austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Well, I went to a dance the other night, everybody went stag

And then after that, bunny_hugger plunged into organizing a pinball tournament and I stayed by the side, kind of helping most of the time. In under a half-year she's gotten a reputation for organizing great tournaments with fantastic trophies. She doesn't understand why people are so enthusiastic about her work. I know why.

She set it for the week before the Fourth of July, letting you know how far behind realtime I am now and start projecting when I'll run out of amusement park, pinball, and other short-vacation trips for the fall season. It matched the near-holiday schedule of her first two tournaments, giving us a date and a rough theme. What was needed was a format.

bunny_hugger wanted to do a round-robin tournament, all participants playing each other with the highest-ranked people in the head-to-head finals required for the tournament to get International Flipper Pinball Association credit. CST warned that with the number of people likely to attend --- there were 20 to 25 the last two tournaments --- this would take forever to finish. He suggested some time-limited tournament which would guarantee that the event finished before midnight. (March Hare Madness would have squeezed in just before midnight had a machine not failed at the last minute.)

The proposed alternative: a not-quite round-robin format. All but two people would be randomly assigned a match on one of the tables at our hipster bar. All the people on the machines would play. The winners of each game would go back and report what table they just left. The person at the head of the queue would go to that table and play whoever was defending it. The returning person then joins the back of the queue. The result would be a fairly nonstop string of games that could last as long or as short as patience allows.

There would be no guarantee everybody would play everybody else, of course. But the format should keep people from re-playing matches or re-playing machines too long. And it should mix up pairs of people and tables they're on pretty well. The format also requires one honestly counterintuitive bit needed for mercy: if you lost two games on a table you went back to the queue and the winner stayed behind. That was needed to keep people from being stuck on a table they suck at all night. But it is confusing, especially since the format was new to mid-Michigan and a community builds experience with the quirks of any given format. I expect some people did it the wrong way over the night. Can't be helped and it probably balanced out over time.

(And you need to start with a queue of one or two people not playing in the first round, a point that led to some confused arguments between me and bunny_hugger and MWS. MWS and I took the position that the queue would be self-filling and she disagreed. Some simulation proved that she was right. If you don't start with a couple people waiting to play then the whole scheme vapor-locks. Score one for the natural queue-theorist.)

While casting about for names for the tournament bunny_hugger hit upon ``Rocket Robin''. The Rocket has obvious meaning from the Fourth of July and rocket's red glare and all that. The Robin part suggests without quite promising that it's a round-robin format, or at least a modified round-robin format. CST pointed out that this sort of tournament format lacks an agreed-upon name, and that ``rocket robin'' has just the kind of ring that might make it the generic name of this tournament class. It's a fun idea. I haven't heard of anyone else planning a tournament with the same format, though of course it hasn't been long, so, too soon to tell.

Trivia: The Chrysler Building's observation deck opened on 3 August 1930. Source: Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City, Neal Bascomb.

Currently Reading: The Sea Fairies, L Frank Baum.

Tags: competition, pinball
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