Tuesday, January 29, 2008

24th Maximum


So my 24th maximum came on the very second throw of some brandnew darts, the 24 gram Bullets in fact. It occurred early last December but I failed to blog it at the time. That would have made it my last Ton-80 of 2007. I still have not hit one in 2008 but my goal for this year is to hit one in competition. Even if it is friendly competition, it has to be during a game. I have done that in soft tip (that makes me sound like a soft tipper which I am not) but never in steel tip. It is also worth noting that I only hit 2 maximums in all of 2007. That's fewer than even in 2004 which is the first year I ever hit one.

2004 - 3 Ton-80's
2005 - 6
2006 - 13
2007 - 2

The darts in the picture were brand spanking new at the time and I was still learning how to throw them. The grippage is the opposite of what my grip requires and I recall that on that particular throw I two fingered the darts and "pulled" them to the board. Odd feel throw with pleasing, but unrepeatable, results.

While I am going to give my Nobu's priority handling in the months to come my guess is that my next max will come off the 21 gram Assassins. They have been floating in there pretty good for me lately.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

19 gram Nobu's


These are my 19 gram Nobuyuki darts from Voks. They are lighter than I am used to and they are significantly shorter in the barrel. I spent several hours trying different stem and flight combinations until I settled on th config in the picture. I am still learning how to throw them well but what attracted me to them in the first place: the rear and front barrel grippage, makes them a very good barrel for my grip style.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Practice - Pre-Flight School

What do I want from practice? What is my goal? It is unequivocally to become a better dart player. I do not practice for the joy of the game (although I do enjoy it). Rather, my primary adjective of every practice session is to improve my accuracy and refine my mechanics. I do not race to see how quickly I can complete the doubles or hit a hundred bulls or whatever. Every throw is methodical, practiced, considered and there is a purpose behind it. I do not throw just for the sake of it. That is my practice mentality when I am practicing alone. When my buddies and I meet for team practice it is slightly different, but not by too much. I play to win, I think through strategy and I practice calculating out shots, but still every shot is focused. In theory.

It has not always been this way. I used to be a careless, even luckless, thrower and I got discouraged easily and wound up driving my confidence into the ground, but in the last four or five years my practice habits have slowly but steadily begun to change for the better. At this point I am of the attitude that I can compete aggressively at the A League level - all I need to do is perfect my mechanics and group my darts better! Imagine!! Those two little things are all that stand between me and my goal.

How do I practice? I mean, what specifically do I do? I have my routines of course. But I will divide this discussion into the two primary scenarios in which I practice. When I am with my buddies/teammates, and when I am alone.

When at the pub and with my teammates we usually spend the first beer going around on doubles and the occasional bull or 60. But mostly it is doubles and this is less practice than it is warm up. Once ready we commence playing games. Lately we have been playing Chicago rounds, but historically we would alternate between 01 games and cricket, and usually finish off the evening with a dozen or so 101 games. This is a tremendously enjoyable way to practice. Especially when well Scotched, and happily beered.

However when I am alone I am always completely sober, always relaxed, and the only distraction I have is my dog jumping around trying to get my attention, or deciding to camp out immediately in front of the oche. I start by getting out six or eight sets of darts that catch my eye, an then lay them out on my work bench so that I can alternate among them freely. Sometimes I start with a set and never pick up another, while other times I cannot settle on a single set. Regardless, my first series of throws is a process that I call "Calibration". I throw at the triple 20, the double bull and the double 16, in that order, until I hit one of the targets. If I hit the target then that target has been calibrated and I leave it out of the rotation. I continue this until I have hit all three targets, which usually doesn't take very long at all. Sometimes no more than a couple rounds. Then, I start 60's practice. I take slow focused shots at the triple 20 until I have hit 20 of them. Lately I have changed this just a bit. I used to focus on the entire triple. Now I try to pick out a spec of irregularity in the triple and strain my eyes at it. During 60's practice I usually hit many low tons, and when I am "on" a ton-40 or two. I almost never hit the coveted ton-80. I have only hit 25 in my life time.

After 60's practice, I do a round of doubles, in this order: 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 20, 10, 5, 12, 6, 3, 18, 9, 14, 7, 19, 17, 15, 13, 11. I concentrate on the doubles but if I miss inside I will go to the next number if it is half the starting value, which is why I do them in this order. Also because that is the order of choice when leaving an out. While I consider myself to be a pretty good shot at the doubles, this portion of the practice usually takes the longest time to finish. I can usually take out a double every couple of rounds but sometimes I take out two (rarely three) in one round.

After doubles I toss bulls until I have hit 20 of them. Double bull counts for two. The only exception to this rule is if I get through 20 bulls without hitting a double in which case I continue until I do. If there is still time after all of this I will shoot the cricket triples but often my time runs out before I get this far. When it comes to cricket triples I will stay one one number until I hit four-ish of them and then move down the board.

I do not have a set time or even a set amount of time for practice. I practice at home whenever I can sneak in a few rounds. Sometimes I have as much as an hour or two, some times it is five minutes while waiting for my wife to get ready to go somewhere or something like that. If I had to estimate an average session length, I'd have to say about 20 minutes since it seems I am always sneaking in a little bit of time here and there.

When I am practicing is is quiet and cold (at least in the winter) and my only distraction is my dog, who is fairly large and who has a playful personality and a thunderous bark. Sometimes she will jump around while I am throwing or even jump up on me and put her paws on my shoulders. I use this as concentration practice. I always practice ignoring her and focusing on the board. Sometimes she will catch sight of a squirrel or something outside and she will really let the poor animal have it. She'll produce the loudest string of barks and growls you have ever heard. I use this as concentration practice too. I don't let any of it get to me. This concentration practice came in handy last Sunday at the pub during a Luck of the Draw shoot. There was an important football game going on at the time and the place was packed. From time to time the entire bar would erupt in cheer, but I did not let it affect me. I maintained my focus and stayed on target. My partner and I ended up winning that night.

My thinking cap is always on. What some people refer to as the Mental game is what I refer to as the Thinking Game and what some people refer to as the Emotional Game is what I think of as the Mental Game.

Thinking Game = Knowing the best out shots and having a solid cricket strategy.

Mental Game = Having superior focus, and being able to completely block out movement, noise, and distraction while on the oche. This also includes being able to recognize, and undermine, attempts at gamesmanship from your opponents.

When I am practicing at home alone I have no need to think about outshots or cricket strategy but when I am practicing with the team and we are playing Chicago rounds I always am careful about not making a mental blunder. I have been thinking about outshots for several years and I believe I know what I would do in most cases without having to sit and review options while at the oche. As far as cricket goes I believe I know good strategy but this belief will be tested when I get to A League next month.

I do not have much opportunity to practice my Mental Game. I have gotten pretty good at ignoring noise related distractions but I do get butterflies when I am up against a good player. This is something I need to work on. Starting late March when I enter A League though, I will have ample opportunity to "steel" myself against trepidation and doubt.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

25 gram NT's



These beauties were custom made but not for me. They we commissioned by a guy in Canada who ended up deciding that he did not like them as well as he thought he would. The craftsmanship is remarkable, and the balance quite nice. So far in the 2 hours I have owned them I have hit several low tons and at least one ton-40. I am thrilled to have them. I call them NT's for the same reason I call my other similar set my "CT's". NT stands for Nickel Tungsten.

Update: these were sold to Gene (of SEWA) in May 2011. I hope he enjoys them!

Took First in Sunday Luck (and a double's trick to boot)

Had a successful Luck on Sunday. I was paired up with an A League shark with an attitude to win and we took first place. The whole day was a good day from the afternoon practice before the shoot to the shoot itself.

Messing around earlier in the day I picked up my Assassins for a casual toss and ended up nailing a 171 (this was actually a spot-shooting exercise) so I kept up with them for an hour and hit a couple 140's in practice, then a couple more Ton-40's during the actual luck of the Draw. Feels nice to hit some worthy numbers with on lookers. I hit a few other Ton's but nothing to write home about.

The highlight of the shoot was taking out the winning double in a three way tie for first place. My partner left me with 24 and I missed into the single 12 and then took out the double 6 with the next dart. There were some very good shooters in the Luck so it felt like a well earned win.

Also, Before the shoot I took out a nice doubles trick. d16 d8 and d4 on the
first round that I decided to do some doubles. After that I missed the double 2 several rounds in a row and hung up the doubles before my confidence waned.

In the first game hit a ton and I took out 40 for the win. Second game I hit some nice tight groups but never for more than 60 points. Still this was encouraging as I have been concentrating on taking a breath and throwing slow concentrated shots. And spot shooting.

In the next set of two games I hit a 140 and took out a 16 with a single dart for one more win (I believe my partner and I pretty much split the wins between us evenly). In The fifth game I hit shit and we lost but the sixth game I hit another ton-40 and also took out a 4 with one dart winning it for us. The round before I had 84 left and missed into the single one and then decided to go 51, 32. I hit the 51 but wired the 32 inside leaving 16.

A nice evening.

Monday, January 21, 2008

171


I hit this little gem while practicing my "spot shooting". I already had another set of darts grouped around (but not necessarily in) the triple 20 on Sunday afternoon before the Luck. I decided to pick a spec in the triple 19 and o my best. The first dart hit which pleased me greatly but then I couldn't find the spot I originally was aiming at, so I picked the spot where the point of the first dart hit the board and voila, another 57. I did the same thing with the third dart for a stylin' 171.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

26 gram Bottelsens


These darts came in a trade. I'd never seen them before even on eBay and I am very curious what the model name of them is. They are definitely Bottelsen hammerheads of some variety, perhaps even a signature dart for all I know but whose I could not guess. I traded away my 24 gram Dimplex Powerpoint darts for them, and when we were doing the trade, the guy who had them sent me two sets to choose between. The other set I could have chosen were Rick Ney signature hammerheads which I have wanted a set for a long time but I opted for these as they throw better for me, and they are like nothing I have ever seen.

24 gram Bottelsens


These ebay beauties weigh in at 24 grams and they are Bottelsen Hammerheads for sure but what specific model name I do not know. They throw nice, and as is the case with all Bottelsen products, the craftsmanship is really top notch.

UPDATE: I traded these away for the Target Sport darts in July 2008.

22 gram Spectacular 1989's


These brass darts came in a box from my father along with a bunch of other wooden and "bar" darts. I have no idea who made them but at the time they must have be special enough to engrave "Spectacular 1989" on the barrels.

21 gram Assassins


These darts are nice little darts. I never knew what they were until a fellow dart geek immediately pegged them as 21 gram Assassins. Aside from being amazed that he could identify them so specifically within seconds, I was surprised because I never found the Assassin range to be that appealing. If these truly are those darts, though, they must be a much older version because these grooves are more widely spaced than the current version. I have not Ton-80'd with these, but I have hit a nine count in the 19 bed with them.

24 gram Bullets


These darts were made to order for me by Jeff Pickup in Canada. They are a Copper Tungsten simulacrum of some old Unicorn darts called 'Bullets'. The stems are 3ba which are not made anymore and this makes them hard to find. I have ton-80's with these darts. In fact the second round I ever threw with them was a maximum.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hangdart

This little trick-shot:



came unexpectedly during a weekend practice session over at my buddy and teammate's house. We spent the afternoon alternating between practice Chicago rounds in preparation for the finals match (which we ultimately won) and fashioning inserts for impromptu dart cases. He has an old scalpel case that he likes and made a nice insert from foam that he bought in a garage sale and I have a pencil box that I am particularly fond of.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

We Won!

We won the finals match last night, so we are are now the B League champions! Next season I am moving up to A League though. Time for me to reacquaint myself with the bottom of the rankings again :( This is how the match went:

I opened the evening against their captain who is ranked second in the league. Finals is different. There was no stage there but it felt a little bit like we were on one since there was a crowd of people who had gathered to watch. My game was solid enough to keep pace with him but I didn't throw any big scores. We got to our outs at about the same time but I took out mine first, a 16 with single 8 double 4.

Ars Gainne Mill up 1-0

My second game was a singles cricket against one of their mid ranked players. I opened with trip 20, a miss at the 19 bed and then a single 20. It turned into a point war early. He went for the 18s but didn't open them so I opened the 19s next round and then we both laid into our honeypots. I was a good 60 points up on him by the time we got those two beds closed. The rest of the game went by in an undramatic fashion but my last round, going for bulls I blocked the bull with my second dart. But I snuck one in around it anyway ;)

Ars Gainne Mill now up 7-1

My third game was doubles 501 and my partner was our highest ranked player. We were up against their captain, a true ringer, and another guy we had not seen all season, their second best player. We managed to stay apace and then my partner left me a 12 out which I took out with a miss into the single 6, and then I hit the double three.

Ars Gainne Mill now up 8-3

Fourth and fifth games were also doubles 501 and I was partnered with our fearless leader for both games. We won them both but the second game was stretched taught with lots of tension. The opponents could feel it too. At one point one of the opposing team accused Capitan (who was several feet to the right of the oche) of stepping backwards during his throw. A small tiff ensued and then civility was quickly re-established when my captain offered to scratch the entire leg and do it over. I thought that was a very magnanimous thing to do, even if it was clearly an unjustified complaint. I don't think it would have mattered to our opponent had it not been a finals match, or if it had not been the game that clinched the title for us.

Ars Gainne Mill wins, 12-3

It was a very satisfying evening to say the least

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Finals Bound

So my dart team is headed for the finals next week and we are playing against a good (duh) team that is likely to put up really good fight. To get there we had to get past another really good team in the semifinals round.

The semifinals was a fun night. We smashed our opponents 11-3 which is a huge surprise considering that they are a strong team with at least two very strong players. Their captain as well as another guy who was B League's top player a few seasons ago. I guess part of it was that they were just off form but I think also there was a little bit of us being "on" too.

We played the team game first and I happened to take out the money shot, which was 20, with a miss and a hit (d10). Then in the singles 401 (Seattle seems to be the only place in the world which plays 401. Not sure why. Perhaps they figured since it was B League we couldn't handle the arduous extra 100 points?) I took on their captain and managed to hit my 36 out before he could hit his. By all rights I should have lost that game. My opponent have several turns at a single dart out and he could not hit it which was quite unusual for him. Then in Cricket I took on the former top player and beat him handily with 85 points to spare. I was a point ho that game but that is just the way you have to play cricket at higher levels of play. Point early, point often. I was surprised to do so well against him. I was hitting my triples pretty well but he normally beats me.

We never made it to the doubles cricket games. The semifinal match was decided during the doubles 501 games, and my partner and I had the honor of being in the deciding match. My partner took out the ten for us. All in all it was a fun night and I am happy to be moving onto the finals round against yet another tough opponent (duh).