Darts World Matchplay

Darts World Matchplay

Alex Moss |

Darts World Matchplay: Past, Present & 2024 Outlook

Where is the World Matchplay darts? The World Matchplay is held in the Empress Ballroom, at the Winter Gardens, in Blackpool.

The World Matchplay is the biggest and most prestigious darts tournament of the summer, with the world’s best players competing for £800,000 in prize money. First held in 1994, the World Matchplay is put on by the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) every July at the iconic Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

The 2024 edition of the World Matchplay marks the 31st staging of the popular competition and will take place over nine days from July 13-21. There will be extra anticipation for this year’s tournament as the Premier League champion Luke Littler makes his debut.

What is the World Matchplay of Darts?

The World Matchplay darts tournament is the second longest-running major event on the PDC calendar. It has been held every year since 1994 and is classed as one of the three legs of the ‘Triple Crown’, along with the PDC World Darts Championship and Premier League events. To date, Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson are the only three players to have completed the ‘Triple Crown’ and won all three tournaments.

The World Matchplay is the second ranking major event of the season. The UK Open is the first ranking major played each year and includes all 128 PDC tour card holders, whilst the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix, European Championship, Grand Slam of Darts, Players Championship Finals and World Darts Championship all have more restricted fields.

The Format of World Matchplay

Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts celebrates after winning the first sudden-death leg in World Matchplay history in 2018

One of the unique parts of the World Matchplay is that matches have to be won by two clear legs, but only up to a certain point before a sudden-death leg is played to determine the winner.

Up until 2012, there was no limit on how long matches could go on for and it led to some marathon contests. In 1994, Jim Watkins beat Keith Deller 18-16 in a second-round tie which was initially a race to eight legs but went long into overtime due to the ‘must win by two clear legs’ rule.

In 2013, the PDC altered the format to introduce a sudden-death leg if a two-leg lead had not been reached after six extra legs. This new ruling first came into play during the 2018 tournament, when Kim Huybrechts defeated John Henderson 13-12 in the first round.

Here is a breakdown of the World Matchplay’s current format:-

  • Round 1 – first to 10 legs (match must be won by two clear legs, sudden death leg at 12-12)
  • Round 2 – first to 11 legs (match must be won by two clear legs, sudden death leg at 13-13)
  • Quarter-finals – first to 16 legs (match must be won by two clear legs, sudden death leg at 18-18)
  • Semi-finals – first to 17 legs (match must be won by two clear legs, sudden death leg at 19-19)
  • Final – first to 18 legs (match must be won by two clear legs, sudden death leg at 20-20)

How do players qualify for the tournament?

The World Matchplay is regarded as one of the toughest events to qualify for with the field restricted to just 32 players. The top 16 players on the PDC Order of Merit and the next top 16 players on the PDC ProTour Order of Merit (on a specified cut-off date around late June/early July) make up the line-up in Blackpool each year.

The 16 players from the main Order of Merit are seeded with their seeding positions based on where they sit in the rankings. The 16 ProTour qualifiers enter the tournament as the non-seeded players and will be drawn against a seeded player in the first round.

The World Matchplay darts 2024 lineup is one of the strongest yet, with the 2024 PDC world champion Luke Humphries joined by the likes of Michael van Gerwen, Michael Smith, Gerwyn Price, Nathan Aspinall and Rob Cross. The list of ProTour qualifiers includes former world champions Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld, plus the 2024 Premier League winner Luke Littler.

How much is the Prize Money?

The World Matchplay trophy is one of the most lucrative titles to win in darts with a winner’s cheque of £200,000.

The prize money for the World Matchplay has risen many times during its 30-year history. The first edition of the World Matchplay in 1994 had a prize fund of £42,400, including £10,000 for the winner. The total prize money has changed over time with several increases, the latest one coming in 2022 when the prize fund increased to £800,000, with £200,000 going to the champion.

All of the prize money is added to the PDC Order of Merit – the official world rankings of the PDC. Nathan Aspinall’s title success in 2023 helped him climb up to world number five on the Order of Merit, having entered the tournament at number nine in the rankings. 

Below is the World Matchplay darts prize money breakdown for 2024:-

Winner - £200,000
Runner-up - £100,000
Semi-finalists - £50,000
Quarter-finalists - £30,000
Round 2 (last 16) - £15,000
Round 1 (last 32 - £10,000

The Tournament’s History

The World Matchplay has a rich history in darts that dates back to the mid-1990s.The inaugural staging of the tournament was held in 1994 and saw America’s Larry Butler beat Dennis Priestley 16-12 to win the title.

Butler’s landmark success saw him become the first American player to win a major darts event. Over the next 30 years, more history has been written in this prestigious competition, including some of the most memorable matches and moments in darts, which you can celebrate with our 30 Years Of The World Matchplay blog series.

Where is the World Matchplay of Darts held?

The World Matchplay is held inside the Empress Ballroom, which is part of the Winter Gardens Blackpool complex. The venue is steeped in darts history having played host to all but one edition of the World Matchplay, that being in 2020 during the pandemic. The Marshall Arena, in Milton Keynes, was the host venue for the tournament that year and games were played without a crowd.

The Empress Ballroom was built in 1896. As well as the World Matchplay, it has also played host to many other pivotal events during its long history. The Rolling Stones and Queen are amongst the bands to have performed in the venue, and it has also hosted political party conferences for the UK’s major political parties.

World Matchplay of Darts Winners

Here is a list of World Matchplay darts winners since its first staging in 1994. Phil Taylor dominated the tournament during his playing career, winning 16 of the first 24 editions, whilst Rod Harrington and Michael van Gerwen are the only other multi-time champions. Nathan Aspinall became the 12th different winner with his success at the Winter Gardens in 2023.

World Matchplay roll of honor
1994 – Larry Butler
1995 – Phil Taylor
1996 – Peter Evison
1997 – Phil Taylor
1998 – Rod Harrington
1999 – Rod Harrington
2000 – Phil Taylor
2001 – Phil Taylor
2002 – Phil Taylor
2003 – Phil Taylor
2004 – Phil Taylor
2005 – Colin Lloyd
2006 – Phil Taylor
2007 – James Wade
2008 – Phil Taylor
2009 – Phil Taylor
2010 – Phil Taylor
2011 – Phil Taylor
2012 – Phil Taylor
2013 – Phil Taylor
2014 – Phil Taylor
2015 – Michael van Gerwen
2016 – Michael van Gerwen
2017 – Phil Taylor
2018 – Gary Anderson
2019 – Rob Cross
2020 – Dimitri Van den Bergh
2021 – Peter Wright
2022 – Michael van Gerwen
2023 – Nathan Aspinall

Phil Taylor’s Reign

Phil Taylor’s long-running success in the World Matchplay saw the tournament’s trophy renamed after him when he retired from the professional tour in 2018. Players now compete each year for ‘The Phil Taylor Trophy’, a nod to his incredible record in the tournament which he won for the last time during his final year on the tour in 2017.

As seen above in the list of World Matchplay winners, ‘The Power’ won the competition 16 times – a record which is unlikely to ever be matched by another player. The first of Taylor’s 16 World Matchplay titles came in the second edition in 1995, before he would enjoy two extraordinary winning streaks at the Winter Gardens. From 2000 to 2004, he went on a five-year title winning run, which he surpassed with a sequence of seven consecutive titles between 2008 and 2014.

At the 2002 World Matchplay, Taylor made history by throwing the first nine-dart leg on live UK television, achieving perfection during his quarter-final win against Chris Mason. He holds the record for the longest unbeaten run in the competition, winning 38 matches from 2008 to 2015, along with the highest match average in the event’s history – 114.99 which he threw in the first round in 2010.

2023 Winner Nathan Aspinall

Nathan Aspinall was the toast of Blackpool last summer as he stormed to his first World Matchplay title with an 18-6 victory against Jonny Clayton in the final. ‘The Asp’ produced an inspired display at the Winter Gardens, winning 11 legs on the spin from 5-5 to pull away from his Welsh opponent. The 2019 UK Open champion doubled his major tally after recording victories over Krzysztof Ratajski, Danny Noppert, Chris Dobey, Joe Cullen and Clayton to pocket the £200,000 top prize.

Reflecting on the biggest title win of his career, Aspinall said: “It’s an amazing feeling. I’m so happy for me and my family and I’m so proud of myself. I think that third session was the key. I don’t know what it was, but then I suddenly found my scoring and I finished brilliantly all game.”

Aspinall is set to return to the Winter Gardens for his title defense this month (July 13-21) as the fifth seed. The Premier League star will be hoping to join a shortlist of names to win back-to-back World Matchplays, with Rod Harrington, Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen the only three players to successfully defend the title.

What’s in store for the Darts World Matchplay 2024?

The next instalment of the World Matchplay is almost upon us as 32 of the world’s top players get ready to battle it out for the Phil Taylor Trophy. The 2024 World Matchplay takes place from July 13-21 at the Winter Gardens, in Blackpool and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland.

The newly crowned Premier League champion Luke Littler is amongst the debutants in the World Matchplay in 2024. Check out our ‘World Matchplay Best Debuts’ blog to see our list of the top 10 debuts in the tournament’s history. Shop our ‘World Matchplay’ collection and support your favorite stars competing in Blackpool with their signature darts and accessories.

Get in touch with us and let us know your predictions for this year’s World Matchplay. You can tweet us your predicted winner on X (Twitter) or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Keep up to date with all the action at this year’s World Matchplay with updates in the ‘Darts News’ section of our blog.

Pictures: PDC

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