The first four rounds of the day, as the first four rounds of Thursday were, groups were arranged by ``slaughter seeding''. A group of four players had one high-seeded, one low-seeded, and two medium-seeded players. The gap between the high and low seeds decreases until near the end everybody is playing people of roughly equal standings. The last rounds of the day weren't; their seedings were spread out more. This is new; previous years the fifth round had people all but tied playing one another. The change is because it transpired there were groups of players agreeing to take ties on the round, in order that they all get moved into the higher group (for Thursday) or all get into tiebreaker games (for Friday). The new system is meant to provide no incentive for anyone to collude, at least not without cash actually changing hands. I'm still shocked that such a thing would happen, or that I could be that naive.
But it does mean that I'm facing weaker competition than I might otherwise have. Not very much: the difference between the number two seed and the number 32 (whom I play) is six wins out of (so far) 72 possible. But I am aware I'm going in as the number-one seed, and defending that position. But there's liberation in this: even if I go 0-12 I'm all but sure to be in the finals.
The round starts late. There's two groups from the previous round that haven't turned in their results. There's rumor that one of the score sheets might be lost, at least, nobody's turned in the group's sheets and nobody can find the players from the group. That gets resolved though. The other group is just taking forever to finish. Those pesky A Division ringers. But they finally finish and turn over results and the world can move on.
The modern game: Stern's 2008 Shrek. It's spent months haunting the Blind Squirrel League. It's a re-theming of the Family Guy game, just changing out the art and what modes are called and such. Somehow, that change makes the game ten times more enjoyable. I could never stand Family Guy, but Shrek? Yeah, I kinda like it. I start out trying to play the long game, starting several modes and the Donkey Mini-Pinball and all, and then remember that's stupid. There's a center post which, if hit a couple times, will start a designated mode. Is that mode Dragon Multiball? ... Why, yes, it is! So I stop trying to play clever, and go for the simple cheap point grab, and come out just edging out player one for a first-place finish. And now I'm willing to grant that I might have secured being in the finals.
The electromechanical: Gottleib's 1967 King of Diamonds. It's a single-player game, and I have to play my five balls before anyone else plays theirs. I can't learn anything from what other people do, but they learn from me. Go ahead and guess what the theme is. I have two really solid balls, ones that keep getting the pinball back into the bumpers and letting it hit the targets to collect cards. I even get away with shots on the spinning roto-wheel target at the center, a dangerous shot but one that lets me get cards, and thus ten or even fifty points at once. I get 940 points, coming close to rolling. Player four has a fantastic last ball, and does roll it. Second place for me; five wins, one loss so far.
The late-solid-state game: Williams's 1988 Swords of Fury. It's a crowded playfield, nice and busy. There's a horseshoe, all set to take a ball and rocket it back towards the center. There's a ramp behind some obstructed targets. There some kind of rule about multiballs. The game likes me: I find the ramp for locking balls, and keep on locking them, and starting multiball play. If there's a jackpot I never find it, but a multiball on this era game typically doubles or triples the playfield scores, so, that's good enough. I get another first-place finish. Eight wins, one loss so far; even if I bomb on the early-solid-state game, I have had a great round.
I bomb on the early-solid-state game. It's Williams's 1984 Space Shuttle, the game that saved pinball in the 80s. The game that introduced playfield toys, in this case a tail-bobbed space shuttle, to modern pinball. There's a couple things to do, like locking balls and shooting up the center to release them. You can steal locked balls that other players have left behind. I am a courteous player, stealing nobody's locks. I have one house ball and another that might as well have been. Despite a third-ball rally I end up at about one-third everybody else's score. It's a soggy end to what has been my best day of competitive pinball play ever.
Because I have had a fantastic day. The record for the whole day was 44 wins, 16 losses. This puts me in undisputed first place (by one game, mind). I'm in the finals. I get two rounds of byes for the five-round finals. I'm staggered.
bunny_hugger's final round is bank 42, Lepus, which you'd figure would be a good omen. But she has the same result on it as she had her first round Thursday, with the similarly well-named Procyon. She goes 6-6 in a group where some points-hog went 8-4. She drops from 9th seed to the five-way tie for 13th seed.
We have to wait. I still don't believe that I have first-round byes; after all, I haven't seen the results any. And bunny_hugger knows if she gets ranked in the top 16 she gets a first-round bye, but there's no way to be sure she has that. Or if she needs to stick around for tiebreakers. This round, too, is taking forever. Someone comes on stage to say that if we would like to see the thrilling final game of Pinburgh's qualifying rounds, he's sorry, but the last group is playing World Cup. (It's a 1978 Williams table that competent players can win, slowly but surely, by repeating this shot into one scoop. When I played it last year I drained the ball rapidly, three times over.) We see who knows the game by who chuckles knowingly.
That finally ends, and the tiebreakers are somehow decided without bunny_hugger needing to play, to her relief. At 38 wins, 22 losses, she's got a single bye. At 44 wins, 16 losses, I have two byes.
We've had outstanding days. Over the two days I've had 70 wins. bunny_hugger has had 64. These are as many wins as some of the finalists in the B Division has had. But, of course, had there not been the division breaks we'd have probably not had perfect rounds.
We do collect our medals, and are just giddy about this. Also dreading the implication: we can't sleep in Saturday.
Trivia: Railroad car wheels in 1860 Virginia cost about fifteen dollars per wheel. By 1864 they were thirty times that. Source: The Railroads Of The Confederacy, Robert C Black III.
PS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: Height Function (elliptic curves) which has maybe a 50 percent chance of being the thing I was asked to write about!