Nikita Koslov 4-1 to win the Novgorod Cup.
He was unable to match Klochek’s double though, losing in the semi-finals of the Silver-graded event to eventual winner Sergey Zemtsov. Zemtsov was pushed hard in the final by Roman Turov before emerging a 3-2 victor.
We are now into the final weeks of the 2021 season, with the fields for the 2022 WDF World Championships being confirmed on December 5th.
Between now and then there are three more ‘Golden Ticket’ events on offer - the Irish Open and Seacoast Open on November 13th and the World Open on December 4th.
The Irish Classic takes place on November 14th, completing the first of three European double-headers during the month. WDF darts returns to Italy on November 27th-28th for the Bronze-graded Italian Open and Silver-graded Italian Grand Masters, with St Petersburg playing host to two Bronze events, the Russian Open and St Petersburg Open, that same weekend.
There are also two further Silver-graded events in November, the Malta Open from November 9th-11th and the Czech Open on November 20th. The latter is the final event for the Eastern European region this season, meaning their Lakeside representatives will be determined by the close of play in Prague.
Regional representatives from the USA will also be confirmed on November 20th after the conclusion of the Bronze-graded Oregon Open, with Australia’s Lakeside qualifiers confirmed the week prior at the Bronze-graded Challenger Classic.
November’s slate of events kicks off with two more Gold-graded Youth events in Russia, the Young Stars of Darts and Izhevsk Open, and there’s another Youth event in Australia on November 20th, the Bronze-graded Vasto Junior Masters in Perth.
All in all it promises to be a fascinating month of action with drama, history and elation for others guaranteed!