SMS picked Dirty Harry. It's a good choice. I had estimated five tables that she should pick in order to destroy me; this is the third of my set that she had. It's a table I don't get to play much. It's a mid-90s Williams table, but not one I have much feel for. The playfield is cramped, with slender margins for error for its major shots. I barely got the hang of the Dirty Harry they had at the Blind Squirrel Tavern last year. SMS may have noticed this when we played in league. Still, the margins are no less tight for her. If I get a bit of luck --- oh, there goes my first ball. Maybe she'll have a bad first ball. She doesn't. She puts up a pretty good first ball. I get a slightly non-awful second ball; she has a decent one. I have to double my score on the third ball to have a chance of catching her. I have to put up my best Dirty Harry score ever to have a solid chance of winning.
Nothing to do but try. I know how to get multiball going; it's shooting each of five shots across the playfield. One of them starts modes, too. And oh, I get a mode started, not bad. Get the ``Magnum Force'' combo shot. Get some good side-ramp shots; in fact, I'm starting to get the hang of where the side ramp is. It's a good sign. I'll need that in multiball, to get the double jackpots. I lose my ball. And the game, and so, the round. I got much closer to the top eight than I had imagined I would, at least.
But I'm beaten. I have nothing else to do but wait around for the tie-breaking rounds. We call them the second-chance brackets, a linguistic holdover from double-elimination tournaments, which this is not. The International Flipper Pinball Association cares only about the people who finish #1 and #2. Every other spot is being worked out, in best-of-three matches, solely so that we can know who may brag about being #13 and who must take the inglory of being #14.
bunny_hugger is beaten in the first round too. She also feels triumphant about it. She faced CST, the first real superstar we'd known, just as she did in the championship series last year. Last year she was swept. This year she took him to game six, and was close to forcing a game seven. It's her last triumph for the finals: she would be beaten 2-0 by MSS, and similarly by --- I forget, KEC? --- and finally duels MWS for fifteenth place. She takes him to a third game, FunHouse, putting up a third-ball rally to an impressive-for-the-day ten million points. he puts up a more impressive third-ball rally to beat her. Later they learn CST, as tournament director, would have been fine letting them call off the match and declare it a tie for 15th, but they had started to play the tie-breaking game so couldn't do that anymore.
Me, now, I face KEC, bunny_hugger's semi-secret semi-rival. I get the first pick. I realize for all the thinking I did into what SMS would pick and what she might be weak on I have absolutely no thoughts whatsoever for what to do next. We go to Galaxy, on which I put up a score so crushing I feel apologetic. Well, I'm not going to pull punches; she's good enough to be in the finals, she's good enough to beat me. She takes me to Fast Draw, my first electromechnical game for the day. It's got a simple winning strategy: hit drop targets. Neither of us does very well on this. Our scores combined are less than what bunny_hugger put up on the game against CST. I lose the race to the bottom, and go on to the next round.
MSS is my next opponent. I pick Time Machine, an early-80s table by Italian pinball maker Zaccaria. It's a cheery, fun, weird little game. It has one important shot, the Time Bridge, a right ramp/orbit. If you can make that shot five times over during your ball, you get a 20x bonus. If you can't, you don't. Over practice everyone has learned the value of this shot, MSS included. I can't find it at all. I get beaten. I forget what he picks; maybe it was Centaur. I win, and force a third game. He picks Cirqus Voltaire, I think. A weird one, a prototype game that our host has gotten. It's got a different rule set to the production game, one that feels a little more rough but that makes sense in some ways. I haven't got the hang of it, and he beats me.
I'm off to play with BIL in the last round, to figure who'll be 11th or 12th. I don't learn my lesson and pick Time Machine, and lose. Now I get a tiny bit smarter and pick Vector, an early-80s Williams game nobody's got much experience on, but on which I've learned a few tricks, enough to force a third game. He picks Medieval Madness. It's one of the Murderers Row of 90s Williams games. Everybody knows how to play it. The contest will amount to who can shoot the Castle, up the center of the playfield, more times without making a mistake.
I end the State Championship Series in 12th place.
Trivia: When Ernie Breech took over Bendix in 1937 the airplane company was losing about $250,000 per month. By 1939 it had an annual profit of over $5 million, ahead of the war-preparedness programs. Source: Ford: The Men and the Machine, Robert Lacey.
Currently Reading: In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life, James Deetz.