POLISH PINBALL IN 2012
Date: 12th April, 2013
Report by: Łukasz Dziatkiewicz
Unlike some people, I believe (and hope) that we face pinball renaissance!
Constant evidence of that can clearly be seen in Poland. One of the main proofs is the growing number of people who use our PSF (Polish Pinball Association) web site. Some of them are active on the site - they register, ask questions, answer, help others, etc. - while new visitors are coming all the time.
We have more participants in our tournaments too, and it is obvious many new players are competing. Some of these people - along with many others who keep their interest and their collections private - own one or more pinball machines, while others are looking to get their first game.
So consequently the value of the prizes is growing.
But let us start at the end of 2012 when we saw the premiere of something which is rare even on a global scale – a music video where pinball plays a very important role. And it is Polish!
As far as I know there not too many similar music videos. One quite haunting example was the pinball machine in the German group Rammstein’s Amerika (2004) video, where the band’s members are astronauts on the Moon.
They are very excited by playing the Bally Star Trek from 1978 which was used in this scene. Amerika is a song protesting against 'Americanization' of the world, and unfortunately pinball is used in this video as an example.
A completely different pinball music clip comes from the Dutch eurodance band 2 Unlimited and their 1993 hit No Limit.
Poles couldn’t boast a music video using pinball in such an expressive way. We’ve only had a few individual scenes, like in this video for an old and well known song from 1984.
More recently there was a video for a popular song of Maryla Rodowicz’s - who has been a very well known singer in Poland for over four decades - which features also pinball.
There were probably no more such videos, especially in Poland, until last year.
Radek “Bond” Bednarz represents the Polish band Miloopa and is the group's bass player. In addition, he also has an independent promotions agency called Gig Ant Promotion. He contacted the PSF to ask about help making a music video featuring pinball. Radek was looking for pinball machines near the city of Wroclaw where he lives and works. Of course I happily offered to help him, but it turned out it was a problem finding a suitable location. A big problem.
After a long search I finally found a suitable place. It was not all that close to Wroclaw but it had a large collection of pinballs in good condition. Radek contacted the owner and made a deal to shoot the main, pinball part of video there.
Miloopa's musical style is hard to define. It derives from many different genres of music - but is mainly electronic. Radek describes it as closer to drum'n'bass and break-beat, but he says,"...they have regular, full band makeup”.
Considering how the budget wasn’t that large, it turned out quite well.
The title of the song is Big Nasty, and it promotes the band's third and latest album, Optica. The song, like almost all of Miloopa's tracks, is in English, and you can find this video both on You Tube and on the official Miloopa’s web site.
I hope that this video is good promotion for the band, but also for pinball and the PSF especially, because the first screening took place during our last pinball championships - something we promoted in some of the media material in the run up to the tournament.
There is another aspect to this video – it shows that pinball machines and gambling machines are not the same. This is especially important in our country where many, many people when they hear word the word flipper (Polish name for pinball, used especially in the plural: flippery) think 'gambling'. And when they hear it they also think of corruption and control by the Mafia!
Let me give you an example - an extreme example maybe, but a real one which shows how big this problem is.
Some time ago I tried to write another article about pinball. It wasn’t just a regular article – I have had many published in all kinds of lifestyle magazines: daily, weekly, and monthly - this time I had the idea to write a big feature about pinball for one of the main Polish weekly magazine (I won't reveal the name, but it is like Time or Newsweek). I had already contacted the editor of the appropriate section and I sent him some material. A few days latter I called and he said, “Well, I asked my staff colleagues about those clippers...”, I corrected him, “Flippers”. “Whatever” he replied. “This business is mobster business”.
“But...”, I tried to interject, “Let me finish." he continued, "We've got such a machine in our local store and...”. The whole conversation was nonsense, and there was no article published of course.
That was few years ago, and fortunately I had no problem 'selling' this theme last year to a popular men’s magazine about style, gadgets, sports, etc. called Logo. It was a big article with many pictures. On the magazine's website you can read the full digital version.
OK, enough about pinball's background. Now I will give you some details about pinball life in Poland in 2012. First, I would like to present the general calendar of Polish tournaments held last year.
Generally the tournaments - which also included the second season of the Polish Pinball League - took place in one of two locations just like they did in the inaugural season: either in or near Warszawa (Warsaw), and in Myslowice.
In Warszawa, all the events were organised by Pawel Nowak with my help, while in Myslowice they were run by Mariusz 'Mario' Tkacz and his family. There were four Warsaw tournaments (plus two extra, non-league competitions) and five in Myslowice.
Some changes happened over the course of the year, such as some new pinball locations in Warsaw, new machines in both league centres, and new players taking part. But a completely new feature on Polish pinball landscape arrived with a young fellow hailing from the Polish seaside - Marcin Kisiel - who joined us this during the previous year's championships. Since then, he started to play in almost all the tournaments in 2012, with the result that he ended up in third place in the Polish pinball rankings. Not bad!
Marcin’s father - Irek - is an old hand in pinball as well as other arcade amusement machines. Recently he bowed-out and handed the running of the business over to Marcin. The result has been awesome! We could appreciate it first during Marcin’s inaugural tournament in Dźwirzyno, which is a small tourist town near Kołobrzeg city where the Kisiel family lives.
Marcin found a nice venue in this resort, called - rather grandly - Plaza Park. This place isn’t as elegant as the name might suggest. Rather, it is in fact a fairly typical post-communist era building which has been modified, and now houses many amusement machines. The important things were that not only was the first tournament held on the Polish Baltic Sea, but it was also the first to be held north of the Polish capital of Warsaw, which is approximately in middle of our country.
The second benefit is a double bonus – good quality machines, plus all the necessary organisational staff and regular players combined with many people who were playing for the first time! Even in private collections, it is really hard to find in one place machines such as: Attack from Mars and Scared Stiff, let alone a Tales from the Arabian Nights in very good condition, or a Monster Bash which is like new. Marcin has all of these. The total number of machines was 16, 11 of which were for the tournament, with the rest on free play. Marcin brought them all just for this event.
Marcin and I were a little bit nervous about the attendance, but it proved to be unnecessary. Firstly – it was held on a good date - 28th August, the end of the summer holiday period which is perfect for visiting the coast to catch some muted sunshine and enjoy the salt water. The weather was perfect and not too hot to play pinball, even during the day.
Even better, we played both indoors and outdoors. How it that possible? Well, one room was under a roof but half open. So the conditions were perfect.
In the end we had 37 contestants - not too bad for the first time, especially when for some people it was long trip (12 hours for me). There is no doubt that for many of those pinball fans who had travelled long distances, the presence of the machines was the main draw. Anyway, the majority of the contestants weren’t from the seaside - the majority came from the Warsaw area, with a smaller number from southern parts of Poland - and all of them came either exclusively or mainly to play.
Plaza Park is abbreviated to 'PP' – so I proposed adding two more 'P' words to the name of the tournament, resulting in it being called the Plaza Park Pinball Party. Marcin asked his friend Andrzej Stasiukiewicz to prepare a poster and shoot some photographs – all of which turned out great, especially the poster which was one of the best pinball posters I’ve ever seen!
The last things to arrange were the unique trophies. Each one was a pecten shell (just like the one in the Shell oil company logo) with a real pinball ball attached inside; based on the design of a pearl shell. The combination was then mounted on a board bearing the name of tournament, where and when it was organized, the player's position (1st to 3rd) and the PSF’s logo. It looked attractive and so different from the usual pinball trophies. Without wishing to appear boastful, it was my idea to making something like this.
The format of the tournament was fairly standard. All the contestants played on the same twelve machines. The sixteen players with the best scores qualified for the next round. That next stage was played in four-player groups with the top two going through and the others ending their run in the tournament. Just before 1am, the winner was declared – Marcin. Second was Janek Nietrzebka from the Warsaw area, third was Daniel Nowak from Belchatow, and in fourth place was Janek’s father, Jarek.
After the tournament I wrote a large report for the local Kołobrzeg’s internet service e-kg.pl where Marcin Kisiel shared his pinball memories, plans and dreams with the readers. He vowed to organize a second tournament this year - and maybe even more than just one - with a greater number of games. Presently he owns sixty pinballs (giving him almost certainly the largest collection in Poland), so he has the resources to organize a much bigger tournament. Marcin we count on you, and hope that some foreign players will come to the next tournament.
Gwizdałla senior played in the tournament, and although his son didn't take part, he had his competitive debut in the 11th Polish Championships and in a special side-tournament held during this event. Seba (a shorter form of Sebastian) was one of the main organizers of this tournament - the first of its kind in Poland.
The location has been the same ever since the very beginning of the Polish Pinball Championships, the official name for which is the Printimus 2012 XI Qulturalne Mistrzostwa Polski w Grze na Flipperach which means Printimus 2012 - Qultural 11th Polish Pinball Championships. That location is the famous underground Warsaw club, Spółdzielnia CDQ.
The location might be the same as before, but the selection of machines, players, contests and prizes was mostly or totally different this time. We prepared the largest number of machines in the history of these championships for this edition - twenty-five, which belonged to six different people. There was also one video arcade game - more about that later.
The format was the same as last year. The elimination round was played in two big groups on 14 machines - 7 for each group - just like the previous year. Each competitor was allocated to one of the two group and played their 7 games. This first phase took a long time because 87 people competed, which was a spectacular Polish record!
An additional complication was the number of side-tournaments. For the very first time we decided to organize these, but not just one – three! And all were held on the same day. In a previous edition we had run the Steve Kordek’s 100 side-tournament, but that was organised on the second day alongside the final of the main championships.
The side-tournaments this time were: CDP Junior Flipper CUP for kids and teenagers up to seventeen years old, the split-flipper Czar Par (which means 'charm of couples'), and a classic competition which was named CKM Klasyk.
This last one was played on a electro-mechanical Monte Carlo (making it the very first E-M used in any tournament in Poland). It was loaned by Mirek Adamczewski who is a professional restorer of the visible parts of the game – the playfield, the cabinet, etc. - specialising in E-M games. You can find many of his photos on the Internet Pinball Database - some pictures of Monte Carlo on the site were taken by him, for instance.
Let’s start with the first listed side-tournament.
CDP.pl is a leading of distributor of computer games in Poland. The company also makes these games, with their biggest hit based on the famous Andrzej Sapkowski saga, Wiedźmin (The Witcher in English, although a strict translation would be ‘he witch’) which has been turned in two games. Preparation of a third part was also announced, which will be the last one in the trilogy. Incidentally, this would make a great theme for a pinball - the first Polish pinball - if not a real one, then maybe a video pinball.
CDP.pl also distributes movies on DVD and Blu-Ray. Michał Mizior who is a marketing manager at the company prepared assorted prizes - games and films for the winners of the four tournaments, with the new Polish pinball champion taking home the second part of The Witcher, as did the top three in the Junior side-tournament.
All eight participants in the CDP Junior Flipper CUP got standing tickets to Warsaw's largest entertainment centre called Hulakula which features bowling and pool. The winner and the two runners-up would receive special trophies supplied by Sebastian.
There were other awards too, including a number of books about video games. Amongst them were two authored by Bartłomiej Kluska who wrote one about the history of video games, and a second about Polish video games. I interviewed him for our internet portal.
Why is this important? Because in this edition of the Championships we wanted to start opening our relatively small pinball world to include the much bigger, sister world of video games. A good pretext was that we had a huge extra prize – the video arcade game Mortal Kombat 4 - which was sponsored by the men's portal CKM (who also provided some other smaller company awards), and by Daniel Kaczmarek personally.
The winner of the main championships had a choice of prizes – the Mortal Kombat 4 game or a Rollergames pinball.
I'm going to take a small break here to present two audio files which record my two visits to radio stations. The first was to Tok FM which a speech-based news and information station, and the second where I was joined by Aleksander Żurkowski at Radio Eska. We talked about pinball and the championships at both stations of course, and it was funny how we were discussing pinball on Tok FM when it was program about... sport!
It took over a year, but I got finally Aleksander's and my radio conversation for Radio Plus from 2011.
OK then, back to the Warsaw event. Among the players for the Junior side-tournament were Marcin’s sister Ania, Mateusz, and Mariusz’s ten-year-old son Kuba. He was the indisputable favourite, so it was no surprise that he won.
A much more unexpected win came from fourteen-year-old Benek Borkułak in the classic side-tournament. This was his first pinball tournament, and the first time he had encountered such an old machine which is almost three times his age.
In second place was Paweł Kalista, whose final score was much smaller then Benek’s - 52,060 to 72,480. The difference is especially marked because Paweł probably remembers such machines from his youth. This tournament had the largest number of competitors of all the side tournaments – 68. Each person had one five-ball game, and all the scores were ranked.
The pairs side-tournament was played on Terminator 2 with each half of the team operating one of the flipper buttons. The best players in this event were Italians: Enrico Giorgio de Stefani and his colleague Cesare Datri who took part in our championships once again.
In second place was the Polish duo of Jacek Wenda and Dominik Tkacz who is Mariusz’s younger brother. All the results can be found here.
This is a good moment to introduce some of the record number of foreign players who came this year, and from a record-breaking number of countries.
Apart from the two Italians, there were six from Hungary (among them two nice girls), four from Sweden, and two from Belgium. These Belgians were quite Polish because Denis Cuypers used to work in Poland and has a Polish wife while Joel Wozniak has a typical Polish surname (the same name as Steve Wozniak who co-founded Apple) which is little wonder, since both his parents are Poles.
Let’s go back to main tournament, and a good way to return is with this TV coverage prepared by game channel Hyper+
The best 32 (16 from each of the two groups) from the 87 players qualified. The next three stages were contested in four-player groups on three pinballs. Each time half of players advanced to next stage, so that was 32 to 16 to 8 for the quarter-final.
We made some changes in semi-finals and the final this year.
First, in the semi-finals, the best player from the first group of the quarter-finals played with second in the second group, and best from second group played with second from first group. This way Konrad Masłowski played against Marcus Hugosson from Sweden who had won Hungarian Pinball Championships less than a month earlier. The second battle was between Mariusz and the Italian representative, Cesare Datri.
Both duels were won by Poles, 2 - 0, so Mariusz and Konrad had to fight in the best-two-out-of-three games final. It started a little after 3:30am...
This duel had three parts. First, Konrad had a choice of machine and chose The Addams Family, and won. Mariusz fought back, winning the second game on Terminator 2 which he had chosen. So the third and final game would be decisive.
Twilight Zone was waiting for them.
'Mario' again was the better player.
The winner, as a real pinball aficionado, decided to take the Rollergames pinball as his prize, so Konrad got the MK 4.
There was also a fight for the third place, which had the same rules as the final and was won by Marcus Hugosson by 2 games to 0.
We had the idea to give the contestants as much as we could – everyone who paid the entry fee had a chance to win something. That’s why, for a second time, a lottery was organised during the championships. But this year it was much bigger than before.
The range of prizes included a number of DVDs of films which were turned into pinball machines, such as Indiana Jones, Lethal Weapon, Twilight Zone, The Shadow. Some promotional items were once again donated by Stern Pinball and Pinball News, and for the very first time Jersey Jack. The best gifts from Stern were the translites, while the favourites from JJP were the T-shirts.
The top three in the main championship received special trophies based on those created for the earlier tournament held on the Polish Baltic seaside, but of course not with shells this time. The trophy for first place had an old Atari pinball bumper, second contained two regular Williams flippers, while the third one had small flipper. All has an wooden base with information on plaques, and each plate has a different colour - gold, silver and bronze.
As is traditional, the main trophies were sponsored by the magazine Interplay.pl, and also by the company Świat Pozytywek (which means 'music box world') who were co-sponsors. This company also gave mini music boxes for the best three young pinballers in the Junior side-tournament.
Once again, wines were donated by Piotr Butkiewicz who works for the Piwnica Smakow winery. During the event, the first issue of Pinball Magazine was also promoted, with two copies given away in the lottery. Thank you very much to Jonathan Joosten - the managing editor - for this, and for agreeing to be our media patron.
That wasn’t the end of the souvenirs and prizes though. In addition I would like to mention the T-shirts, key chains, mouse pads and magnets, all bearing either our poster or simply the PSF logo. Printimus who as always was the sponsor of grand prize and prepared all prints, also made very special postcards with the poster design and fake postage stamps, and also bookmarks with the main poster image.
Printimus also donated some money for other prizes. That enabled PSF and I to award special souvenirs and presents to Marcin Krysiński (from Printimus) and Daniel Kaczmarek (who represented CKM.pl ) who were the main and secondary sponsors of this tournament.
'Mario' wasn’t the only winner who took a pinball home from CDQ. The other one was Daniel Nowak as the winner of Polish Pinball League 2012. He received a older machine in nice condition - a Cyclone. It was the second season of the Polish Pinball League, and Daniel was the top player for the second time. The top eight players in the League were presented with special glass trophies.
There was also, once again, a vote for the player with the best playing style – in which all the participants could vote.
Last time Kuba Tkacz won, but this time there was a tie, with the same number of votes for him and Mirko Lunden (from Sweden). The management of the club decided to award the prize this time to the guest from abroad, but still this was more proof that there is a new pinball wizard growing up in Poland!
It is hard to name all the people who helped in so many different ways with the organization of this tournament. I, and many others, recognise all their contributions, so if they own or work for a company, we put their logo on the posters. Thank you so much. (Below is - I hope - a full list of all these people and companies in alphabetical order). We count on you and hope that you will be able to help again. In addition, we're also continuously looking for new people and companies to help.
Before we reach the end, I would like to mention some Polish successes in foreign tournaments. Our team was third in the team tournament during September's European Pinball Championship in Madrid.
There were also three side-tournaments at the EPC, among them was one called 'Beat the Objective'. As in the other side-tournaments, only Spanish pinballs were used, in this instance it was a Super Bowling (Industria, 1974). In this tournament aim was to get a score as close as possible to 20,000 and not one point more. Jacek Wenda was the best – he had 19,990! You can see some photos on our site.
Later on at the Hungarian Pinball Championship, Janek Nietrzebka was third. Then soon after, our friend Marcin Jańczyk who lives in Germany got second place in a special private tournament in Switzerland (Zelgi Tournament).
Marcin said, “My greatest satisfaction was beating World Champion Daniele Celestino Acciari from Italy in the final game. That was also my biggest triumph of the year, but that wasn’t all because for the third year running I won our local Ludwigsburg league. We as a team got third place in the final of all German leagues, where a total of 30 teams competed.”
It's no wonder that Marcin is the best Pole in the WPPR rankings and presently 118th in the world. The last Polish success also was made by Janek, when he took joint fourth place in the Classic Tournament held at Freddy's Pinball Paradise in Germany.
They offered two old pinballs, both of which sold. First was an E-M Super Score Gottlieb 1967, (seen here in the Desa Unicum auction) which was sold for 6,325 złotych (around €1,500 euro or $2,000), although the final price is the hammer price plus 15% commission. The second was the solid-state Meteor, Stern 1979, (here on the Desa Unicum site) which sold for 5,520 zł (around €1,300/$1,750).
Three video arcade game were also part of the auction. Asteroids - in the rare cocktail form - sold for 13.800 zł (€3300/$4370), Ms. Pac-Man sold for 5750 zł (€1,380/$1,819) and Commando sold for 4600 zł (€1,100/$1,455). There was also one slot machine for 13.800 zł (€3310/$4,365).
The president of the board of DESA Unicum, Juliusz Windorbski, told me that his company was very satisfied with this auction. “All machines were sold, some of them for much more than the reserve price. We have seen that Poland has a big potential market for such items. Presently we are preparing machines for the next auction which will be held at the beginning of autumn.”
I would like to add that it shows how something is changing in the Polish attitude towards pinball. But we should probably wait for more proof.
I have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad.
Mariusz decided to sell his collection (except for two pinballs he won), so he won’t be organising any more tournaments. Marcin Kisiel had some problems with service, so he doesn’t know if he will be able to organise any tournaments this year.
But Marcin Krysiński and I decided to organize a series of tournaments at his company's premises. The first of these tournaments was held on May 18th and was a great success (there will be more about this soon here at Pinball News), so we would like to organise more. These will also be combined with meetings of the Polish Pinball League.
The name of the tournament will be the Flipper Heaven Cup, held on the 15th & 16th June at the familiar pinball location, club Spółdzielnia CDQ.
So it will not only feature pinball, but also old computers, gaming consoles, comics and many others subjects. This will be something which has never happened before in Poland!
Maybe another tournament will be held in the town of Lubin, but all of them will form part of the League. So we hope the changes for 2013 will be for the good.
Mirek Adamczewski, Janek Barbasiewicz, Konrad Buczyński, Piotr Butkiewicz (Piwnica Smaków), Kuba Ciepliński, Michał Głowacki (GG Studio), Sebastian Gwizdała, Maciej Hachlica photos, Paweł Heller (bilety.aero), Hulakula, Daniel Kaczmarek (CKM.pl), Andrzej Karpiński, Wojtek Kiełbik, Bartłomiej Kluska, Ola Krawczyk, Marcin Krysiński (Printimus, TickEventum, KupBilet.pl), Robert Łapiński (retail360.pl), Krzysztof Mamaj (Pizzeria na Barskiej), Konrad Masłowski, Michał Mizior (CDP.pl), Krzysztof Moroński (Sekator photos), Bartek Nowak (Tomex), Daniel Nowak, Paweł Nowak (starecegly.pl), Jarek Rupiewicz, Klub Solec, Paweł Wątroba photos, Piotr Wiecha (Interplay magazine, Świat Pozytywek and Polskie Rekordy i Osobliwości), Jacek Wenda and Aleksander Żurkowski.
© Pinball News 2013