The PDC World Matchplay is one of the biggest tournaments in darts. Whilst the PDC doesn’t have any official ‘Majors’ it’s widely considered by many to be one and is right up alongside the likes of the World Championships and the UK Open as the more prestigious events.
The tournament has been famed for producing some highly exciting finishes over the years and with it is a crowd favourite. It is normally based at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, which is another massively popular spot for dart fans and is relatively accessible for spectators based around the UK.
PDC World Matchplay Recent Winners
|Year||Winner (Seeding)||Runner-Up (Seeding)||Score|
|2023||Nathan Aspinall (9)||Jonny Clayton (7)||18 - 6|
|2022||Michael van Gerwen (4)||Gerwyn Price (2)||18 - 14|
|2021||Peter Wright (2)||Dimitri Van den Bergh (8)||18 - 9|
|2020||Dimitri Van den Bergh (-)||Gary Anderson (8)||18 - 10|
|2019||Rob Cross (2)||Michael Smith (5)||18 - 13|
|2018||Gary Anderson (4)||Mensur Suljovic (6)||21 - 19|
|2017||Phil Taylor (8)||Peter Wright (3)||18 - 8|
|2016||Michael van Gerwen (1)||Phil Taylor (3)||18-10|
|2015||Michael van Gerwen (1)||James Wade (6)||18 - 12|
|2014||Phil Taylor (2)||Michael van Gerwen (1)||18 - 9|
|2013||Phil Taylor (1)||Adrian Lewis (3)||18 - 13|
|2012||Phil Taylor (1)||James Wade (3)||18 - 15|
|2011||Phil Taylor (1)||James Wade (3)||18 - 8|
|2010||Phil Taylor (1)||Raymond van Barneveld (2)||18 - 12|
|2009||Phil Taylor (1)||Terry Jenkins (6)||18 - 4|
|2008||Phil Taylor (1)||James Wade (3)||18 - 9|
|2007||James Wade (11)||Terry Jenkins (5)||18 - 7|
|2006||Phil Taylor (1)||James Wade (-)||18 - 11|
|2005||Colin Lloyd (1)||John Part (7)||18 - 12|
|2004||Phil Taylor (4)||Mark Dudbridge (-)||18 - 8|
About the World Matchplay
The World Matchplay has traditionally been held at the Winter Gardens and has been played here since 1994. It’s one the longest running venues for a single tournament on the PDC and whilst there have been calls to move to a bigger venue to accommodate more fans, it is regarded as a bit of an institution now, with the Empress Ballroom doing a fantastic job of providing a grand backdrop for the matches. In fact, the tournament is often sold out for all days and it did so in 2017 in record time, selling all tickets for all sessions within just 3 days of going on sale.
The tournament is held in July, which is towards the back end of the season. It’s often a tournament that the players target to take advantage of the large prize money that’s on offer, whilst also offering large number of world ranking points that could vital in order to keep their card for the following season.
Blackpool’s Winter Gardens
The venue is based in Blackpool, a town that has a huge link to darts with tournaments being played there for many years. It’s also one of the most competitive country and national circuits on the amateur tour, which is a great reflection as to how popular the sport is on the whole.
Winer Gardens was constructed in 1875 and provides a prime location just off the sea front in Blackpool. In 2010, £40million was spent on the renovations to the plot and with it transformed what was arguably a fairly ageing building into one of the best for the spectators on tour.
The Empress ballroom, which is where the main stage is located, holds 3,000 which makes it one the bigger venues on tour. It’s also been home to many pop bands over the years, including the likes of Pet Shop Boys, The Beatles, Queen, Oasis, Radiohead, Slash and The White stripes, to name just a few.
Relocation to Milton Keynes for 2020
For the 2020 tournament which took place behind closed doors, organisers decided to switch play to the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes. This venue had already hosted snooker’s Championship League and Tour Championship successfully with procedures already in place to keep the players involved safe.
The World Matchplay has seen a consistent increase in prizemoney over the years and the current total sits at that of £800,000 (2023). The winner picks up a cheque worth £200,000, with the runner up being awarded £100,000. In fact, only the Premier League (£1,000,000) and the World Championships (£2,500,000) offer a large prize pool than that of the Matchplay.
The games on offer at the World Matchplay run a little differently compared to most PDC events. For one, the games are best of a certain number legs, not sets. The second is that each game must be won by 2 clear legs. So, in a first to 10 match, if the scores are 9-9 then the game will continue until one player is leading by 2 legs. But, sudden death will come in if the scores are still tied depending on how many legs have been played and in what round.
Below is a breakdown of the format of each round of matches.
World Matchplay Darts – Legs Played Each Round
|Round||Matches Played||Number of Legs to Win||Sudden Death Score|
|First Round||16||First to 10 (Best of 19)||12–12|
|Second Round||8||First to 11 (Best of 21)||13–13|
|Quarter Finals||4||First to 16 (Best of 31)||18–18|
|Semi Finals||2||First to 17 (Best of 33)||19–19|
|Final||1||First to 18 (Best of 35)||20–20|
The tournament includes 32 players in total, which is fairly small considering the calibre of the event. The players are picked on the basis of the PDC Order of Merit ranking (top 16) and the PDC ProTour Order of Merit (top 16). The ProTour players will not be seeded for the event whereas the PDC Order of Merit players will be seeded, which affects the draw.
2023 PDC World Matchplay Participants
|Seeded Players – Order of Merit Top 16||Unseeded ProTour Qualifiers|
|1||Michael Smith||17||Josh Rock|
|2||Peter Wright||18||Martin Schindler|
|3||Michael van Gerwen||19||Ross Smith|
|4||Gerwyn Price||20||Krzysztof Ratajski|
|5||Rob Cross||21||Jose de Sousa|
|6||Luke Humphries||22||Andrew Gilding|
|7||Jonny Clayton||23||Gary Anderson|
|8||Danny Noppert||24||Stephen Bunting|
|9||Nathan Aspinall||25||Gabriel Clemens|
|10||Dimitri Van den Bergh||26||Chris Dobey|
|11||Dirk van Duijvenbode||27||Raymond van Barneveld|
|12||Dave Chisnall||28||Daryl Gurney|
|13||Joe Cullen||29||Mike De Decker|
|14||Damon Heta||30||Steve Beaton|
|15||Ryan Searle||31||Brendan Dolan|
|16||James Wade||32||Kim Huybrechts|
This tournament has, in the past, been dominated by Phil Taylor. Between 2000 and 2014 The Power won 13 of the 15 titles on offer, the other two going to Colin Lloyd in 2005 and James Wade in 2007. Since 2015 the competition has been much more open with Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Rob Cross, Dimitri Van den Bergh, Peter Wright and Nathan Aspinall all being crowned the champion. Taylor won again in 2017, his last Matchplay appearance before retiring. Taylor beat Peter Wright 18 – 8 in the final, averaging 104.24 on his way to victory.
The 2017 was one of the most competitive World Matchplays to date and was wide open with the bookies beforehand. It was Dutchman, Michael van Gerwen, who went into the event as top seed, with Gary Anderson 2nd, Peter Wright 3rd and Adrian Lewis 4th. The eventual winner, Phil Taylor, was ranked 8th, which is one of the lowest rankings he’s had for the match play in his illustrious career. As the chart below shows, predicting the winner based on seeding has become increasingly difficult in the post-Taylor era.
As you can see above, there have been three unseeded winners of the PDC World Matchplay. They were Larry Butler in 1994, Peter Evison in 1996 and Dimitri Van den Bergh in 2020. Between 1994 and 2001, only the top 8 players were seeded. This increased to 16 seeds from 2002 onwards.
Often players save their best for the finals, with some high scoring encounters in recent years.
The 2013 final between Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis is seen as one of the all-time classics. Taylor averaged 111.23, the highest in any final, with Lewis averaging 105.92, the highest of any runner-up.
The World Matchplay has been running since 1994 and is now widely recognised as one of the biggest darting events in the PDC, second only to that of the World Championship. The first tournament was won by the American, Larry butler, who upset the odds by beating Dennis Priestley in the final, 16-12. The tournament has been unique in that it’s always been played as a ‘best of’ legs, rather than sets.
The success of the event has largely been down to one man, who has dominated over the last 20+ years. Phil Taylor has won a staggering 16 Matchplay events, which makes the tournament his most successful in his career. What’s almost as impressive as his 16 wins is that he’s done it from just 17 finals, losing just once in 2016 to Michael van Gerwen.
Phil Taylor’s World Matchplay Record: 1994 to 2017
|Titles||Finals||9-Dart Finishes||Highest 3-Dart Average||Total Prize Money|
His 2017 victory will likely be one of his sweetest though as he completed victory in what was his final Matchplay event before he retired. In respect to the success that he has seen, from 2018 the trophy will be named after Taylor.
Other Winners & Records
Interestingly, there have only ever been 11 other winners than Taylor at the Matchplay, they include Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen, Rod Harrington, James Wade, Larry Butler, Peter Evison and Colin Lloyd. To put some perspective on Taylor’s dominance in his 16 wins, the next best is that of van Gerwen who has 3 wins, followed by Harrington who has two wins. The other nine players have a single win each.
James Wade’s victory in 2007 was easily one of the highlights of his career. He eventually beat Terry Jenkins in the final, 18-7 at a time when it could be argued that Taylor was at his most dominant. Wade has been able to make five other Matchplay finals in total, unfortunately losing them all. Four of those were to Taylor and the other was to van Gerwen in 2015.
The Matchplay has created a number of 9-dart finishes, with eight in total. Phil Taylor hit the first one in 2002, which was also the first to be shown live on UK TV. The others are Raymond van Barneveld in 2010, John Part in 2011, Michael van Gerwen in 2012, Wes Newton in 2012, Phil Taylor again in 2014, Gary Anderson in 2018 and Gerwyn Price in 2022.
As you can imagine, it’s Taylor who makes all the headline again when it comes to the highest averages. His highest and the tournaments highest came in 2010 in a Last 32 game between Barrie Bates, scoring a 114.99 average winning the match 10-6. Taylor was also the only person to average over 100 in all in his games en route to victory in 2010, which he repeated in 2011 and again in 2013.