What Is The PDC World Matchplay Tournament And Why Is It So Important?

By Ian John
May 31, 2023

Ask anybody in the world of top level professional darts, what trophy would they like to win other than the World Championship, then it is a pretty good assumption that their choice will be the World Matchplay.

This famous tournament has its spiritual home at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, where it has been contested every year since 1994 (apart from when the lockdown was on in 2020) and it is famous for its friendly, fun and lively atmosphere.

Tickets for the tournament usually sell out within a couple of days and of course, Sky Sports showcases all the games from the tournament which takes place after the Premier League Darts gas been completed at the height of the British summer during July.

It is also one of the most popular summer sports events for viewers and for punters too and you can always find plenty of great betting available on the game with bet365 Sport.

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So what is it about this famous darting extravaganza that makes it so different to other tournaments on the schedule and why do all top players covet getting their name engraved on the trophy alongside many other legends of the game?

Let’s take a closer look and find out.

The World Matchplay – A History

Prior to the start of the breakaway PDC, the BDO World Matchplay was a tournament held five times between 1984 and 1988.

John Lowe created history in the 1984 quarterfinal of the competition when landing the first ever nine-dart finish to be shown live on TV, earning him a £102,000 prize (almost five times more than the winner Eric Bristow received).

The tournament proved popular, but when ITV announced it was withdrawing all its darts coverage in 1988, the tournament ceased.

However, with the PDC splitting away from the BDO in the early 1990s, the new organisation needed some iconic tournaments to sit alongside its own World Darts Championship and in 1994, the first World Matchplay tournament was held at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

  • Different To Your Standard Tournament

What made the World Matchplay so exciting in its new incarnation was that rather than using the set-play format in the World Championship, the Matchplay would use Matchplay darts.

This does away with sets and simply tots up the legs won by each player until one of the player wins the requisite amount of games in order to claim victory.

However, there was a caveat, players had to win by two or more legs, meaning that if a match had gone the distance, it could be extended indefinitely if players continued to share winning legs.

After a number of very lengthy games, in 2013 a new rule was introduced where if a player had not won the game by two legs after six extra legs, then a single sudden-death leg would be played to decide the winner.

This accumulation of legs, rather than sets, is viewed by some darts players as the true essence of the game, as every leg matters in the context of the game, whereas in Set Play, players can actually lose more games than they win, and still win the match.

Here’s an example set over a 9-set game:

The Difference Between Set Play & Match Play

  • Player One 3-2 Player Two
  • Player One 0-3 Player Two
  • Player One 3-2 Player Two
  • Player One 1-3 Player Two
  • Player One 3-2 Player Two
  • Player One 0-3 Player Two
  • Player One 3-1 Player Two
  • Player One 0-3 Player Two
  • Player One 3-2 Player Two

In this example, Player One wins 4-3 in Set Play, but in terms of legs won, Player Two would win a Matchplay game having won 21 legs, compared to just 16 for Player One.

World Matchplay – Prize Money & Final Results

The first World Matchplay tournament in 1994 boasted a prize pool of £42,400 with £10,000 handed over to the very first champion of the tournament, American Larry Butler.

However, in 2022, that prize money had swelled to £800,000 with £200,000 handed to winner Michael van Gerwen and £100,000 going to runner up Gerwyn Price

The table below shows you all the results from every World Matchplay since 1994.

YearWinnerScoreRunner Up
1994Larry Butler16-12Dennis Priestley
1995Phil Taylor16-11Dennis Priestley
1996Peter Evison16-14Dennis Priestley
1997Phil Taylor16-11Alan Warriner
1998Rod Harrington19-17Ronnie Baxter
1999Rod Harrington19-17Peter Manley
2000Phil Taylor18-12Alan Warriner
2001Phil Taylor18-10Richie Burnett
2002Phil Taylor18-16John Part
2003Phil Taylor18-12Wayne Mardle
2004Phil Taylor18-8Mark Dudbridge
2005Colin Lloyd18-12John Part
2006Phil Taylor18-11James Wade
2007James Wade18-7Terry Jenkins
2008Phil Taylor18-9James Wade
2009Phil Taylor18-4Terry Jenkins
2010Phil Taylor18-12Raymond van Barneveld
2011Phil Taylor18-8James Wade
2012Phil Taylor18-15James Wade
2013Phil Taylor18-13Adrian Lewis
2014Phil Taylor18-9Michael van Gerwen
2015Michael van Gerwen18-12James Wade
2016Michael van Gerwen18-10Phil Taylor
2017Phil Taylor18-8Peter Wright
2018Gary Anderson21-19Mensur Suljovic
2019Rob Cross18-13Michael Smith
2020Dimitri Van den Bergh18-10Gary Anderson
2021Peter Wright18-9Dimitri Van den Bergh
2022Michael van Gerwen18-14Gerwyn Price

Phil Taylor holds the record with 16 World Matchplay victories with Michael van Gerwen next on the list with three wins.

The open nature of the tournament is shown by the fact that there have been 8 different players in the final in the last five years and a different winner every year since 2016.

The World Matchplay Trophy has been renamed the Phil Taylor trophy in honour of the 16-time Champion, regarded as the best player of all time, following his retirement.

PDC World Matchplay FAQs

·       What is the PDC World Matchplay?

The PDC World Matchplay is an annual darts tournament that is viewed by players as the second most prestigious tournament to win after the World Championship.

·       Where is the PDC World Matchplay held?

The World Matchplay has been held at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool since it was first contested in 1994, except for the year of the Pandemic, 2020, when it was held at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

·       When does the PDC World Matchplay take place?

The PDC World Matchplay takes place at the height of the British summer in late July.

·       Who is the most successful player in the PDC World Matchplay history?

Phil Taylor is the most successful player in the tournament history reaching 17 finals, winning 16 in just 24 appearances in the tournament during his career.

Taylor’s dominance of the event and the fact it was his favourite tournament of the year, meant that upon his retirement, the World Matchplay Trophy presented to the winner was renamed the Phil Taylor Cup.

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