Winning the first game scrambled everything. The loser of each game got to pick the next game (or order). I'd figured after losing to SMS I'd pick one of the solid-state or electromechanical games. The older the better. It's not that skill doesn't matter on those games, but that the differences between the good (me) and the best (SMS) players are narrower and there'd be more chance for me to win a second game on them. But now it was SMS's turn to pick. She went for one of the most modern games in the pole barn, Stern's Spider-Man, based on the 2000s movies. I know roughly what to do on it --- start Black Suit Multiball and whatever other modes I can. SMS knows what to do on it --- start every possible mode at once and beat them all. She's far better than I am on this game and even more so on this particular table, as she's got far more experience on it than I could hope to have. I go down to crushing defeat.
That puts the contest back to my expectations, though. I get to pick a game and choose Whirlwind. It's a solid-state game, and a difficult one, with many chances for an unfair drain. Also a game I'd beat SMS on during the New Year's Eve tournament. I'd been practicing the skill shot, potentially a half-million points if done just right, and that's easily the margin of victory for any game. I get the skill shot, and lose the ball between the flippers, which happens all the time on that game. SMS does pretty nearly that too. We're competitive up to the last ball, when she gets Quick Multiball lit. A million points for each upper loop shot. She manages two and that's the game. I'm down one game to two.
My pick again. I go older solid-state, Galaxy. It's an early-80s Stern game. I've learned a bloody simple strategy: hit the ``star'' drop targets on the left. I keep missing them and shooting the ``Galaxy'' points shot. This isn't wrong, as I keep control and earn some points anyway. But the drop targets would earn a huge bonus fast. I wrestle the game long enough to get the drop targets and keep hitting them. SMS can't keep up. I win. We're at two games each. Her pick.
She chooses Banzai Run. It's a solid-state game, with a motorbike-racing theme. It has a vertical backfield gimmick. I've worked out some of the essentials of it, but I'm nowhere near consistent. She's got a handle on getting to the playfield and defeating the other racers. She puts up a score that's better than all but one game I've ever played on it. I take a deep breath, remember there's no reason I can't have a fantastic ball. I had just, on Tommy, put up one of my best games ever. I could do it again. I put up a pretty good ball, considering I'm down, two games to three. My pick.
I pick Centaur. It's an early solid-state game. I'd had good sessions on it the night before, starting multiball with an ease that leaves me worrying I'm overconfident. It turns out I'm not. I have one of those crazy first balls where I keep starting multiball. Centaur is too old to have a jackpot shot, properly, but it does mean I'm scoring on twice as many things as usual. The game has little one-way gates that let balls headed down the outlane sometimes bounce back into play. It bounces a lot, for me. I put up a first ball that, until the night before, would have been among my five best games on it ever. SMS is impressed. I wouldn't put up a bad game of Centaur all day. I wouldn't even have a bad ball on it.
My third win. One more and I'm into the second round, and the top eight. SMS's pick. She goes off to mark on our index card the result of that game. She consults with AJH about what game might best defeat me. I want to sneak over and photograph our score card so I can remember exactly what games we played; this is so much better than I ever hoped to do that I want it recorded. I'm waylaid by DAD, the father of that father-son pair I sometimes mention. (The son's in the finals; the father's an alternate, with nothing to do now but kibbutz and cheer his son). He's talking about how great I'm doing. It's kind of him. I'm clumsy in making my excuses. I don't handle it well when I'm interrupted doing something completely trivial.
Trivia: At the end of the 19th century India produced about 200 million pound of tea annually, of which about 85 percent was exported to Britain. Source: Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire, Roy Moxham.
Currently Reading: The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, Kwame Anthony Appiah.
PS: One Way To Get Your Own Theorem without the hard work!