THE 2018 bwin Grand Slam of Darts begins on Saturday, with Michael van Gerwen bidding for a record-breaking fourth successive title.

The 12th staging of the tournament will see 32 players from the PDC and BDO systems face off in Wolverhampton for the newly-titled Eric Bristow Trophy and £450,000 in prize money.

The nine days of action at the Aldersley Leisure Village, live on Sky Sports, initially sees the 32 players split into eight groups of four for the round-robin phase, with all players competing on both Saturday and Sunday.

The opening group matches on Saturday see the eight seeded players pitted against the eight BDO representatives, with reigning champion Van Gerwen taking on debutant Gary Robson in Group A.

Van Gerwen is bidding to become the first player to win the title four years in a row, and is the even money pre-tournament favourite with sponsors bwin.

Michael van Gerwen Grand Slam of Darts trophy (PDC)

"I really love this tournament, I think it suits me well. Everybody can see that from my results and performances in the last three years when I won it," said Van Gerwen, who will also face Jonny Clayton and Joe Murnan in the group phase.

"I did it without losing a match in any of those tournaments, which is a record I am really proud of and one I would like to continue. 

"I have had a couple of bad tournaments recently. Any tournament I don’t win is a bad one for me but that doesn’t say anything for this one – the same as it wouldn’t say anything if I had won the last two tournaments.

"I am still the most feared opponent for everyone and I know that if I play my best, I win. It is simple as that."

Michael Smith, James Wade at World Series of Darts Finals final (PDC)

Newly-crowned back-to-back televised title winner James Wade heads Group C where he is joined by Keegan Brown, Mark Webster and Wesley Harms.

Wade has paid a touching tribute to the late Eric Bristow MBE as he prepares to play for a trophy named after the darts legend, and his former mentor.

"It would be lovely to win the first Eric Bristow Trophy, I was lucky enough to be close to him,"said Wade, who will be bidding for a first Grand Slam title.

"He was a good man, an honest man and darts will always be at a loss now he's not there, and I will be at a loss because I have lost a friend.

"He had his biggest influence on my career when I was struggling the most and for someone like Eric to say 'I believe in you, I'm going to take you under my wing until you start winning again' meant so much to me.

"Its a shame he wasn't here to see me win my two recent titles but I'll soldier on and try to add his trophy to my cabinet.”

Rob Cross (PDC)

World Champion Rob Cross has been drawn with reigning World Youth Champion Dimitri Van den Bergh, Ryan Searle and Mark McGeeney in Group H.

Winner of the 2012 Grand Slam Raymond van Barneveld joins Michael Smith, Poland's Krzysztof Ratajski and World Masters winner Adam Smith-Neale in Group B.

Former Grand Slam finalist Gary Anderson headlines Group D alongside Ian White, Steve Hine and German debutant Michael Unterbuchner.

Number two seed Peter Wright has been drawn in Group E alongside Max Hopp, Josh Payne and Jim Williams, while number six seed Mensur Suljovic plays Germany's Martin Schindler and former Lakeside Champions Stephen Bunting and Scott Mitchell in Group G.

Reigning Lakeside Champion Glen Durrant will challenge seventh seed Simon Whitlock in Group F, alongside Gerwyn Price and Andrew Gilding.

The final group matches will take place on Monday and Tuesday, with the top two players from each group progressing to the last-16 knockout stage.

For ticket information, and details of car parking and shuttle buses, visit www.wolvescivic.co.uk or call 0870 320 7000.

2018 bwin Grand Slam of Darts
Schedule of Play
Saturday November 10
Afternoon Session (1300 GMT)

Groups E-H First Matches
Max Hopp v Josh Payne (E)
Gerwyn Price v Andrew Gilding (F)
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Ryan Searle (H)
Stephen Bunting v Martin Schindler (G)
Simon Whitlock v Glen Durrant (F)
Mensur Suljovic v Scott Mitchell (G)
Rob Cross v Mark McGeeney (H)
Peter Wright v Jim Williams (E)

Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Groups A-D First Matches
Keegan Brown v Mark Webster (C)
Jonny Clayton v Joe Murnan (A)
Ian White v Steve Hine (D)
Michael Smith v Adam Smith-Neale (B)
James Wade v Wesley Harms (C)
Raymond van Barneveld v Krzysztof Ratajski (B)
Gary Anderson v Michael Unterbuchner (D)
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Robson (A)

Sunday November 11
Afternoon Session (1300 GMT)

Groups E-H Second Matches
Saturday's winners face each other, and Saturday's losers face each other.

Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Groups A-D Second Matches
Saturday's winners face each other, and Saturday's losers face each other.

Monday November 12 (1900 GMT)
Groups E-H Final Matches

Tuesday November 13 (1900 GMT)
Groups A-D Final Matches

Wednesday November 14 (1900 GMT)
Second Round x4

Thursday November 15 (1900 GMT)
Second Round x4

Friday November 16 (1900 GMT)
Quarter-Finals x2

Saturday November 17 (1900 GMT)
Quarter-Finals x2

Sunday November 18
Afternoon Session (1300 GMT)

Semi-Finals

Evening Session (1930 GMT)
Final

Format
Group Stage: Best of nine legs
Second Round: Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals: Best of 31 legs
Semi-Finals: Best of 31 legs
Final: Best of 31 legs

Prize Fund
Winner: £110,000
Runner-Up: £55,000
Semi-Final Losers: £28,500
Quarter-Final Losers: £16,000
Second Round Losers: £10,000
Group Winner's Bonus: £2,500
Third Place in Group: £5,000
Fourth Place in Group: £3,000
Total: £450,000
Nine-Dart Finish Bonus: £25,000