Osaka Showdown - Osaka, Japan - Silverball Planet - 26/08/2017

I guess I could say that our trip to Japan was a product of VERY long term planning. I've been wanting to go there since late teens, but the very alien culture to us and not really knowing what to do there has always seemed to hold me back. Plus there's always been the next pinball tournament trip to sap my funds so the whole idea has been on the back burner for a long time.

Things were set in motion in 2014 when I met mr. Naruke at IFPA 11, Denver. Back then I hadn't met that many international players and got very curious about the fact that they did play pinball in Japan as well. In 2015 I met Tatsunori again at IFPA 12 in Sweden and this time I just asked him and the people with him about the pinball scene in Japan. Then in early 2017 our trip to California was postponed, so I decided it was time to make this Japan visit thing reality and take part in the Osaka Showdown, which is a monthly tournament in Osaka. This wasn't meant to be a super serious tournament trip, but more of a pinball themed tourist trip.

A memorable coincidence was how we found the arcade, the Silverball Planet completely by accident. We were just wandering around in downtown Osaka and stopped at Starbucks. It was at the ground floor of a mall, so after the coffee we went to check out what was there. The two floors we explored were mostly full of clothes stores so we decided to move on.

Just before stepping on the elevator, I noticed a peculiar escalator that did a 90 degree turn on the way up. Naturally I had to try it and once I was on the third floor the very first thing I saw was Stern's Star Trek in a store window. I went into the store and realized it wasn't a store at all, but the Silverball Planet itself! We spent rest of the evening there checking out the games. They had around 100 pins there, but out of those only 2 that I hadn't played before: Jetsons and Dominos, both Spooky Pinball's latest productions.

The Silverball Planet entrance

Playing for fun on Friday revealed something rather unexpected about the pins. The thing is, they were in excellent shape cleaning-wise, no ball tracks on the playfield, no burned out light bulbs, cabinets in decent shape and so forth, so you'd expect they'd play real nice. But the first issue that really caught my eye was the playfield rubbers. All the games except the really new ones that they had apparently gotten new in box had cracked rubbers everywhere. The worst part was the flipper rubbers that had almost zero bounce and they were really worn at the tip.

Many of the games had all the rubbers in this condition.

Also, many of the games had really weak flippers and many other mechanical issues, mostly related to worn out coil sleeves and other consumable parts. With several games in the lineup (like the Roller games) that have really steep ramps AND being able to make the ramp shots is the only way to progress in the game, I made a note to formulate a backup plan how to approach those games.

I tried talking to the repair guy, but he didn't speak English at all. When I tried to point out an issue in Sega's Twister, he just turned the machine off and gave me back the 100¥ coin I had put in it. Oh well, this might be EPC'14 in Italy all over again...

The trophy was a golden Coke bottle, how American :)

We played the Jetsons and Dominos, but like the previous Spooky's games, they did very little for me. The Jetsons was especially bland game with very simple looking playfield and otherwise boring gameplay. Dominos again was something that I assume looks good in the corporate HQ, where no one plays it but they can say there's a pinball machine with their brand out there.

The tournament itself had single stage and 4 rounds. Players where divided into 4 player groups, 2 players got eliminated in each round, until 4 were left for the final. Round scoring was pretty standard 4-2-1-0. I'm not sure how the 12 game league itself is scored or what the overall winner gets as a trophy.

Round 1

Games: Terminator 2, Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Walking Dead
Tiebreaker: No Fear

We started out with Terminator 2 in a 4 player group. I had played this T2 before here and knew the flippers were going to be a problem. The flipper alignment was somehow odd, the all-important lock shot was extremely hard to make. After making a note of this, I concentrated on the skillshot timings and in the end, bulk of my 9M end score came out of just that. Only one player, Kyoichi, got the multiball going and he won the round with 30M. Sho made some extra points with the ramps and got 16M. Kazuto was left with just couple of skillshots and some random points for 6M. With 1 point this was a rather rocky start.

Still, I really loved how everyone reacted pretty strongly to what was going on in the game. It made playing feel like I was just flipping for fun with friends and not playing a super serious tournament!

Next up was the Creature. I had played this machine yesterday and learned to avoid the right ramp that had a really nasty feedback if the ball didn't sink in perfectly. I skillshotted KISS, then flailed around to get the multiball going. I found the monster, did the save shot but got a center drain from the jackpot shot. The next two balls didn't bring much else to the table, but I got to 82M which luckily was enough for my first 4 point game. Kyoichi got 52M, Sho 58M and Kazuto 24M.

Eyeballing the dead before starting

Last game unless tiebreaking was needed: The Walking Dead. I defaulted to my EPC'16 strategy and just grinded the Well walker. I have absolutely no idea what the others were going for, but before my last ball we all were around 5M or less. The game was damn unforgiving and had very short (if all!) ball saver. On my last ball I got the Well walker multiball running and I went from 5M to 28M, which easily gave me another 4 points. Kyoichi was last with 8M, Sho 3rd with 11M and I was sweating a bit when I saw Kazuto to follow up my lead with the Well walker on his last ball, but he drained at 22M.

Well, at least I wasn't out from the first round. Kyoichi and Sho tied and had to sort it out between themselves. My next group was ready, so I got to continue with round 2.

Round points: 1-4-4

Round 2

Games: Kiss (Stern), Roller Games, The Hobbit 
Tiebreaker: Funhouse

The second round started with Kiss. While the theme does very little for me, the Stern's variant of the game works for me. I really love the fact that this isn't one of those "grind multiball forever for useless jackpots as there's nothing else to it" games; the modes actually score pretty well and I find the shots rather satisfying to make, even the steepest ramp on the right. I started building the Demon multiball right from the start and got a center drain from the left lite lock target. The second ball wasn't any better, but I got the Starchild and Demon multiball both lit. Out of my competitors Yoshio didn't get much done and ended the game with 6M. I cashed in both multiballs for 62M but Yasumasa got his game face on and for the first time in my life I got to see the game's ending. He ended with around 350M for 4 points, where I had to settle for 2. Oh, and for some reason we didn't have the 4th player at all, apparently someone had wandered off and gotten disqualified or something?

Next up: Roller games. Now, I had played this earlier and realized it was going to be a real shitshow as a tournament game. As the ramp shot with the upper right flipper was really important, I risked it several times by looping the ball, then trying the ramp and hope for the best. And what do you know, the risk was enough this time, as even when I didn't play the multiball, my sad 3.6M score beat Yasumasa's 1.6M and Yoshio's 500k. 4 points. Roller games? More like Loller games!

Many of the new Sterns and Jersey Jacks were there as well.

I had high hopes for the Hobbit, but for a such a new game it had really mushy feeling flippers. After the first ball I realized this might end up to be a game of skill shotting, so I selected the LOCK shot for skill and gunned that. I got nothing done and while I was 2nd for a while, last ball left me with 37k and last. I did some quick calculations:

Since Yoshio had two 1 point games, it wouldn't matter any more even if he'd win this game. Yasumasa however got his act together on the last ball, played the multiball and won the game with 111k, Yoshio was 2nd with 64k. This round was what I had feared of since playing the first time: we might have to resort to skill shot points and really low hanging fruit to survive when more advanced features were limited by minor malfunctions or weak flippers. Anyway, Yasumasa and I went to round 3.

Rount points: 2-4-1

Round 3

Games: The Rolling Stones (Bally), The Hobbit
Tiebreaker: Terminator 2

I'm not perfectly sure why the amount of games got smaller and smaller as the game progressed; time limit, arcade's opening hours?

We started with the Rolling stones, but not without some minor drama: The play order was supposed to be Tatsunori-me-Kazuma, but for some reason Kazuma played my first ball. The country director was present and judged that I was moved from 2nd to 3rd player and we proceeded. I got a pretty good 1st ball going on. I racked up a nice bonus, then hit the bonus collect. I had over 100k after first ball, while the others got just one switch hit balls. Kazuma woke up on his 3rd ball and got up to 100k, but as I ended by 2nd ball at 150k, I didn't even have to play my last ball. Tatsunori again got really shit luck and was left with 16k.

Now, this is what really made me like Japan: even when the players got really raw deal at times, no one took their frustration out on the machines or kicked stuff over. Even when the day was nearing its end, it was nothing but pure gentleman play, with everyone having really good time. I really loved that in contrast to playing elsewhere.

Next up was the Hobbit again. I was so hoping I'd get to pop up the playfield and do a full flipper rebuild on this puppy! It just felt sad to have game this new play like this. Anyway, Tatsunori totally owned the round ending with 550k+ score. Me and Kazuma fought it out mostly at skillshot level, I got luckier. Pointwise I only needed Kazuma to be 2nd or worse to win the round and with him ending at 30k to my 32k, I won the round with 6 points, Tatsunori was 2nd with 5 points.

I assumed we were somewhere around quarter finals at this point, but what do you know, this was the semis. So, it'd appear my trip to Japan was rewarded with a place in the finals!

Round points: 4-2


Games: Ghostbusters, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Kiss (Stern), The Rolling Stones (Bally)

The endgame was between yours truly, Yasumasa, Kyoichi and Tatsunori on 4 games.

We started off with Ghostbusters. Yasumasa put some good moves right from the start, where Kyoichi and I got to start with house balls. Nothing that spectacular happened with the second balls either, although Yasumasa got a nice lead and Tatsunori crossed 100M. Yasumasa ended his last ball at 129M and Kyoichi at 6.2M. I was bit behind him at around 4M so I needed to do some flailing not to be the last on this one. A lucky plunge let me take a stab at getting the jackpot from the left ramp and it sinked in. I then kept the ball rolling long enough to walk away with 7.9M. Meanwhile Tatsunori put on his game face and pounded a modest 954M on the game. I don't think I've ever actually seen this game being played that far, as I don't have access to it at home. So, one point.

Next the Creature. I had to go with the previous strategy of multiball. It worked okay, in all pretty decent game for this one, Kyoichi took the game with 176M, I was second with 55M, Tatsunori got 35M and Yasumasa 30M.

A quick calculation later getting to the podium was still a very doable feat, as we all were within 2-5 points range with 2 games still to be played.

I had played this Stern Kiss several games now and it played pretty nicely. Yet when I most needed the second place at minimum, Gene's wrath was on me (for listening to Metallica, no doubt about it!) and every single feedback from the ball lock hit the flipper tips enough for the ball to slow down just enough for the ball saver to expire before center drain. Talk about a lesson in futility. I gave up on that and went for the Starchild instead, but all I got was bit over 7M. Tatsunori pulled another monster game with 310M, Kyoichi 26M and Yasumasa 43M. 0 points and all of a sudden instead of going for the golden trophy, I was fighting not to be the last.

I had relatively high hopes for the last game, Bally's The Rolling Stones. The first ball was pretty weak for everyone and all of us in the final got to let out our own version of frustrated laughter. Then Kyoichi as player one started to draw a noticeable lead to others, while I got another house ball. Kyoichi's rage didn't end there, on his last ball he rolled the game over ending with bit over 1M points. Wow! Yasumasa ended with 190k and Tatsunori at 138k. I was at around 10k when my last ball started.

Drops and upper saucer all day, every day is probably the best approach here, I started the grind but a very unfortunate feedback from the drop targets gave me a center drain. I didn't even bother to look up when I was  playing, my only goal was Yasumasa's 190k. But no dice, 47k and no place on the podium today.

The outcome

I was 4th in the tournament. Official results.

Tatsunori got another Coke-bottle for his collection. Kyoichi on the left and Yasumasa on right.

Of Japan and Osaka

I've been reading up a lot about Japan in the past few years. I've also talked to a lot of people who've been there. Many of my American friends have told me about the huge culture shock, the locals basically running away when they went to greet them in open arms and so forth. I think the only real hurdle here was the language, but with Google Translate's point-and-translate I managed to decode anything from signs to items in stores. Speaking English was a bit hit'n'miss, almost always the message got through, but it was only the pinball folk with whom we had longer conversations.

There's this kind of tragicomic understanding between Finnish and Japanese people. First of all, both seem to favor being quiet to just saying something. Both nationalities are way too self-critical about their level of English, to the point of absurdity. And naturally, both nationalities open up nicely with some alcohol! The people I played with were all serious about pinball, but at the same time played for fun. This manifested as people cheering for others, even when they themselves were out of the game. I wish we had more of that in Finland.

I have no idea what's happening on the screen, but at least I've played some Pachinko...

Some people might remember that I have a Pachinko machine of my own at home. I wanted to try playing at an arcade and see what the more modern games looked like. That turned out to be a rather interesting experience. The minute I sat down, an attendant appeared and started explaining the game to me. I told him I'm familiar with the game itself, I was just checking what buttons this particular game had. He then went on to get me a game guide (in English, surprisingly!) and proceeded to point out the basics from there and kept hovering around, interrupting me every time I stopped for a second. Okay, then. By the way, I actually won about 3000 yen (~ 24€) but as I didn't bother to cash out the little balls, I just gambled them away.

Being from an arctic country, the +34c and high humidity was probably the worst part when we stepped off the nicely air conditioned A350 at Kansai International. Osaka itself was surprisingly clean place, taking account the fact that public trashcans were extremely rare. As this was a holiday trip, we also wandered around and checked out all kinds of tourist attractions, including the Osaka castle, animal themed cafeterias (I got to hold a real owl and play with kittens!), crazy big Japanese arcades and cruising the river Yodo. I need to come back some day and check out the place in Tokyo I heard about.

Until the next time!

Hello there, buddy!

Borås Pinball Classic Open 2017 - Borås - 10-12/03/2017

It's kind of funny how fast the Borås tournaments formed a habit for us. Inken, the proprietor has a vast collection of both; the very latest and classic games in excellent condition. We last visited the place last fall, but thanks to all the stress and being dead tired it turned out to be just a show of frustration and anger. Couple of Inken's pens might also gotten depressed and snapped themselves in half (a true story!) so as an act of penance I brought him a bagful of new ones and promised myself to take it a bit easier this time around.

As usual, the tournament had a classic and a modern side, classics being the main tournament and modern games the side. The classics was the usual score based qualification with 4 player games playoffs. The modern tournament again had a match play format qualification first time ever. The usual quickie tournament was also on.

We arrived very late on Friday night thanks to the strike at Helsinki-Vantaa airport. We almost missed the whole flight as it was cancelled. I just happened to be at the airport on Thursday when the cancelled flights were first announced and went to Finnair's service desk just for the laughs. They had couple of free spots on the evening flight to Göteborg and I was more than glad to switch to that flight. In the end the strike that caused over 100 flights to be cancelled only delayed us for around 4 hours.

I tried my luck with the quickie tournament, but couldn't do jack at that state of mind and decided to retire for the day.

Main classics tournament

The next day I started my grind with Bally's Eight Ball. Took some trying but I eventually found a sweet spot for plunging so the ball just reached the rightmost roll over lane, hit the upper right bumper, the 8-ball target and then came for an easy drop catch. After that it's just hitting the spinner. I also managed to collect all the pool balls for the 25k bonus, but unfortunately got it only on last ball. I got 191k, 75k and 193k. I thought I had done real bad, but after I logged onto the score keeping site I noticed I was 2nd best at that point.

Waiting for my chance to play Centaur I played Harlem Globetrotters. I originally didn't like it that much, but I'm slowly starting to warm up to it. Might even buy one some day. My go-to strategy of maximizing the bonus, then collecting the top saucer letters was bit hit'n'miss, I got 2 real bad games and one of 304k, which wasn't stellar but I had witnessed worse games on it that night.

Next I played Centaur. I wanted to do 4 locks, then play the full multiball but after finally having all 4 orbs collected and nailing the O-R-B-S droptargets in order with just S missing, I managed to miss the target and drain. Fuck-a-doodle-doo. I was aiming for 2-3M, but my best was 1.3M. Meh.

After the Centaur only Black Jack was left. I kinda like it. It has the same kind of a simple game charm as Eight Ball. Not much else to do, than hit the targets until player's hand was better than the dealer's, then collect the goodies from the right saucer. My best was 364k, which is far from my personal record or even expected score, but I'll take it over 5 digit scores I saw some players getting when the didn't know the game's rules.

Side tournament, modern games

The modern games side tournament was played as match play first time(?) this year. There were multiple groups and everyone within the group played against each other once. With 13 players in the group, every point counts. I started out with a horrible luck. Some of the highlights include a game in Fish Tales; I had the video mode lit since first ball, never managed to make the shot to start it. All shots that went up the left orbit were too weak to actually land into the hole on the top. Eventually my opponent drained at 16M when I was at 18M. He got angry and pushed the machine real hard, getting two warnings. I expected him to tilt but no, the machine counted the bonus and it was 2.5M. Sigh.

I played several games where my opponent was just flailing around and I just couldn't get any of the game objectives going. Probably the most frustrating way to lose. Towards the end I had pretty much lost my will to fight and finished rest of the games concentrating on making the ciders in the fridge disappear. I managed to squeeze in couple of memorable ones as well. One of my opponents picked Corvette. I put 600M on it on the first ball, got up to 1.6B on the second ball. I didn't have to play the 3rd ball, but I've rarely annihilated anyone quite that bad on Corvette. Among the victorious games were also the Monster Bash, No Good Gofers and Scared Stiff. I didn't dare to pick any games I own, I have too much baggage on them.

In the end I won 6 of the games and didn't even bother to check the score board.

Playing the side tournament against my dad.

Couple hours later one of my opponents came to shake my hand and said "you won the qualification, good job". I was like "dude, what?". And yes, 4 players had had 6 wins, but I had won all those 3 others in a head-to-head game, so I went to the playoffs from my group. What the hell?!

I think I'd prefer the Finnish league chart over this one

During the day I also finished the Quickie tournament which was goal based on 6 machines. Not much good came out of that.

Side tournament, playoffs

The side tournament qualification ended somewhere around 18:00. The playoffs started after 23:00. That was a rather long time to keep up the adrenaline. While waiting, I also took a closer look at Inken's dead Ghostbusters. The poor game had burned its 3rd node board in the 3 or so months it has been in use. Doesn't exactly convince me of Stern's Spike platform. I also really wanted to take some time and grind away the GB to finally build a good approach to it, but "No" says the man in Chicago.

Eventually I went against two Swedish players and one Dane, M_P, HBK and EGO. We were to play in 4 player groups, 1 player would continue to the final. The round scoring was 7-5-3-1.

I got to pick the first game and went with Tron. I recall I've done some board repair work on this specific game and it apparently paid me back with really good game. I played all the multiballs and was damn near of Sea of Simulation. In the end I got 69M, the closest other player had 21M and the rest were below 10M. So, 7 points for this one.

Feeling very confident with the good start, I got to start our next game, Congo. What a shit show that turned out to be! We had one player do over 2.2B on it, I was the last with 158M. I got like the shittiest bounces in the history of pinball, and always right after the ball saver had expired. 1 point.

Next up was Wrestlemania. Again I had a very clear strategy. Having grinded away Wrestlemania at Pinball Universe last month I knew to go for the Tag team right from the start and began to build it. But nothing went like I wanted it to do. The Tag team wasn't happening, so as a last ditch effort I started the referee multiball. That turned out to be a real flail-fest with zero good shots. Eventually I managed to put both balls up the opposite ramps. Except neither of the shots went up, the balls came screaming down, hit each other and JUMPED OVER THE FLIPPERS. My Danish opponent just looked at the whole thing in disbelief. I ended the game with 7.8M, which was the worst. The others were 60M-58M-25M, which is peanuts to what I managed to grind back in Germany. Sigh, 1 point.

The last game for us was Avatar. I think I had a theoretical chance to win, but only if we'd finish in a very specific order. I got the Ampsuit multiball running with very little effort, but managed to do a triple drain in some inexplicable stroke of bad luck. I got the Ampsuit running again on my second ball and I had locked the Link captive ball. Unfortunately one of the other players stole the ball and I had trouble putting another one up there during the multiball. I would have so needed the stacked multiballs there but no, you can't haz. In the end I was 3rd with 11M score and got 3 points.

No matter from what angle you look at it, this was pretty disastrous ending to an insane luck in the qualification and strong start in the playoff.

The outcome

I didn't qualify in the main tournament.

I qualified in the side tournament and got eliminated on the first round of playoffs.

I didn't qualify in the quickie tournament.

Watching planes land and take off at the Landvetter airport

IFPA Euro Circuit finals - Bünde, Germany - Pinball Universe - 11-12/02/2017

Time for this year's first tournament abroad. I was actually a bit surprised I was among the first ones to be offered position in the Euro Circuit final, in the end I was 29th out of 32 qualifying players, but with many players skipping the finals many players from 50th position and below got in.

The venue was bit of a wildcard. It was in a showroom of a largeish importer, but that was pretty much all we knew forehand. On Friday, after half a day of travelling and settling into our hotel, we learned of a shuttle service to the venue. We gladly took it and soon found ourselves in a huge warehouse in the middle of German countryside.

The entrance and Pinball Universe's Stern show room

Nothing however prepared us for what was inside! As I walked in, I noticed a roomful of latest Stern games, the brand new Aerosmith being among them! Also in the same room I found Stern's Batman 66, the first game to have their upgraded Spike 2.0 platform. For the rest of Friday night you couldn't separate us from the Spike 2.0 games with a crowbar.

After me and Marco had grinded the Batman for a while, we were joined
by a third player who showed us how it's done!

Both games made a good use of their large colorful TFT displays. Batman's software still had some rough edges and seemed to miss a lot of graphics as some of the modes seemed to have just placeholder graphics in place. Aerosmith was a bit more finished in that department, although I'm sure they're still in the process of adding stuff to it as well.

So, how do they play? Aerosmith is pretty much an upgraded Kiss in the terms of game play. Pick a song and try to finish the objectives before the time runs out. If you fail the mode, you can restart it and continue from the point where you left off. The game has cartoonish graphics, many with more or less humorous animations.

Aerosmith's 6 main modes. As you might guess, the titular song is being played during the mode.

The main multiball works like in Mustang - you can start the multiball after locking 3 balls, but you can abort the multiball start to lock additional 3 balls. The jackpot values grow as you lock more balls, making this rather interesting strategic point to the game. Oh, and the physical ball lock thing is great! An upkicker throws the ball into the open toy box. It was a bit unclear to me how the game behaves if majority of the balls are already in the toy box if other player with just 3 locks starts the multiball.

Marco getting his first fix of Aerosmith!

Batman 66 again reminds a lot of the Dark Knight. By default pretty much nothing is going on. You can select the mode by completing certain shots, then hitting the batphone to start the it. If the batphone isn't hit in time the mode is lost and you have to start from scratch. One really odd thing was that the main multiball isn't available if you don't have a mode running. The multiball seems to share the running mode's shots. The modes are finished after a certain number of shots are collected, litting a super jackpot in the Penguin scoop. The game featured several other Batman villains besides Joker, Cat woman, Penguin and Riddler, but attempting to play against the other villains just gave one of the main villains instead. I'll assume they'll add the remaining villains later on, as many of them are shown during the attraction mode as well.

I wish I had had time to dive into the service menus to snoop what else is new, but the games attracted a lot of attention and were rarely seen without a line forming behind the current player. Still, I'm welcoming the latest Stern platform with open arms and can't wait what else they have in store for us in the future.

I also got to play Rob Zombie, which is Spooky pinball's latest. I wasn't totally convinced with their first release (America's most haunted) and this was a bit more of the same. The game had all kinds of stuff going on, but to be honest felt like one of those games we made with "build a pinball machine" game kits back when we were kids. Except it said "fuck" a whole lotta more. I talked with the house mechanic for a long while and he had some really curious insights on the Spooky Pinball's games. Majority of the playfield moving mechanisms are driven with a stepper motors, but the game does not monitor them at all. Every time there's a stuck ball, the motor just burns. This is why they can't run the Spooky pinball's games without supervision. The manufacturer responded to a critique about the motors burning by putting a handful of stepper motors in the game's goodie bag. Right.

Speaking of rare games, I also got to play the Spiderman Home Edition. It's virtually a simplified version of a real pinball machine, with no coin mechs or too many moving parts on the playfield. The local mechanic told me it's also Spike based and pretty much everything in it used components from the real pinball machines.

Surprisingly it wasn't that bad a game. The flipper buttons felt a bit odd as they were closer to the lockdown bar than in a real pin, but other than that it played rather well and even had couple of modes. It had a large, low resolution RGB LED display with a lot of colorful animations running during the game. Still, I wouldn't pay $4995 for this when there's a whole lot of Stern's Spider-Mans out there for a lot less than that.

Other curiosities included The Pabst Cancrusher, which was just a re-themed Whoa! Nellie, America's Most Haunted (which I had already played in 2015 in Pittsburgh) and several Limited edition versions of Stern's latest games that I had never seen, including Wrestlemania's LE. It was just as horrible as the pro version I had played in Finland.

ECS finals

We returned to Pinball Universe on Saturday morning. The final was a 32 player double elimination bracket. The loser (or highest ranking player for the 1st game) could decide the game or position. On the winner's side the matches were best 4 out of 7 and best 3 out of 5 on the loser's side. The tournament area was a separate room from the new and reconditioned games areas and consisted mostly of modern Stern and Williams games. My first opponent was Swiss Levente Tregova.

The Battle-Zone waiting for players. See how straight the lines are!

Round 1

Being higher seeded, I got to pick the game and went with Dark Knight. I wanted to take the usual Joker+Scarecrow multiball combo, but couldn't find the Joker shot to save my life. Levente had pretty much similar experience and we both struggled until the second ball, where he finally managed to get both MBs going and got a 80M lead on me. I used my last ball to start Scarecrow and hope I can get enough lucky shots towards Joker to start it as well. Didn't happen, the game ended 16M to 93M to Levente.

Levente showing me how it's done on Batman.

Levente picked AC/DC Lucy and I picked 2nd player spot. Halfway my ball Levente interrupts me and says he's so sorry for screwing up. Took me a second to realize we had done this the wrong way. I was supposed to pick the game. Oh well, I had no complaints about AC/DC so we kept the game but switched pl. 1 and 2 around. I had couple of bad balls, but got at least something going on my 3rd. It wasn't enough and Levente won with his 55M to my 26M.

I decided to take a strategic turns towards less known Sterns and took the CSI. It would have been the right call, save my unbelievable bad luck! I got the Skull multiball running on my last ball, but managed to drain all the balls just after the ball save ended. Levente didn't appear to have a strategy for this game, but managed to flail around for 5.1M and beat my 2.9M. Oh dear.

I kept the same line and picked Roller Coaster Tycoon. Now, this piece of .. uh .. fine game is one the strongest Sterns for me among the other early games from the company. Little did that help when I couldn't do anything with it today, leaving me with my 4th loss and marking the end of my (short) time on the winner's side.

Round 1, losers' side

Getting eliminated right off the bat left me in a limbo for over 4 hours. I can't think of anything quite as damaging for my gaming state of mind than trying to be on stand-by for hours and hours. On the other hand, I got to grind the Aerosmith in peace as everyone else was still in the tournament area. I wasn't sure about the Aerosmith after our first try (I thought it was more of a re-themed Kiss), but playing it for hours convinced me it's an unique, solid game in making.

Finally Cayle George came looking for me and I was back in the game.
Cayle picked Dark Knight. I managed to combo Joker and Scarecrow and got up to 25M on my first ball, while Cayle got couple of unlucky balls in a row. He finally got the multiballs running on his last ball, but didn't catch me, so I didn't need to play my 3rd ball. 9M to 29M to me.

Cayle picked Tron as our next game. I had nothing on him on it and barely got the Lightcycle multiball going. Cayle won 86M to 12M.

It was time to have my revenge with an unexpected game pick, so I went with Roller Coaster Tycoon. We had less than stellar match on it, but I won 6M to Cayle's 5M, which let him to pick the next game.

He picked Creature from the Black Lagoon. Uh-oh. It was a total shitfest for me, with Cayle scoring 2 super jackpots on his first multiball. I eventually got the multiball running, but double drained right after finding the creature. 712M to 57M.

I picked the Sopranos next. I got a centre drain right off the bat from the boat ramp drop target. Cayle again nailed the multiball beautifully and even when I managed to crack the safe and collect several jackpots, my opponent didn't have to play his 3rd ball and won me 24M to 12M. This also meant I was out from the losers' side as well. I was happy I wasn't a total pushover for Cayle, but the whole tournament was a bit underwhelming.

Thanks to a very long wait between the games, I no longer had the time to take part in the high score game that was running parallel with the main tournament.

ECS Sunday tournament

The Sunday tournament was a head-to-head tournament in Swiss format. It was played for 16 rounds and for each round the computer matched the players with similar standing.

With a fresh start after yesterday's poor performance, I was hoping to do better but was way too tired for anything serious. Also, my feet were killing me.

I started off with a 3 loss streak, varying from my opponent totally handing me my ass to a crap luck loss with a minor difference in score. My first come-back was in Stern's Indiana Jones, when I finished the Last Crusade mode and played a pretty good multiball.

The Battle-Zone, now full of players

Some other good games included a round of very bouncy and fast Jackbot, where I scored up to 1.9B with multiballs, but blew 600M in Casino Run when I got 2 bombs in a row. My opponent had really crappy luck since ball one, but played a successful Casino Run and eventually went 75M past me with bonus on his last ball. Still, I was alright with that game.

I also played a game of Tron where neither of us got anything done and as a player 2 I was about to lose 6M to 2M, when I got the Light cycle multiball on my last ball and then flailed around for some random points just to get ahead of my opponent. Wasn't exactly my finest hour, but one of the very few wins that day.

Many games like the Iron Man were next to impossible with me being barely awake. In the end I won 6 games out of 16, which left me pretty much mentally crushed.

The outcome

I got eliminated on the first round of the main Euro circuit game.

I didn't have time to play the high score tournament on Saturday.

I won 6 out of 16 games in the Sunday tournament.

Of Bünde and the Pinball Universe Battle-Zone

Pinball Universe is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) pinball importers in Europe. They also manufacture all kinds of playfield protectors and other plastic modding parts. In addition to selling the latest Stern games, they also recondition older games.

Being at country side, many players had their doubts about the place. This was the first ever time the company had hosted a major tournament and according to the folks running the place, they had been thinking about the tournament for some time now. Before this they had never had a permanent tournament setup, but had now dedicated one part of their warehouse building for just that. They called the area Pinball Universe Battle-Zone.

The Finnish stereotype of German people is that they're very prompt and efficient. I think this stereotype was a spot on as every line of games was ridiculously straight and evenly placed. The games were well maintained and had very few issues during the tournament. Should any issues raise, they were taken care of immediately. The tournament fee of 120€ included drinks and meals. The fridges were methodically refilled and the food service was excellent. I'd say the Battle-Zone was put on the map after this tournament.

Only couple of things could use some attention the next time. The most obvious was the playoff for the main tournament, which lasted throughout the night. I recall I heard Cayle winning the tournament around 8 in the morning! I don't think my feet could have taken that long gaming session. The other thing might not be as obvious to the locals: the game language. I know most of the modern games by heart, so having the games in German didn't bother me too much. But the very latest ones were rather confusing as I had no idea what the on-screen prompts were asking me. I'd kind of understand using German if it was a local tournament for local people, but this was the Euro Circuit's final, which obviously had more foreign people around than locals. While it was nothing I couldn't overcome, this might be something to consider the next time.

In all, Pinball Universe's location is highly recommended for anyone who wants to play games that are in immaculate condition and see the very latest games.

Bünde again was a rather quiet small countryside town, with the basic facilities and not that much else. After we were done with the tournament me and Marco hit Düsseldorf to check out the German way of life.

Reflections from the past two years

I replace my gaming shirt every 2 years and in the new year 2014-2015, it was time for my black gaming shirt to be put on display in our hall of [sh/f]ame at our arcade. That shirt had seen a lot, including my double Sörkka Pinball Open victories, Finnish league trophy positions and many more memorable moments.

Now it's time to retire this olive green one (with its signature yellow/black stripes!) and reminisce some of the highlights I experienced while wearing it through 2015 and 2016.

Let's start with a career highlight. After almost passing the qualification of IFPA11 world championship at Denver, I finally made it in IFPA12 at Borås. Man it felt good to be able to hold my ground against the Big Guys! 

In addition to the best game in my career, I also got to check out some classic Swedish fighter planes!
Then came the EPC 2015 in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium. I had feared what happened at IFPA was just a fluke, but qualifying and then actually going for 4 rounds in the play-offs resulted in another career best, being 21th in an European championship game. Belgium's EPC was probably also the best pinball tournament I've ever been to when it comes to the venue and organizing. 

Me and my dad, starting the tradition of long distance tournament travels together.

Not to forget the smaller tournaments, I actually got very few trophies this time around. One of the most memorable ones was winning Orivesi Pinball Open 2015 after phenomenally good playing through the day. I actually managed to play multiball in Wrestlemania for so long my hand started to cramp and I had to take a break before getting back to it.

Victory, by hard work. Also, the very last time I used those damned in-ear earphones.
2016 also helped me to cross of some of the European countries off my to-do -list. One of them was Poland where we played the EPC16. In addition to very nice venue in the middle of a huge shopping center, I pulled the best tournament in my career, being 7th in the main tournament. 

When in Poland...
Oh, and naturally the year wasn't complete without visiting the future US president's lair in New York...

On that trip I also attended to some minor tournaments, like PAPA and IFPA13.

It's almost comical how much I have travelled because of pinball in the late years. Then again, I'm just getting started, I still need to see so many places and countries, including Japan, New Zealand, Australia, many destinations in the US too. We shall see where I'll go this year.

Hungarian Pinball Open, Budapest, Hungary - 18-20/11/2016

With the past 2 tournaments ending pretty much into swearing (sorry folks, I was so bummed about the last Borås Open that I didn't even want to write about it), I wasn't really sure of what to expect of Hungary. To be honest, I don't even know why I originally signed up, the tournament's home pages looked a bit funky and there was very little information about the tournament's format or even where exactly it was being held. In addition to that, most of the information was made available on the Facebook only and the organisers somehow managed to get my dad on their announcement list.

I had hoped for a slot in Saturday's qualifications, but ended up in Friday's group. From what I pieced together, the qualification would be on sometime afternoon. I knew it would be a long day, but sounded like a doable feat, although the exact format was still a mystery. I had heard of score based qualification and then someone mentioned match play. Whatever it was, I just hoped to do a short qualification stint on Friday, sleep well and then rage on into the qualifications on Saturday.

I left Kouvola for a two hour drive towards Helsinki before 6 in the morning. I was met with other Finns heading for the same event, so I tagged along and we went to find our hotels and some lunch together in Budapest. Finding the actual tournament venue took a while as the signage was pretty much non-existing and I had probably missed most of the Facebook only updates on the venue changes. After some asking around, we finally made it.

The place itself was some sort of a concert hall, turned into a temporary arcade. Majority of the building was for the ongoing Arcadia game expo, which is what we first stumbled into.

The Arcadia expo area
We had been told that there would be a possibility of visiting the Budapest's pinball museum as well, but I found no further information on that anywhere. The museum however had something to do with this tournament as many of the games had the museum's fact sheets as backbox toppers.

Qualification, classics

We wandered around for some time, until we found a pretty discreetly marked "players only" door. Finally we also found someone, who had some time frame for the whole thing. The bad news was that the main qualification set to start at 19:00. The classics would again start at 16:00, so we'd have good time to warm up (or get super frustrated with) the classics tournament.

The classics area

The classics was a "pick 5 out of 20" type of a thing with score based qualification, 3 entries per game. All the entries had to be played at the same time (so it was a 3 player solo game), with all scores being meaningful.

I started with Captain Fantastic, which played real nice, but I got very little done on it, ending up with 37k, 32k and 13k.

Next I picked Space Time. I had high hopes for it, but even when I found the exact timing for the funnel, I completely failed to collect its value, for a highly disappointing 8k, 29k and 4k.

I scouted out for some possible rarer games and found Sexy Girl, which was Bally's Playboy re-themed and it had a window in the mid-playfield for a slide projector. Software-wise it played exactly the same as Playboy, which in theory should have materialised into some points. The center target was really dangerous and I had trouble making the grotto-shots stick. The ending scores were 95k, 34k and 13k.

I had never seen Stern's Iron maiden before (and sadly it had nothing to do with the band!), but it looked just so plain awesome I had to give it a try. It had pretty sweet layout and it was fun to play, save for the right flipper which had the tendency to stick at times. I set up all my 3 games for multiball, but failed to start it on any of them. Bummer! Still, totally sick graphics and awesome layout! 147k, 81k and 64k.

The maiden went straight to my #1 favorite classic Stern.

Seeing this was going nowhere, I gambled my last entry away with Gorgar. I tried setting it up for some glorious spinner action and actually managed to pull it off on one game. The other two were pretty bad at 89k and 86k, but the 660k ball was a welcome change to the pace.

With just one good ball in all 5 games, I knew I wouldn't have to worry about playing in the play-offs. At the same time I started getting even more worried about the actual main tournament in this playing condition.

Qualification, main tournament

We tried getting into the main tournament area when the time drew near, but were pretty unceremoniously told to get the hell out of there. After lots of waiting we were finally let in and it seemed like things were about to get real. Turns out there's some kind of unspecified problem and after half an hour of confusion it was announced that the tournament would restart at 20:00. Having been 14 hours up at that point I knew I was screwed.

The qualification format was two stages of match play, with 9 players from each group getting to the second match play session. The round scoring was 7-5-3-1.

I started out with White Water. I had severe issues with the upper right flipper and totally screwed up the multiball that could have gotten me my first 7 point round. Instead I had to settle for 42M and 3 points.

Round 2 was played on Transformers. I got very little done on it, but was in the lead until the very last ball. The game had constant issues with the ball lock and often gave out two balls. We were also one player short, which led to even further delays. 5 points.

Next round was on Hurricane. I somehow managed to totally mess up balls 1 and 2, being over 4M behind the others. I found the Hurricane ramp on my third ball and grinded 4.5M out of that for 3 points.

4th round was played on Stern's Star Trek. Player one, a local talent, dominated the game from the start and finished Vengeance on his last ball. I had two really crappy balls, until on the last ball I recovered and also finished Vengeance. Player 1 ended with 35.1 and I was at 33M when I drained. After the bonus count I lost the 1st place by just 60k! Damn! Still, 5 points.

At round 5 I already felt I was reaching my limits. I had to down couple of Red bulls earlier even when I had vowed to give up the energy drinks. Now even their effect was wearing out. Transformers was picked for the second time as Scared Stiff was out of order. We played a rather even round, with me leading the whole time. However I kicked it to a higher gear on my last ball, playing the second Megatron multiball and the Optimus prime right after that, pulling over 20M lead to the others for an easy 7 points. I also got to enter my initials for a 33M score and combo champion.

We got White Water again for the 6th round. Now I knew of the bad flipper and utilised the appropriate violence needed to make the shot. I aced the multiball after painfully short Whirlpool challenge, ending my 3rd ball with 150M when the others were at 40-60M. The 3rd player however pulled a one ball wonder for 330M and I had to settle for 5 points here.

We got the Hurricane again for the 7th round. I had wished we would have played all the games in our bank, but somehow we ended up repeating just the couple machines over and over again. The game was a total failure and I got 3 points only because we were a player short.

Speaking of a repeating pattern, round 8 was Transformers again. I was really dead tired and had trouble even trying to keep my eyes on the ball. I played Megatron multiball on my first ball for around 7M and had Optimus ready, but I spent the remaining balls trying the bash the poor Optimus prime without any success. Last player's bad luck was my only saving grace here for 3 points.

I was so glad round 8 was finally done and we'd get the hell outta there. But no, there was still one round to go! There are very few moments in my life where I'd say "no more" to a round of pinball, but this was finally it.

Round 9 was played on Stern's Star Trek. I got a really crappy first ball and ended up slap saving so hard the machine tilted. It went to next player's turn, gave a danger and then the software crashed. Lots of arguing ensued on how to proceed from here. It was judged as game restart with me playing one ball less than the others, with my score of 700k recorded. My second ball was almost as bad, and at that point the best score was 63M, with the others at 7M and 3M. I pulled a magic trick out of my ass and played a successful Vengeance and almost got the Klingon multiball running as well, ending with 22M for 5 points.

It took a while to see the results, but the cutoff line was at 43 points where I was at 39. To be honest, I was surprised to even be 12th in my group with such poor playing.

Qualification, pingolf

Is there such thing as "too much pinball"? For the first time in my life I sure felt that way after Friday's tournament and spent the Saturday just wandering around in Budapest. I wasn't even sure if I'd even bother to show up, but as I appeared to have paid the pingolf too, I joined Joonas there after Antti pestered us long enough if we were coming or not.

Normally pingolf is limited to a 2-3 pins, but here we had the whole golf course with 18 games! A total of 20 machines were made available, with 18 to pick from. Usually the games are set for 5+ balls and failing to reach the objectives with that amount of balls gives you an extra point in addition to the ball count. Here everything was set on 3 balls and the objectives were tiered so for example if the target score was 100k, you'd get 1-3 for reaching that with 1-3 balls. But if you didn't reach it, they'd give you 4 points for 80k at the end of game, 5 points for 70k and so forth.

Pingolf in progress. It was played in both, main and classics rooms.

I was in a bit hurry to do the whole 18 hole course as I only had 6 hours till my flight was to leave, but I managed to speed run it despite all the delays with the machines breaking, stuck balls and just plain old score keeping confusion. Much to my surprise I didn't totally suck. I finished majority of the games within 2-3 balls and only twice got 7 point penalty for not reaching the target score. I also got couple of hole-in-ones in there to balance it out. It was a shame that many of the games suffered from problems that would have been counted as a major malfunction.

I had to hit the road pretty much immediately after finishing my round of 18 games and I didn't get to see what my final score was. Apparently this tournament had no play-offs and I don't know what my final score was. Not sure if the scorekeepers knew either. I was 13th at the moment I left.

The outcome

I failed to qualify in the main tournament and classics.

The final standings:
  • 113th out of 236 players in the main tournament
  • 145th out of 204 players in the classics
  • 27th out of 151 players in the pingolf tournament

Of Hungary and the tournament

Finland and Hungary seem to have this odd thing about each other. Sure, our languages are in the same family, but unlike Estonian, I couldn't understand one word of Hungarian and I assume it was the same thing the other way around. Still, when I was zoned out, I had several instances of the "there's someone speaking Finnish nearby" feeling I get when I travel. For most of the time it turns out to be true. But the thing is, that Hungarian's intonation and some words do indeed sound like Finnish and I was relieved to hear I wasn't the only one who noticed this.

Other funny thing was everyone mistaking us for some other nationality. I don't know which nationality, but it tended to make people pretty cold towards us at first. For example, majority of the restaurants in the city center had doormen, who pretty aggressively tried to contact people and get them in. When I was walking in a near empty street segment, they all seemed to just plain ignore me. Then I went to check out the menu on one restaurant, which forced the doorman to contact me. The very first question was "were are you from?". When I told him I was a Finn, it was like a switch was flicked from "fuck you" to "you're my best buddy". "Oh FINLAND? Welcome, Welcome!" This very same effect was also seen during the tournament, but in a lesser form.

Budapest itself was really beautiful and I really enjoyed just wandering the whole Saturday and checking out places and stuff. The food was good too. I especially liked what was called "Hungarian flat bread", which reminded me of filled pita breads. They were made to order and you could pick what fillings you wanted in yours. Good stuff.

The tournament shared many themes with Poland. The #1 concern was the issues with the games. Majority of them were really apparent from the second I laid my hands on the game and flipped couple of times. I'll applaud the locals for fixing anything totally broken on site, but weak flippers were my nemesis during the whole tournament.

The other thing I'd like to point out is the signage. This tournament was advertised as "international" tournament. Yet we were really struggling to find anything in English. To be honest, majority of the information wasn't even available in Hungarian and we had to resort asking random organisers of when would this and that tournament begin, where would it be and should we check in somewhere etc. This was made even harder by the fact that many of the organisers didn't speak English at all, save "yes" and "no" and pointing at the other organisers.

There were several rules that weren't made clear to you before you broke them. For example, in the classics I had a bottle of juice in with a screw-on cap. I carried that with me when playing and put it under the game I was playing. Then all the sudden I get a lady yelling at me in Hungarian. I didn't understand what was the problem and that made her even angrier. In the end I realised they didn't allow any beverages in the tournament area. Fine, I left my bottle in the chillout area. Then in the next room people were walking with open beer bottles and that was perfectly okay, which brings us to the next point: standardised rules.

There appeared to be several "hard" and absolute rules, but those changed depending on the officials enforcing them. During the pingolf I asked a score keeper each time can I start. After 2nd time I got pretty annoyed reply in the lines of "JUST PLAY, OKAY?". Fine, I played the whole bank without asking to start. I moved onto the next bank, started a game and what do you know, the score keeper comes, grabs my arm and gets angry with me for starting the game on my own. Uh, okay?

The score keeping was really puzzling for me. For years now I've seen the score keepers using smartphones and tablets. Here people wrote the scores on pieces of copier paper and then handed us a copy of what was written down. Every now and then the pieces of paper were delivered to two score keepers typing them into an excel sheet, which again seemed to suffer from several problems (one which delayed the main game over an hour before we could even get started). At times they couldn't read what was written on the pieces of paper and asked to see our copy. I had like a 1cm thick stack of them in the end. And just as I suspected, later on I heard reports of numerous cases of missing scores. They also completely lost my pingolf results, which fortunately was sorted out swiftly once I reported it to IFPA.

We had several IFPA country directors present. I bet each of them would have had some kind of online score keeping system at hand.

And to prevent this from being just a rant, I must say I liked Hungary in general very much, especially the food! It was really easy getting around in the city as well and the airport was just a commuter train ride away from our hotel. The Arcadia expo was a welcome addition and I got to play some games that were totally new to me. Oh, and I finally got to play Heighway's Alien.

It ruled so hard even when it was still a prototype! I also loved the old computer expo and I see I wasn't the only old computer hobbyist around as my tablet's case with Commodore logo on it attracted a lot of attention. The venue itself was within a walking distance from out hotel and was spacious, plus it had toilets and other facilities in order. Bonus points for having a flat bread vendor in the courtyard!

I also met a guy from Israel. He might just be the country's only WPPR ranked player and he was excited beyond description about the whole tournament and pinball exhibition. We played Heighway's Full Throttle together for couple of hours and I demoed him some basic pinball wizardry. 

Playing with Israel's promise to the
pinball scene!

I'll be travelling a lot before this year is finished, but at this point I'm not quite sure of the next tournament I'll be attending to. So, until the next time.

Pelihelvetti Pinball Masters 2016 - Orivesi, Finland - Pelihelvetti arcade - 17/09/2016

Pelihelvetti Pinball Masters has been an annual tournament modelled after our own Kouvostoliitto Kickback Open tournament ever since 2015. With our calendars pretty much full we really didn't have time to participate the qualifications, but players attending to Oriveden Flipperikisa 2016 tournament were given the option to also try qualifying, so I took it back then and what do you know, I was 9th out of 16 qualifying players and since one player declined their place, so in the end I got one bye and would start the play-offs from the 2nd round.

Having played the EPC'16 tournament in Poland the previous weekend, I really could have used some downtime, especially after arriving home late on Monday-Tuesday night and going to work the next morning. I had a really bad feeling during the 3+ hour drive towards Orivesi.

The play-offs were best 3 out of 5, with 2 byes for top-4 and one bye for positions 5-8.

Play-offs, round 2

On my first round I went against the arcade proprietor's son, Topi. Looking at his scores in the qualifying machines I see he had done pretty well. He had started from the round 1 and fought his way up from there.

We started off with Grand Prix. After the first 10 seconds I knew I was SO fucked. I couldn't get anything done even when I had some idea of the game and its rules. No matter, I lost when Topi just flailed away when I tried to start modes and play them.

Next was Pirates Of The Caribbean. Starting off with a shitty game unfortunately tends to lead to a feedback loop with me, the next game going even worse. I couldn't get anything done in the Pirates either and we were neck to neck with around 2M right until the last ball, when I finally managed to kill my first ship, got the multiball running and grinded a bit over 10M out of that, ending up with 15M to Topi's 4M.

It's pretty rare for me to come across games I haven't played before, save the new games these days. Icarus was one of them. I had no idea what to do here and Pintips gave me nothing. Looking at the playfield I noticed the bonus was in 10k's and the 5 drop target bank on the left scored 5k + one bonus. I concentrated on those and by the 4th ball I was in 400k lead. Topi decided to lean onto the machine on his turn, pressing himself against the start button and reset the game. Slamtilting, resetting or other means to interrupt the game voids the game, so I won by default.

Up next was Metallica. I had extra shitty game here and me and Topi were tied at around 1M until my last ball, when I finally got the Sparky multiball running and pounded 17M out of that. This was the 3rd victory so the round went to me. Man, that was some joyless playing there.

Play-offs, round 3

On this round I went against the proprietor himself, Toni and we started off with Icarus. I actually registered on Pintips just to tip off people about the drop targets. They did their job quite well and I got a pretty clean victory over Toni with 749k against his 260k. The Icarus played pretty slow and it was probably the only game I felt comfortable playing so far.

Our next game was Pirates of the Caribbean. I didn't bother to do anything else but go for the ships. The game's flippers were in really odd angle and it made most of the center playfield shots really hard. I got one ship down and got enough points out of that so I didn't have to play my 3rd ball. With me having 10M and the game's owner 4.5M, we both agreed this was a really bad game for both of us.

Then off we went to Jackbot. Oh man was that even worse than the POTC! I tilted all my 3 balls and was left with 443M to Toni's 1.7B. Not much else to say here but fuck-a-doodle-doo.

Our first possibly deciding game was No Fear. The trend of getting nothing done continued and I was getting really super frustrated. I wasn't the only one doing real bad and after missing the super jackpot twice in a row, I ended my 3rd ball as the player 1 at 625M while Toni was at around 300M. I couldn't watch him play and paced back and forth, until I heard NF's bonus count sounds. Toni's last ball wasn't that long, but it was long enough to make that missing 300M. In the end he had 525M, so I won this round.

To be honest, I was rather bummed about the whole thing. I knew now I wouldn't going to see any good games from here on, only frustration and lucky wins. If this was a video game, this would have been the point where I just exited without saving.

Play-offs, round 4

On the 4th round I was pitted against another young promise, Markus. We started out with No Fear, that went a bit better than last time. I played the main multiball twice and scored the super jackpot on each round, winning this 2.1B to 308M.

Next was Wrestlemania. I still remember scoring 80M on this game back when it was new. Now I could make a single shot and ended with 4M to Markus' 9M. I seriously felt that my heart wasn't in this any more.

Then we played Stern's Kiss. Love gun multiball was easy to lit and worked pretty well. I still wouldn't mind getting some alone time with this game to check it out better, but 52M had to do for now. Markus had rough luck and the machine started to suffer the flipper coil overheating problem on my last ball, and Markus got his share of it too. After some discussion this was ruled as the platform's "feature" and I got to keep my score, winning this one after Markus ended with 6M.

Our 4th game was Scared Stiff. Markus played a really strong first ball, which after me missing both; extended coffin AND extended crate left me chasing him throughout my game. I was just couple of millions away, playing Stiff-o-Meter when I drained, only to see I ended up with 7.8M and Marcus was at 9.3M. Sigh.

Being tied now, the deciding game was Grand Prix. It sucked ass and gave me more SDTM drains from the start mode hole. I should have just closed my eyes and flailed around. I lost, which meant I was now playing the losers' side.

Play-offs, losers' side, round 5

While I still had a theoretical chance to be in the finals as this was a double bracket play-off, I had pretty much lost my will to fight at this point. I played Metallica and No Fear against Juha, who won both games fair and square.

I really can't think of many tournaments that have left me so empty and devastated. Sorry guys, but I couldn't even stay for the trophy ceremony and bailed out to have one extra depressing drive to home.

The outcome

I was 9th in the qualification, but because of one player declining their place, I got a bye.

I was 5th in the whole tournament, out of 85 players.