World Cup of Darts - The Power of Pairs

Peter Wright & Gary Anderson (PDC Europe)

As the countdown to the 2023 My Diesel Claim World Cup of Darts continues, darts stats supremo Richard Ashdown takes a look at the historical trends surrounding World Cup Pairs matches, ahead of this year's new-look format...

With a format combining Singles and Pairs play, it’s how the players perform as a partnership that has often been the deciding factor across the tournament’s 12-year history. 

291 pairs games have been played, plus four ‘sudden-death’ one-leg deciders.  Here’s the story of how darting double acts shaped the World Cup of Darts, prior to the event ultimately changing to an all-pairs format....

In December 2010, the Rainton Meadows Arena in Houghton-le-Spring staged the inaugural World Cup of Darts, and the home nation could not have been in better hands, with the world’s top two ranked players Phil Taylor and James Wade flying the flag for England.

However, it was Spain’s Carlos Rodriguez & Toni Alcinas who produced the performance of their lives to beat the favourites 6-5, in what is still regarded as the biggest shock in the tournament’s history.  

The Spanish proved their win over England was no fluke as they went on to defeat Scotland’s Gary Anderson & Robert Thornton 3-1 in the quarter final group-stage, before losing all four Singles matches to the eventual Dutch champions Raymond van Barneveld & Co Stompé.

In the first two editions of the World Cup of Darts, a Pairs victory counted double, meaning that should a match be level after both Singles and Pairs games, a solitary ‘sudden-death’ tie-break Pairs leg would be played to ultimately decide the result.

When the World Cup returned for its second edition in February 2012, Hamburg played host to several Pairs matches that saw teams snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  

In the second round, South Africa’s Shawn Hogan & Devon Petersen trailed Scotland 2-0, having lost their singles games to Gary Anderson & Peter Wright respectively.

The South African’s hit back with a 5-3 pairs win that sent the match into sudden-death, then survived two match darts from Anderson before Hogan hit the double six to complete a surprise turnaround.

England’s Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis defeated Wales in the semi-finals and having already survived a sudden-death leg of their own against Canada in their opening match, they played Australia’s Simon Whitlock and Paul Nicholson in the most dramatic final in World Cup history.

Australia had sent home reigning champions Netherlands in the semi-finals, but found themselves 3-1 down to England after four Singles games.  

The Australian duo then won the two-point Pairs game 7-4, with Whitlock producing a 124 checkout on the bull to level the match at 3-3 and take the final into a sudden-death leg.

With both teams on 56, it was Nicholson who had the first chance to win the World Cup for Australia, but he narrowly missed tops and tens and then had to stand and suffer, only to see Phil Taylor miss the same two targets.  

With Nicholson and Lewis both head-in-hands, Whitlock then spurned two darts of his own at double ten and double five, before World Champion Adrian Lewis stepped in to finally hit the double five himself, which saw him sink to his knees.  

From joy to disappointment, relief to despair, the range of emotions displayed by the four players during those final moments encapsulate everything World Cup of Darts Pairs play is about.

2013 saw the Last 16 knockout stages played in Pairs and there were shocks galore in Hamburg.  Belgium’s Huybrechts brothers Ronny & Kim produced a 101+ average to defeat the 2012 finalists Australia 5-1 and set them on a run to the final themselves, in memory of their late father Ludo.

Finland’s Jani Haavisto & Jarkko Komula also played quite brilliantly to defeat the first-time Dutch pairing of Michael van Gerwen and Van Barneveld 5-3. 

It was a victory that saw the Finnish go on to beat host nation Germany in a last-leg Pairs decider and reach the semi-finals, losing out to Belgium who produced their best ever Pairs performance with a 105.5 average and a 4-0 win.

2013 demonstrated just how the Pairs format can be the proverbial “leveller” with unpredictable results, as there were also second round wins for Japan over the Republic of Ireland, for Croatia over Northern Ireland and for Spain over Scotland.

Taylor and Lewis successfully defended their title in 2013, but not before narrowly surviving two match darts in a last-leg scare against South Africa in the last 16, and surviving another match dart in the semi-final Pairs decider against Wales. 

2014 saw the highest ever average produced in a Pairs game of 117.88, registered by the eventual champions Van Gerwen and Van Barneveld.

They defeated Northern Ireland’s Brendan Dolan & Mickey Mansell in their semi-final decider 4-0 with legs of 13, 14, 12 and 12 darts.  Remarkably, the doubles Dutch duo hold six of the top eight averages recorded as a pair in the World Cup of Darts!

117.88 - Raymond van Barneveld & Michael van Gerwen (NED)
    2014 Semi Final, beat Brendan Dolan & Mickey Mansell (NIR) 4-0

111.33 - Raymond van Barneveld & Michael van Gerwen (NED)
    2017 Last 16, beat Larry Butler & Darin Young (USA) 4-0

109.33    - Raymond van Barneveld & Michael van Gerwen (NED)
    2017 Last 32, beat Frantisek Humpula & Karel Sedlacek (CZE) 5-1

109.31 - Damon Heta & Simon Whitlock (AUS)
    2022 Quarter Final, beat Dimitri Van den Bergh & Kim Huybrechts (BEL) 4-0

107.77    - Raymond van Barneveld & Michael van Gerwen (NED)
    2016 Quarter Final, beat Kyle Anderson & Simon Whitlock (AUS) 4-3

107.36    - Raymond van Barneveld & Michael van Gerwen (NED)
    2015 Quarter Final, beat Brendan Dolan & Mickey Mansell (NIR) 4-0

105.48 - Kim Huybrechts & Ronny Huybrechts (BEL)
    2013 Semi Final, beat Jani Haavisto & Jarkko Komula (FIN) 4-0

105.17 - Raymond van Barneveld & Michael van Gerwen (NED)
    2017 Quarter Final, Max Hopp & Martin Schindler (GER) 4-1

The first eight editions of the World Cup saw the tournament dominated by the Netherlands and England, courtesy of the two most outstanding Pairs partnerships in its history.  

Having lifted the inaugural title alongside Stompé in 2010,  Van Barneveld’s partnership with Van Gerwen saw them lift a further three titles in 2014, 2017 & 2018.

They lost just two Pairs games in 18 matches, a remarkable record that is only matched by four-time winners Lewis and Taylor -  a five-year partnership that saw the mentor and protégé from Stoke-on-Trent reach all five finals and win the title in 2012, 2013, 2015 & 2016.

The one final Phil & Adrian lost was to Raymond & Michael in 2014, with the Dutch winning three straight Singles games.

The only time the awesome foursome shared the stage in a Pairs match was during the 2016 final.  The Dutch won the Pairs 4-2, but it was the Englishmen that won the match overall by 3 games to 2 and lifted the World Cup for a fourth time.

The current home of the World Cup of Darts is the Eissporthalle in Frankfurt, and it first hosted the event in 2015.  Hong Kong made the early headlines as the pairing of Royden Lam & Scott Mackenzie defeated both Wales and the Republic of Ireland to reach the quarter finals, before losing to Scotland.

In 12 years of the World Cup of Darts, it’s testament to the Pairs format and the depth of darting talent around the world that 20 different nations have reached the quarter-finals, including Canada (x4), Croatia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, South Africa (x2) & USA (x2).

In 2023, Singapore will be relying on the same two players for a record-breaking ninth time, with the legendary Paul Lim teaming up once again with his namesake Harith.  

They enjoyed their best run in 2017, claiming a sensational 5-2 win over Scotland’s Anderson and Wright, followed by victory over Spain, before losing to Belgium in the quarter finals.  

World Cup of Darts appearances as a pair (including 2023)

9 - Harith Lim & Paul Lim (Singapore)
8 - Rowby-John Rodriguez & Mensur Suljovic (Austria)
8 - Brendan Dolan & Daryl Gurney (Northern Ireland)
6 - Dimitri Van den Bergh & Kim Huybrechts (Belgium)
6 - Raymond van Barneveld & Michael van Gerwen (Netherlands)
6 - Gary Anderson & Peter Wright (Scotland)
6 - Larry Butler & Darin Young (USA)
6 - Jonny Clayton & Gerwyn Price (Wales)

They also overcame the formidable Welsh duo of Gerwyn Price & Jonny Clayton 5-3 in the opening round in Hamburg 2019, the same year that Japan’s Seigo Asada & Haruki Muramatsu were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual champions Scotland.

Having already finished runners-up to England in 2015 and the Netherlands in 2018, Anderson and Wright were unstoppable in 2019, winning their Pairs matches 5-0 against Denmark in the first round and 4-0 against the Republic of Ireland in the final.  

Prior to the final, Ireland’s William O’Connor & Steve Lennon had been immaculate in their Pairs matches, beating both Austria (Mensur Suljovic & Zoran Lerchbacher) and the Netherlands (Michael van Gerwen & Jermaine Wattimena) 4-0 in legs, but the Scottish were too strong in the final itself, winning overall by 3 games to 1.

Anderson will reunite with Wright in Frankfurt this week, for the first time since winning the title together four years ago.

In each of the last three years, it was John Henderson wearing Scottish colours, and he and Peter Wright demonstrated Pairs precision under pressure in Jena in 2021, defeating both the Netherlands and Wales in last-leg deciders to reach the final.

There they faced Austria’s Rowby-John Rodriguez & Mensur Suljovic, who had survived three match darts from Northern Ireland’s Dolan in a last-leg pairs decider of their own in the quarter finals.  

In what proved to be a crucial Pairs game in the final, Austria led 3-0 but missed five darts to win it.  Scotland stepped in to take it 4-3 and won the final by 3 games to 1, lifting the coveted title for a second time.

Played behind closed doors, the 2020 edition saw all four quarter-final matches go to a third and deciding Pairs game on a dramatic Salzburg Sunday afternoon.  

German duo Gabriel Clemens and Max Hopp survived one match dart from Van Gerwen and Danny Noppert, while Dimitri Van den Bergh & Kim Huybrechts put Belgium through to their sixth semi-final in eight years, condemning Canada (Matt Campbell & Jeff Smith) to a fourth quarter-final defeat.  

England’s Rob Cross & Michael Smith squeezed past Austria (Suljovic/Rodriguez) in the last leg and went on to defeat Belgium to reach the final. There, the Welsh proved too strong for the English and it was a 4-3 Pairs victory that secured a 3-0 match score and a maiden title for Price and Clayton.

Despite averaging 103.9, the Welsh champions lost their grasp on the World Cup in a 4-3 Pairs defeat to Scotland’s Wright and Henderson in the 2021 semi-finals, but they impressed again in Frankfurt 12 months ago. 

After coming through a Pairs decider against Austria (Suljovic/Rodriguez), Price & Clayton comfortably defeated Germany (Clemens/Schindler) and Netherlands (van Duijvenbode/Noppert) to reach Wales’ fourth final.  

There, they would meet Australia’s Whitlock & Damon Heta, who almost made history in their opening Pairs match against Lithuania, with Whitlock missing double 18 by the width of the wire to land the first ever Pairs nine-darter!

There was also a spectacular first round pairs match between Poland and the Czech Republic, with Krzysztof Kciuk & Krzystof Ratajski averaging 105 in a 5-2 victory over Karel Sedlacek & Adam Gawlas, who averaged 103.5 themselves in the only pairs match in World Cup history to see both teams average over 100.

Despite their best efforts, this was the Czech’s eight consecutive first round exit. Only Italy have a poorer record, going out in the opening round in each of their ten World Cup appearances (2013-2022).

Ever-present Gibraltar have suffered 11 first round exits in 12 years, with their only victory coming against Italy in 2015. Thailand will be seeking their first win in 2023 when they return after a four-year absence, having lost in the first round on five occasions from 2014-2018.

As the 2022 event continued, the confident Australian duo defeated Sweden in the second round and then averaged 109.3 to win 4-0 in their Pairs decider against Belgium in the quarter finals. There was no need for a Pairs game in the semi-final as they beat England in two straight Singles games.

With a two-game lead in the final, Whitlock missed one dart at double 18 to win the Pairs game and take the title for Australia, ten years on from coming so close to winning the trophy alongside Nicholson.

Wales won the pairs game 4-3, but Heta put things right in his second Singles game, finding the match winning double against Clayton for an amazing Australian World Cup of Darts triumph.

Australia became the fifth different nation to win the World Cup of Darts, with Whitlock and Heta listed as the seventh different 'pair' to be crowned champions.

2010 - van Barneveld & Stompé (NED)                          
2012 - Taylor & Lewis (ENG)                                         
2013 - Taylor & Lewis (ENG)                                       
2014 - van Barneveld & van Gerwen (NED)                  
2015 - Taylor & Lewis (ENG)                                         
2016 - Taylor & Lewis (ENG)                                          
2017 - van Barneveld & van Gerwen (NED)              
2018 - van Barneveld & van Gerwen (NED)                   
2019 - Wright & Anderson (SCO)                                
2020 - Price & Clayton (WAL)                                        
2021 - Wright & Henderson (SCO)                               
2022  - Whitlock & Heta (AUS) 

2010 - Webster & Bates (WAL)                          
2012 - Whitlock & Nicholson (AUS)                                         
2013 - K Huybrechts & R Huybrechts (BEL)                                       
2014 - Taylor & Lewis (ENG)                  
2015 - Wright & Anderson (SCO)                                         
2016 - van Barneveld & van Gerwen (NED)                                          
2017 - Webster & Price (WAL)              
2018 - Wright & Anderson (SCO)                   
2019 - O'Connor & Lennon (IRE)                               
2020 - Smith & Cross (ENG)                                       
2021 - Suljovic & Rodriguez (AUT)                               
2022 - Price & Clayton (WAL)                       

The My Diesel Claim World Cup of Darts will be broadcast on Sky Sports for viewers in the UK & Ireland, through the PDC's international broadcast partners, including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.