Hopeakuula Open 2014 - Hopeakuula association arcade, Kouvola - 13/12/2014

It was time for the last tournament event of the year for me. With the Finnish pinball league game, Kouvostoliitto Kickback Open finals and the Hopeakuula Open all within two months, it really felt the tournaments were piling up on us! The last week before the tournament was a bit rough on all of us, with some of us enjoying the flu and the rest trying to make all the arrangements and pin tune up happen before the set date.

The weather forecast did predict some snow, but after a unusually warm early winter, we got a month's quota of snow in just 12 hours. I had to ask the building superintendent to fire up the tractor so passenger cars had even a remote chance to park inside the fences. The snowing didn't end there and our street sign was completely covered in snow in just minutes.

The first few hours were very quiet. I kept the opening speech to a virtually empty arcade as majority of our long distance guests had notified us about being stuck in slow traffic somewhere along the way. The weather was taking a turn for even worse and I knew this would really cut down the amount of participants we'd get. Unfortunately I was correct.

One of the major annoyances before Kouvostoliitto Kickback finals was that our official tournament T-shirts were stuck somewhere between the USA and Finland. In the end, only one of the packages arrived, with the only hoodie ordered. I was so looking forward for selling the shirts now, but no. Maybe next we'll order the shirts before the tournament begins!

Anyway, Hopeakuula Open kept its original format's spirit: points based, single player qualification and four player games in the play-offs until the gold and bronze games. A minor change was to change the gold game to best 3 of 5 instead of 2 of 3 and an extra player selectable joker entry during the qualification. This year's line up brought 2 machines from the last year; Contact and Gladiators, and 2 new ones; Doctor Who and Mousin' Around. I was so stoked to get my recently finished Mousin' around into action, I had originally bought a machine with a rather worn playfield and had just finished the playfield swap last week.


After score keeping the few early players, I decided to play my entries. I started out with Gladiators, which is usually a strong game for me. The Gottlieb however thought otherwise and gave me two rather nasty center drains right from the start. Add a complete failure in the best scoring mode, The Catapult and I knew this was going nowhere, fast. Then finally on the 3rd ball I got my game face on for a short time and managed to get the double scoring on, and get the final mode lit. An unfortunate bounce from the post near the start mode-hole however abruptly ended my game at 162M. I tried again, but the long days from previous week started to get the better of me. Three house balls in a row were a clear sign I needed some doping to get my edge back.

I took it easy for a couple of hours and then returned to the games. I started off with the Doctor Who, where I took the "Doctor 6 + looping" route. I collected the Sonic boom twice and played a tolerable round of multiball, before ending up with 413M. I expected to see multiple 1B scores in this tournament, so I gave it another go, this time taking the "video mode for the doctors 1, 6 and 7, then ramp + multiball"-route, but only the last ball worked and I didn't get to cash out the Sonic boom. Still, way better than what I got done in Gladiators.

TJM and MPS warming up before the qualification

I then played one round of Mousin' Around. I got to the multiball, but didn't get the jackpot, which left me at 4.3M. I know many struggle getting over 1M, so this is not a total loss. I left the remaining game for later and proceeded to Contact.

Oh, and I thought I did bad on Gladiators! My first round of Contact gave me only 121k and the next one 131k. I managed to get all the bonuses up to 40k, but didn't get to cash out full bonus even once. It was obvious I'd use my joker on Contact. The joker game gave me 84k, which is the worst game I've played for ages. So much for the homefield advantage. For some time I hanged between 4th and 5th positions, until my Mousin' Around's 4 million was bested by two other players and I sticked to 5th place.

With over 3 hours of qualifying time left, I sat down for a while. My other half, VYV got her game going way better than I, taking her to 4th place and the bye position.

With little under 2 hours left, I finally felt I was in shape to play my last Mousin' around. I really love how the new playfield plays, and before I knew it, I had surpassed my original 4.3M score on my first ball. I collected one jackpot and by the time I drained my last ball I also had the million shot lit, at 8.4M Still, it was the 2nd best score in the game and I was back in the bye positions, and on the 2nd position of the whole qualification. Mission accomplished on that part.


It took a while for me to get back to playing. On the more positive note, we observed very few trouble with the pins. I guess the preventive maintenance schedule still does its job.

So, my playoffs began from the round 2, against TEN, JAX and TJM. I was pretty confident when the first picked machine was Contact. I can't play four bad games in a row, can I?

Well, apparently I can.That must've been one of the most frustrating games on Contact EVER! And it had to come at the time when I really, really needed the points. Even one point from this would have been appreciated, but no. 0 points.

Next one was Revenge from the Mars. Here I took my usual "Big-o-Beam" -approach. Many players skip the modes, hoping to score big on the multiball, but really, there are lots of points to be scored in the modes if they're done right. Finishing the Big-o-Beam with 4 ramp shots and a center shot gives over 30M. While not exactly a stellar score itself, it's still more than what you get by skipping the modes and trying to get something out of the multiball. RFM actually shows the multiball total in the end; it's rarely over 25M! This one went to me, 4 points and back in the game.

JAX observes me playing the RFM

I would have cheered internally on our next pick; The Twilight Zone, unless I hadn't had the nagging feeling this was going to go just like the Contact. I was actually there with the others, but then TJM pulled an excellent ball, getting over 100M lead over me. At that point I had calculated I wouldn't have to worry about the others, at that point the position 2 and 3 were between me and TJM. I had been eye balling the Powerball for some time and the 100M gap would have been nicely bridged by a successful Powerball mania. So, what did I do? I hit the god damned post between the Slot machine scoop and right orbit and got a center drain from that. That was pretty weak from me. This meant I was out of the game and in the positions 5-8 game.

Positions 5-8 game

Last game of the night. I went against TTV, JAX and IDO on Flash. It was almost as painful as the games had been so far. Being in the positions 3-4 most of the game my only strategy was to go for the Super flash. Couldn't get it and in the end I won JAX by the skin of my teeth, being 7th. What a let-down this day had been!

The guys hanging out as finals were played

The outcome

The last game of the season sure didn't end like the last year! It almost felt bad to hang up my 2013-2014 gaming shirt on my wall of shirts with this game as its last. Still, I had my moments during those year, especially in the 2013 season, plus the many countries I got to visit this year.

In Hopeakuula Open 2014 I was 2nd in the qualifying and 7th in the in the whole tournament.

While I wasn't that happy with my own playing, I was more than happy to notice that both of the junior regulars of our arcade, TTA and HOP both qualified. It was actually heart warming to see the joy when they both realized there were no more entries to be played and they were above the cut line! I'd also like to note TJM's games. He played strong, steady game the whole day, and won the very first trophy of his life with his 3rd place! Congratulations, you've earned it!

It was a great shame that the weather turned out to be what it was. We lost many of the local regulars and probably several of the long distance guests as well.

For me this is the last tournament this year, but I'm already looking forward for the PAPA tournament at Pitsburg in March 2015!

The winning trio: 3rd: TJM, 1st: JSZ, 2nd: OMO
Oh, and here's the mandatory timelapse video!

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