A Tournament: Hope springs eternal

So, after a couple of weeks back from Las Vegas, the next tournament on the calendar was rather auspiciously titled “a tournament” on the IFPA calendar on June 30. Hosted by none other than Matt Quantz at his townhouse in northeastern Fort Bend County,

I approached this tournament with a different mindset than I usually do. Namely, I wanted to have fun while playing relatively good pinball and if that led to winning the tournament so be it. I was not as focused on winning as I normally would be.

The trip started innocuously enough with a trip to a newly opened Dunkin’ Donuts in the Heights. As part of their grand opening festivities, they hired a face painter. And of course, I could not resist. I went with a “Renaissance-festival style” eye mask.

And then it was on to the tournament. I got in a few warmup games, including a game or two on Fireball II which I had never gotten to play before. I’m a bit light on details, given that I didn’t even get around to starting this post until a good month after the tournament itself.

So I’ll skip most of the details, list the matches in the order played, and summarize the highlights of the qualifying round as I get to them.

Game 1: Dr. Dude, playing second grouped with Lisa Anderson, John Carroll, and Kevin Tooley. 1.1M+ good for third place; if I remember right I never get multiball started and never really have much of a chance.

Game 2: Diner, playing third grouped with Chris Palis, Emlile Budy, and Fred Revnew. 1.3M+ good for a close third place behind Fred (only 560K seperating first and third place).

Game 3: NASCAR, playing fourth grouped with Jeff Mleynek, Frankie Griffin, and Joe Cuellar. I’ve never had good luck on this game, but I managed to pile up 29.5M+. This was good for not only a first place, but it was more than double the other three players’ scores combined.

Game 4: Big Guns, playing third grouped with Chris Gonzales, Jack Revnew, and Elizabeth Dronet. 277K+ good for third place.

Game 5: Mata Hari, playing frist grouped with Ben Whittington, Chris Doyle, and William Thornton. 52K+ good for fourth. I should be better on this particular game since I have probably played it more than any other one title over the years. But, such is life.

Game 6: Taxi, playing second grouped with Annabeth Dronet, Marc Gammons, and Robert Byers. 846K+ for a rather distant third.

Game 7: Taxi, playing first grouped with Cory Wetfahl, Brian Foytik, and Matt Quantz. This game was interrupted after my third ball due to a circuit breaker tripping (the only time this happened during the tournament that I know of). Fortunately, I had a record of an intermediate score. Unfortunately, it was before I played my third ball, not after. The replayed third ball score wasn’t nearly as good. I wound up with 344K+ good to squeak into third place, not that it even mattered at this point in the qualifying round.

There was a short break and then it would be time for the elimination round. Since the qualifying rounds put me in B division (21 players outside of the top 8, of an original 31, excluding two players who could not stay) the elimination round was a two strikes tournament (third and fourth places got a strike for three- and four-player games, second place gets a strike for two-player games).

The elimination round went by rather quickly. There were only nine rounds in total and I would be eliminated after round 5. (Details to be written.)

Pinball Hall of Fame visit: A much-needed redemption

Obviously, after the rather lacking performance I previously posted about, I felt in need of redemption. In an ideal world, I’d at least have made it to the finals or just missed the finals with at least a respectable showing, especially given Friday afternoon I was getting on a plane for Las Vegas. Now, the Pinball Hall of Fame isn’t the primary reason for attending, there are business reasons, but of course, there is a definite pleasure side to this trip.

We (mom and I) arrived at the PHOF relatively early in the afternoon. For a while, we beat most of the crowds. I got to play a few games I would likely never get to play anywhere else, one being Goin’ Nuts, of which only 10 are known to exist (PHOF has #3), another being Superman, a now-somewhat-rare Atari table. Unfortunately, I did not get to play Pinball Circus (it broke down right as I was in the queue to play), Q*Bert’s Qubes (I found it with 10 credits on it but it would not start a game), Mata Hari (one of my favorite Bally tables from the late 1970s), or Star Wars Episode I (one of the two Pinball 2000 games released).

The highlight of the visit was a score of 204.8M+ on CSI. I had never really played this game before, but it’s quite a fun one. This is definitely a game you do not want to rage tilt after anything resembling a decent ball: 180M or so of that 204.8M+ was my third ball bonus. Quite the SKQuashing, I must say…

Other scores from the visit (highest only):

  • Mustang: 16.5M+
  • Bad Cats: 895K+ (the 1.30M+ is my mom’s score, a lot of things on this game were not working properly)
  • Goin’ Nuts: 416K+
  • Superman: 118K+
  • Space Shuttle: 479K+
  • Cleopatra: 65K+
  • El Dorado: 11K+ (managed to tilt this one)
  • Strikes & Spares: 121
  • Black Knight 2000: 629K+
  • Arabian Knights: 3M+ (some of the score lights weren’t working I think)

I also played the remainder of a game of Transformers someone had given up on; I did not consider the score worth taking a picture of, there were quite a few things malfunctioning. There was also a Star Wars Trilogy (Sega, 1997) that was spitting out two balls at once.

Overall I not only had a great time, I also got to leave my mark behind for at least a few of the future players at the PHOF. If you want to visit the PHOF while you’re in Las Vegas, it’s at 1610 East Tropicana Avenue, just west of Spencer Street on the same side of the street as the 7-Eleven at the corner of Spencer. The OLC is 85864V29+HQ. The change machines can accept up to $20 bills and there is at least one change machine for breaking larger bills $5 at a time (i.e. you don’t need to get all of a $20 in quarters), however, there is no ATM on site.

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Playoffs: An unexpected twist

I was greeted on arrival to Eighteen Twenty Lounge by a surprise. Instead of an array of newer games that we had been playing during the regular season, I was welcomed by an array of older games, going all the way back to Black Hole, a well-known Gottlieb table from 1981. The last time I remember playing Black Hole was at the Time-Out arcade in Sharpstown Mall shortly after its release–when I was small enough that I could not see over the playfield glass without standing on a box made for the purpose. Although I did not get to play Black Hole during tournament play, I did play it during warmups and later in the night as tournament play was winding down (neither A division nor B division finals had Black Hole in the machines to be played).

Anyway, on to the tournament. As the #4 seed, I was grouped with Fred Revnew, John Carroll, and Jamie Jenkins. We would begin the quarterfinal round on White Water, a game by Williams from 1993. I elect to play first as I often do. I got off to what I thought was a pretty good start with a first ball score of 45M+. It looked really good, right up until the moment where Fred runs it all the way up to around 75M on his first ball. I’m still in second and I feel like I have a chance. After ball 2, though, I’m just short of 60M, Fred would rocket away with 121M+ and Jamie would leapfrog into second with 83.5M+. I would eventually sign off with 63.1M+ just barely good enough for third place ahead of John’s 62.2M+.

Game two would be on The Addams Family, the best-selling pinball game of all time from Bally in 1992. I felt a bit more hope as at least I was familiar with the layout and rules of this table (though it’s not like I was a complete stranger to White Water). I elect to go second this time, which would be behind Jamie and ahead of Fred and John. The first ball was rough for everyone, with only John winding up with a decent score at 10.1M+. Both Jamie and Fred put up a minimal 250K (the feed from the Graveyard scoop was a bit tricky to handle) while I managed a meek 1.0M+. Ball 2 would see an improvement, I would get all the way up to 19.2M+, staying more or less in the running, though John would run it up to 26.5M+ and Fred would leapfrog into first with 82.5M+. I would, unfortunately, sign off with 23.5M+ good only for another third place. The only lucky break I would catch here is that the standings point totals going into the final round would be 8 for Fred, and a three-way tie at 2 between the rest of us, with the top two advancing to the next round. (This is commonly referred to as 8-2-2-2 for short.)

So it would all come down to the third and final game of the round on Iron Man. I would elect to go fourth this time, as my previous strategy of going first and second clearly didn’t pan out. To make a long story short, this game would come down to the last ball. I began my ball 3 with 9.5M+ and would need to top 31.9M+ (John’s score) to advance. To say the least, that didn’t even come close to happening. I would sign off with 10.7M+ for last place in the third game. I would finish the tournament in 16th place.

The only silver lining to this cloud is that Fred Revnew would go on to take first place, and Bryce Revnew would take second, leaving third place for Phil Grimaldi. So I got at least part of what I wanted: someone else winning A division for a change. I did hang around to see this (as well as get in a few more games of Black Hole as mentioned previously).

As disappointing as my early exit was, I am more driven than ever to practice and prepare for next season as well as some of the tournaments between now and then. This is still my best finish to date in the league, but it’s not a destination, only an intermediate stopover on the way to the top.

 

Space City Pinball League Season 7 Week 8: Ending on a high note

This Wednesday night league meet was the last one before the league playoffs (more on that at the end of the post). I had one last chance to (hopefully) nail down one of the higher seeds, having already clinched A division back in week 6 if not earlier.

I did not play any warmup games for a variety of reasons, including that I arrived rather late. I would be grouped with Fred Revnew, Elizabeth Dronet, and Chris Palis. The game lineup was Attack from Mars, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Houdini, Aerosmith, and Medieval Madness. Star Wars was out on the floor but malfunctioning.

We would start off with a game on Medieval Madness. Chris pretty much ran away with this one from the beginning, posting 3.5M+ on ball one with nobody else breaking out of six-digit territory. I was still in a relatively good position after two balls, facing a 4.3M+ final score from Elizabeth and scores of 4.1M+ and 1.2M+ from Chris and Fred respectively. I would do damned little to improve signing off with a 2.9M+ that would hold up for third place. Not exactly the start I wanted.

Moving on, we would then play on Houdini. I had an early lead after ball 1 with 55K+ to Chris’s 50K+. Chris and Fred would bounce back and leave me staring down a 159K+ and 378K+ after two balls. I would again post a third place with 136K+ finishing ahead of only Elizabeth. I’d really like to make last weeks’ controversy moot so I’m looking forward to doing something, anything, to finish with a total of 13 standings points or more. Basically, with four standings points after two games, that means at least two first-place finishes in the final three games.

We would play our third game of the night on AC/DC. The first ball was a dud for everyone with all four of us posting sub-2M scores. Elizabeth would have a slight lead over everyone with a 2.9M+ at the time I plunged ball 2 into play. I had a great ball and managed to jump out into the lead with 13.2M+, and this was without getting into a multiball mode. Even though I did not need to play it to win, I would play a very brief third ball and sign off with 16.2M+. So, nine standings points after three games, and only one more first place (or, second place and then third place or better) needed to make week 7 the other drop week.

The fourth game of the night would be Aerosmith. The game would get off to a very unambitious start for me, with a sub-1M score against Fred’s 5.3M+ and Elizabeth’s 12.7M+. Those would balloon to 22.9M+ and Elizabeth’s 13.9M+ by the time I got back up to plunge ball 2. I would get back in it boosting my score to 15.4M+ but by the time I came back up to play ball 3, I would be staring down a 45.1M+ and 37.6M+. I had a really good Toy Box Multiball but would come up just short with a final score of 34.8M+, a really high score for coming in a lowly third. I made a lot of good saves, got a lucky Lazarus bounce, and even had one ball airball right into the plunger lane (when I was afraid it would go into the outlane ending my ball instead). These are the kind of things one doesn’t see on the scoreboard; it’s easy to dismiss this as “bleh, another third-place game” without the story behind it.

It would come down to the last game of the night on Iron Maiden. I jumped out to an early lead with a 20.1M+ first ball. Fred would take a momentary lead putting up 22.6M+ after his ball 2. I would retake the lead with 28.6M+ after two balls, and then Fred would sign off with 23.7M+. So I have the lead and I’m assured of at least second place even if I just plunge my ball and walk away. Which I’m not going to do, because I’m feeling pretty hot. What happened next is the stuff that legends are made of.

I’m fuzzy on details, but I would play a very long third ball with many different multiball rounds. To put it simply, I was in the zone. It seemed like every shot I really wanted to make, I made. I would get an extra ball, which I was allowed to play since there were only 31 players. It felt like time stood still, but the score counter definitely did not. This wasn’t just any win; this was a SKQuashing. Before playing my extra ball I had surpassed 152M, and would sign off with a white-hot 173.7M+ for a new personal record. Enough for me to enter my initials, as well.

If only I had four more games like that to nail down the #2 seed. As it stands, Bryce Revnew snuck in with his own solid performance across all five of his games to post 25 standings points and bring him up to 109, one point over my 108. (Incidentally, Bryce’s scores from this week included a 159.7M+ on Iron Maiden not too far behind my own and a 53.0M+ on Aerosmith which would also have beaten everyone in my group.) Erich Stinson put up 19 standings points, bringing him up to 109 after dropping his 14 from last week (funny coincidence, that). Those would push me down to the #4 seed with a final total of 108.

It’s been a great season, and so far I’ve had a blast. But, the amazing performance which put me in the #4 seed is not going to mean much if I can’t pull it together in the playoffs and win. If you can come out tonight to Eighteen Twenty Lounge and show your support, I’d appreciate it. There is a Facebook event page with the details. I will be posting updates there later today and tonight.

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