FORMER champions Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld enjoyed victories on the opening day of the 2016 SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts on Saturday, as Scott Mitchell stunned Adrian Lewis in Wolverhampton.
Reigning Grand Slam champion van Gerwen began his title defence with a 5-2 defeat of three-time Lakeside Champion Martin Adams in their Group A opener.
The Dutch superstar took the game's first three legs to assume control, with Adams taking two to cut the gap to 4-2 before the PDC world number one sealed victory with a 12-darter.
"I didn't play my best darts but I didn't have to, and the most important thing was getting the two points with the win," said van Gerwen. "It's not always easy to get off with a win but now I can relax in the next two games."
Van Gerwen now meets Brendan Dolan in Sunday's second Group A matches, after the Northern Irish ace edged out former World Youth Champion Max Hopp 5-4, with the German ace missing two match darts in a dramatic decider.
"After I went a leg up, Max played really well and I found it very hard to break him," said Dolan. "Luckily he missed a few shots because if he didn't I wouldn't have won the game - it was a very tight game and there was nothing between us.
"People are expecting Michael to win our group, and you have to be realistic that if Michael plays the way he's been playing in the last few tournaments then he probably will - which leaves it open for the rest of us.
"That probably put extra pressure on the match against Max and I'm doing my best to make sure I go through.
"I'll have less pressure and expectation against Michael. Everyone knows how great Michael is at the minute - but he does have blips and I need to be at the top my game to take advantage of them."
Six-time Grand Slam of Darts winner Taylor enjoyed a comfortable start to his Group D challenge with a 5-1 win over BDO World Trophy champion Darryl Fitton, who was unable to match the Stoke legend's 104 average.
"It's difficult and it was a scrap early on but I'm pleased I won," said Taylor. "I wish I'd have got a 5-0, even though I love Darryl, because you can't sit on your laurels and I've got to get ready for tomorrow.
"I'm just focusing on getting through to the second round on Wednesday, and I'll see what happens from there. It's a longer format then but this is nip and tuck and it's scary, so I just want to get through!"
Taylor now faces a Sunday evening clash with Stoke rival Ian White, who took out key finishes of 118 and 98 in his 5-3 win over Darren Webster, finishing five doubles from six attempts.
"I felt comfortable and that's a good win," said White. "My finishing was really good, better than my scoring, and I had some nice finishes there, the 118 and 98."
2012 Grand Slam of Darts champion van Barneveld hit his highest-ever average in this event as he made a superb start to the group stage with a 5-1 win over former World Youth Championship finalist Nathan Aspinall, averaging 110.15.
Van Barneveld opened the match with a 180 in an 11-darter, and led 3-0 before Aspinall responded - but a 140 checkout from the five-time World Champion proved a killer blow as he secured the points.
"It's brilliant," said van Barneveld. "I feel comfortable and I played really well from the start, and to win 5-0 with a 110 average is phenomenal, I'm really happy.
"It's a tough group I know, but if I focus well and play like this, with this standard I can beat everyone."
Van Barneveld will face Noppert in their second Group F game on Sunday afternoon, after the 25-year-old averaged over 100 in his superb 5-3 win over number seven seed Mensur Suljovic, finishing five doubles from seven attempts.
"I'm really happy with this result," said Noppert. "I want to keep this going for the next match now, because I know I can show more, but I enjoyed this."
Van Barneveld's average was almost matched by 2015 Lakeside Champion Scott Mitchell, who rounded off proceedings on Saturday with a memorable 5-1 win over two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis, averaging 107.78.
The number three seed opened the game with a 177 as he took the opening leg, but Mitchell's brilliant 161 checkout levelled, and he also finished 86 on the bull in a run of five straight legs to claim the win.
"I'm delighted," said Mitchell. "Last year I came here as World Champion and the whole year passed me by, and I had a really tough draw, but everybody expects me to get out of the group.
"I was due a bit of luck and I'll enjoy tonight for what it is but tomorrow's another day.
Mitchell now meets Benito van de Pas on Sunday, after the Dutchman edged out Chris Dobey in a deciding leg after the Northumberland ace hit back from 4-0 down to level a see-saw contest.
"I'm happy with the win and I played well at the beginning, but when I was 4-0 up Chris played really well and I didn't have an answer," said van de Pas. "I should have finished the game earlier but I won."
PDC World Champion Gary Anderson - in only his second competitive game wearing glasses - edged out BDO number one Glen Durrant 5-4 in a tight contest, with the Middlesbrough ace unable to
"I was 4-3 up and had chances to nail it and made a mess of it, he stuck in but I won the deciding leg for one," said Anderson. "He's a cracking player and it was his first time here at the Grand Slam.
"It's my second week with glasses and new darts and I think they're going alright. Last week in Glasgow was my first time with the glasses on and it made such a difference, I've just got to alter my throw, which I've just about managed to do."
Anderson's second Group E match will come against Nathan Derry, the 29-year-old qualifier from Norfolk who came from 4-3 down to win a see-saw clash against Alan Norris 5-4 in his first appearance in front of the TV cameras.
"I'm over the moon to win and I enjoyed it," said Derry. "It was a tight game and I was just happy to get over the line because I normally lose last-leg deciders.
"I've got the reigning back-to-back World Champion and the BDO number one, but I'll give it my best and if I can get one more win I might get through, I'm playing okay and I'll give it a shot."
2010 Grand Slam of Darts champion Scott Waites, the reigning Lakeside Champion, saw Robert Thornton hit back from 2-1 down to win 5-3 in their clash, with the Scot taking out 114 to secure a hard-fought triumph.
"I really, really enjoyed this," said Thornton. "I've had a good preparation and it's paying off with the doubles going in.
"My form's coming back and Scott didn't play the way he can do, and I'm hoping that I can be relaxed enough tomorrow to win another game and hopefully almost guarantee that I'll go through."
Dimitri Van den Bergh also took victory in Group B as he edged out Gerwyn Price 5-4, with the Welshman hitting back from 4-2 down to force a decider from their clash.
"This was one of the tournaments I was dreaming of qualifying for because you get three games on stage so it's going to be a big experience for me," said Van den Bergh, who now plays THornton.
"I'm glad that I got there in the end and it's pretty important. Winning this game takes huge pressure away from me."
Simon Whitlock raced past teenager Ted Evetts in Group C with a 5-1 triumph, with the youngster missing seven of his eight attempts at a double on his televised debut as the Australian capitalised.
"That's a good win for me," said Whitlock. "This was Ted's first match on TV and I think my experience got me through that, and I played some good darts."
Number five seed Peter Wright also enjoyed a 5-1 win in Group C as he overcame debutant Canadian Jeff Smith, the 2016 Lakeside Championship runner-up.
"Simon's 5-1 win gave me something to follow and it's a nice win but I didn't think it was a good performance from me," said Wright. "Hopefully tomorrow I'll be settled in a little bit better, and that's a totally different prospect.
2010 Grand Slam of Darts finalist James Wade came from three legs down to defeat Tipton's Jamie Hughes 5-3, with the BDO number three having made his Wolves Civic debut just over 24 hours after his partner gave birth to their second daughter.
"I felt really good going up there and when I was 3-0 down I was still pretty confident," said Wade. "I had to wait for him to miss a few doubles but I'll move on and I'll mean business tomorrow."
James Wilson punished 18 missed doubles from Dave Chisnall to take a 5-2 win in their Group G opener, setting himself up for a meeting with Wade on Sunday.
"Dave's a fantastic player and I knew I had to win that first game because it sets the tempo and relaxes you a little bit," said Wilson. "To get that win's awesome. I'm getting better and better, and hopefully I can win this."
The £400,000 tournament continues with another double session on Sunday, as the the players return to the stage for their second group matches, which sees Saturday's winners from each group face off and the losers also meet.
Van Gerwen remains the odds-on 8/11 favourite with Sun Bets, the official betting partner of the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts, following his opening match, with Anderson's odds cut to 5/1 and Taylor now 11/2 for a seventh Wolverhampton win.
SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts
Saturday November 12
Groups B-C-F-G First Matches
Gerwyn Price 4-5 Dimitri Van den Bergh (B)
Simon Whitlock 5-1 Ted Evetts (C)
Dave Chisnall 2-5 James Wilson (G)
Mensur Suljovic 3-5 Danny Noppert (F)
Robert Thornton 5-3 Scott Waites (B)
Raymond van Barneveld 5-1 Nathan Aspinall (F)
James Wade 5-3 Jamie Hughes (G)
Peter Wright 5-1 Jeff Smith (C)
Groups A-D-E-H First Matches
Brendan Dolan 5-4 Max Hopp (A)
Alan Norris 4-5 Nathan Derry (E)
Ian White 5-3 Darren Webster (D)
Benito van de Pas 5-4 Chris Dobey (H)
Phil Taylor 5-1 Darryl Fitton (D)
Gary Anderson 5-4 Glen Durrant (E)
Michael van Gerwen 5-2 Martin Adams (A)
Adrian Lewis 1-5 Scott Mitchell (H)
Sunday November 13
Afternoon Session (1pm)
Ted Evetts v Jeff Smith (C)
Mensur Suljovic v Nathan Aspinall (F)
Gerwyn Price v Scott Waites (B)
Dave Chisnall v Jamie Hughes (G)
Robert Thornton v Dimitri Van den Bergh (B)
James Wade v James Wilson (G)
Raymond van Barneveld v Danny Noppert (F)
Peter Wright v Simon Whitlock (C)
Evening Session (7pm)
Darren Webster v Daryl Fitton (D)
Adrian Lewis v Chris Dobey (H)
Alan Norris v Glen Durrant (E)
Max Hopp v Martin Adams (A)
Phil Taylor v Ian White (D)
Gary Anderson v Nathan Derry (E)
Michael van Gerwen v Brendan Dolan (A)
Benito van de Pas v Scott Mitchell (H)