austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Now whip it into shape

I expected my first opponent in the State Championship to be RLM. He was, of course, higher-ranked than me --- fourth place to my 13th --- but I didn't despair. We had played each other several times in various leagues, particularly the Grand Rapids League, and I felt competitive. I figured I had about a 50-50 shot of winning the first, best-of-seven, match in the single-elimination tournament. I did not expect to go past that, but even that would be triumph enough.

But then GRV ``happened'' to ``run late''. GRV had been ranked 12th. This allowed bunny_hugger to play. It also changed who I would face in the first round. It also changed who two other people would face, and it forced CST to rewrite bracket assignments that he had based on the RSVPs people gave ahead of time. Instead of RLM I would play against PH.

PH is a sweet guy, another friendly fellow in a community of friendly fellows. He runs the Blind Squirrel League, and the various festivals in Fremont whose bounty of points launched me and bunny_hugger into the championship. He is also a very precise player, well able to make a pinball go exactly where he wants any time he wants to. I did not think I had a 50-50 shot of beating him four games of seven. I hoped to have a shot of beating him once or twice before losing the match. (RLM would be higher-ranked than PH, despite PH being the better player, because RLM gets to play in more events, and the rating system rewards skill and prolific participation. PH lives farther from many point-generating opportunities.)

PH, as the higher seed, had the pick of game. He chose Road Show. The game is sometimes credited as the sequel to FunHouse. There are similarities. Many pieces of the playfield are in equivalent spots. There's a rare left plunger lane. The playfield is wider than on FunHouse, and there are two talking heads on the playfield rather than the one. It's a fully modern game, with sophisticated modes which FunHouse only hints at. It's a game I haven't been doing well on, despite knowing the strategy very well. (Make the skill shot; start modes; rack up bonus multipliers whether you complete modes or not; start multiball. This is also basically the order of priorities for Star Trek: The Next Generation, a table with the same extra-wide playfield as Road Show, by the way.) It's a game PH owns. (Different table, which can throw one off, but still.)

He blew me away, of course. Some of it was bad luck. My first ball bobbled down the center after just long enough that the ball save, meant to guarantee a minimum playing time, expired. I never got the second ball under control. On the third ball, from far behind, I aimed to get multiball started as soon as possible and hope it went well. I got multiball ready to start, and then went poorly.

As the loser of the match, it was my place to pick the next game. I picked Stars, a late 1970s solid-state game. Either of us could win that. I could have, if I had managed to not lose two balls down the center right away, without ball save.

As the loser of that match, it was my place to pick the next game. I picked Paragon, a wide-bodied solid state game which everyone at the tournament loved to dread. Nobody seemed to have it quite figured out. For example, I did not have it figured out at all. PH had it not figured out a bit less than I did not.

As the loser of a third match, it was my place to pick the next game. I went with the surest thing I had: Centigrade 37, a one-player, five-balls-per-game electromechanical (we write down scores and take turns) which I've played at the Silverball Museum and at the bowling alley. I had gotten to know the game very well. The game's maximum displayable score is 199,990 points. I had topped 100,000 repeatedly, including in practice that morning. Many people do not. PH did not, for example. PH did not have to; I put up a pitiful score that PH could beat without playing the last two balls.

I was beaten, knocked out in four straight games in the first round of play.

I congratulated PH, of course. He thanked me, and said how I was a better player than the set of games I put up were; I'd had some bad luck. I did think I'd win at least one game.

It happens that the Grand Rapids Pinball League site keeps track of all the times its players have gone head-to-head, and who outscored who on the tables played. I had played RLM in three league nights there, fifteen games total. I have against him a record of six wins, nine losses. PH I have played only one league night, but that time I won three tables and lost two.

Trivia: Otis's elevators were removed from the Eiffel Tower during a 1902 refurbishment. The company regained the Tower's elevator work in 1969. Source: Otis: Giving Rise To The Modern City, Jason Goodwin.

Currently Reading: The Punic Wars, Adrian Goldsworthy.

PS: A Leap Day 2016 Mathematics A To Z: Basis, a bit of linear algebra for you all.

Tags: michigan state pinball championship, pinball

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