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     How to keep score during a steel-tip match

    General Dart Topics Yes, this is a long post, but I just came from a large tournament where I ended up keeping score for more than 20% of all matches that were not self-scored by the participants. That made me wonder if most people were afraid to keep score, too lazy or didn't want to (a different issue) or simply didn't know how.

    This is primarily a list of rules, guidelines and a few personal opinions on the proper way to keep score (also called "chalking") at a tournament. Although I personally tend to follow most of these during league play too, that is usually a far less formal affair so I will leave it up to you as to how you choose to score there.

    Why am I qualified for to write this? Well, perhaps if I could play just a bit better I wouldn't have the time to chalk as much as I do, but I have kept score for hundreds (probably over 1,000) of tournament matches over the last 20+ years and am preferred as a scorekeeper by many of the top shooters (yes, I would rather be PLAYING them, but that's a different story). Probably the most taxing match I've ever had to chalk was a semi-final cricket match between Paul Lim (and his partner) and Eric Bristow (and his partner) at a Los Angeles Open back in the mid-80's. All of the scores were over 900 and the highest was over 1,300. At one point I watched Eric hit nine 15's and Paul answer with 6 bulleyes, then their partners threw and then they DID IT AGAIN! Back to back nine counts and dead eyes... Very impressive, but taxing to keep up with as the chalker!

    Before I go into specifics, I would like to say why I think you SHOULD keep score. I realize that most people just want to sit, relax and watch instead, but the best viewing in the house is right up there by the board. (It used to be that if you wanted to challenge a board in a bar you had to chalk the game before you were up first.) Besides the appreciation you will receive for offering to keep score, you will find that your game will improve as your math abilities get sharper and you start to absorb the strategies that the pros use. Do not be afraid to keep score if you're new at the game or feel that your math is too slow, just be sure to mention it to the players first (it is always the responsibility of the players to confirm that your scorekeeping is accurate, but don't be offended if one of them may wish someone with more experience towards the end of an event so they can focus more on their darts).

    Please note that some of these suggestions come from my taking tournament matches as entertainment for the crowd in addition to simply keeping the score. Therefore, I attempt to address some of the issues that arise when people try to watch one of the big matches between top players. To further clarify, this means that as the scorekeeper I should be a non-factor in the match (because just like a referee in other sports, you only hear about them when they screw up), I should be as accurate and efficient as possible, and all scores should be legible not only by the participants but by the crowd as well.

    First, some of the basics:

    - Before the match begins, make sure that you've taken care of any personal needs you might have. This includes any conversations, restroom trips, cigarettes (if you smoke), alcohol (if you drink), etc. Should you get called for a match yourself while you are chalking, wait until the current turn has completed and when the player is retrieving his/her darts let them know that they will need to find a relief chalker.

    - When you first walk up to the scoreboard make sure that it has been completely erased from any prior match and that everything you will need is available. There are basically three kinds of scoreboards you will encounter. They are:

    1) "Real" chalkboard. Make sure that you have an eraser and enough chalk before starting (a chalk holder is a nice thing here). If you need to make a correction, make sure you erase completely so the players don't confuse the score with a smudge (one benefit of chalk is that you can use a finger for a quick change).

    2) A "Dry Erase" markerboard. This is the best for people to see provided that the pen works well (and also the worst for you as a chalker since the color seems to get all over your hands and doesn't seem to come off). Make sure that you have an eraser (or towel) and that the pen writes well, don't try to press hard with a failing pen. Try to use a pen with a nice tip and cap the pen inbetween turns so it won't dry out. You can make a quick correction using a finger with dry erase (as with chalk), but avoid getting it on your clothes as it doesn't wash out too easily.

    3) A "Grease pencil" board (which may be a white pencil on a black board or a black pencil for a white board). This setup is one of the most annoying to use when scoring, but also the cleanest since the "grease" doesn't get all over you like chalk or dry erase can. You may need to press a little harder to make your scores readable. Make sure that you have a spray bottle with enough water in it along with a towel (you will find that one good spray should be enough to erase the entire board, you won't want the board to still be wet when you begin the next leg). Also, make sure that you have more than one pencil available in case the tip breaks off (usually the tournament directors will sharpen both ends, but it's still best to make sure that you have at least two good ends before starting). Probably the most annoying thing about using a grease pencil is trying to make a quick correction. Since it usually won't rub off with a finger I would suggest crossing out the score and writing the correction under it (if one of the marks on a cricket number needs to be erased then I would suggest spraying a corner of the towel with water and using that so that you don't run the risk of erasing more than you want to).

    - Do not bring anything up to the scoreboard with you that can distract the players. This list includes anything you might be smoking, eating or drinking as well as anything that might make noise like a cell phone. It's best to have someone who is not playing watch your stuff for you.

    - Whenever a player is about to throw you will need to stand still (sitting is not an option). To make this easier, stand close enough to the scoreboard so that you can write either side without moving, but not so close that people can't see the scores. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart for good balance and make sure you are aimed at the dartboard (see the next point). Remember that standing still includes your arms, hands and head. Nothing should be moving to distract the shooter so, regardless of what you think of someone's shot, refrain from making comments, looking at the player or making facial expressions (yes, this means that you should not react when someone throws a bad dart or a nine-count, there's always time for that after the match).

    - Before and during a player's turn keep your eyes on the dartboard. You should only need to look back towards the throw line when you are addressed by one of the players. After awhile you will find yourself anticipating where a player will throw which can help speed up your math too (and subconciously you are absorbing the strategy of the game).

    - Do not lean or move to see where a dart has hit during the middle of a turn. Only after all darts have been thrown (or you are specifically asked to look) should you move. The only time I feel it's OK to move is after YOU ARE 100% SURE that the winning dart has been thrown (i.e., you can CLEARLY see that the dart has hit a winning area). If you are not 100% sure that a double is in (for '01 games) or the final mark has been hit (for cricket) then don't move. It's better for a player to ask you if it's in (or why you didn't signal a win) then it is to deal with an angry player who's wondering why you moved exactly when they are about to throw the winning dart (this can get nasty if they end up losing).

    Now for some specifics.

    Your duty as a "referee" (as opposed to simply being a human scorekeeper). There are a few times during the match where you are called upon to make a judgement. These are usually during the "corking" (to see who will go first in a leg or match) and during each turn of the match.

    During the corking you should stand up by the scoreboard as normal since there will be times when the players will ask you to pull a dart out of the bullseye. Here are the normal corking rules (you should always be familiar with any alternate rules that are in place for a tournament). I will call the players "A" and "B" for these examples.

    Order of corking: Player A throws a dart then player B throws a dart. If there is a tie, then there is a rethrow with player B going first followed by player A (the order reverses for each subsequent tie).

    Bounce outs, robin hoods or knocked out darts: If a player throws and his/her dart bounces, robin-hoods (sticks into the back of a dart already in the board) or falls out, then they will immediately throw another dart (if they exhaust all darts in their hand then they will need to go get their darts and continue until a dart sticks or they knock out the opponents current cork dart from the board). If the second player knocks out the opposing players current cork (I'm saying "current" here due to the fact that sometimes darts are left in after a tie - see next paragraph), then all darts are retrieved and the corking is tried again, but in the reverse order (e.g., if player B knocked out player A's dart, then player B throws first).

    Ties: There are four ways to get a tie during a cork.

    1) Both players hit the double bullseye
    2) Both players hit the single bullseye
    3) Both players miss the bullseye, but it's too close to tell which TIP is closer
    4) The dart of the first thrower is knocked out by the second thrower

    As a chalker you will be asked to "call" which dart is closer if both darts miss the bullseye. To do this you are not allowed to move the darts and you should only look at where the tip of the dart has entered the board. Acceptable ways to indicate your decision are to announce it (e.g., "First dart," "Second dart" or "Do it over"), to use your fingers (e.g., show one finger if the first player to throw won, two fingers if the second player's dart is closer or make a circle with your forefinger for a tie - this is the same signal that an umpire makes for a homerun) or a combination of both. You can also touch the dart that is closest if you forgot which player threw it. I personally use both the announcing and the fingers method.

    Pulling darts. During the corking process there will be times when you are asked to pull one or more darts out of the board. There are a couple things you should know regarding this. First, never pull any darts out until you are asked to do so. Some players prefer to leave the dart(s) in the board while they throw. Here are the times when a dart or darts may be removed:

    - The first throw is a double bull (when you pull the dart you should announce "It is a double bull" and hold on to it until a player asks for it back) - The first throw is a single bull (when you pull the dart you should announce "It is a single bull" and hold on to it until a player asks for it back) - After a tie (pull all darts and hold on to them until the players ask for them back) - Sometimes the second player to throw will ask for a dart that is outside of the bull to be pulled (rare but I've seen it happen), in this case you should announce that the dart is outside of the bull and that if pulled would automatically promote the dart to a single bullseye and then ask if they still wish it pulled (sometimes they simply didn't see that it was outside so do not pull it until you ask). If they still wish it pulled for whatever reason, then continue as if it was a single bull.

    After the initial corking is completed write the winners initial(s) on the left side of the scoreboard and the other player(s) initials on the rightside (UNLESS the winner specifically asks to be put on the opposite side for some reason).

    Once a game has begun it is your responsibility to know where each dart landed during a turn and in what order. You will notice that I did not say you should know what was scored. Many players will "help" you by announcing the score to you, however I've seen the even the very top players will sometimes make a mistake in the heat of a match so you must be very careful not to just accept everything you are told. For example, I chalked a match where the person started with 122 points left in a 501 leg, hit a single 18, a triple 18 and a single 20 right under the double wire and said "20 left," however they had miscounted and actually had 30 left.

    By knowing where the darts landed (and the order) it will allow you to keep things straight if the opponent questions a score (this tends to happen frequently towards the end of an '01 game when someone shoots at the bull and misses into the skinny part of a number). The order is important since a single 1, double 1 wins an '01 game with 3 left, but a double 1 followed by a quick single 1 does not (I've seen someone try this before too). Should an opponent question a score you should be able to tell them exactly what was hit (in case both you and the player shooting come up with the wrong score).

    During the game you will occasionally be asked questions about either the score or about the location of dart just thrown. You will find these questions asked in many different ways which is why it's important to know what you are allowed to say. For '01 games you are allowed to say how many points have been scored and how many points remain (it's usually OK to also answer with a "yes" or "no" when asked if a dart has hit a specific area). For cricket you should answer how many marks of a number have been hit (e.g., "Three 18's and one 17"). You are not allowed to offer advice to a player (e.g., "How do I take a 132 out?" or "Should I close the 20's?").

    Make sure that the game is really over before erasing the board. I've also seen a recent example where a player accidentally took out what his partner had last scored instead of what was actually left. Because he did it with such certainty and turned to shake the opponents hands it almost went unknown that he had actually busted (this was a top-20 player). Other common mistakes are needing one bull and putting it just outside the wire or needing 16 and hitting double 16 (this happens a lot, for example a person that went up during the LAST turn trying for 32 and who singled the 16 with the last dart might still be focused on that 32).

    Here are a few of my personal scoring guidelines.

    - Write LEGIBLY! Make all numbers easy to read so that there is no confusion and the audience can follow along.

    - Use ONLY NUMBERS. Many people like to abbreviate 100 as T (short for "ton") or use an "X" to indicate 2 left (I've even seen some weirder ones like "DUCKS" for 22 or a circle with a dot in the middle for 50 left). It simply removes any possible confusion if only numbers are used. If you ever watch a televised tournament you will notice that the onstage announcer will always say "One hundred" or "One hundred and eighty" instead of using the terms "ton" or "ton eighty."

    - For '01 games, the scores for a turn should go on the outside portion of the scoreboard and the remaining amounts should be on the inside (I've seen some people put the scores on the left and the remainder on the right for both teams which can confuse a team when they try to figure out what they have left).

    - Always write down what was scored, that way there can be no confusion. I seen it several times where someone will setup an out in an '01 game and tell you what they have left only to find that they had made a mistake in their counting (see the example after the next point). If only the result is written it's hard to go back when an opponent questions the score.

    - Avoid crossing out scores. Again, many people like to cross out what a player scores and usually crosses out the previous total too. However, this can cause issues when an opponent questions a score and it makes it difficult for the audience to see what's been hit. I should mention that, in '01 games, when you don't cross out the scores that you should write the starting amount (e.g., 301, 501, 701, etc.) at the top of the scoreboard on each side. This way each score is next to the total from the start of the turn and what's left is the lowest number shown (see example below).

    100 501 501 45 85 401 456 125 60 316 331 140 100 256 191 81 140 156 110 70 8 16 40 20 4 8 20 10 2 4 10 5 2 5 1 4

    - Use "standard" cricket scoring and avoid adding "extra" slashes to closed numbers. Standard scoring uses one slash ("/") to indicate that one mark was hit, an "X" to indicate that two marks were hit and a circle ("O") to indicate a closed number. Some people like to "fill in" the missing slashes when a number is "closed" (i.e., after three marks have been hit on that number). However, this can cause confusion if you accidentally close the wrong number and/or an opponent questions how many marks were there before the turn.

    - Once a leg has been won be sure to indicate this visibly on the scoreboard. Acceptable ways include circling a player's (or team's) initials (only for best two out of three) or making legible X's (or asterisks) above the winning player's (or team's) initials. Some boards will have boxes or numbers at the top for you to use.

    - Try NOT to have to erase the board during the game. When you are keeping score for players early in a tournament write smaller, but still readable unless you know that the game will be over quickly. When I am scoring for one of the top players I will write larger mainly for the benefit of the people watching the match. NEVER put a score to the side and circle it however, it can only add confusion.

    - When you just HAVE to erase... Erasing during a match not only can cause confusion (since some of the scoring history will be lost), but an also cause a unwanted delay in the game which usually takes away from the rhythm of the players and should be avoided if at all possible. That said, sometimes really good players will have a really bad game, or a huge point war in cricket simply uses up all of the available scoreboard. In either case, the best way to erase the board with the least amount of interruption is to inform the player who has just thrown that you will need to erase the board. Do this when there is still enough room for one more score at the bottom. Then, write in the final score at the bottom and erase the top half of the board. COPY the scores at the bottom of the board and confirm with both players that the scores are correct at the top BEFORE you erase the bottom half of the board. (Most players are pretty level about this, but if you don't ask and a player questions the score after you've erased, things can get very nasty.)

    - Try to keep the rhythm of the game going (this was partially aluded to in the erasing point above). Most people play their best once they get into the rhythm of a game. This is especially true when they don't have to wait on the chalker or have to verify everything the chalker writes down. Needless to say, the audience wants them to play at their best too since it makes for a better specticle. Therefore, your goal should be to write each score down as accurately and quickly as possible (while still making it readable). This is why you should probably avoid chalking matches later into a big tournament until you are comfortable in doing so.

    - How should you handle a mistake? First of all, you WILL make an occasional mistake, nobody's perfect. The best thing to do after a mistake has been made is to simply correct it. Getting flustered or apologizing during the match tends to be distracting and can also lead to more mistakes so just fix it and get on with the next turn. One important note, if you make a mistake and it is NOT noticed until after the opponent has thrown you should NOT correct it. You may inform the players of the mistake and most will allow the correction anyway (for example if you subtract 100 from 501 and write 301), but in some cases the correction must stand (remember it is still the player's responsibility to ensure that the score is accurate BEFORE they throw).

    If you have any questions feel free to ask!

    Written by CraigB On Date 06/2004

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    "How to keep score during a steel-tip match" | Login/Create an Account | 5 comments | Search Discussion
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    Re: How to keep score during a steel-tip match (Score: 1)
    by USUALCHAOS on Sunday, November 11 @ 05:20:00 UTC
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    This should be posted in all bars across the country. This is one of the biggest problems i have during darts in league.

    Re: How to keep score during a steel-tip match (Score: 1)
    by warnock ( on Saturday, June 07 @ 06:25:59 UTC
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    great info but if u were to post in every bar nobody would read the whole thing it is way too long,,lol

    Re: How to keep score during a steel-tip match (Score: 1)
    by Bjorn on Saturday, July 12 @ 18:55:35 UTC
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    Thanks for the very thorough explanation, these guidelines aren't always easy to find and understand! Bjorn

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