Date: 5th & 6th October, 2013
Last year's first edition of the Belgian Open Pinball event was well received, so it came as no surprise to find players eagerly anticipating its return in 2013. When registration opened back in April, the increased number of 150 places quickly sold out even though October seemed a long way in the future.
But October has arrived, and so the second Belgian Open Pinball took place in the city of Sint-Niklaas, around 20km southwest of Antwerp. The new venue was a nightclub called Zaal den Eglantier (Eglantier Hall).
The building is positioned on a large square, with a church on one side and numerous bars and clubs on the other sides.
There was plenty of nightlife in the square over the weekend and the bars certainly seemed in no hurry to close, with business still going strong when we finally called it a night around 3am.
But back to the main business of the weekend, and players needed to sign in at the entrance desk to be given their player badge, where they also collected any T-shirts they had pre-ordered and picked up the inclusive €3-worth of food/drink tokens.
All food and drink at the venue was purchased with these tokens - a red one worth €0.50 and a green one worth €1.50. These could also be purchased at face value from the desk and cashed in later if you had any remaining.
Entry to the tournament cost €40 which included the €3 of tokens and access to the free play machines all weekend. Those not competing paid €15 per day, or €25 for both days. For youngsters aged 15 or below there was no charge, just as there wasn't to enter the Youth Tournament.
Once inside, the building was divided into six areas.
On the right were two rows of recreational machines. Like all recreational games, they were set on free play, although on Sunday four of them were used for the Youth Tournament.
The remainder of the right side of the room was occupied by tournament machines - used either for the Team Tournament on Saturday or the main Open tournament across both days.
On the left just inside the door was the event's only vendor - Cederman Gameparts - who had a selection of pinball parts for sale from their table, while next to them was the bar to cater to your refreshment needs, serving draught Maes pilsner along with Duvel and Palm in bottles, together with assorted soft drinks. Prices ranged from €1.50 ($2) to €3.00 ($4), all paid in tokens.
Beyond the bar were several more rows of machines.
Most of these were for recreational play, but one row of games was dedicated to the Winner Takes It All competition.
Each of these machines hosted its own individual competition - some were straight high scores, but others had a twist. The winners of each then battled it out to see who 'Took It All'.
The machines included the new Star Trek game from Stern and Jersey Jack's The Wizard of Oz in the line-up.
The competition machines were priced at €1 ($1.40) per game and players could enter as many times on as many different machines as they wished.
Star Trek was a simple high score competition.
In addition, a The Sopranos machine has the flipper controls inverted, so that releasing the buttons activated the flippers, making it surprisingly difficult to play.
Behind these competition machines was another row of recreational machines.
Next to these was the entrance to a covered patio area, where players could relax and where food was prepared and served. This mostly consisted of a burgers cooked on a grill and deep fryer for making plenty of 'frites'.
This was also the 'beer garden' and the venue's main smoking area. Fortunately, the weather was good throughout the weekend, making the patio area a popular retreat from the noise inside the hall.
Adjacent to the patio was a separate room filled with more games on free play.
Here's the full list of recreational machines at the Belgian Open Pinball 2013:
While the recreation machines were in good condition and fun to play, for most, the main purpose of the weekend was to play competitive pinball. So let's see how the various tournament worked out, starting with the Team Tournament.
Groups of four players formed each of the twelve registered teams. The teams were then split into three groups of four, with each team playing one match against the other three teams in their group. The teams and groups were:
Eight machines were used for the Team Tournament. They were:
A match began with two 4-player games on two randomly-selected machines. Two members from one team played two members of the opposing team on the first machine, while the remaining players played on the second machine.
Points were awarded in each game, with the highest scorer earning 5 points for their team, second place earned 3 points, while third place got just 1 point and last place none.
The match concluded with two 2-player split flipper games on the same machines. The winner of each split-flipper game earned their team 3 points.
When all the matches had been played, the team with the most points in each group moved on to the final which was played on Saturday evening. The finalists were:
In the final, a four members from each team split up and played a 3-player game against players from the other teams on four separate machines. The winner of each game earned their team 2 points, with the second-placed player scoring 1 point. As soon as any team scored 12 points the final was over.
In the end, it was victory for the Dutch Pinball Team, with KDIG in second and Ericpinball third. Trophies for the top two teams were awarded on Sunday afternoon.
While the Team Tournament was taking place, qualifying for the main Open Tournament was also under way. The qualification round began at 10am on Saturday and continued until 8pm, during which time competitors had to play a single game on their choice of six from the twelve available machines.
The Open Tournament machines were:
The machines were in an enclosed area, and only those actually playing - along with the scorers - were allowed in. That made the tournament fairer as nobody got to see how the machines played before playing their games, but didn't allow any non-players to enjoy the action.
As you can see, the overall lighting level was kept pretty low, with a small boost provided by the overhead parcans used by the nightclub, but the Indiana Jones and Hook machines at the end of the row didn't get any additional lighting.
Scores were recorded using various Android tablets, with the standings shown on a projector screen next to the tournament area entrance and also available on a closed Wi-Fi network for those with their own smartphones, tablets or laptops. However, they were not published on-line for those back home to follow.
There were plenty of volunteers to take the scores, which kept things moving fairly quickly. Some machines played very hard, such as Metallica, where scores of 3-4 million were quite common.
A queueing system was employed, where players could hand in their badge which would be placed on a pin board. When their selected machine became available, their name would be called and the badge handed back so they could start their game.
The machines held up well, with hardly any issues disrupting play. In fact the only real problem was the crush of people waiting at the entrance, because this was also where people went to check their rankings, and was additionally the main thoroughfare through the room. As a result, the whole area soon became very crowded. The projector could also have been mounted higher, so those waiting to play or trying to get past didn't unwittingly stand in front of it.
When the last games had been played on Saturday evening, the top 48 players from the 145 competitors had qualified for Sunday's play-offs.
The qualification results were:
The hall remained open for the rest of the evening until around 1am, while loud music and flashing lights returned the nighclub party feel to the venue. For those wanting something quieter, there were plenty of alternative venues to choose from right outside the front door.
The top 48 qualifiers (including any standby replacements) returned at 9:30am on Sunday, ready for the first play-off rounds. The top 24 of these earned a bye through the first round of play-offs, while the top 12 earned an additional bye through the second round as well. Tournament head Lieven Engelbeen explained the format to the players from the raised organisers' desk.
The Team Tournament machines had been brought into the Open Tournament and Metallica had been replaced by Dirty Harry, making a total of 20:
The first round was a straight knock-out best-of-three-games match. Machines were drawn at random, and the first player to win two games went through to the next round. The loser was eliminated from the tournament.
From the second round onwards, the tournament became double-elimination. Once again, most matches were best-of-three-games, but now the loser joined the loser bracket for a second chance to reach the final. The second round was unique in not using the best-of-three format, but instead being single 3-player games where the top 2 players went through. After that, it was back to best-of-three.
The first three finalists came from the winner bracket, and they were top qualifier Paul Jongma, Poland's Marcin Kisiel, and Dirk Elzholz from Germany.
The fourth finalist was Tim Hulin Bouard who came from the loser bracket, beating last year's winner Martin Ayub in the play-off for the last spot in the final. That meant none of last year's finalists made it through to this year's final.
In the final, the three who had remained unbeaten each chose one machine to play. Their selections were: High Speed 2 - The Getaway, Dirty Harry and Teed Off. A single 4-player 3-ball game was played on each, with points awarded for position. The winner received 4 points, second place 2 points, and third place 1 point. Whoever had the most points after three games would be the winner.
Dirk began best of the four, with 45M on his first ball. Tim was second on 27M, with Marcin third on 16M, and Paul fourth with 3M.
Ball 2 saw a change at the top, as Tim had a strong ball to lead on 93M, with Dirk's 57M putting him in second place. Marcin was in third on 35M but Paul didn't get much luck and was languishing in fourth on 8M going into the last ball.
At the end, Marcin's 107M proved enough to take the win in the first game. Tim couldn't improve his ball 2 score much, ending on 97M for second place. Dirk had a similar experience, taking third place on 59M, while Paul's luck didn't change, leaving him with 14M in fourth.
Play moved along to Dirty Harry, with Paul starting since he chose the game. The order of the other players matched the result of the first game, putting Marcin as player 2, followed by Tim and Dirk
After the first ball, Marcin had a strong lead with 452M against the nearest challenger who was Paul on 80M. Tim was close behind on 53M with Dirk in fourth on 20M.
Ball 2 saw Marcin keep the lead, but Paul was closing on him with 543M to 420M. Tim stayed in third on 322M while Dirk was yet to get started, leaving him on 63M going into the last ball.
This time Marcin's lead was overhauled by Paul, as he collected numerous super jackpots to boost his score up to 1.148B. Marcin couldn't respond and ended in second on 676M. Tim got close but couldn't quite break out of third place, ending on 540M, as Dirk's 297M was only good enough for fourth.
As the last game of the final began, Dirk couldn't win overall, but any of the others could either win or tie for top spot. If Marcin ended second or higher in the third game he would win outright. If he didn't Paul could still win if he took first place, as could Tim.
Dirk chose the game, so he went first.
Nobody got a good start on Teed Off. Marcin had the best of a bad bunch with 6M, while everyone else was on 1M, and there was still no clear leader after ball two when Marcin, Dirk and Paul had 22M, 21M and 20M respectively, with Tim not far behind on 14M.
So with the each player's last ball of the final yet to play, anyone could win the game and the overall outcome was far from decided.
Dirk has a good third ball, taking his score from 21M to 109M.
Paul didn't fare so well, nudging his score up to 32M.
Marcin did better than either of them, ending his third ball on 138M, guaranteeing him at least second place, and with that enough points to secure first place in the final.
Tim was last to play, but wasn't able to make an impact on the outcome, ending with 20M and fourth place.
A single game play-off for third place took place between Tim and Dirk who were tied on 3 points. It was held, appropriately enough, on Sharkey's Shootout.
Tim was the eventual winner, putting him third overall and Dirk fourth.
The trophies and prizes were awarded by Lieven. The top prize was a ColorDMD system and a signed The Wizard of Oz translite to go with the trophy.
Here are the final placings for all competitors:
There were two other tournaments running at the show.
The Youth Tournament on Sunday challenged players on four machines at the front of the hall - The Addams Family, Class of 1812, Pirates of the Caribbean and Taxi.
The winner was Thomas Van Clapdorp from Belgium who won a trophy, a T-shirt and an iPod Shuffle.
The final event was the Winner Takes It All tournament. The top scorers on the qualifying high score machines from Saturday and Sunday took part in a series of play-offs and a final to decide the overall winner - the Winner Who Took It All.
Although he never made it to the final, Franck Bona got the top score on Star Trek despite a painful hand injury.
In the final, it was David Deturck from Belgium who Took It All, winning the trophy, a voucher for €150 to spend at the Cederman Gameparts store, and a signed The Wizard of Oz translite.
In second place was Roy Wils who wasn't present to collect his award.
In third place was David Grémillet from France.
And that brings us to the end of this report on the Belgian Open Pinball in Sint-Niklaas.
Congratulations to the organisers and all the competitors who took part. The atmosphere was very friendly and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, no matter how they performed in the various competitive events. The venue was a great improvement on the previous year, and allowed for more recreational machines to be set up. The location was ideal - plenty of places to eat and drink nearby, and all just a short stroll from the hotel.
We look forward to a return visit in 2014 and we leave you with our exclusive Four Minute Tour of the show, taken on Sunday morning during the Open Tournament play-offs.
© Pinball News 2013