There was a consolation tournament. Not really. Formally it was a second tournament played after the Pinburgh main event was done. A consolation tournament is for people who don't make finals. But to count for International Flipper Pinball Association credit a tournament can't exclude people just for some measly reason like they already won something this weekend. So this was a side tournament, but everyone thought of it as the consolation.
The Intergalactic Pinball Championship was open all day Saturday to qualify. For a $10 entry fee --- earmarked for whichever of five charities the player wished --- you'd get ten entry tickets. They had twelve machines, drawn from all eras of pinball. You put up scores on as many of the machines as you like. You get points for highest scores relative to all the players. Your four best scores are used to rank you. The forty people with highest ranking scores are invited to Finals, Sunday morning.
That may sound obscure. It's easy enough to understand in practice though. Pick your games, play them, try to put up an impressively high score. Strategy gets to be tricky because of the constraints. You only have ten entries; there's no buying more, not at this event. (Other similar events, like the Baby Food Festival in Fremont, would let you buy more entries.) You couldn't even play every table once. You could decide to focus on the four games you feel most confident in and hope you get a great game. Or you could try to spread out and play, say, six tables you feel good on and trust something wild will happen. Oh, also, you might have to wait in line for your table, and qualifying ends at 1:30 am.
Qualifying ran most of the day, except during the A Division Finals. There were a couple people there, now and then, most of the day and we figured we could just pop in sometime in the evening during a slow stretch, put in our ten games and not worry. Somehow we didn't get around to it until after dinner. When everybody was putting games in. There's strategic reasons to play late, of course: you can look up what a good score is, so you know how to balance your risky-shot/rewarding-shot strategy. At least you can if you know where the online rankings are. They either didn't post or they didn't post clearly the URL for tournament standings. People had to get the URL by word of mouth. But trust that you got the link from someone. Then you can work out whether, say, a 500,000 on Mars Trek will probably be safe against the relatively few number of people who could play it in the next 45 minutes, or whether you need to buff that up. And so that's why all of Pinburgh was there, waiting to get on Avatar.
I exaggerate. Actually only about 250 people put in scores. And not everybody was there in the last couple hours. Many people put their games in early and didn't worry. We weren't among them. So added to the frustration of ``can I find a shot that gives me anything good on Big Indian'' would be the question of ``can I afford to wait through six people's games for Meteor again, or do I just wait through four people's games of X's and O'x?''
Some of the tables I had played. That didn't necessarily help; I put up a Lost World score --- the game I'd played for warm-up right before the first round of qualifying on Thursday --- that was the 122nd-best of all competitors. And not even a strong 122nd-best. Mars Trek on which I'd dominated during a Pinburgh qualifying round I never even got to touch; the line was too long for me.
I would have some glory. I overheard from people how the skill shot on early-solid state game X's and O's worked. It's a devious and very skilled shot, one that requires a soft plunge at just the right time for a huge payoff. If you make that you win the game. If you don't, you're doomed to a long, hard slog. bunny_hugger made the skill shot during a Pinburgh round almost by accident. I managed to get enough information from staring at people playing ahead of me that I'd put up 504,230 points, good for 26th place. I was also able to get 26th place on early-solid-state Freak Out and 29th on electromechanical game Big Indian. You may notice a pattern here; I had relative strength on older games. Also that if I was getting a consistent 20-something on three games there's every reason to think I'd finish in the top forty of all players.
I didn't. My next-best game was a 50th-place finish on the electromechanical Magic City. It's a fun game but it's hard to get something going on it. 54th on Meteor, an early solid-state I know well but that is hard to get used to. 122nd on Lost World, as said.
So I would finish qualifying at 1 am in, it turns out, a tie for 72nd place. And it happens that scoring consistently low-twenty-something like I managed wouldn't have got me into the top forty anyway; even if I'd got 26th place in all four games I'd still have finished the day only around 49th place. I know that doesn't sound like it makes sense, but there's a lot of combinations that net higher rank than consistently fair play at my level. bunny_hugger would have a rougher time of it, finishing in 150th place despite doubling my Meteor score. Obviously we'd be nowhere on Sunday. MWS would finish at 75th.
RLM, who heads up the Grand Rapids pinball league, would make it into finals for the side tournament, though. I think he was the only Michigan Pinball person to do so.
There's good news in all this, of course. For one, both me and bunny_hugger now technically have a player-versus-player win against Roger Sharpe, The Man Who Saved Pinball. He finished in 178th place. And we'd both win over ten points for the IFPA rankings. That doesn't help us for the State of Michigan championship series, since for some reason games played in Pittsburgh don't help our Michigan state rankings. But it gave us Pennsylvania state rankings, she at 431st and me at 427th.
And we wouldn't have to get up early Sunday to play. We could sleep in until it was time to pack.
Trivia: The Plymouth Colony's John Carver was the first popularly-elected governor in America. He died in the winter of his one-year term. Source: From Failing Hands: The Story of Presidential Succession, John D Feerick.
Currently Reading: The Art Of The Map: An Illustrated History, Dennis Reinhartz.
PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Cantor's Middle Third, one of those mathematical things it's hard to believe but is so.