Darts in the UK - Article 3

Helsinki, Finland was the site of the 18th Santa Claus Finnish Open Dart Championships on April 1999. Several weeks before the event, I had posted a request in this alt.sport.darts NG and within a few days I received a tournament entry form via email from the tournament director in Finland (I sure do like the Internet). I made hotel reservations, booked our flights, and off I went with my wife and son to visit Helsinki and play some darts. Helsinki was a very clean, beautiful city, with nice people. It was still rather chilly and there were certain areas of the surrounding bays that still had sheets of ice covering them. One interesting fact that we learned while taking a tour bus around the town was that Finland's population is 60% female and it was the second country in the world to grant women the right to vote. I also learned that Finland builds the majority of the large luxury cruise ships used around the world.

On Friday night, I played in the Blind Draw 501 event. My partner was from Finland and spoke only Finnish (or was it Swedish?). Although he didn't understand a word I said nor did I understand a word he said, we were able to communicate through the common game of darts. I would say something to him in English and there would be a lot of nodding and smiling between the two of us. Whenever he spoke to me, the same nodding and smiling would occur. Even though we didn't understand each other's words, we understood the gist of what the other person was saying. Now I know how Dartoid must feel in his travels around the world. We won our first round 3 legs to 2. In the 5th leg tiebreaker, I opened with 180, 140, and missed a 106 outshot. We ended up losing in the second round but it was still fun nonetheless. There was a girl standing near us who spoke both Finnish and English and she served as our translator in between our 2 matches. She said that she had been to Michigan (USA) once before and I said that is cold there. Then I laughed as I remembered that we were in Helsinki, where it is even colder!

On Saturday I played in the 501 Singles event which had close to 500 players entered. Although I played reasonably well, my opponent threw a little better, as he had 2 legs with outshots over 100 and one of his winning legs was completed in 12 darts. I lost 3 legs to 1 but it was much closer than the score indicated. He and I both won our game(s) in 18 darts or less. I hate losing when I play poorly, but in this case I didn't play poorly, I just got beat. Oh well, that's the way it goes and I just need to practice more so that I get the first 'look' at the out. Getting eliminated early gave me a chance to sample the local brew which turned out to be quite tasty. Although there was a Doubles 501 event on Sunday, I did not have a partner and therefore we scheduled our flight for early Sunday morning.

Here's something interesting for the USA players (and possibly other readers around the world). Smoking and drinking was not allowed in the dart playing area! You had to take care of your 'vices' outside the hall before you entered. It was quite nice to play in a room free of smoke where my eyes didn't burn. Plus I don't drink during tournament play, so that didn't bother me either. I was told by another 'International' player that the tournament in Germany earlier this year was the same way. There's probably many dart players reading this and saying, "No way, I wouldn't play!" My wife wondered why I didn't come back smelling like a walking ashtray like I usually do after a tournament.

Much like tournaments in the UK, it is the 'loser' that keeps score for the next match...I wish this concept would catch on back in the USA. For the Final 16 through the finals, they played on a large stage with an official announcer calling the match and a camera crew filming the action. Finland charges 15% income tax on overseas foreign player winnings...OUCH! I only hope that the local players get the same treatment when their tax returns are due. Overall, the 1999 Finnish Open was very well organized and efficiently run (i.e. punctual). I had fun and I would like to return and play in it again someday.

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