"There's only one word for that - magic darts"...the maths behind sport

By Stephen Lyon posted 04-01-2023 16:08


After the ‘excitement’ of the men's football World Cup, the New Year has already brought us the excitement of the World Darts Championship from Alexandra Palace. This year’s final, between Michael van Gerwen, three-time winner (let’s call him Michael 1) and Michael Smith, last year’s runner up (Michael 2) produced one of the greatest ever legs of darts.

The championship final is the first played to win 7 sets. Each set is the best of 5 legs. A leg of darts consists of scoring exactly 501, before your opponent, but your final dart must be a ‘double’ or the ‘bullseye’. The perfect leg is a score of 501 in 9 darts. Whilst this feat is almost impossible for 99.9% of people, and is indeed rare, for professional darts players it's achieved more often than you might think.

The greatest leg of all time consisted of Michael 1's first 8 darts, where he threw 7 treble 20s and a treble 19. Michael 2 remarkably scored the same with his eight darts. Michael 1 missed his shot at double 12. Michael 2 scored double 12 to win the leg in the perfect 9 darts. Michael Smith went on to lift his first World Championship, and as he raised the trophy and confetti fell around him, I wondered how many different ways are there of achieving the perfect leg in darts? The picture shows my working out. Have I got them all?

The dartboard is great source of mathematics. The resource “Dartboard” has some great ideas for use in the classroom.

Did you enjoy this blog? If so, scroll to the top and hit the 'Recommend' button!

1 comment



05-01-2023 08:32

Your list of possible finishes is interesting. Most dart players would favour options 1 & 3 in your list if they have the possibility of a 9 dart finish. If this is not possible, they tend to favour doubles that give them the maximum number of options if they were to hit a single instead of the intended double. Hence double 16 tends to be the favourite as it gives the most options, as in the case of a single 16 being hit by mistake, the option of double 8 presents itself, even if the player continues to hit singles instead of doubles, it gives them 5 more options to finish with a single dart.