Darts and Dartboards

 By: Michael Shah
Darts is a form of throwing sport where darts are thrown at a circular target (dartboard) hung on a wall. Though various different boards and games have been used in the past, the term "darts" usually now refers to a standardised game involving a specific board design and set of rules. As well as being a professional competitive activity, darts is a traditional pub game, commonly played in the United Kingdom (the first country to officially recognise darts as a sport), across the Commonwealth, the Netherlands, Ireland, the Scandinavian countries, the United States and elsewhere.

Before the First World War, pubs in the United Kingdom had dartboards made from solid blocks of wood, usually elm. They had to be soaked overnight to heal the holes made from the darts, and it was a messy business for the publican, although darts was a popular game. This changed when a company called Nodor, whose primary business was making modeling clay (which has no odor, hence the name Nodor) made a dartboard. Their model of dartboard was not a great success until someone came up with the idea of making a dartboard from sisal fibres. Small bundles of sisal fibres of the same length were bundled together. The bundles were then compressed into a disk and bound with a metal ring. It was an instant success, as the darts made little or no damage to the board-they just parted the fibres when they entered the board; this type of board was more durable and required little maintenance.

Modern dartboards are made of sisal fibers; cheap boards are sometimes made of coiled paper. However, several types of sisal fibre are used in dartboards today, originating from East Africa, Brazil and China.

A regulation board is 17•¾ inches (451 mm) in diameter and is divided into 20 radial sections. Each section is separated with metal wire or a thin band of sheet metal. The best dartboards have the thinnest wire, so that the darts have less chance of hitting a wire and bouncing out. The numbers indicating the various scoring sections of the board are also normally made of wire, especially on tournament-quality boards, but may be printed directly on the board instead.

In the standard game, the dartboard is hung so that the bullseye is 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) from the floor: eye-level for a six-foot (183 cm) person. The oche (IPA: /'’ki/)-the line behind which the throwing player must stand-is generally 7 ft 9•¼ in (2.369 m) from the face of the dartboard measured horizontally. This is the recognized world standard as set by the World Darts Federation and is used in most areas.

The London 5 board or narrow 5's board set up is slightly different from the standard board. The height is set at 5 feet 6 inches to the centre of the bull and the oche is at 9 feet from the face of the board.

The dartboard may have its origins in the cross-section of a tree. An old name for a dartboard is a 'butt', which might imply that the bottoms of wine barrels were the original dartboards; but the word in fact comes from the French word butte, meaning target. In particular, the Yorkshire and Perrigo Manchester Log End boards differ from the standard board in that they have no treble only double and bullseye, The Perrigo Manchester board being of a smaller diameter, with a playing area of only 25 cm across with double and bull areas measuring just 4mm. The London Fives board is another variation. This has only 12 equal segments numbered 20,5,15,10,20,5,15,10,20,5,15,10 with the doubles and triples being a quarter of an inch wide.

The standard dartboard is divided into 20 numbered sections, scoring from 1 to 20 points, by wires running from the small central circle to the outer circular wire. Circular wires within the outer wire subdivide each section into single, double and triple areas. The dartboard featured on the "Indoor League" television show of the 1970s did not feature a triple section, and according to host Fred Trueman during the first episode, this is the traditional Yorkshire board.

Various games can be played (and still are played informally) using the standard dartboard. However, in the official game, any dart landing inside the outer wire scores as follows:

- Hitting one of the large portions of each of the numbered sections, traditionally alternately coloured black and white, scores the points value of that section.
o Hitting the thin outer portions of these sections, coloured red and green, scores double the points value of that section. The double-20 is often referred to as double-top, reflecting the 20's position on the dartboard.
o Hitting the thin inner portions of these sections, roughly halfway between the outer wire and the central circle and again coloured red or green, scores triple the points value of that section.

- The central circle is divided into a green outer ring worth 25 points (known as "outer", "outer bull", or "iris") and a red inner circle (usually known as "bull", "inner bull" or "double bull"), worth 50 points. The term "bullseye" can mean either the whole central part of the board or just the inner red section. The term "bull's ring" usually means just the green outer ring.

- Hitting outside the outer wire scores nothing.

- Any dart that does not remain in the board after throwing (for example, a dart that hits a wire and bounces out of the board or drops out with the impact of a later throw) also scores nothing.

The highest score possible with three darts is 180, commonly known as a "ton 80" (100 points is called a ton), obtained when all three darts land in the triple 20. In the televised game, the referee frequently announces a score of 180 in exuberant style. A "quad" ring appeared briefly in the 1990s, leading to a potential 240 maximum (three quad-20s), a 210 maximum checkout (Q20-Q20-Bull) and seven dart finishes from a 501 start (five quad-20s, treble-17, bullseye), but was swiftly dropped from professional tournament play.

The sport of darts is usually contested between two players who take turns in throwing up to three darts. Starting from a set score, usually 501 or 301, a player wins by reducing his score to zero. The last dart in the leg must hit either a double or the inner portion of the bullseye, which is the double of the outer bull, and must reduce the score to exactly 0. Successfully doing so is known as "doubling out" or "checking out" (see the Glossary of darts for more darts terminology). A throw that would reduce a player's score to less than zero does not count, his turn ends, and his score is reset to what it was before that turn.

(Sometimes in friendly games a player is allowed a dog's chance by "splitting the eleven" if he has a remaining score of 1: this requires placing a final dart between the legs of the number 11 in the normally non-scoring part of the board.) Since the double areas are small, doubling out is usually the most difficult and tense part of a leg. Longer matches are often divided into sets, each comprising some number of legs.

The holy grail of 501 darts is considered the nine-dart finish-there are two main ways of achieving this:
- Two 180 maximums followed by a 141 checkout (T20-T19-D12)
- Three 167s (T20-T19-Bull)-this is considered a "pure" nine-darter by some players, most notably the flamboyant Bobby George.

Although playing straight down from 501 is standard in darts, other variations exist, notably "doubling in", where players must hit a double to begin scoring, with all darts thrown before said double contributing nothing to their score.
In Killer, a number of players "own" a number on the dartboard (often selected by throwing a dart with their non-playing arm) and compete to build up "lives" (by hitting that number) until a threshold is reached (usually 4 or 6) before attempting to "kill" other players by removing the lives they have built up (by hitting those other players' number) until a single player is left.
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