MICHAEL VAN GERWEN spoiled Raymond van Barneveld's 50th birthday celebrations with a 7-2 win in their Betway Premier League clash at The SSE Arena on Thursday night, as Dave Chisnall picked up two victories in Belfast.
Van Barneveld reached the landmark anniversary on the same day as his all-Dutch clash with the World Champion, but saw Van Gerwen avenge his loss in Manchester last month with a dominant display.
The pair shared the game's opening four legs - with Van Barneveld powering in a 140 checkout in leg two and Van Gerwen hitting back with an 11-darter in the third - before the world number one pulled clear.
Double eight moved Van Gerwen back ahead before he broke throw for the first time on double ten, a 14-darter opened up a 5-2 lead, a 92 finish with two double 18s secured a minimum of a point and double eight completed the triumph.
"It was a good win and I did the job tonight," said Van Gerwen. "I expected Raymond to play better on his birthday but there was only one winner tonight.
"He was not himself, I think it had to do with his birthday and the game against me put a bit of pressure on him on this day and he wasn't as focused.
"It had to be difficult for Raymond but I had a job to do; I want to be top of the table again and I have to do my duty.
"I love to play well and that keeps me motivated. I've been top for the last three years and I want to do it again."
Van Gerwen remains two points clear of Peter Wright, whose Play-Off challenge continued with a 7-3 win over James Wade.
Wright - using a new set of darts on stage - also shared the opening four legs before three in a row moved him clear, and though Wade responded with an 81 finish, the UK Open champion took the next two for victory.
"It wasn't the best performance but it's a win, two points and it keeps me in the top four," said Wright. "Getting the win was the aim tonight and I did that.
"I did enough to get the win but neither of us were at our best. I've been practising with these darts for a couple of weeks and felt good with them, but they didn't go like I thought they would tonight."
2015 Premier League semi-finalist Chisnall moved two points behind the top four as he capitalised on his double-header in Belfast with wins over Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor.
Chisnall opened the night by claiming his first win since Week Five in Exeter - when he also doubled up, in the absence of Van Gerwen - by seeing off Lewis 7-3.
After Chisnall raced into a three-leg lead - including a 13-darter followed by an 11-darter - before Lewis took two of the next three, with a 99 finish and a 13-darter, to pull back to 4-2.
Lewis then opened a fourth successive leg with a 180 in the seventh, only to see Chisnall fire in a maximum to set up double 16 as he claimed a crucial leg to lead 5-2.
Three missed doubles allowed Chisnall to move 6-2 up with a 76 checkout, and though Lewis took out 70 to keep his hopes alive, the St Helens thrower held his nerve to close out victory on double one.
He then returned to the stage to defeat Taylor 7-2 in the night's final fixture, averaging 104 as he won his fifth game of the season.
A pair of 13-darters and a 14-dart leg helped Chisnall into a 4-1 lead, with Taylor replying with a 14-darter before Chisnall took the next three - including an 11-dart break of throw - to complete a memorable night.
"It's been a great night," said Chisnall. "I'm very pleased with how it's gone and I'm happy to have got the four points tonight.
"I've been playing well and hitting lots of 180s but in the last two weeks I've not hit the doubles at the crucial times and today I did.
"I'm in with a shout and if I can keep playing like I have tonight then there's no reason I can't make it into the top four"
Taylor had produced a remarkable comeback from 4-0 down in his opener to defeat Gary Anderson with seven straight legs.
Anderson had seemed set to romp to victory when he finished double 18, 87 and a pair of 44 checkouts to race clear early on, only for Taylor's relentless scoring to drag him back into the contest.
After landing double eight and double 16 to halve the deficit, Taylor then hit legs of 12 and 13 darts to draw level, double 16 to edge in front and a pair of double ten checkouts to complete a brilliant fightback.
The Betway Premier League continues next week at The Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham, with Van Gerwen and Lewis competing twice. For tickets, call 0844 338 8000 or visit www.theticketfactory.com.
Betway Premier League
Night 12 - Thursday April 20
The SSE Arena, Belfast
Dave Chisnall 7-3 Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor 7-4 Gary Anderson
Peter Wright 7-3 James Wade
Michael van Gerwen 7-2 Raymond van Barneveld
Dave Chisnall 7-2 Phil Taylor
BRAZIL and Latvia are to make their debuts in the Betway World Cup of Darts in June following the confirmation of the 32 competing nations in the Sky Sports-televised event.
The World Cup of Darts will see 32 two-player teams competing across four days from June 1-4 at the Eissporthalle in Frankfurt, where England claimed the title 12 months ago.
Four-time champions England and two-time winners Netherlands will headline the 32 nations competing in this year's event, alongside former finalists Wales, Australia, Belgium and Scotland.
However, the 2017 tournament will see two emerging nations given their first chance to compete on the World Cup stage.
Brazil's team will include Diogo Portela, who made his European Tour debut last month and is the first South American competing on the PDC circuit, while Latvia will be represented by Madars Razma - who won a PDC Tour Card in January - and qualifier Nauris Gleglu.
The final teams for many of the more established nations will be confirmed on May 22, but many other nations have already finalised their representatives in Germany.
South African star Devon Petersen will be joined by newcomer Deon Oliver, who won through a "Last Man Standing" qualifier held in March in Cape Town.
Canada's three-time World Champion John Part will be partnered by John Norman Jnr, who has successfully joined the PDC circuit this year, while Darin Young and 1994 World Matchplay winner Larry Butler team up again for America.
Sweden will be represented by Magnus Caris and Daniel Larsson, current PDCNB Order of Merit leader Kim Viljanen will be joined by Marko Kantele in the Finland team.
Japan's Yuki Yamada will make his World Cup of Darts debut alongside Haruki Muramatsu, while Paul Lim and Harith Lim team up again for Singapore and Thailand are represented by Thanawat Gaweenuntawong and Attapol Eupakaree.
Rob Szabo returns to the New Zealand team alongside Cody Harris, while Greece's John Michael is partnered by Ioannis Selachoglou for their second successive World Cup of Darts appearance and Hong Kong will see Royden Lam paired with Kai Fan Leung.
The 2017 Betway World Cup of Darts will be held from June 1-4 at the Eissporthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, live on Sky Sports. For tickets, visit www.pdc-europe.tv.
Betway World Cup of Darts
Republic of Ireland
United States of America
RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD is aiming to celebrate his 50th birthday by completing a Betway Premier League double over Michael van Gerwen when the tournament visits The SSE Arena in Belfast on Thursday.
2014 Premier League champion Van Barneveld hits the metaphorical bullseye as he competes on his birthday against Dutch rival Van Gerwen as the tournament returns to Northern Ireland.
Table-topping Van Gerwen suffered his only defeat of the season when he went down 7-5 in the pair's most recent meeting in Manchester last month - with Van Barneveld eyeing a repeat result as an ideal birthday present.
"It's a special birthday for me and I want to enjoy the day," said Van Barneveld, who sits in fourth place in the league table. "I'm playing Michael but nobody can ruin my birthday.
"I'm sure I'll get lots of messages and phone calls but then at some point I'll try to prepare myself right and I'll be trying my best to win.
"Hopefully I can stop him again - I've beaten Michael, beaten Gary and drawn with Peter Wright so I've taken five points so far from the top three in the world.
"Everyone can beat each other and I'm looking forward to the remaining few weeks. I'm still in the top four and hopefully I can get into the Play-Offs.
"I'm working hard but it's tough, it's not easy. James Wade lost twice on his birthday two weeks ago, and you don't want that!"
Van Gerwen drew with Peter Wright in Liverpool last Thursday, but bounced back to win a European Tour event in Germany over the Easter weekend with some imperious darts - including a win over Van Barneveld.
Reflecting on the Manchester game, Van Gerwen said: "Things like that happen in life. I should have won that game, but sometimes you make mistakes - people think I'm a robot but I'm human.
"I want to perform every time and focus on myself. I have to keep practising and prepare myself as well as possible.
"Raymond was fantastic in that game and I missed a few chances, but this is a new week. I played some phenomenal darts in Germany and I want to keep that going now.
"I'm looking forward to playing Raymond on his birthday - hopefully I give him a nice birthday present!"
The night in Belfast will see both Phil Taylor and Dave Chisnall playing twice as the competition for Play-Off places continues to intensify.
Taylor will meet Gary Anderson in his first fixture, before returning to the stage to face Chisnall.
"It's a big challenge because Gary and Dave are two of the biggest scorers in the game, but I'm looking forward to it," said Taylor, who saw a three-game winning run ended by Wade last week.
"Every point is crucial at the moment because everyone's in with a shout. The crowd are always great in Belfast so it should be a good night."
Chisnall, meanwhile, opens the night against Adrian Lewis before coming up against Taylor - with a pair of draws in the past fortnight meaning that he sits six points adrift of the top four but in confident mood after hitting 15 maximums in those two games. The St Helens ace has previously won twice on a night this season - when he doubled up to cover the absence of Van Gerwen in Exeter - and also claimed two wins on a night during the 2015 season.
"I'm looking forward to it because when I played twice before I won both, I've done that a few times," he said. "I feel confident, I’m playing alright at the moment.
"My scoring is pretty decent, I've just got to hit the doubles with more consistency but they've been going in lately.
"Every match is special when you're in the Premier League, but this is a massive week for me and I need to win both.
"There are five games and if I win all of them and the other results go my way then you never know what might happen."
Lewis travels to Belfast on the back of a nine-dart finish in Liverpool last Thursday, with their opener on Thursday expected to feature a raft of maximums.
"Adie's playing well," he added. "I played him in a ProTour final a couple of weeks ago and and we were both smashing in the 180s, so the crowd in Belfast should be in for a treat
"It's likely to be a big scoring match. It's down to who hits the doubles but hopefully the points go my way."
Chisnall added: "It might be the last time I play Phil, so it'll be special. Phil has still got it, make no mistake - when he goes he'll be missed by a lot of people."
Lewis has fond memories of The SSE Arena after hitting a nine-darter against Wade when the Premier League visited Belfast a year ago, and is on a high after winning five of his last six matches.
"It's going to be a tough game," said Lewis. I think Dave played really well last week and he was unlucky not to get the win, but fair play to Gary because he dug in deep and got the point.
"There might be a record for 180s if we both turn up hitting them! It could be a massive game. I hit a nine-darter in Belfast last year and why can't I do it again? I'm capable of hitting another one, and I'll try to do it again.
"I'm playing really well at the minute. I've been putting a lot of work in and playing a lot of tournaments as well which helps my sharpness, and everything's going great."
The night's other fixture sees second-placed Wright taking on 2009 Premier League champion Wade, who ended a four-game losing run with a victory against Taylor in Liverpool.
A small number of tickets are still available for Thursday's Betway Premier League at The SSE Arena in Belfast, and can be purchase via 028 9073 9074 or 0844 277 4455 or via www.ssearenabelfast.com.
Betway Premier League
Night 12 - Thursday April 20
The SSE Arena, Belfast
Dave Chisnall v Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor v Gary Anderson
Peter Wright v James Wade
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
Dave Chisnall v Phil Taylor
Tickets: 028 9073 9074 or 0844 277 4455 or via www.ssearenabelfast.com
Tournament Winner – After Night 11
1/2 Michael van Gerwen
11/2 Gary Anderson, Peter Wright
18/1 Phil Taylor
20/1 Adrian Lewis , Raymond van Barneveld
150/1 James Wade
500/1 Dave Chisnall
Night 12 Match Odds
5/2 Dave Chisnall
5/6 Adrian Lewis
3/1 Phil Taylor
8/11 Gary Anderson
8/15 Peter Wright
4/1 James Wade
4/11 Michael van Gerwen
11/2 Raymond van Barneveld
2/1 Dave Chisnall
Evens Phil Taylor
Odds correct at time of writing and courtesy of www.betway.com. Odds subject to fluctuation.