austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

No one but the pure at heart may find the Golden Grail

The Classics Tournament started its finals first. They were scored, as is standard at PH/AJH tournaments and is threatening to be the only thing anyone does anywhere, PAPA-style. PAPA here means ``Professional and Amateur Pinball Association''. In this groups of four people play. Whoever gets the highest score wins four points for the match. Second-highest gets two points. Third-highest gets one point. Last place gets nothing. There would be three rounds. PAPA-style scoring is taking over from two-player match play, winner goes on, because of International Flipper Pinball Association rankings. IFPA wants to encourage head-to-head play. Their system for rating players treats the four-player group going head-to-head as the quintessence of competitive pinball. The greatest number of ranking points are earned for group-of-four play. So despite potential anomalies --- after two rounds out of three a player can be assured of a win, or a last-place finish, and so has little reason not to play as spoiler for others --- PAPA scoring is taking over.

My group of four players would include AJH, who's a naturally ferocious competitor and by the way playing on his own machines. Also ADM, whose main weaknesses as a player are that he adjusts slowly to poorly-maintained machines (which these were not) and that he is probably mortal and so might someday die in the middle of a game. We started on Flash Gordon, and my recollection is I started weak but managed finally to keep the last ball in the upper playfield area, where the highest scores are. I got second place, behind AJH, none too shabby.

The second game was Tri-Zone. It's the same game, different table, from the one we have. Pinball folklore has it that any table you own you can't play worth anything anywhere else. I had put in a few practice games, trying to figure where the key shots --- the drop targets, the rollover lanes --- are, but hadn't really got the hang of it. I put up pitiful first and second balls. Third wasn't much better. But I could at least avoid coming in last place, by just catching the ball, bringing it to a rest, and shooting at the drop targets carefully. These would be worth one thousand points (ten thousand if lit, which I could get if I waited for the light to come around). All I needed was to not have the ball bobble down the center and oh, there it goes. Last place, falling behind KEC by 1500 points. She said she had no idea how I didn't pass her. I'm not sure either.

The last game of the first round was Blackout, my savior at Pinball At The Zoo. None of us put up very good games on it, but once again I found something on that last ball and just edged out KEC. I think she got an unfair tilt on the last ball. With a second, a last, and a first-place finish I had 6 PAPA point and advanced to the second round, alongside AJH.

bunny_hugger had a much worse time of it, with a last-place finish on Boomerang, a second-place on Mystic, and a last-place finish on Tri-Zone by barely more than a thousand points too. She'd be knocked out of the Classics tournament and ended up in 15th place. MWS advanced to the second round.

In the second round I was grouped with AJH, and MWS, and also SMS, one of the state's best women players. And once again Flash Gordon was dominated by AJH. But I came up with a not-bad second place. The second game was Tri-Zone again and once again AJH dominated it, with a score of 391,830. That's a solid score in any case for Tri-Zone, but especially so as they had all the settings put on their hardest possible values. And I had my mediocre practice games and outright lousy first-round game to consider. Which is why I'm still shocked to see I put up 344,970, a second-place finish.

After those two rounds AJH was now guaranteed to move on to the finals. I would be guaranteed to move on as long as I didn't finish last. PAPA scoring produces those locked-in results sometimes. And the game was Boomerang. AJH put up 97,910 in five balls, just coming short of rolling the score. I was the second player, putting up 100,190, and earning jokes about how I had somehow only scored 190 points. Either SMS or MWS could force a playoff for the finals, if they won first place. MWS put up 53,760. SMS put up 47,090. I was in the finals.

I've said, I'm not a tournament player. I do better in leagues. Being in the finals is a novelty. The finals would be me, AJH, CST --- who'd come back from a huge gap on Tri-Zone after asking whether we thought it practical to make a quarter-million points in one ball, and he did ---, and BIL.

First game, once again, Flash Gordon. I hadn't put up a score below 200,000 on it all day. I'd put up scores above a half million half the times I'd played. I could almost feel entitled to a second-place finish on it. I got last. The next game was Blackout, another friend that decided this time to hang out with the cool kids of AJH and CST. I got third place. At this point BIL and I were tied with one PAPA point each. BIL and I couldn't possibly win first or second; whichever of us outscored the other would take third place. AJH and CST, similarly, were really only playing each other; whoever had the higher score on Mystic would take first place.

CST would put up 135,250 on Mystic, a score that's honestly anemic but what can you do? AJH, playing right after him, would just barely squeeze him out, 141,220. BIL would put a lousy 58,850 points on himself. And me? I managed to so slightly less lousy and put in 63,420. I got third place.

And hey, third place! I'd gotten that position last year at the Baby Food Festival too. But that year it wasn't also the Meijer State Games. Meijer provided medals for the top three finishers, Classics and Main. I would go home with a literal bronze medal for competitive pinball play. Wow..

bunny_hugger would also take a bronze medal, in the Women's Division, Pro Players set. She's too good to play as Novice anymore.

Trivia: In Spring 1959, NASA's first computer program, ODP-1, for determining satellite position was done. Running on the Univac 1103A, it could predict a satellite's orbit for 24 hours, with only 24 hours of calculation. Source: Something New Under the Sun, Helen Gavaghan.

Currently Reading: Twenty-Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life In No Way Whatsoever, Frank Conniff.

PS: Why Stuff Can Orbit, Part 5: Why Physics Doesn't Work And What To Do About It, or, Lagrangian mechanics in 1200 words without equations.

Tags: baby food festival, fremont, pinball
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