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Five things we've learned from the first round of the 2016 World Darts Championship

Jamie Shaw in Editor's Column 24 Dec 2015
Newton stumbled into the second round (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

The greatest show on planet darts has reached its halfway stage, with a gripping first round offering up a number of talking points heading into the brief Christmas break.

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After seven days of pulsating action, 72 have become 32 as the World Championship prepares to relaunch bigger and better on Boxing Day for the first time ever. 

No fewer than ten seeds bit the dust at the first time of asking, with Robert Thornton, Ian White and Kim Huybrechts among the notable early casualties.

The usual suspects, however, Messrs Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson, live to fight another day and will return to the capital to step up their quests for glory after the festivities have ceased.

Here are our top five talking points from round one...

Averages aren't everything

Understandably, the first round is always the nerviest, with the threat of a dampened Christmas looming large over players who fail to make it past the first hurdle.

It took seven days for any player to record a ton-plus average, with Jelle Klaasen's 102.54 leading the way ahead of reigning champion Gary Anderson's 99.55 on opening night.

Wes Newton threatened to break the record for the lowest ever winning average in this competition, eventually squeezing through with a mere 75, underlining the fact that the numbers are not the be all and end all.

As the format and stakes rise after Christmas, expect the big averages to come flooding in as the top seeds face a much tougher test and in-turn are forced to produce their best game.

Taylor is doubtful of his setup

All year, we have seen Taylor tinker with his tungsten, predominantly marginal adjustments such as smaller flights or longer stems, but 'The Power' shocked us all by turning up with a completely new set of arrows ahead of his opener.

Rumour has it that Taylor had only picked up the darts the day before he was due to play, having scoured the Target website and stumbled across a set that caught his eye.

The darts bared a striking resemblance to those with which he won his 16th (and most recent) world title with in 2013, suggesting the 55-year-old is willing to try anything to restore his former glories.

His performance against Japan's Keita Ono was little to shout home about, but he did enough to average 98 with 60 per cent on the doubles. It remains to be seen whether he will revert back to his traditional setup for his second round clash with Kevin Painter.

Never underestimate a qualifier

Sadly, no Preliminary Round participant will be present in this year's second round, though many were responsible for offering a seed a nightmare before Christmas.

Take Rene Eidams for example. The unknown quantity from Germany scraped through his prelim tie with a 69 average, prompting the bookies to install Van Gerwen at the shortest ever price for a darts match at 1/500 before a dart was thrown.

It looked as if they were about to be proven right as MVG romped to the opening two sets in 11 minutes, but only for the gallant qualifier to shred the script and threaten what would have been one of the biggest upsets in sporting history.

Though it wasn't to be for Eidams, that match will live long in the memory, and proves that the qualifiers are more than capable of giving the big guns a run for their money, providing they can overcome the inevitable nerves.

Russia's Alexander Oreshkin, the Roberto Baggio look-alike, took the opening two sets off Mervyn King, while Ono recorded a respectable 91 average in setting up a glamour tie with Taylor.

MVG can be vulnerable 

Van Gerwen entered this tournament with arguably more pressure and expectation heaped on him than when he as defending champion 12 months ago.

The world number one has won the last four televised tournaments and is 22 games unbeaten, prompting the bookmakers to shorten him to as short as evens in places to scoop a second crown at the palace.

However, the sets format arguably works in his opponent's favour, meaning they can approach the match in five-leg spells and hope that Dutchman goes off the boil, which he duly did against Eidams.

Though that scare is likely to give MVG a timely wake-up call, it will offer his future opponents renewed hope that he is beatable over the next fortnight.

Ricky Evans really is Rapid

After a two-year absence from the Ally Pally stage, many had forgotten just how quick and dangerous a player Evans can be.

No longer can Vincent van der Voort claim to be the fastest player in the world, or at least not when the man from Kettering can land a 180 in less than three seconds. Ludicrous.

Evans quashed the perception that he is 'too quick for his own good' as he battled back from the brink (two sets and two legs down) to stun Simon Whitlock.

He now has a golden opportunity to mount a run in a relatively open section of the draw. Whatever you do, don't blink during his second round clash with Jamie Caven.

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Five things we've learned from the first round of the 2016 World Darts Championship

The greatest show on planet darts has reached its halfway stage, with a gripping first round offering up a number of talking points heading into the brief Christmas break.

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