Hello and welcome to live coverage of the World Darts Championship semi-final at Alexandra Palace, Looooooondon. It should actually be Michael Smith versus Gerwyn Price or Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen versus Luke Humphries, but the world rankings have suffered a huge defeat in the last two weeks.
For the first time since 2010, when Simon Whitlock and Mark Webster reached the last four, there are two unseeded semi-finalists. In terms of rankings, this is the semi-final lineup:
Not even Quasimodo predicted the final four. It’s hard to know what else to say Luke Littler, The cross-generational talent who hit his first filmed nine-darter at the age of 14. Two years later, he is by far the youngest semi-finalist in the history of the PDC World Championship. Everyone in darts suspected that Littler would have such a run in his teenage years. But not on his debut, not when he’s still – drinking! – 16.
The three non-Littlers all have their own great stories, but they stand in the shadow of someone who almost certainly won’t be old enough to vote in the next election.
Just before Keith Deller comes out of retirement, Rob CrossThe 33-year-old is the best possible opponent for Littler. He became the last person to win the World Championship on his debut in 2018 when he survived match darts against Michael Smith and Michael van Gerwen before crushing Phil Taylor’s fairytale finish in the final.
Since then, Cross has had his ups and downs, most notably with Ally Pally, but at best he’s a cold-eyed killer. Yesterday he became the first man in PDC history to win a quarter-final from 4-0 down by mercilessly smothering the previously rampant Chris Dobey, and he will have no compunction about reducing a 16-year-old to tears in front of 3,200 spectators to bring millions on television.
I’m making Cross sound like a terrible piece of work, aren’t I? It’s not him at all; he is simply a winner. And he is by far the toughest opponent Littler has faced in this competition.
Scott WilliamsThe 33-year-old caused quite a stir around the world last year before losing an excellent game to Cross in the Round of 32. He’s had a miserable year on the track, but few people feel so empowered by the big stage, or even in the sport. Although Williams isn’t known for being a shy, reserved type, he has stood out in the last two weeks.
His extroversion might have looked cheap if he hadn’t backed it up with a win against four seeds: Danny Noppert, Martin Schindler, Damon Heat and, almost unbelievably, Michael van Gerwen. Williams remains the complete underdog in the final four, but his confidence and flair for theatrics make him dangerous.
Even against a man who has won his last 17 games. Luke Humphries28, was the best player in the world in 2023 and finally ended his hunt for a major with three straight wins before the World Cup. Like Littler and Williams, this is his first semifinal, although he reached the quarterfinals in 2019, 2020 and 2022.
For much of the time Humphries, a natural 180 hitter with a wonderfully rhythmic delivery, struggled with anxiety on stage, but during the various Covid lockdowns he lost three or four stone and began to fulfill his great potential.
The pressure of being the favorite – and the resulting unthinkability of defeat – seemed to be weighing on him early in the tournament. He played poorly in his first game, despite winning comfortably, and came dangerously close to elimination in the last 32 against Ricardo Pietreczko.
He came even closer to defeat in the round of 16 when Joe Cullen missed two match darts, although Humphries contributed fully to a classic match. His best performance came last night, a comfortable 5-1 win over Dave Chisnall in the quarter-finals, and he should beat Williams. Then again, “should” didn’t help anyone much in this World Cup.
Humphries vs. Williams is the second game tonight Littler and Cross are expected at the oche at 7:45 p.m. He’s 16, you know.