IFPA world championship 13 - PAPA HQ, Pittsburgh, PA, USA - 12-14/04/2016

PAPA HQ in all its glory!

So, this was it. IFPA13. With the whole WPPR 5 thing killing my interest in hosting my own tournaments and participating tournaments for just collecting ranking points, I anticipated I'd be out of Finland's TOP-10 by 2015. Much to my surprise my excursions into other countries kept me floating up there and when it was time to see who goes to IFPA13, I found myself being 3rd in Finland, just behind JSZ. JSZ however declined the invitation, so it was passed onto me. I couldn't say no to another trip to the US, so here we are again.

I was way more unconfident when it came to playing IFPA at the PAPA HQ than with earlier IFPAs I've played in. In 2014 Denver IFPA11 the venue wasn't exactly an arcade and the whole line-up was more of mix and match of several contributor's machines. IFPA12 in Sweden again served me well as I was very familiar with Inken's line-up and that ultimately gave me my best ever tournament with actually getting to IFPA playoffs. IFPA13 again would be the very polar opposite of this - although I've visited PAPA HQ earlier, virtually everyone else here would be more familiar with the PAPA HQ's unforgiving game setups. This was also one reason why I opted to play in PAPA19 last weekend.

But before we get to playing, there was one thing that became really clear to me when playing PAPA19: either I'd have to buy a new pair of Crocs or my feet would totally give up half-way the games. I still remember the times when I was a heretic, trying to play with ordinary outdoor shoes. Getting sleep the next night was usually a mission impossible with all the cramps and just plain sore feet. Then I got those clone Crocs I've had for ages now, and never, ever suffered from that problem again. In addition to forgetting my official Hopeakuula shirt back home, I also forgot my clone Crocs. I guess it was about time to get myself proper Crocs anyway, so we headed out to see what they had in store for us. We actually found a Crocs store, with nothing but Crocs products. But what really caught my attention was the Realtree camo Crocs, sold in hunting department in a sporting goods store. I don't know if I'd wear Crocs when hunting, but I'm pretty sure this is the type of Crocs I won't be seeing in Finland any time soon!

I've heard rumors that I might have some kind of fixation for
anything camo or yellow/black striped. This is no exception.
Oh, and my socks aren't mismatched, it's the light or something!

Now that the ever-important shoe-business is out of the way, let's focus on pinball. On Monday 11th we got to play all the games during the official practice run. As with last years, the place was crowded with the 63 other players, but I got some games in. My immediate though on many games was that the setup was so hard that often games could be won or lost by skillshot score alone. In games like Cirqus voltaire and such I only practiced skillshotting and wrote down the needed plunger force if I found a repeatable skillshotting setting. Then there were some games that I had absolutely no tournament strategy for, like the Last Action Hero. I felt most confident with EM and early SS games, as they often had one or two worthwhile shots, and knowing them was more than often a sure way to win.

Another thing I did was to follow some big name players, especially checking out what they were doing. Seeing them try full plunge at ball start was often all I needed to see, and it was really enlightening to see what they did on games unfamiliar to me.

Day 1

Man, it's been a while since I've been this excited about something. Me and OMO hit the Starbucks for a decent caffeine overload before arriving at the scene. Naturally we had the mandatory late player as well (damn you, Denmark!) before getting to the opening speech and finally starting our first game.

Round 1

Pins: Party Zone, The Shadow, Ali
Opponents: Trent Augenstein (USA), Michael Trepp (THA), Adam McKinnie (USA)

Our group started out with Bally's Party Zone. PZ is one of my guilty pleasure games, and it was also one of the rare games I had the chance to play a full game during the practice run on Monday. Multiball was the only thing I was after (save the ever-important 1M+ door prize from skillshot), but it turned out to be just has hard as during the practice run. The lock hole rejected the ball on most cases, sending it back to where it came from, which inconveniently was often way too close of being between the flippers. I got the multiball running on the last ball, and being player 1 I led the game briefly, until both Trent and Adam went past me. Michael again got virtually nothing but the normal skillshots.

The Shadow was just as punishing. I had the Khan multiball lit from the ball one, but I never managed to collect it. I got the main multiball going, but did very little with it, ending up somewhere around 40M. Doing 3 skillshots would have scored more, but the left ramp skillshot was really unforgiving without ball save, so I didn't even bother trying. Trent and Adam were in a league of their own, while Michael got another really crappy start and ended up being last.

I've played Ali before, but had no clear tournament strategy for it. The spinner at the back loop was probably the only worthwhile thing I knew of, so I concentrated my efforts there. It was a tight shot, but it was pretty much what the others had on their menu as well. This was probably the toughest game for everyone, and save Adam's 424k score, we others stayed within 100k range, me being last with 103k. 

I guess I could have opened the IFPA13 with a bit stronger round than with a 7 pointer, but then again, I still have never gotten a 1-1-1 round and I surely wasn't going to start now!

Round points: 3-3-1

Round 2

Pins: Time Fantasy, X-Men, Harlem Globetrotters
Opponents: Nick Zendejas (USA), Bob Matthews (USA), Jim Belsito (USA)

Time Fantasy is a prime example why you shouldn't do drugs and design a pinball machine. Besides its trippy graphics, the game rules are equally trippy. The main objective is to score time for a final mode that's played after last ball, pretty much everything else is just for show. I wasn't the only one going after this, but as far as I know, none of us actually made it. We ended up withing 120-180k range, me being 3rd.

X-men was another kind of a beast. I played as player 2, and couldn't do jack with the game. By the ball 3 I was way behind everyone else and I just couldn't make the last lock for the main multiball. Wolverine shot was surprisingly doable, so I opted to just bash the poor old Wolverine until I got the second multiball out of that. It lasted literally seconds, and ended in a double drain. Highly frustrated I walked away with hung head. When I reached the other players, they were frantically pointing at the machine. I turned around only to see the machine autoplunge one ball, and as I ran towards the machine I saw the ball bumping between the flippers and draining just before I managed to give it a good slap. FUCK! My headphones were a little bit too efficient in cancelling the game sounds, and while I was still 9M behind Nick, I could have tried going for the last Magneto lock. I deserved that 1 point game. 

Funny thing, over the years I've learned that my mood is everything when it comes to playing. With completely deflated feeling I have absolutely no fighting spirit left in me and playing becomes more of a chore than something fun to do. It wasn't until recent years when I started listening to music while playing to compensate for this. Being an epitome for highly reserved Finn, I consider it kind of funny finding myself just jamming to the soundtrack out in the public, with often being able to recover pretty fast from a total failure.

Our last game was the Harlem Globetrotters. I originally didn't think much of it, but these days I might even consider buying this game should the opportunity raise. Jim totally owned this round with 800k score, I barely beat Nick's 160k, being 3rd.

With a 5-3-1 this round was better than what I began with, but I could have used at least couple of 15 point rounds to start with.

Round points: 5-3-1

Round 3

Pins: The Shadow, Hokus Pokus, Super Orbit
Opponents: Jörgen Holm (SWE), Donavan Stepp (USA), Michael Trepp (THA)

After the lunch break we continued with round 3. Starting with The Shadow, I was glad I could play a little better than last time. I was expecting Jörgen to completely dominate the game, but I see even the great ones get a raw deal at times. This was another round of frustration for Michael as well, although this time we all actually got to play the multiball.

I had never played Hokus Pokus before, and it turned out to be a real magic trick as I easily won the game, this being the first 7 point game in this tournament so far. Being an EM game the bonus played a big part and I noticed double bonus was pretty easy to get by constantly shooting the left orbit.

We finished the round with Super Orbit, which turned out to be the Lame Orbit for me. Apparently the others knew something I didn't.

Still, I gladly took the 11 points from this round.

Round points: 3-7-1

Round 4

Pins: Attack From Mars, Algar, Funhouse Surf N' Safari
Opponents: Sean Grant (USA), Philippe Bocquet (FRA), Andreas Harre (GER)

Oh dear $deity, we got to start with Attack from Mars. AFM is one of my least favorite games in tournaments, as I rarely get a good game going on even when I claim to know the rules pretty well. Apparently it wasn't so much fun for any other players in the group either, as less than 5 second balls were more of a norm than exception. We went neck to neck until the last ball, when I finally got the main multiball running, then right after it the Martian multiball. With others scoring less than 700M, my 2.3B score brought me an easy, much needed 7 point game!

Still being super stoked about the AFM, I got a total ass whooping from Algar. Not much to say about it.

No panic, we still had the Gottlieb System 3 gem(?), Surf N' Safari which replaced the Funhouse that had started to act up during last round. Oh boy was that like not fun at all! I played literally 3 balls in a row, where I plunged the ball, see it hit couple of random targets and go out in a manner where not amount of nudging or slapping did any good. My frustration was shared with the fellow players and we agreed it was also a diploma worth achievement!

Round points: 7-1-1

Round 5

Pins: Metallica, Space Race, Mousin' Around
Opponents: Bjørn Erlend Hellem (NOR), Peter Blakemore (UK), Mark van der Gugten (NED)

Metallica has never been among my tournament favorites, and this one was even more unforgiving than usual. I started Sparky multiball with an idea of progressing the other multiballs, but damn was it hard to control. The multiball didn't last that long, but I easily stayed with others' pace. Mark got to 14M on his last ball and I was at round 11M. I had had the extra ball lit since ball 2, but I find the right side hole rather dangerous shot to make. With the extra ball being worth 2.5M, I just concentrated on making the shot, and I did it! I somehow managed to keep the ball in control, until I was at close to 13-14M, and drained to get 15.1M after the bonus. Much to my surprise it was enough to win the game and get another 7 pointer!

Space Race was pretty even game for all of us. With all players finishing within 100k of each other, I was lucky to be 2nd and get 5 points.

My system 11 favorite, Mousin' Around was a real lesson on humility and I ended the game with just 700k. I couldn't make any of the shots I wanted and most of my score was skill shots. Then again, Peter won the game with 1.3M, which probably tells you something about how difficult this thing was!

Round points: 7-5-1

Round 6

Pins: Last Action Hero, Wizard, Taxi
Opponents: Tatsunori Naruke (JPN), Mark van der Gugten (NED), Jochen Ludwig (GER)

Day 1 at the PAPA HQ was coming to an end, and I certainly felt like having played all day long! We started with Last Action Hero, which was a total frustration from ball one. The others were way ahead of me when the ball 3 started, but I had the multiball lit. While the ball save is turned off, LAH has a phantom ball saver in the skillshot: if you make an attempt at the skillshot and it lands to right outlane, you get a free ball. This happened to me, but the ball made couple of extra bounces over the in/outlane divider, thus my skillshot turned into skillshit and a drained ball.

We proceeded to Wizard, which was rather even game for us, with me taking 3rd position.

Our last game was Taxi, on which we could get absolutely nothing done. Multiball was lit from the very first ball by Jochen, but the left ramp was just impossibly hard shot to make. It wasn't until my 3rd ball when I finally started the multiball, which lasted around 2 or 3 seconds, but still prompted cheers from my fellow players. We all landed within 1M - 1.2M area, so every bumper was meaningful in the end. Oh well.

This round was the last round for today and we opted to just return to our home base to get some shut eye.

Round points: 1-3-3

Day 2

I had serious trouble getting up in the morning. I was dead tired with my wrists and legs crying for mercy. After a quick visit to the local Starbucks we turned the Chrysler towards Carnegie.

I didn't know if I had any chance to make it to the playoffs any more. I didn't want to know either, I was now playing just for the fun of it. Checking out the scores, I noticed OMO was doing a lot better and was probably going to make the cut.

Round 7

Pins: Avatar, Volley, Mousin' Around
Opponents: Robert Macauley (AUS), Henning Lescher (DEN), Gabriel Ortiz (SPN)

So, day started out with Avatar. It was just as fun as I had expected magnet enabled machine to be without ball save. I VERY carefully made the link lock, then then started the Ampsuit multiball on my 2nd ball, getting closer to 9.5M. The last ball was pretty much useless, but I got to 10.8M, which was good enough for 2nd place.

I've played Volley somewhere, can't remember where. But I do remember that it's imperative to make all the top lane shots to make the drop targets score 5k instead of 500, and then hope to get them all so you can continue flailing for easy 5k points per drop. I managed to get the last one on my last ball and for a moment there I thought I'd roll the game, but ended in 90k, which also ended up with 5 points and second place.

Last it was again time for Mousin' Around. I completely gave up with the conventional strategy and started looping left orbit instead. Remembering my previous attempt at it, I was somewhat happy with the 2M I got that way, especially when Robert was the only one to beat my score with his 2.4M, leaving me to 2nd place and another 5 points.

This was pretty steady round and if I'm not mistaken, best so far with 15 points total.

Round points: 5-5-5

Round 8

Pins: Cirqus Voltaire, Eight Ball, Medusa Flash Gordon
Opponents: Michael Trepp (THA), Gabriel Ortiz (SPN), Robert Macauley (AUS)

This was is, IFPA13's last round. Yesterday starting all this it felt like there was endless amount of games ahead, and now we were down to three.

Our first game of the round was Cirqus Voltaire. Wow, good thing I practiced that skillshot, as this was one of those frustration all around games. We were pretty even until the end except for Robert, who got all the insta-drain balls. Michael was leading the game after his 3rd ball, with yours truly as 4th player. I wasn't that much behind his 5M score, but I didn't have that much ball time for my last ball. Good thing my bonus was enough to take me to the lead and win this one.

I've only recently started to appreciate Eight ball, but I've gotten way too little time on the machine to hone my skills on it. Still, I fumbled myself onto winning it with 350k. It took only one ball, where I got the spinner lit, and I kept banging it over and over again. Man it felt great to watch that fucker spin from a perfectly executed shot!

And then there we were, down to the very last game of IFPA13 qualification: Flash Gordon. I played first, getting 246k on it. I didn't think much of it and went to watch other groups play while the two other players in our group finished their entries in a two player game. Much to my surprise only Gabriel beat my score, he scored more than all of us others combined.

In case you're wondering about the score sheet, Eight Ball's scores were accidentally filled into Flash Gordon's place.

I didn't think I had anything more to give this morning, being tired as hell. But somehow I managed to squeeze two record breaking rounds right there in the end.

Round points: 7-7-5

After rather nerve wrecking wait, the final results were out. At that point I knew I had 90 points, and surprisingly was tied with OMO. The cutoff-line was finally announced to be at 94 points, which meant 7 way tie-breaker game for the 32th place!

I can't help speculating all those places that could have turned 1 point into 3, two of those and I would have made it. Still, I'm glad to see I still got it and wasn't sent home with 8 1-1-1 rounds and "Persona non grata" stamped passport.


I was eliminated in qualification, with a shared 46th of 64 position with my countryman.

I love the IFPA format and hope I get to play again at IFPA some day in the future. Oh, and this was the first day during the whole 1,5 week trip so far when it wasn't raining or otherwise crappy weather!

With OMO staying at the PAPA HQ to watch the playoffs, I took the car and drove from Pittsburgh to Niagara Falls, as it was something I really, REALLY wanted to do last time we were around. So, here's some bonus pics of that.

Bonus spoiler pic - Wizard of Oz after killing the Wicked Witch!

P.S. milkshakes under 1.5 liters are for kids.

Until the next time.

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