PDC stats analyst Christopher Kempf looks at five darting records which could prove impossible to break…
Every darts fan knows about the world record televised average achieved by Michael van Gerwen of 123.40 against Michael Smith in the 2016 Premier League.
More than five years on from that tournament the record still stands – but its place at the top of match averages lists has been threatened, especially by Kim Huybrechts, who averaged 121.97 in a brief World Cup match in 2017.
Moreover, its position as the highest streamed/videotaped average was overthrown by Peter Wright in 2019.
Van Gerwen’s world record TV average is clearly going to be broken – but recall that during his record average match, Van Gerwen missed a dart at double 18 that would have secured a 132 average, and possibly put that record out of reach for the foreseeable future.
The possibility of holding a record that is almost impossible to break clearly entices the best players, and if we broaden the domain of statistical analysis, we can see some records (primarily set by Van Gerwen and Phil Taylor) that have effectively attained immortal status.
Here are the five:
1. Michael van Gerwen – 28-match winning streak in European Tour last-leg deciders (2014-2019)
Imagine flipping a coin 28 times. What would be the probability of flipping 28 consecutive heads? Assuming a perfectly fair coin – one in 250 million.
At the time of his 6-5 loss to Michael Smith – his last loss in a sudden death leg for the next five years of European Tour play – Michael van Gerwen had three European Tour titles to his name.
By the end of his streak, he had added another 29 European Tour plaques to his trophy cabinet and accumulated nearly £1,000,000 in prize money on that tour alone.
Across the past four years and 87 Players Championship events, with no crowds, more players attempting the streak and lower probabilities of facing an elite opponent, no player has managed to string together 13 consecutive deciding legs won (Joe Cullen’s streak of 12 was snapped by Brendan Dolan this past March).
It’s a testament to Van Gerwen’s greatness – and the fear with which his opponents regarded him between his 2014-2019 apogee – that he could win so many sudden-death legs (and survive so many match darts) regardless of the momentum of the match, whether or not he was throwing first, or whether he was facing a World Champion or a Host Nation Qualifier.
2. Phil Taylor – 107.60 group phase average in the Premier League (2012)
Phil Taylor’s 2012 Premier League campaign was an incredibly dominant one in which he lost one match out of 14 played, won matches by an average margin of 3.7 legs, and averaged 110+ five times over the course of playing seven of the best players in darts at the time.
Over 163 legs played, Taylor’s average of 107.60 has only been threatened once – in 2016, during which tournament Michael van Gerwen, at the height of his powers, had six 110+ averages and broke the world record but still only averaged 106.94.
In the most recent night of the 2021 Premier League there were three players who recorded averages in their matches in excess of Taylor’s 107.60 benchmark.
But no player has been able to replicate those averages throughout the Premier League; overall only Jonny Clayton and Jose de Sousa have managed to post, in aggregate over their first 12 matches, averages just north of 100 – more than seven points off the record.
Van Gerwen nearly broke Taylor’s record in 2016; but if one of the greatest players ever, enjoying the best form of his career, could not do so, it seems inconceivable that any current Premier League contestant could.
3. Michael van Gerwen – 19 perfect consecutive darts (2012, 2016)
This is a record that Van Gerwen set in 2012, when he came agonisingly close to two consecutive nine-dart legs, and tied in 2016 (including a bullseye!), and which no player since has threatened.
The potential for breaking the record exists – with so many nine-darters being recorded every year, odds are that a player will eventually bookend a nine-darter with 180s or high checkouts and creep closer to 20 perfect darts.
But nearly a decade on from Van Gerwen’s famous moment at the 2013 World Championship, no video exists of any other player throwing more than 16 consecutive perfect darts.
For each additional dart thrown, the probability is generally about 60% that the streak will come to an end.
This explains how a streak of 18 darts, which only takes a minute more to complete than a streak of nine darts, could be 10,000 times less common than the latter.
4. Phil Taylor – 60 consecutive matches without a loss (2008)
Even if a player won every match and every title of two consecutive pandemic Super Series, he would still not break this enduring record of Phil Taylor’s.
After a floor event loss to Colin Osborne in June 2008, Taylor proceeded to win every match for nearly the next four months, dispatching a teenaged Michael van Gerwen, Andy Hamilton (four times) and James Wade (four times).
His next loss, after 59 wins and one draw, came in early October 2018 in a 1-3 loss to Mervyn King in a Players Championship in Ireland.
Along the way, he won the World Matchplay, the Las Vegas Desert Classic, the South African Masters and five floor events.
Against tougher opponents overall, Michael van Gerwen has been the only person with a 30+ match winning streak, which he recorded in 2016 and 2017; given that even the Dutchman has lost two Premier League matches out of 12 in the present day, the current competitive scene (and trend toward greater competitiveness) in darts probably means that Taylor’s record will stand forever.
5. Michael van Gerwen – 114.05 average over 32 legs (2017)
Michael van Gerwen’s 123.40 world record TV average is certainly better known, but his performance in the 2017 World Championship semi-final against Raymond van Barneveld is arguably the greatest single-match achievement of his career.
An outstanding first round performance in 9-12 legs could conceivably take from Van Gerwen the honour of holding the highest-ever World Championship average (though no player has come within six points of that record since 2017), but there has never been any indication that any active player could even approach his 114.05 average in a match of comparable length.
After all, every 114+ average in darts history been recorded in a match half the length of that 2017 semi-final at most.
Consider that players not named Van Gerwen or Taylor have recorded 114+ averages only 20 times in the past 22,000 Players Championship match appearances, generally in 6-0 whitewashes.
To get anywhere near Van Gerwen’s extra-terrestrial record in the very few matches which could possibly last 32+ legs, a player would need to string together at least four consecutive sessions of six legs averaging in the mid-110s.
The astronomically small probability of this lends credibility to the idea that we will not see the like of Van Gerwen’s virtuoso semi-final in our lifetimes.