MICHAEL VAN GERWEN will begin his defence of the William Hill World Darts Championship title on the opening night of this year's tournament on Thursday December 14.

Reigning World Champion Van Gerwen will take on fellow Dutchman Christian Kist in the first round of the £1.8 million tournament, which is being held at London's Alexandra Palace from December 14-January 1.

The opening night also features Steve Beaton taking on Irish debutant William O'Connor, James Wilson's meeting with Polish ace Krzysztof Ratajski and Gerwyn Price up against youngster Ted Evetts, who won Monday's PDPA Qualifier.

Legendary 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor will begin his final World Championship challenge on Friday December 15 against Chris Dobey.

Friday's action also features Stephen Bunting's meeting with new World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh, and Rob Cross making his World Championship debut against the winner of the preliminary round tie between Seigo Asada and Gordon Mathers.

The first double session of the event will be held on Saturday December 16, with the afternoon featuring Benito van de Pas up against Steve West, Mervyn King's meeting with Zoran Lerchbacher and Robert Thornton taking on Alan Ljubic or Brendan Dolan.

Saturday's evening session is headlined by two-time World Champion Gary Anderson's clash with Jeff Smith or Luke Humphries, while Joe Cullen plays Jermaine Wattimena and Jelle Klaasen takes on Dutch rival Jan Dekker.

The afternoon session on Sunday December 17 includes Australia's Kyle Anderson up against Peter Jacques, Alan Norris' meeting with Kim Viljanen and Jonny Clayton taking on either Kenny Neyens or Jamie Lewis.

Sunday's evening session sees three-time semi-finalist James Wade play Keegan Brown, while Dave Chisnall meets Vincent van der Voort and Ian White plays either Willard Bruguier or Cody Harris.

Fourth and fifth seeds Daryl Gurney and Mensur Suljovic enter the action on Monday December 18 against Ronny Huybrechts and Kevin Painter respectively, while Mark Webster will face either Kai Fan Leung or Paul Lim.

Five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld plays Richard North on Tuesday December 19, when John Henderson meets Marko Kantele and two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis takes on either Aleksandr Oreshkin or Kevin Munch.

Former finalist Simon Whitlock meets German debutant Martin Schindler on Wednesday December 20, with Michael Smith playing Steve Lennon and Justin Pipe awaiting the winner of the preliminary round tie between Xiao Chen Zong and Bernie Smith.

The first round concludes on Thursday December 21 with the final four matches, headlined by number two seed Peter Wright's meeting with Brazilian debutant Diogo Portela.

Spanish duo Cristo Reyes and Toni Alcinas face off on Thursday's opening tie, before Kim Huybrechts plays James Richardson and Darren Webster meets South Africa's Devon Petersen.

The second round begins on Friday December 22 with a double session, and a further two sessions will be held on Saturday December 23 ahead of the Christmas break.

The second round concludes on Wednesday December 27, with the third round split across Wednesday night and a double session on Thursday December 28.

The quarter-finals will be held on Friday December 29, with the semi-finals on Saturday December 30 ahead of the final on Monday January 1.

The William Hill World Darts Championship will be held from December 14 to January 1 at London's Alexandra Palace, and will be broadcast live on the dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel.

CLICK HERE FOR TICKET INFORMATION

CLICK HERE FOR DRAW BRACKET

2017/2018 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play

Preliminary & First Rounds
(P) denotes Preliminary Round
Thursday December 14 (7pm)
Steve Beaton v William O'Connor
James Wilson v Krzysztof Ratajski
Michael van Gerwen v Christian Kist
Gerwyn Price v Ted Evetts

Friday December 15 (7pm)
Seigo Asada v Gordon Mathers (P)
Stephen Bunting v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Phil Taylor v Chris Dobey
Rob Cross v Seigo Asada/Gordon Mathers

Saturday December 16
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)

Brendan Dolan v Alan Ljubic (P)
Benito van de Pas v Steve West
Mervyn King v Zoran Lerchbacher
Robert Thornton v Brendan Dolan/Alan Ljubic

Evening Session (7pm)
Jeff Smith v Luke Humphries (P)
Joe Cullen v Jermaine Wattimena
Jelle Klaasen v Jan Dekker
Gary Anderson v Jeff Smith/Luke Humphries

Sunday December 17
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)

Kenny Neyens v Jamie Lewis (P)
Alan Norris v Kim Viljanen
Kyle Anderson v Peter Jacques
Jonny Clayton v Kenny Neyens/Jamie Lewis

Evening Session (7pm)
Willard Bruguier v Cody Harris (P)
James Wade v Keegan Brown
Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
Ian White v Willard Bruguier/Cody Harris

Monday December 18 (7pm)
Kai Fan Leung v Paul Lim (P)
Mensur Suljovic v Kevin Painter
Daryl Gurney v Ronny Huybrechts
Mark Webster v Kai Fan Leung/Paul Lim

Tuesday December 19 (7pm)
Aleksandr Oreshkin v Kevin Munch (P)
John Henderson v Marko Kantele
Raymond van Barneveld v Richard North
Adrian Lewis v Aleksandr Oreshkin/Kevin Munch

Wednesday December 20 (7pm)
Xiao Chen Zong v Bernie Smith (P)
Michael Smith v Steve Lennon
Simon Whitlock v Martin Schindler
Justin Pipe v Xiao Chen Zong/Bernie Smith

Thursday December 21 (7pm)
Cristo Reyes v Toni Alcinas
Kim Huybrechts v James Richardson
Darren Webster v Devon Petersen
Peter Wright v Diogo Portela

Second Round
Friday December 22
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)

Price/Evetts v White/Bruguier/Harris
Chisnall/Van der Voort v Beaton/O'Connor
Klaasen/Dekker v Bunting/Van den Bergh

Evening Session (7pm)
Suljovic/Painter v Thornton/Ljubic/Dolan
G Anderson/J Smith/Humphries v M Webster/Leung/Lim
Van Gerwen/Kist v Wilson/Ratajski

Saturday December 23
Afternoon Session (1pm)

Wade/Brown v King/Lerchbacher
M Smith/Lennon v Cross/Asada/Mathers
Van de Pas/West v Cullen/Wattimena

Evening Session (7pm)
Gurney/R Huybrechts v Henderson/Kantele
Taylor/Dobey v Pipe/Zong/Smith
Van Barneveld/North v K Anderson/Jacques

Wednesday December 27
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)

Whitlock/Schindler v D Webster/Petersen
Norris/Viljanen v K Huybrechts/Richardson
A Lewis/Oreshkin/Munch v Reyes/Alcinas

Evening Session (7pm)
Wright/Portela v Clayton/Neyens/J Lewis
Third Round
2x Games TBC

Thursday December 28
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)

3x Games TBC

Evening Session (7pm)
3x Games TBC

Quarter-Finals
Friday December 29
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)

2x Games

Evening Session (7pm)
2x Games

Semi-Finals
Saturday December 30 (7.30pm)

Final
Monday January 1 (8pm)

Format
Preliminary Round - Best of three sets
First Round - Best of five sets
Second Round - Best of seven sets
Third Round - Best of seven sets
Quarter-Finals - Best of nine sets
Semi-Finals - Best of 11 sets
Final - Best of 13 sets
All sets are the best of five legs.
A tie-break would be in operation in all matches other than the Preliminary Round. Any match which goes to a deciding set must be won by two clear legs. If the score in the final set reaches 5-5, a sudden-death leg will be played.

The schedule of play for the third round onwards will be announced at www.pdc.tv.

Schedule of play correct at time of writing. Any changes will be notified as soon as possible at www.pdc.tv.

William Hill Match Odds
Thursday December 14 (7pm)

1/2 Steve Beaton v 8/5 William O'Connor
Evs James Wilson v 4/5 Krzysztof Ratajski
1/50 Michael van Gerwen v 14/1 Christian Kist
2/5 Gerwyn Price v 19/10 Ted Evetts

Friday December 15 (7pm)
7/4 Seigo Asada v 4/9 Gordon Mathers (P)
4/6 Stephen Bunting v 6/5 Dimitri Van den Bergh
1/8 Phil Taylor v 5/1 Chris Dobey
Rob Cross v Seigo Asada/Gordon Mathers - Odds TBC

Saturday December 16
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)

10/3 Alan Ljubic v 2/9 Brendan Dolan (P)
8/13 Benito van de Pas v 13/10 Steve West
1/4 Mervyn King v 3/1 Zoran Lerchbacher
Robert Thornton v Alan Ljubic/Brendan Dolan - Odds TBC

Evening Session (7pm)
8/15 Jeff Smith v 6/4 Luke Humphries (P)
2/5 Joe Cullen v 19/10 Jermaine Wattimena
2/5 Jelle Klaasen v 19/10 Jan Dekker
Gary Anderson v Jeff Smith/Luke Humphries - Odds TBC

Sunday December 17
Afternoon Session (12.30pm)

21/10 Kenny Neyens v 4/11 Jamie Lewis (P)
2/9 Alan Norris v 10/3 Kim Viljanen
1/5 Kyle Anderson v 7/2 Peter Jacques
Jonny Clayton v Kenny Neyens/Jamie Lewis - Odds TBC

Evening Session (7pm)
7/4 Willard Bruguier v 4/9 Cody Harris (P)
1/5 James Wade v 7/2 Keegan Brown
1/3 Dave Chisnall v 12/5 Vincent van der Voort
Ian White v Willard Bruguier/Cody Harris - Odds TBC

Monday December 18 (7pm)
19/10 Kai Fan Leung v 2/5 Paul Lim (P)
1/6 Mensur Suljovic v 4/1 Kevin Painter
1/7 Daryl Gurney v 9/2 Ronny Huybrechts
Mark Webster v Kai Fan Leung/Paul Lim - Odds TBC

Tuesday December 19 (7pm)
4/5 Aleksandr Oreshkin v Evs Kevin Munch (P)
1/4 John Henderson v 3/1 Marko Kantele
1/6 Raymond van Barneveld v 4/1 Richard North
Adrian Lewis v Aleksandr Oreshkin/Kevin Munch - Odds TBC

Wednesday December 20 (7pm)
7/2 Xiao Chen Zong v 1/5 Bernie Smith (P)
2/5 Michael Smith v 19/10 Steve Lennon
2/7 Simon Whitlock v 13/5 Martin Schindler
Justin Pipe v Xiao Chen Zong/Bernie Smith - Odds TBC

Thursday December 21 (7pm)
1/4 Cristo Reyes v 3/1 Toni Alcinas
2/7 Kim Huybrechts v 13/5 James Richardson
1/4 Darren Webster v 3/1 Devon Petersen
1/20 Peter Wright v 9/1 Diogo Portela

Odds courtesy William Hill and correct at time of writing. Subject to fluctuation.