The gap has narrowed a little again, by 15,000 pounds to be precise. By reaching the quarterfinals, Gerwyn Price has increased his prize money at the Darts World Cup to £50,000. The Welshman beat Portugal’s José de Sousa 4-1 to become the first player to reach New Year’s Day’s round of eight.

While other players have fame and titles in mind when they participate, Price also has a lot of money at stake. Fictitious at least, he has half a million pounds to defend in the title fights at London’s Alexandra Palace. The sum corresponds to the exchange paid out to the world champion by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) since 2019. And since the organizer calculates its world rankings from the prize money of the past 24 months, the 37-year-old lost a large chunk of money on January 3rd. Two years ago he had won the title.

So it’s also a curse of a good deed that the “Iceman” faced a burden he didn’t know when he participated for the ninth time. “It’s an ultimate pressure that I’ve never felt before,” he confessed after his opening win against Luke Woodhouse and was correspondingly relieved: “It’s just about not losing too much money and flying out of here early.”

So far he has done it better than many others. Four of the top ten dart throwers are no longer there in the showdown. And against de Sousa, too, Price relaxed the pressure situation from the start, took the first two sets to a reassuring 2-0 lead and was then able to concentrate on his throw-off sets: the Welshman checked to make it 3-1 and cut in the decider of the fifth sentence even down to 4:1. 94 points on average, almost a third successful attempts on the doubles: little spectacle, a lot of efficiency.

And he never tires of stressing how important it is for him to conserve at least most of the £1,176,750m he has grossed since January 2021. Confidence soars and melts the delta with every lap. He is currently still at a minus of 450,000. The very next win would bring him another £50,000. And the early departure of defending champion Peter Wright at least fulfilled the first of two conditions for Price to still be number one in the world rankings on January 3rd.

In order to meet the second requirement, he now has to win three more games. However, if he again lifts the Sid Waddell Trophy on January 3, he will remain on the throne regardless of how far his main rivals get in the tournament. After his world championship title two years ago, he had led the ranking for 14 months. Since March 2022, he has alternated with Peter Wright several times at the top, before taking first place again on October 31.

With the victory at the highlight of the year to number one – that’s how van Gerwen had done it in 2014, Price replaced him in the same way after seven years. And that’s exactly what the plan of the two biggest rivals of the Primus is: Michael Smith and van Gerwen. Like Price, the title would be synonymous with place in the sun. They’re the hunters, Price has a lot to lose. So far, however, he has handled the burden very confidently. The next stage awaits on January 1st. And the starting position is good. With Gabriel Clemens or the Scotsman Alan Soutar, a quarter-final debut awaits in any case.

Previously, Luke Humphries was the last player to qualify for the round of 16. The number five in the world rankings won 4:3 against Vincent van der Voort from the Netherlands and meets Stephen Bunting on Friday, who prevailed in a close duel 4:2 against Dave Chisnall. In the afternoon, Rob Cross also qualified for the round of 16 with a clear 4:1 win over Mervyn King. Dirk van Duijvenbode survived six match darts in a marathon match against Ross Smith and won 6:5 in overtime of the seventh set. He now meets Michael van Gerwen.

3rd round:

Dirk van Duijvenbode (NED/14) – Ross Smith (ENG/19) 4:3 (3:1; 1:3; 3:0; 1:3; 2:3; 3:2; 6:5)

Rob Cross (ENG/6) – Mervyn King (ENG/27) 4:1 (3:0; 3:0; 3:1; 1:3; 3:1)

Dave Chisnall (ENG/12) – Stephen Bunting (ENG/21) 2:4 (3:1; 0:3; 0:3; 3:2; 1:3; 2:3)

Luke Humphries (ENG/5) – Vincent van der Voort (ENG/28) 4:3 (3:1; 3:1; 2:3; 1:3; 3:2; 2:3; 3:0)

Round of 16:

Gerwyn Price (WAL/1) – José de Sousa (POR/17) 4:1 (3:1; 3:2; 1:3; 3:2; 3:2)

Jonny Clayton (WAL/7) – Josh Rock (NIR)

Round of 16 (from 1.45 p.m.):

Kim Huybrechts (BEL/31) – Dimitri van den Bergh (BEL/15)

Gabriel Clemens (D/25) – Alan Soutar (SCO)

Michael Smith (ENG/4) – Joe Cullen (ENG/13)

from 8.15 p.m.:

Chris Dobey (ENG/22) – Rob Cross (ENG/6)

Michael van Gerwen (NED/3) – Dirk van Duijvenbode (NED/14)

Stephen Bunting (ENG/21) – Luke Humphries (ENG/5)