Whether your view
of darts comes from watching TV gameshow Bullseye or catching
a glimpse of the beer swilling contestants in your local pub, you’ve
not seen darts until you’ve experienced a professional championship.
And if you’re in Blackpool over the summer, you may be able
to experience the action first hand at the World Matchplay held
annually at the Empress Ballroom [map]
in the Winter Gardens.
The Stan James World Matchplay is one of the premier events
in the darts calendar. Here you can see the titans of the darts
world compete for the glory of the championship. You’ll see
one-hundred-and-eight-ties and near misses a plenty, and probably
the odd nine-dart finish, which all add to the tension and the drama
of the game.
For those who are unfamiliar with the game, darts is a contest between
two (or more) people, who take it turns to throw three darts at
a numbered board standing a certain distance away. Championship
games are usually ‘501’, where contests have to whittle
down their score from 501 to zero with their final dart scoring
on a double. A player can do this in a minimum of 9 darts but this
is a particularly difficult feat.
The game of darts has humble origins that date back to the
middle ages. It started as way for bored soldiers to pass the time
but soon grew in popularity as a game played by everyone from paupers
to princes. In fact Anne Boleyn gave her husband, Henry VIII,
a set of ornamented darts in 1530.
Darts continued to be played through the centuries, carried to all
corners of the British Empire by the soldiers. However, the game
was nearly killed off years later by the Victorians who banned
“games of chance”. Darts was eventually saved by
a Yorkshire pub owner who proved, in court, that it was actually
a game of skill by challenging the magistrates.
Today the game is seen as a professional sport and the Stan James
World Matchplay is one of the biggest events held in the
UK. But for those who cannot get tickets for this sell-out event,
it is also televised so that audiences from around the world can
enjoy the darts action from the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool.
If you want to get involved and see how good you are at this
game of hand and eye coordination, there are several pubs in Blackpool
that have a dart board, where you could try a game or two. However
if you want to feel the thrill of competition you could check out
the JR Family Darts weekend, also held at the Winter Gardens,
or if you are really serious about the game you could try joining
a team in the Blackpool Darts and Dominos League.