Monday, 6 January 2014

1986 World Darts Championship

The 1986 World Darts Championship may have been played at a different venue, but it was very much a case of the same old story come the end of the final. Eric Bristow celebrated his fifth world title on the stage of the Lakeside Country Club, and his period of domination looked set to continue for years to come. The fact that this would be his last world championship may have been surprising, but his march to a third consecutive title had a chilling inevitability about it from the off.

An 11/8 pre-tournament favourite, and recent winner of the British Open, Bristow was at his cocky best prior to the first championship at Frimley Green. In fact, his only concern going into the tournament seemed to be a nagging pain he was experiencing due to toothache. "I'm sorry about Eric's tooth," stated Bristow's first round opponent, Alan Evans. "Perhaps I can give him something else to think about". There was certainly no love lost between the pair. "Playing Evans is about as enjoyable as a visit to the dentist," retorted Bristow, who won a potentially tricky opening match 3-1.

The biggest casualty of the first round, both from a sporting perspective and physically, was the 22-stone number four seed Cliff Lazarenko, who lost in a deciding set to Dave Lee. Former champions John Lowe, Jocky Wilson and Keith Deller progressed without too many problems. Rising star Bob Anderson crushed Bobby George 3-0, with Dave Whitcombe dropping a set before seeing off Finland's Arto Lintunen.

Bristow highlighted his class in round two, his 3-0 win over Malcolm Davies completed in a little under half an hour. However, his post-match comments caused controversy, angering Lowe in particular. "Now the fun starts," proclaimed Bristow, "We get rid of the rubbish in the first two rounds". Forthright as ever, the reigning champion then went on to predict a final meeting with Whitcombe, who limped through to the quarter finals after a 3-2 win over Ceri Morgan, the defeated Welshman tantalisingly close at one point to the £51,000 prize for a nine-dart finish.

For the 1983 World Champion Keith Deller, it was the end of the road. His 3-1 defeat to 46-year-old Alan Glazier emphasised Deller's struggles since his memorable year, and he would never again win a BDO World Championship match. Still, at least he had the memories of 1983 and his infamous 138 checkout to remind him of happier times.

Wilson and Anderson eased into the quarter finals, both still to lose a set after their wins over Vic Hubbard and Kari Saukkonen respectively. Despite beating Fred McMullan 3-1, Lowe was damning of his own chances, stating "I won't win this title. I'm just not playing well enough". An honest assessment in the Bristow mould, although the polar opposite in terms of optimism.

In fairness, Lowe was spot-on. His 4-3 defeat to Anderson was hardly surprising, and was another stepping stone to world domination in the eyes of the victor, who confidently said "I have one aim in this game - to take Eric Bristow's crown". Another first-time semi-finalist would be Glazier, who narrowly beat Australia's Terry O'Dea to set up a last four clash with Bristow.

The Crafty Cockney's relentless destruction of anyone in his path continued, Wales' Peter Locke annihilated 4-0 in just 38 minutes. "It's a pity Alan (Evans) and Malcolm (Davies) didn't wait - then the Welsh lads could have all gone home in the same car," Bristow cheekily commented, fully living up to his billing as the biggest wind-up merchant in Britain. He could definitely talk the talk, and unfortunately for the rest, he was now walking the walk.

The last quarter final was overshadowed by allegations made by Whitcombe. After defeating Jocky Wilson 4-2, Whitcombe revealed that many of the top officials had backed Wilson to win the match. "I heard them shouting for him. Even at the introductions they were yelling 'Stuff him, Jocky'. I don't care if they've put their house on him but they shouldn't say anything - they should be neutral". Whitcombe used his anger productively, reeling off ten straight legs, and twelve in thirteen, to book a semi-final meeting with Anderson.

Bristow was at least pushed harder in his semi-final win over Glazier, his 5-3 victory keeping his dream of a fifth title alive. The main drama concentrated on the Whitcombe-Anderson match, Whitcombe eventually coming out on top in a final-set decider. Bristow's prediction of a final meeting with Whitcombe had now come to fruition, and he was an overwhelming favourite; of their last eleven meetings, Bristow had won ten, four of which had been at the World Championships, including the 7-1 destruction in the 1984 final. Whitcombe must have been sick of the sight of his nemesis, even more so after the 1986 final.

Whitcombe needed a fast start, but it was Bristow who came out flying, his 3-1 win in the first set including an eleven-dart leg, as the champion stamped his authority on the occasion. A repeat scoreline in the second set spelt danger for Whitcombe, although as the third set developed, it looked as if he could force his way back into the match.

At 2-2 and 201-206 on Whitcombe's throw, a chance was there for the taking. And despite Whitcombe only scoring 60 to Bristow's 140, a miss on double-16 by the champion looked to have cost him the set. Whitcombe stood at the oche with two darts at the same double to gain a foothold. But as Whitcombe's second dart flicked the barrel of his first attempt and stayed out, a relieved Bristow eagerly stepped forward to take the set and with it a 3-0 lead. It was undoubtedly a pivotal moment.

The hangover of the missed opportunity lingered on into the fourth set, with Bristow only dropping one leg to move four sets up. Whitcombe had a glimmer of light in the next set, leading 2-1 and sitting on 60, as Bristow attempted to take out 87. Legendary champions often produce the goods when they need to, or when their opponent least wants them to, so although it was no surprise that Bristow hit 20-17-Bull, it must have been another body blow to Whitcombe's already sagging morale. Inevitably, Bristow then took the next leg, and at 5-0 Whitcombe only had pride to pay for.

The last dart is sometimes the hardest, however, and as the finishing line neared, Bristow spurned championship darts; one at bull (perhaps remembering his failure to even go for this shot against Deller in 1983), two at double-16 in the fourth leg, and four more in the fifth. Finally though, Bristow hit double-2, throwing his arms aloft in ecstasy and relief, as he celebrated a third world title in a row and his fifth in total, pocketing £12,000 in the process. Whitcombe playfully threw a towel at the undisputed king of darts. If it had been a boxing bout, someone might have done this for him earlier.

"I ripped his head off," noted Bristow, before taking a pop at British sports stars in general: "Other British sportsmen can learn from me. I don't want to put up a jolly good show - I want to stuff the other guy". Certainly his destruction of Whitcombe in the 1986 final backed up his statement, and it would have been a brave man to have backed against him not making it four in a row in the following year.

Whitcombe for his part was content with his performance, indicating that he felt he had played well, but was still getting murdered. The defeated finalist was defiant though: "But Eric is beatable. John Lowe can stop him. Jocky Wilson can. And so can I".

In fact, the man who would knock Bristow off his perch was a little closer to home. The onset of dartitis - the inability to release a dart, similar to the yips in golf - meant that Bristow's 1986 triumph would incredibly be his last world title. "If you had told me then I won't win another world title, I'd have laughed at you," Bristow admitted on the recent ITV Life Stories programme.

How many world titles the debilitating affliction deprived Bristow of is debatable - his good friend Keith Deller estimated at least five - but judging by his displays at the 1986 tournament alone, Bristow looked set to create records that even a certain Phil Taylor may have needed quite some time to break.

2 comments:

  1. This post is great, thanks for posting, this gives a clear idea of the 1986 word darts championship.

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  2. “Very informative post. Thanks for the great information really enjoyed the read ..great stuff Thank you so much for sharing this informative and useful post.

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