Michael van Gerwen starts World Darts Championship bid against Christian Kist
World no 1 chasing back-to-back titles at Alexandra Palace in 25th year of PDC World Championships
By Paul Prenderville
Last Updated: 01/12/17 2:41pm
Michael van Gerwen will begin the defence of his World Darts Championship against Christian Kist, while Phil Taylor's last appearance starts against Chris Dobey.
All eyes will be on both men for very different reasons when the action gets underway at Alexandra Palace on December 14, although both men will have their eyes on the title.
With Van Gerwen in red-hot form, the world no 1 will be the man to beat despite a stellar field lining up for what promises to be almost three weeks of thrilling action.
Van Gerwen, who won the Players Championship at the weekend to add to his recent successes at the Grand Slam of Darts, World Series of Darts and European Championship will face 2012 BDO champion Kist, who is battling arthritis.
The Dutchman is chasing a third world title and has been placed in the same quarter of the draw as Raymond van Barneveld, who opens up against Richard North in a tricky first-round encounter for the five-time world champion.
Ted Evetts, winner of the PDPA qualifier in Milton Keynes on Monday, will make his Ally Pally debut against Gerwyn Price, while Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort also catches the eye in the top quarter.
While Van Gerwen continues to blaze the trail in this era, Taylor will take to the world stage for the last time - the 16-time world champion is retiring after the World Championships and if he is to claim a fairytale finish he will have to do it the hard way.
He will start against highly-rated youngster Dobey before a possible second-round match with Justin Pipe and most likely James Wade or Mervyn King in the third round.
Two-time world champion and runner-up Gary Anderson is his seeded quarter-final opponent and the Scot faces the winner of the preliminary round clash between Jeff Smith or Luke Humphries.
Having won the World Matchplay earlier this year, The Power has shown that he is capable of the ultimate finish and riding off into the sunset with the Sid Waddell Trophy.
Rising star Rob Cross, considered a dangerous floater after a spectacular debut year that has seen him rise to 20th in the Order of Merit, starts against Seigo Asada or Gordan Methers before a blockbuster second-round match with Michael Smith if the Bully Boy comes through a tough opener against Steve Lennon.
Daryl Gurney, the fourth seed, starts against Ronny Huybrechts while second seed and UK Open champion Peter Wright begins against talented Brazilian Diogo Portela. Mensur Suljovic opens up against 2004 runner-up Kevin Painter with 2011 and 2012 champion Adrian Lewis beginning against Aleksandr Oreshkin or Kevin Munch.
First Round Draw
(1) Michael van Gerwen v Christian Kist
(32) James Wilson v Krzystof Ratajski
(16) Gerwyn Price v Ted Evetts
(17) Ian White v Willard Bruguier/Cody Harris
(8) Dave Chisnall v Vincent van der Voort
(25) Steve Beaton v William O'Connor
(9) Raymond van Barneveld v Richard North
(24) Kyle Anderson v Peter Jacques
(5) Mensur Suljovic v Kevin Painter
(28) Robert Thornton v Alan Ljubic/Brendan Dolan
(12) Jelle Klaasen v Jan Dekker
(21) Stephen Bunting v Dimitri Van den Bergh
(4) Daryl Gurney v Ronny Huybrechts
(29) John Henderson v Marko Kantele
(13) Michael Smith v Steve Lennon
(20) Rob Cross v Seigo Asada/Gordon Mathers
(2) Peter Wright v Diogo Portela
(31) Jonny Clayton v Kenny Neyens/Jamie Lewis
(15) Alan Norris v Kim Viljanen
(18) Kim Huybrechts v James Richardson
(7) Adrian Lewis v Aleksandr Oreshkin/Kevin Munch
(26) Cristo Reyes v Antonio Alcinas
(10) Simon Whitlock v Martin Schindler
(23) Darren Webster v Devon Petersen
(6) Phil Taylor v Chris Dobey
(27) Justin Pipe v Xiao Chen Zong/Bernie Smith
(11) James Wade v Keegan Brown
(22) Mervyn King v Zoran Lerchbacher
(3) Gary Anderson v Jeff Smith/Luke Humphries
(30) Mark Webster v Kai Fan Leung/Paul Lim
(14) Benito van de Pas v Steve West
(19) Joe Cullen v Jermaine Wattimena