Jelle Klaasen produced an inspired display to defeat 16-Time World Champion Phil Taylor in the last 16 of the World Darts Championships at Alexandra Palace, on a dramatic Wednesday evening in North London.
Klaasen averaged over 102 and hit fifteen maximums to secure one of his biggest victories since joining the PDC in 2008. Taylor himself averaged 100, but he failed to produce the goods when it really mattered, to compound a miserable 2015 for the greatest dart player of all-time.
Elsewhere, 2014 World finalist Peter Wright edged past Dave Chisnall in a thrilling tussle, whilst 2014 Lakeside finalist Alan Norris reached the quarter-finals on his PDC World Championship debut, with a comprehensive 4-1 victory against Mark Webster.
Nevertheless, the big story was Taylor’s departure, particularly given Michael van Gerwen’s surprise exit just 24 hours earlier. This was being touted as Taylor’s most realistic chance of winning another World title, but those hopes were destroyed by the imperious Dutchman.
‘The Power’ was particularly unconvincing in his second-round match against Kevin Painter, averaging just 92 en route to a 4-1 victory. Painter led 1-0 and but for profligacy in decisive moments, ‘The Artist’ should have led 3-0.
The general consensus was that if Taylor performed like he did against Painter, Klaasen would be a comfortable victor. ‘The Cobra’ has been in mightily impressive form over the last 12 months and is throwing with far more conviction.
The first set was a high-quality affair won by Klaasen, but only after Taylor squandered three set darts, across two separate legs. However, the Stoke-on-Trent star responded magnificently, winning the second set without reply, as his averaged climbed above 108.
Taylor’s darts were going in with far greater authority and he looked extremely assured, yet Klaasen rallied superbly after the interval. The former Lakeside Champion converted 70 and 89 finishes to move 2-0 up in set three, but Taylor halved the deficit with a clinical two-dart 70 kill.
Klaasen had the advantage of throw in the fourth leg and appeared on the cusp of establishing a 3-1 advantage, however the Dutchman wasted his opportunity, missing four set darts. Taylor capitalised, levelling up proceedings on D4, before holding throw to restore parity at two apiece.
This psychologically could have been the decisive blow for Klaasen, but the 31-year-old responded tremendously, winning the fifth set emphatically, as Taylor’s scoring power subsided. Suddenly, the 55-year-old was on the verge of last-16 elimination.
Jelle’s resurgence continued in the early exchanges of the sixth set, as he won his fourth successive leg via D2. Taylor looked in serious peril, but he broke back instantly with a stunning 87 checkout for a 12-darter. The next two legs were shared, which forced Taylor to throw to preserve his hopes.
‘The Power’ began the leg poorly, leaving 316 after 9 darts, but Klaasen failed to capitalise, leaving 147 after 12 darts. However, ‘The Cobra’ wired D18 for a roof-raising checkout which would have sealed the win. Taylor exploited this reprieve, pinning D18 to force a seventh and deciding set.
This visibly affected Klaasen, who began the set in lacklustre fashion, and Taylor unsurprisingly took full advantage, breaking the Dutchman with a painful 126 checkout. He then posted D16 to move within a leg of victory, and the outcome appeared inevitable.
Taylor seemed destined to break Klaasen once more to seal the win, but a maximum from nowhere suddenly pressurised the 16-Time World Champion, who missed one match dart at D20 for a 64 finish.
Klaasen preserved his hopes, by taking out the very same finish on D20, and this completely shifted the momentum. Klaasen kicked off the next leg with another maximum, before clinching the leg to force a nail-biting tiebreak situation.
The flurry of Klaasen maximums continued, as he converted 100 for a 12-darter to claim the initiative in the seventh set, again forcing Taylor to throw to save the match.
Jelle was throwing superbly and posted his fifteenth maximum, followed by a 125, to set up a wonderful match-winning opportunity.
The 2006 Lakeside Champion left 71 after 9 darts, but made no mistake on this occasion, sealing a memorable triumph with a terrific 11-darter, to complete a remarkable turnaround.
Klaasen appeared resigned to his fate early in the seventh set, but he posted five maximums in the deciding set en route to reeling off four consecutive legs. Taylor was inevitably disappointed; will he ever get a better chance to win his 17th World Championship crown?
Elsewhere, Peter Wright survived one match dart from Dave Chisnall, as Snakebite prevailed in an epic tussle to open up Wednesday’s evening session. Chisnall averaged 102 and hit nine maximums, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome Wright.
The first six sets all went with throw, before another dramatic seventh and final set ensued. The topsy-turvy nature of the contest, combined with the brilliant standard, made it a simply pulsating spectacle.
Chisnall kicked off the deciding set with a spectacular 143 finish, but Wright delivered an instant riposte by taking out 100. Snakebite then secured a crucial break of throw, with a clinical two-dart 80 finish.
Wright had the chance to throw for victory, but Chizzy showed nerves of steel to level up proceedings, pinning D16 with his solitary dart at double, for a 68 checkout. He then converted 78 just moments later, forcing Wright into a point of no return.
Chisnall had the chance to seal victory with a 105 checkout and he came agonisingly close to doing so, wiring D16. Wright returned to hit D8, as the drama continued.
The Scot, who was one dart away from a premature exit, regained the advantage moments later, breaking Chisnall’s throw with an outstanding 127 checkout. Nevertheless, after missing the bull to seal his progression to the quarter-finals, Chisnall broke back with a sensational 130 finish.
The quality of darts the pair were producing under such intense pressure was simply staggering. Despite the fact that Chizzy saved his skin moments earlier, he wasted a golden chance to move 5-4 up in the final set, missing two darts at his favourite D18.
Wright capitalised on rare wastefulness from the St Helen’s star, taking out 64 to break for the third time in the set.
On this occasion, Wright eventually sealed the victory, but not without further drama, as Chisnall wired D20 for a 125 checkout, which would have forced a sudden-death leg.
Yet, the world number four returned to hit D6 to seal his third consecutive World Championship quarter-final appearance.
Elsewhere, Alan Norris’ dream World Championship debut continues, as he secured a comfortable victory over former World Champion Mark Webster, to set up a tie against Jelle Klaasen on New Year’s Day.
Norris performed very solidly, averaging 95.43 and hitting a total of nine maximums. Webster’s scoring was relatively strong, but his finishing, which is predominantly the strength of his game, proved to be his downfall.
The Welshman could only muster a checkout ratio of 27%,which isn’t sufficient against a player of Norris’ scoring power, but Webster will take great encouragement from his remarkable resurgence in 2015.
On New Year’s Day, Norris will take on Klaasen, whilst reigning World Champion and new tournament favourite, Gary Anderson, will take on eight-time major winner James Wade.
Elsewhere, Five-Time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld will take on world number 8 Michael Smith for a semi-final spot, whilst Adrian Lewis and Peter Wright will clash in Friday’s fourth quarter-final.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Wednesday December 30
Peter Wright 4-3 Dave Chisnall
Alan Norris 4-1 Mark Webster
Phil Taylor 3-4 Jelle Klaasen
Best of seven sets
Quarter-Finals Draw Bracket
Raymond van Barneveld v Michael Smith
Adrian Lewis v Peter Wright
Gary Anderson v James Wade
Alan Norris v Jelle Klaasen