Wright shines in comeback win on day 1 of the European Championships
At the Machineseeker European Championship on Thursday, Peter Wright stunned Gabriel Clemens and advanced to the second round against World Champion Michael Smith.
Wright trailed 4-1 against German number one Clemens, who electrified the loyal Dortmund audience by sprinting into a three-leg lead with a 102 average.
However, a dart change in the middle of the game fired Wright into life, as the Scot – boosted by a 116 finish in leg seven – levelled the battle at four apiece, forcing a last-leg shoot-out.
Wright then won with an 11-dart break of throw in an incredible last leg, following up back-to-back 180s with a two-dart 81 combination.
“I was chasing Gabriel all the way through the game,” admitted Wright, who reverted back to a copy of Michael van Gerwen’s darts for the latter stages of the contest.
“Michael’s darts work alright under pressure! I had to dig as deep as I have in a long time, but I’m starting to believe in my own ability again.
“I’m not rolling over anymore, and if you want to beat me, you’ve got to play really well, because I can still play this game.”
The Westfalenhalle saw eight first-round matches on the first night of the £600,000 event, with world number one Smith also impressing to set up a showdown with the Scot.
In his first match, the 33-year-old destroyed Raymond van Barneveld 6-1, as the five-time World Champion was thrashed in his first European Championship appearance since 2015.
Smith took the first two legs of the game before Van Barneveld halved the score in 13 darts, but 107 and 86 finishes midway in the tie destroyed the Dutchman’s resistance.
Smith’s St Helens opponent Stephen Bunting advanced with the same score of 6-1, defeating Clemens’ World Cup of Darts partner Martin Schindler with a 101 average.
Bunting put up a great performance to revenge his World Grand Prix loss to Schindler, landing three 180s, 121 and 104 checkouts, and pinning six of his eight doubles attempts.
Top seed Dave Chisnall, however, was unable to advance in Dortmund, as Masters winner Chris Dobey came back from 2-0 down to win.
Chisnall blew a 3-0 lead by missing four darts and was mercilessly punished by Dobey, who scored 138 and 116 checkouts either side of a 12-darter in the last stages.
“Once the first double went in I settled down but I seem to start slowly in best of 11 games,” conceded Dobey, a semi-finalist 12 months ago.
“Dave’s a power scorer but he gave me too many chances and I took them. It’s nice when the big finishes go in like tonight and I’m happy to get that win.”
Danny Noppert delivered the performance of the night in the tournament’s opener, averaging 106 to defeat Andrew Gilding in a clash of the most recent UK Open champions.
To earn his place in round two, the Dutchman gave a masterpiece in combo finishing, converting 90, 138, 81, 98, 89, and 64 checkouts.
Rob Cross, the two-time European Champion, easily defeated Belgium’s Dimitri Van den Bergh, average 99 and powering in a 127 finish on his way to a 6-2 victory.
World Matchplay winner Nathan Aspinall also shone in his 6-3 triumph over Ryan Searle, producing 120 and 145 finishes to set up a last 16 clash with Gerwyn Price.
“I needed that – it’s a massive win for me,” insisted Aspinall, who had lost his last six competitive games.
“I have been struggling of late and my confidence had gone, and I knew I had a tough game against Ryan, so I’m very happy to get the win.
“I felt in control of that match from start to finish and my finishing was fantastic tonight. I’m relishing the next round against Gezzy now.”
Price – a winner of two European Tour titles in 2023 – breezed past a profligate Keane Barry inside 12 minutes, pinning six of his 11 darts at double to celebrate a 6-1 rout.
The first round action will conclude on Friday evening, as reigning champion Ross Smith begins his title defence against recent German Darts Championship winner Ricardo Pietreczko.
Four-time champion Michael van Gerwen will open his title tilt against Latvia’s Madars Razma, 2018 winner James Wade plays Dirk van Duijvenbode, while World Grand Prix champion Luke Humphries takes on Brendan Dolan.
2023 Machineseeker European Championship
Thursday October 26
First Round x8
Danny Noppert 6-0 Andrew Gilding
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Ryan Searle
Chris Dobey 6-2 Dave Chisnall
Rob Cross 6-2 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Gerwyn Price 6-1 Keane Barry
Peter Wright 6-5 Gabriel Clemens
Michael Smith 6-1 Raymond van Barneveld
Stephen Bunting 6-1 Martin Schindler
Friday October 27 (1845-2300 CEST, 1745-2200 BST)
First Round x8
Damon Heta v Gian van Veen
Krzysztof Ratajski v Joe Cullen
Josh Rock v Daryl Gurney
Jonny Clayton v Jose De Sousa
Dirk van Duijvenbode v James Wade
Luke Humphries v Brendan Dolan
Michael van Gerwen v Madars Razma
Ricardo Pietreczko v Ross Smith