PDC World Championship 2021 - 3

The final is not always the best match of a tournament but there were some World Championship finals which count to the best matches in the history of darts. I picked three and checked them out.
My pick number two is the final of the inaugural BDO World Championship which took place in 1978.

The inaugural BDO World Championship Final
The inaugural BDO World Championship had a noteworthy final as well and not only because it was the first World Championship final.
The first World Championship of the BDO didn't take place in the cultivated atmosphere of the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green but in the Heart of the Midlands Club in Nottingham. It was not played as in later years in January but from 6. - 10. February. It was organised by the BDO which had been founded five years before and it was televised on BBC. Sid Waddell was the commentator, as in all BDO World Championships till the split in darts 1993.
At that time the price money of 3.000 pound for the winner was quite decent. The runner-up got 1.700 pound and even the players who didn't survive the first round got 250 pound for participating. This first World Championship had a leg format, not sets, and the format of the final was Best of 21 Legs.

The sponsor was Imperial Tobacco and as the company produced a brand of cigarettes named Embassy, the World Championship was known as the Embassy. Imperial Tobacco sponsored the Snooker World Championship as well. For the Darts World Championship Imperial Tobacco was 25 years the main sponsor till the English Government forbid tobacco companies to sponsor sport events.

The tournament was not only called World Championship - international qualifiers really played in it. There were 16 participants in the event - the Englishmen Eric Bristow, Alan Glazier, Tony Brown and John Lowe were seeded 1 - 4. The Americans Conrad Daniels and Nicky Virachkul were the seeds 5 and 6, Canadian Hilliyard Rossiter was seeded seventh. Seeded 8 and 9 were the two Welsh players Alan Evans and Leighton Rees while the Australians Barry Atkinsons and Tim Brown were the number 10 and 11 seeds. Seeds 12 and 13 were the Scotsmen Rab Smith and Bobby Semple, seeds 14 and 15 Swedes Stefan Lord and Kenth Ohlsson and the 16. Seed was Irishman Patrick Clifford. One can well say that everybody of distinction in the world of darts at that time took part in this first BDO World Championship.

Even in the first World Championship there was a big First Round upset - number 1 seed Eric Bristow was eliminated First Round by American Conrad Daniels and I can imagine Daniels for many years chuckled at that results.
A player who by his own admission felt comfortable in the tournament from the start was Welshman Leighton Rees - at that time a really big gun in British darts. Rees defeated Australian Barry Atkinson First Round. He won 6:0 and threw a 15-Darter, a 19-Darter, an 18-Darter, another 15-Darter, a 12-Darter and a 17-Darter and the 12-Darter could have been an 10- or even a 9-Darter would Rees not only have scratched the wire of the triple 20 with some of his darts.

In the quarterfinals Rees met his Welsh country man and great friend Alan Evans. As Rees describes it was probably the best match ever between the two. There were 42 scores over 100, six 180s and the very first 10-Darter (137, 180, 180, 4) on TV. Beside Evans threw a 160 finish and Rees a 161 finish. Rees won the match 6:3 but admitted Evans could have won the match too. He felt he had never before seen Evans play so well and lose nevertheless. Especially happy Rees was about his 10-Darter and that he hit the double two. It looks that was not his favourite double... Of course the averages of the match are known as well. Rees had an average of 97.50, Evans averaged 94.86. Even by today's standards it was a really good match and far better than the other quarterfinals of the tournament. In fact those two averages were by far the highest of the tournament.

In the semi-finals Rees competed against American Nicky Virachkul and Virachkul stormed into a 3:0 lead. Rees wrote, that he was glad about the long format of best of 15 legs as by this he had the chance to get back into the match even when he was behind. And to be sure - Rees won the following five legs. But Virachkul didn't give in and levelled 6:6. And 7:7. Rees dug deep in the deciding leg. He threw a 180 followed by a 123 and won it in a 13-darter. Only than he turned around and realised the reward for the win was an encounter with John Lowe in the final.

The interest of the media was huge and at home in Wales all hell had broken lose. As Rees wrote he was not so much interested in the price money but he was determined to win for Wales.

The format of the final was best of 21 legs, the longest match which Rees ever had played in but he was not worried at all as by now he had the impression that this tournament was his tournament. And he was right!

At the start the final was a head-to-head race but when Lowe was 4:3 ahead, Rees won six legs in a row and got a 9:4 lead. So he needed only two more legs to win the title. Lowe threw a 15-darter, Rees answered with a 15-darter. Only one leg more was needed for the title but Rees couldn't finish his 66 points in the next leg and Lowe snatched it. In the following leg Lowe stood on 141 points while Rees had still 81. Lowe got down to 50, Rees threw 31 points... Lowe couldn't finish off his points with his next throw while Rees hit first the single 20 and then tops and won the inaugural World Champion title of the BDO. A really big win for the Welshman but he felt though it was a great moment the reception he got when he returned to Wales was even better.

Well, not to forget there was a match for the third place too which American Nicky Virachkul won against Stefan Lord.

After his World Championship win Rees didn't win much more tournaments but qualified till 1990 every year for the tournament. His last event he played in 1994, the Welsh Open.

John Lowe on the other side won 1979, 1987 and 1993 the BDO World Championship and after the split in darts twice - in 1995 and 1996 - reached the semi-finals of the PDC World Championship. 2005 he qualified for the last time for the PDC World Championship.

For a long time Leighton Rees stayed the only Welsh World Champion till 1995 Richie Burnett won the title. In 2008 Mark Webster was the next Welsh World Champion. And beside the first BDO World Champion the probably last BDO World Champion was a Welshman too - Wayne Warren won the title 2020.

Till now there was no Welsh winner of the PDC World Championship. 2021 with Nick Kenny, Jamie Lewis, Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton four Welsh players will stand on the stage of the Alexandra Palace. And I can well imagine that Gerwyn Price will one day be the first Welsh PDC World Champion.

No video of the of the complete World Championship final exists but you can find the last leg here: BDO World Championship Final 1978 - Last Leg

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