Thirty two players from both the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) and rival British Darts Organisation (BDO) will lock horns at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall in the Grand Slam of Darts, which starts this weekend.
First staged back in 2007, the tournament features every major champion and runner-up over the past two years, not to mention losing semi-finalists from both World Championships.
The field includes some of the sport’s greatest players, seasoned veterans and up-and-coming youngsters hoping to accelerate their progress up the game’s pyramid.
Like every other tournament, most of the favourites for the title will be expected to reach the business end, but every year there seems to be a surprising name in the latter stages. Like in 2009 when the BDO’s Scott Waites reached the final and won it the following year.
Back in 2007, wildcard qualifier Kevin McDine reached the semi-finals, while the gritty Mark Walsh reached only his second-ever TV semi last year.
With a model loosely based on the UEFA Champions League (eight groups of four players, top two from each make the knockout stages), it’s a unique event.
However, more often than not, the cream rises to the top, but who are the most likely to make a splash this year?
Phil Taylor (Age: 52. PDC world number one)
Having won four out of the five previous editions of the Grand Slam, defending champion Taylor is the heavy favourite to do well here.
However, exits to Brendan Dolan at the European Championships and Robert Thornton at the World Grand Prix suggest that Taylor’s winning touch may have deserted him. The veteran, though, did win Championship League Darts, and posted some huge three-dart averages in the process.
Simon Whitlock (Age: 43. PDC world number five)
The European Championship winner has been on fire since the summer break, aside from a first-round exit at the Grand Prix.
Whitlock won his fourth tournament of the year on the Pro Tour in Crawley at the weekend, following on from victory at the Dutch Darts Masters the weekend before that. Having that winning feeling will put the hairy Aussie in good stead to win his second major title of the year.
Michael van Gerwen (Age: 23. PDC world number eight)
Perhaps the only player in the same form as Taylor and Whitlock, the Dutchman won the World Grand Prix recently at a canter, and as a result broke into the world’s top 10.
Like Whitlock, Van Gerwen won a Pro Tour event in Crawley, but question marks remain over his finishing. However, van Gerwen has a great chance of at least getting to the semi-finals.
Adrian Lewis (Age: 27. PDC world number two)
In the aftermath of retaining the World Championship and winning the World Cup alongside Taylor, Lewis has had very little joy in 2012.
Early exits at the UK Open, European Championship and World Grand Prix suggest that he might not do too much in Wolverhampton, but he did reach the semi-finals last year, and could yet rediscover his form here.
James Wade (Age: 29. PDC world number three)
Like Lewis, Wade hasn’t had too much to shout about save for narrowly losing out on the World Matchplay.
Wade has had little playing time, having not played competitively since the World Grand Prix where he seemed visibly upset in losing to Colin Osborne, and he may have bad memories of his capitulation in the 2010 final at the hands of Scott Waites.
Despite all that, Wade is a proven winner, and will have a chance of winning his eighth major title here if he rediscovers his impressive form.
Who do you think will win in Wolverhampton?
NOTE: All Odds and markets are correct at the time of publishing.