Sörkka Pinball Open - Helsinki, Finland - 30/05/2015

Sörkka pinball open is the oldest yearly tournament we have. On a more personal level Sörkka was the first ever tournament where I've placed in the top-3 and it was the first ever where I actually won on both personal and split series. I've been away from the local pinball scene for a while now, and hadn't it been the last chance to meet our New Zealander buddies, I would probably had just skipped this one altogether.


The qualification line-up was Dealer's Choice, Dungeons and Dragons, Flash Gordon, Pokerino, Paragon, Sinbad and Black Knight. Out of those, only Dungeons and Dragons and Sinbad were bit of a mystery to me. I had played D&D last time in Mikkeli, and the only think I knew about it was to just gun for the multiball, then flail around hoping for the best. Sinbad again .. well, it was one of my less favorite Gottlieb sys 1's.

Overview of the main line-up

After observing the games for a while, I noticed my D&D strategy was surprisingly solid. The Dealer's choice again seemed extremely random with many skilled players concentrating on just trying to keep the ball in the play instead of trying to aim for something. Flash Gordon and Black Knight both seemed to have constant technical problems which was kind of sad as they were among my favorite games in Apollonkatu arcade.

I started out with Dealer's choice. I soon learned what the others had been cursing about: the game was in such a low angle the ball had no predictable tracks. It just changed direction from the every single slight bump in the playfield, bit like the Addams Family with the magnets on. I barely got 20k on it on my better game.

Dungeons and Dragons again was playing nicely and I spent my first game trying to learn the reflex for the player controllable outlane diverters. Once I got that, I played 3.6M on it, which surely was among the top-5 in the end. I recall it was the #1 score by the time I played it.

Starting my first game on D&D.

Flash Gordon let me play my two tries without a single stuck ball. I was going strong towards 1M score, but failed to get the maximum bonus multiplier and had to settle for 870k on my first game, and for less than 400k on my second.

Paragon was its usual self and frustrated me to no end. My better game ended at bit over 200k which apparently wasn't still the worst score played today.

Then .. Sinbad. To this day I have absolutely no idea what they were after with the double flipper design, as it adds absolutely nothing to this normal width game. On my first game I tried to get the drop targets in the mid-playfield, hoping I'd score some of the roll-over rewards. The game wouldn't have any of that, so on the second try I just kept gunning for the left orbit, hoping to make some points with the bonus. It wasn't much better, but I guess I'll take the 44k instead of the 20k I got on the first game.

Pokerino was actually way more playable machine than many frustrated players would believe. It plays exactly the same as my Contact, which is also a Williams system 3 game. It's one of those rare games, where you'll be doing 3-4 slight nudges for each flipper button press. The point is to keep the ball rolling, but never let it gain too much speed. Oh, and for the love of everything that's holy, do NOT attempt the flip when the ball is near the area where one flipper ends and the second begins. That spot right there will suck the ball like a strong magnet. My better game on Pokerino gave me around 500k, which I consider a good run.

Playing the Pokerino, hoping it won't turn into failino.

I waited to play the Black Knight for some time, until it turns out the game was withdrawn from the line-up because of a switch matrix ground short problem. I heard lots of angry comments about it, as some players had played their best games on it.


With 16 players going to the play-offs, 5-8 places getting one bye, 1-4 two byes, I found myself on the 7th place, being able to skip the very first round of play-offs.


This year the play-offs were played best 3 out of 5. As we were playing classic games that tend to give some curve balls even to the most experienced of players.

I was keeping the round 1 game 2 on close eye, as Andreas and Erno fought it till the 5th game, but ultimately Andreas won and went against me on the game 7 on round 2. Other noteworthy games were Pilvi versus Roni, which Pilvi took home 3-2 and Danielle, who swept the floor with the guys she was playing against in Flash Gordon.

Danielle showing the guys how it's done!

Round 2

The first game we drew was Pokerino. I had such a high hopes for it, but I had absolutely no idea what I was doing once the game started. Apparently you CAN end one ball with less than 2k. I got something done on the following balls, but Andreas took the first one home.

Enter the Jungle Queen. We both got some good balls in there, but I finally got the double bonus on my last ball, and took this one home. Thinking about the god-awful Dealer's choice, this Jungle Queen played really nice. I've yet to learn what the upper small flippers are actually for, I found I could use them for the drop targets, but the lower flippers are just way more accurate and even the lowest of the drop targets is easily doable with them.

The next game was Strike Zone. I still have good memories of this game, as it was the first ever game I've ever won a splits tournament on! Andreas gave a good chase for my win here, but I got 2 strikes on every ball and made an occasional skillshot as well.

With the game being 2-1 for me, the next game was my first chance to end this round short. We drew Paragon.

Paragon hates us both with passion. As #1 player I had 74k when I finished my last ball, most of that came from the random successful shots to the Golden cliffs. Andreas was at around 40-50k, closing up fast. By the time he drained he was at 65k, and I had to move in close to see his bonus. No multipliers, 8k bonus. Wow, this was cutting real close and as the bonus count ended with him having 73k, I was done with this round. Phew.

Pilvi was also on this round, but lost to Antti 3-0 and was 11th after the positions 9-12 game.

Round 3

Having being around for a long time, I've probably met most of the Finland's current pinball scene. Yet every now and then I run into a blast from the past, like with Mika here, who is the year 1994 champion in Finland.

We drew Strike Zone as the first game. We were actually quite even for the most part, my biggest failure here was that I didn't make even one successful skillshot, and eventually lost by the margin of two skillshots.

Next we played Sinbad. It was a total drain-fest for us both. I made that poor plastic spinner go around enough times to win by like 5-6k.

From there we moved on to Pokerino. It was just as bad as Sinbad. We came so close to eachother that a single bonus increasing target could be meaningful. I won, but barely.

After three games or playing this bad I was getting really nervous. All the confidence I had had before, was now gone and I was more dreading of what was to come. Then we drew Target Alpha.

Now with this game we actually got something done. I've grown to like Target Alpha because of its long and relatively important shots to the back drop target bank. We went neck and neck, until Mika got a 15k gap on his 3rd ball, and I couldn't catch it even when I had double bonus lit. Rats.

So, the last and deciding game was Cleopatra. It has actually pretty clever bonus system, which reminds me of Joker Poker, but instead of the cards you need to make all the matching color shots on the playfield. Scoring both mid-playfield holes doubles the bonus.

Once again we played equally bad, until I got double bonus and got most of the more valuable bonus colors collected. Mika got the double bonus within the 10 seconds on his first ball, and I was there biting my nails to see which bonuses he'd collect. Much to my luck he only got the lowest ones and I can't even begin to describe the feeling of relief when I saw the final scores.

This was phenomenally bad round all around and really sapped my confidence to the upcoming final. Still, since the final is played as a 4 player game there's 75% chance of going home with a trophy, which also happened to be my only goal this time.


So, in the final I found myself going against Pekka, Olli-Mikko and Stefan. Unlike in the previous years, this year the final wasn't played on just one game, but on 3. It was played as a 4 player game, where the winner would be 4 point, 2nd place 2 points, 3rd place 1 point and no points for the last position. Who ever had most points in the end would win the whole tournament.

Final round 1 - Paragon

Well, Paragon, we meet once again in the Sörkka finals.

As the player 1 I got to show off my skills first. I plunged the ball, landed it to the right upper hole, to the bumpers and down the middle from there. With 1.9k score I thought I had seen it all. Pekka, as a 3rd player however somehow managed to beat even this and scored 1.3k on his first ball. My second ball was a house ball, and while on the 3rd ball I even got to flip it once, my luck had run out and I had to settle for 4th place and no points for this one.

Final round 2 - Target alpha

Now we were talking again - I felt somewhat confident about this game and it did show.  I played a strong ball one, ditto with the 2nd ball. As player 4 I started the last ball with 15k behind the #2 player. As I had double bonus for the last ball, all I needed was 7 drop targets and I'd bridge that gap even with bonus. After carefully going after the skill shot I managed to get a house ball, that hit the left slingshot, then went out from the right outlane. I was really bummed about this, as I would have gladly taken the 4 points, but I'll take the 2 points over the zero any day. 

I did a quick calculation on what needed to be done after this one. Pekka was at 5 points, thus he was my worst threat. Olli-Mikko was at 4 and Stefan at 3. In an optimum situation Pekka getting 0 points from the next game, me winning it, Olli-Mikko getting only one and Stefan 2, I'd win this tournament. With a 2nd place I'd be able to get a 2nd or 3rd place, depending a bit on how the other guys did it, so I was once again my back against the wall to win this one.

Final round 3 - Jungle Queen

I was pretty shaken up by the really close play-offs round 3, and the fact that I had completely failed on Paragon. It took virtually everything I had left to gather myself for the one, final push. With the right combination of background music and concentration I began the very final round of the game as a player #2.

My first ball worked out quite nicely. I nailed all the drop targets on the right, made the upper right hole lit for 5000 and kept milking it. I was hoping to go for the double bonus as well, but couldn't get the A-lane done. I ended up around 90k score and was rather satisfied with it.

My second ball was even better. I nailed all the drops early on, got A-B-C lanes done getting the double bonus and then got an incredible lazarus ball which I managed to slap save back into the game. When I finally drained at 190k, I was actually quite curious of what will happen once I roll the machine the second time. While most of the other players were within the range on 20-50k, I was pretty confident I'd come home with at least 3rd place trophy, which would also be the first trophy this year.

Olli-Mikko got up to 110k on his 2nd ball as the 4th player, but noticed the bumpers were giving extra points. I had pretty much ignored this, as I expected them to be worth 100 points when lit, and 10 otherwise. Turns out they were giving out 1000 points, which again gave Olli-Mikko over 30k in very short period of time. We had to pause the game there to think of the options.

We weren't sure which players had gotten these extra points and the whole thing soon materialized into my worst fear: a game which I was dominating (and I really, REALLY needed to win) was about to be voided.

We had the options to continue playing, fix the machine and restart the game, or pick a new game. As much as I wanted to just keep on playing, I knew I would have never been able to look at the tournament trophy without doubting if I had really deserved it.

The whole thing had dragged on for forever already, and without knowing for how long it'd take to get the Jungle Queen back online (or even if it was doable with this time frame), I called for a new machine and we all agreed. Sinbad was drawn and it made me cringe so hard as I had already had very bad experience with this Sinbad in the qualification.

Final round 3 restart - Sinbad

My ball 1 was really bad, just as I had expected. I stepped out for a while, only to return to a game where Pekka had over 100k and I was at around 3k. I was just so exhausted I couldn't do much more and while my 3rd ball finally wasn't a total house ball, the others were just way ahead of me, making this another 0 point round. With two 0 point rounds I was last in the final.

The outcome

I was 7th in the qualification, getting one bye.
I won the rounds 2 and 3 in the play-offs, getting to the 4 player final. I was 4th in the final.

I think this tournament hit the worst possible nightmare an organizer and a player can have. A game fails in a critical spot, so the game state or scoring is lost without any means of recovering it. Restarting the game from scratch isn't going to give the same results necessarily, which especially holds true with classic games and their brutal randomness at times. While I perfectly understand the ruling and wholeheartedly agree, I have to admit it felt like a raw deal and led to one very silent drive back home after this one. I've lost my place in the play-offs once in a similar situation, but never the tournament final.

P.S: Fuck you, Jungle Queen.

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