Martin Adams’ Grand-Slam fairytale was ended in an epic last-leg decider against Kim Huybrechts in Wolverhampton on Thursday evening.
Adams recovered from 6-3 and 9-7 down, but ultimately the Belgian held his nerve to seal victory and set up a repeat of last year’s quarter-final against Michael van Gerwen.
Huybrechts started poorly with the throw and Adams capitalised, hitting D2 for a 1-0 advantage. Wolfie then doubled his lead with an exquisite 10-darter, before Huybrechts hit D20 to get off the mark.
Then a dramatic fourth leg ensued. Huybrechts hit back-to-back maximums to set up a 9-dart possibility, but after failing to finish 141 within six darts, Adams regained his two-leg cushion via D20. The Belgian won the final leg of the session, to trail 3-2 at the interval.
Martin had been virtually flawless on both D16 and D8 in this tournament, however he was beginning to display vulnerability on this segment of the board. Kim took full advantage, winning five successive legs to surge 6-3 ahead.
Nevertheless, the 3-Time World Champion stopped the rot with a clinical 76 checkout to reduce the deficit to just two legs.
Adams’ tenacity and desire to win is admirable. He broke back in the eleventh leg, hitting D16 with his final dart, before taking out a top-class 78 finish to restore parity at 6-6, which seemed an unlikely prospect 10 minutes earlier.
Huybrechts hit D16 to stop Adams’ resurgence, but Wolfie produced arguably the checkout of the tournament in leg fourteen. He was sat on 92, but his first dart bounced out off the bullseye wire. Wolfie was unflappable; re-focusing and taking out T20 and D16 to level up proceedings once again.
The Belgian regained the lead after taking out 79 in comfortable fashion and he moved to the cusp of the last eight by converting his favourite D16. Adams was on the verge of defeat, but defied the odds with a ‘Houdini’ like D19.
Huybrechts wired D10 for a 128 finish which would have sealed the win, before the 59-year old Adams took out 76 with his solitary dart at D20, having hit a 180 in the previous visit, to force a last-leg shootout. Huybrechts had the advantage of throw which ultimately proved decisive.
Adams left 80 after 12 darts, but Kim returned to convert D20 for a 13-darter and victory. This provoked passionate celebrations from the Belgian, who had endured some grief from the partisan Wolverhampton crowd!
However, Martin Adams deserves a special mention, for adding an extra dimension to this terrific event. He has performed superbly throughout, but more importantly, he has played with a sense of freedom and enthusiasm. He has been a wonderful addition to the Grand Slam.
There was an initial scepticism as to how Adams would perform and deal with the boisterous crowds, but he has firmly silenced his critics. The crowd have taken Wolfie to their hearts and he has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt, that he’s more than capable of mixing it with the very best.
Elsewhere, Michael van Gerwen continued his quest for a maiden Grand Slam title, producing an imperious display to dispatch Steve Beaton 10-2.
Beaton performed extremely well, but he was helpless against van Gerwen’s sheer brilliance. ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ finished with an average of 99.56, but he was averaging over 102 for the vast majority of the contest. Yet, van Gerwen was in formidable form and sent out a powerful message to his potential challengers.
Beaton trailed 5-0 at the first interval, despite boasting an average of over 104. He was in contention in every leg, but MvG’s timing was exemplary. In the critical juncture of a leg, he produced a huge score or a terrific out-shot to retain the initiative.
After Beaton had missed D20 for an 82 checkout in leg three, van Gerwen delivered a brilliant 124 checkout and followed this up with a two-dart 64 finish to surge 4-0 ahead. As the World Number 1 cruised 6-0 ahead, you could be forgiven for fearing that Beaton may suffer the indignity of a whitewash.
However, the former Lakeside World Champion, cheered on by the ‘Stevie Beaton Barmy Army’ opened his account with a terrific 116 checkout. van Gerwen held throw for a 7-1 lead, but MvG missed three darts at D8 in the following leg, Beaton doubled his tally.
With Gary Anderson departing the tournament yesterday and Phil Taylor displaying signs of fragility, the Dutchman was clearly determined to make a statement. He did just that, completing a comprehensive 10-2 victory with an 88 finish for a 12-darter.
van Gerwen was absolutely scintillating, finishing with an average of 109.18. Beaton acquitted himself superbly and could consider himself extremely unfortunate; against most other opponents, the 51-year-old may well have triumphed.
Meanwhile, Adrian Lewis prevailed in a hard-fought contest against Peter Wright, in what could be described as a ‘tempestuous’ contest. Wright was quoted saying that Lewis ‘falls to bits’ when he plays him, which added extra spice to the clash.
Snakebite stormed into a 2-0 advantage, producing successive 76 checkouts, but he crucially failed to take out 52 in the following leg, enabling Jackpot to open his account courtesy of D15. Lewis grew in confidence from this point, taking out 121 for a terrific 12-darter. However, Wright converted D4 with his final dart to lead 3-2 at the interval.
However, after the break, the momentum shifted in Lewis’ favour after profligacy on the doubles from Wright. The Scot missed four darts for a 4-2 advantage, before missing a further three on D16 in the following leg, as Lewis went ahead for the first time in the contest.
Wright responded superbly in a brilliant eighth leg which contained three maximums. The 2014 World finalist took out 50 for an 11-darter to restore parity, before infuriatingly surrendering the advantage moments later, missing more darts at D8, which enabled Lewis to post a clinical two-dart 72 checkout.
The tenth leg was controversial. Wright appeared hesitant in retrieving his darts, although he appeared to be obstructed by Kirk Bevins. However, Lewis appeared sceptical about the sincerity of the situation.
Snakebite delivered a timely maximum which provoked celebrations directed clearly at Lewis, but Jackpot held his nerve, taking out 51 for a 6-4 lead. His response was emphatic and he directed a similar riposte at his colourful opponent.
Wright held throw with consummate ease in the eleventh leg, before missing the bull for a roof-raising checkout moments later. This enabled Lewis to convert D20 to regain his two-leg advantage.
Both men were performing superbly well on each-other’s throw. Lewis forged three legs ahead with a 13-darter against the throw, but he was immediately pegged back by the World Number four, who returned the favour with a 13-darter of his own.
The next two legs also resulted in breaks of throw, presenting Wright with the opportunity to reduce the arrears to 9-8. However, he failed to do so, producing an abject leg on throw, enabling the Two-Time World Champion to clinch a 10-7 win.
It was also refreshing to see both players put possible differences and tensions aside as they embraced graciously after the match.
Lewis performed superbly, averaging 104, whilst Snakebite also acquitted himself well, averaging just over 101. Despite this, Peter will be bitterly disappointed with his conversion rate on D8/D16, which is usually a source of reliability for him. He also didn’t perform consistently enough on his throw, which was ruthlessly punished by Lewis.
In the first match of tonight’s session, Michael Smith came of age, reaching his first ever TV ranking quarter-final, by beating fellow St Helen’s ace Dave Chisnall.
Smith was absolutely exceptional. His raw talent is undeniable, but he demonstrated his class against Chizzy; averaging 104.59 en route to a 10-7 victory. Dave is one of the most prolific scorers in world darts, but Smith was completely dominant in the scoring department, hitting nine maximums to Chizzy’s four.
The encounter began at an extraordinary high-standard; Smith led 3-2 at the first interval, with all five legs going with throw. ‘Bully-Boy’ was averaging 111, with Chisnall over the 108 mark.
Smith appeared poised to clinch the first break of throw in the sixth leg, hitting his fifth maximum to leave 124 after 9 darts. However, Chisnall delivered an emphatic riposte, taking out the maximum 170 checkout to level up proceedings.
Nevertheless, Chisnall squandered a wonderful break opportunity in the following leg. After missing the bull for a magical 164 finish, last year’s Grand-Slam finalist missed a further two darts at double to break. However, he restored parity moments later, taking out 106 for a classy 12-darter.
Michael was throwing superbly, but crucially, he was maintaining his composure under pressure. He regained his slender advantage with a 14-darter in the ninth leg, before securing the first break of the contest. Smith punished a sloppy scoring leg from Chisnall, taking out D5 for another 14-darter and a 6-4 advantage.
Smith appeared poised to move three legs ahead for the first time in the contest, but a maximum from Chisnall pressured the World Number 9 into missing three darts at double. Chizzy was sat on 79, but after a poor first dart, he recovered superbly, hitting two D18s for an instant break back.
Despite this, Chisnall was unable to cement this break, as Smith hit his eighth maximum and hit D11 for another 14-darter. Ironically, after 9 legs had gone with throw, we had just witnessed three successive breaks. However, Smith halted this run with a commanding 13-darter, to move 8-5 ahead.
The former World Youth Champion missed four darts for a 9-5 lead, allowing Chizzy to return and post 61 to stay in touch. There were lingering doubts that this may affect Smith, but he shrugged off that minor disappointment expertly, taking out 62 in two darts to move to the cusp of victory.
Smith almost sealed the win in breathtaking fashion, wiring D16 for a spectacular 132 checkout. Chisnall managed to take out 63 on D12 to preserve the contest, but Smith was unperturbed, hitting D20 for a 13-darter to seal a quarter-final place.
This man has talent in abundance and perhaps this event will be the springboard for him to fulfill his potential more consistently on the big-stage. Chisnall finished expertly; hitting 64% on the doubles, but he was simply beaten by the better player.
SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts
Thursday November 12 (7pm-11pm)
Michael Smith 10-7 Dave Chisnall
Michael van Gerwen 10-2 Steve Beaton
Peter Wright 7-10 Adrian Lewis
Martin Adams 9-10 Kim Huybrechts
Best of 19 legs