By: Allen Bryan
The Darts World Championship is currently underway at the Alexandria Palace in London, England. Running from December 15 th ,2020 through January 3 rd ,2021, this is the preeminent dart competition in the world, with ninety-six of the top players from around the world competing for prize money of up to 500,000 British pounds. Under recent Covid rules, the competition was allowed to have up to 1000 spectators, but it is unclear how more austere measures during the Christmas season surge will affect the tournament. While the British have traditionally dominated play, in recent years the Dutch have become increasingly competitive, with Michael van Gerwen winning in 2014, 2017, and 2019. Only two Americans are participating this year, Danny Baggish and Danny Lauby, and no American has ever wonsince the championship’s inception in 1978.
Darts, a game thought to have originally derived from cut down spears or arrows of medieval warriors, bears little resemblance to weapons of war today. The first appearance of darts in their modern form are the French flechettes (meaning small arrows) and games played at English fairsin the 1800s. Both of these use bird feather flights attached to a small wooden shaft and tipped with a slender metal point which is tossed at a circular target. This evolved into pub darts in England, becoming so popular that each region devised their own concentric ringed targets. The modern game of dates standardized on the “London” board, which is a circular target board divided into 20 numbered wedges using concentric rings to separate them into 1, 2, and 3 point areas.
Since, the early 1900s, darts popularity has spread from England to devotees across the globe. This almost did not happen, however, since many areas considered darts a game of chance (gambling) rather than a game of skill. This was finally settled in 1908 by a court case in Leeds, England, establishing darts as a sport and game of skill. During the World Wars British soldiers carried the game of darts around the world. By the 1970s it was estimated that over 2 million people were regular competitors in England alone. Over a third of the Dutch people watched Raymond Van Barneveld take the World Championship in 1998. The sport of darts is still growing worldwide. Darts is one of the fastest growing sports in Holland, Germany, and China.