PDC World Darts Championship: how does format work? Number of legs, sets and scoring explained - match rules

The best players in the world return to the Alexandra Palace in London for the biggest event in the Professional Darts Corporation’s calendar
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The PDC World Darts Championship is not just the most prestigious tournament in the sport, as well as being the event with the highest prize fund, but it’s also considered by many to be the most exciting format of any major tournament.

While most competitions are scored entirely on legs, the World Championships uses a sets format which often allows for stunning comebacks and thrilling matches which can go all the way with two players neck and neck. Over the years the format has proved why it makes for great viewing time and time again and here, for those new to the sport, is how it works:

PDC World Darts Championship: format explained

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To win a match at the PDC World Darts Championship a player must win on sets which are decided in all rounds by the first to three legs. A player can win a leg 3-0, 3-1 or 3-2 to claim a set.

Like the format of the legs, the sets are ‘first to’ or ‘best of’ and in the first and second rounds it’s the best of five sets, meaning the first player to win three will win the match. In the third and fourth rounds it’s the best of seven sets, in the quarter-finals it’s best of nine sets, in the semi-finals it’s best of 11 sets and the final is best of 13 sets.

What is seeding?

The top 32 players in the PDC Order of Merit, the defacto world rankings for the sport, are ‘seeded’ for the tournament which means they bypass the first round and begin their tournament in the second round. All matches are head-to-head between two players and straight elimination thus reducing the field by half each round after the second until only two players remain for the final.

How does scoring in darts work?

For beginners, this is how scoring in a darts match works. Two players start a ‘leg’ of darts - i.e. one game - on a score of 501 and must reduce that number to zero to win the leg. They do that by scoring as high as possible and get three darts at a time to do this before their opponent throws.

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The two players take it in turns with their score from three darts being subtracted from their overall score each time and the first to zero wins the leg. To ‘checkout’ and win the leg a player must finish by hitting a ‘double’ - one of the targets around the outside of the board.

What is the maximum you can score in darts?

The highest score achievable with three darts is 180. The board is numbered 1 to 20 and each number’s segment also has areas for ‘double’ and ‘treble’ Three treble 20s equals 180. Althought the bullseye (the small red circle in the middle of the board) is often the target to aim for by those new to the sport, it is only the fifth best target on the board at a score of 50 - putting it behind treble 20, treble 19, treble 18 and treble 17.

Those watching the darts at home will often hear commentators refer to a ‘nine dart leg’ which is when a player wins a leg with the absolute minimum amount of throws. A nine dart leg has become slightly more common as players have improved over the years, but is still a rare enough occurrence to be considered a memorable moment in a player’s career.

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