It’s coming towards 23:00. The skies are approaching their deepest dark, but the crowd at the Morningside Arena are more awake than ever, as they prepare for the simultaeneous walk ons of Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen, two legends of the sport who do battle in the opening round of the Boyle Sports World Grand Prix. Had the seeding been more generous, as it is in other tournaments, these two tungsten titans wouldn’t have collided on this fateful Monday night, but due to Gary being ranked as the World Number 9 at the time of the draw, he missed out on seeding, and it was inevitable he’d be drawn against one of the most difficult names in the field, in Mighty Mike.

As alluded to, joint walk ons were the opener to the Evening, so neither the White Stripes or House of Pain had a chance to have their dulcet tones ring out around the arena, with crowd favourite ‘Free from Desire’ the choice. The stats flashed across every viewer’s screen reminding us of Michael’s rather dominant record in recent meetings with the Flying Scotsman, but, as always when Gary takes to the stage, no-one was quite sure what we would be in for over the duration of the tie.

Gary had the darts in Leg 1, and he couldn’t have asked for much more as he started by nailing tops, hitting a single and going down to the Treble 17, which would become a good friend as the night progressed. After a lesser start, MvG followed a 140 with a 180 to put pressure on Gary, who had 130 left. Gary left himself a shot at the Bull, but ended up going above the centre spot and into the 5 Bed. MvG missed Three at Double 18, before Gary returned with a Single 5 to leave Tops, but neither of the two darts in hand found the treble bed. MvG subsequently grouped two darts close on the wire of Double 9, before sneaking in the Third to take a lead in a scrappy opener. (0) 0-1 (0).

MvG started Leg 2 with the theoretical Maximum, with a 160 (theoretical as a 170 is achievable but is inevitably rare). Gary again came straight in with 65, but followed it with his maiden Maximum and ended up leaving himself 112. He missed tops to complete the Ton Plus Out, before both players experienced a barren spell on the outer ring. MvG missed two darts at Double 8 off of 76, Gary missed all three darts at Double on his return, and Michael ended up doing the same. Gary then came underneath on Double 5, and seemingly had a simple Single 3 to Double 1 set up in mind. He nailed the double, but it was unfortunately Double 3, and he bust his score. Michael held his nerve and nailed Double 1 with last dart in hand to further punish the missed opportunities from the Flying Scotsman. (0) 0-2 (0).

Leg 3 would follow the tail of the previous two legs, and would see a whitewash first set for the Dutchman. Gary found his range and hammered home back to back 140s, leaving 118. Once again he had a dart at Tops off of the 3 Dart Combo, but missed it, and upon his return came underneath, and inside on Double 10 on the third attempt of the visit. Michael subsequently used the marker from his first dart at Tops from the 52 to win the set to nil, and leave Gary and every viewer wondering what might have been.

Set 1: Gary Anderson 0-1 Michael van Gerwen

It came as a surprise to me watching, but MvG missed more darts at double in that opening set, squandering 13 to Gary’s 11. But it’s not how many you miss, it’s how many you take and that was the difference at that point.

MvG opened the Second Set, and Gary started with a 111 using Treble 17 in response to MvG, who started with 56 after opting for a move to the 18 column after a missed dart at Tops. Gary then proceeded to do something that Larry Butler is probably sick of seeing – Three Treble 3s. Nine scored and too much of a metaphor for the Flying Scotsman’s recent play. He recovered to leave 92 via a 137, but MvG produced a clinical 70 Finish in Two Darts to extinguish any potential break that Gary may have been veering towards. (0) 0-1 (1).

Gary used the momentum from that leg to put his first on the board during the match. A Ton start was followed by a 131, and a 138 set up off of 178 left Tops, and he finally used the marker he left from the First Dart to finish with the Second and finally show some prowess on the outer ring at the end of a leg. (0) 1-1 (1).

However, he knew that hold would mean nothing if he couldn’t break, as is the peril of such a short format. He started once more with a Ton, which, as he often did, he backed up with a 131. Gary got himself down to 84, but was waiting with baited breath with MvG on Tops. However, the Dutchman missed Tops and put two wide of the Double 10 segment to open up a door most thought would have been locked with the key thrown away. A Single 20 was followed by a Treble 14, and he nailed Double 11 to finally evoke a bit of emotion from the crowd as he broke for the first time tonight. (0) 2-1 (1).

Starting with the Darts to throw for the Leg, Gary, for the first time, failed to find Tops with any of his First Three darts. Michael inevitably started well, with a 120, and Gary came back with only a 60 in response. MvG left Tops off of 140, and Gary could only leave 147 off of 287, and MvG nailed it with Third in Hand, preventing the chance of a characteristic moment of genius from absolutely nowhere. Michael to throw for the match. (0) 2-2 (1).

Unfortunately for Gary, MvG had hit stride when scoring by this point, and over a short format, there’s little he could do unless he found a level unseen for a long time. MvG was finding the Treble consistently and grouping the darts well, and with Gary trailing behind, Michael took the first and only Ton Plus checkout of the game, Taking out the 106 on the Double 16 to wrap up the win.

Result: Gary Anderson 0-2 Michael van Gerwen

Gary’s Stats:
Average: 83.59
180s: 1
Highest Checkout: 84
Starting Doubles Success: 50%
Checkout Percentage: 14 (2/14)

The Verdict:

When I wrote in my Preview that Gary’s biggest task would be capitalising on chances when they arrived, that was one of the few times I’ll say I wasn’t making a prediction, and that I was stating fact. Gary could have whitewashed the first set, and by the time he seemed to get his doubling together at the end of legs, MvG had started one of his near unstoppable mid game streaks, and Gary in his current form just wasn’t going to keep pace with that. The short format always makes it difficult, but the real difference in Starting and Ending doubles was as evident as it will be. The defeat also means Gary won’t be in Wolverhampton for the Grand Slam. It’s a couple of weeks off for Gary, before Players Championships 25-28 from 20th to 23rd October, where he’ll look to try and harness the positive aspects of his performance tonight, including his Tops record to start legs and trying to transfer that to the end of legs.

He was playing with his Phase 3 Noir Darts, which he most notably used for the majority of his Successful Matchplay Campaign in 2018, including that 9 Darter against Joe Cullen. My personal favourite of the ‘Gary Anderson Collection’, as, from a design point of view, they’re just stunning and have those mentioned positive memories with them.

Keep up with the Dunvegan Socials for more information about upcoming Tournaments and Events, including an Exhibition at the ZH Live, in which Gary will be appearing for an Evening of Darts and Entertainment.

Ryan Segal @theryansegal