Date: 15th - 17th June 2007.
For this year's European Pinball Championship we traveled to Stockholm in Sweden and the Royal Institute of Technology in the north of the city.
Several changes had been made for 2007, with the EPC becoming firmly focused on the competitive side, eschewing the vendors, seminars and many of the recreational games of previous years. If you were here, you were here to compete.
Inside the building were three main areas - the lobby/bar, the country/classics/high score tournaments room and the main EPC hall. The lobby was where everyone entering the event started and where players who had completed their games came to relax and talk.
Drink prices are notoriously high in Sweden as a whole, and even here at the student bar that reputation was upheld. The best price was for for 50cl bottles of Spaten beer at 42SEK ($6.08, 3.23GBP, €4.53) while smaller 33cl bottles of Budweiser, Hoegaarden and Grolsch cost the same.
A hamburger meal cost 90SEK (US$13.04, 6.92GBP, €9.72) but there were much better priced options available at the nearby food stand outside and the 7-11 just a little further down the street.
It contained 11 games for recreational play and the bar serving draught and bottled drinks. The games were: Whitewater, NBA Fastbreak, Whirlwind, Star Trek - The Next Generation, Black Knight 2000, Rollergames, Terminator 2, Fish Tales, Last Action Hero, Star Wars (Data East) and Scared Stiff. Not all games were present all the time and some were moved to be back-up games for the tournaments.
There was no entry fee for the event, but visitors paid to play on the recreational games, the High Score Tournament games, and the Classics Tournament games. The cost of play was quite high at 10SEK (US$1.44, 0.77GBP, €1.08) per play, 2 plays for 15SEK and 3 for 20SEK. That price appeared to be double the normal price which was displayed on some machines. There was also an entry fee to the EPC Tournament of 300SEK (US$43, 23GBP, €32) per person.
The lobby also included a seating area with two video projectors showing qualifying positions and points scores for the EPC tournament, so players and spectators could watch the progress as new results were added.
Behind the bar was the room with the country, classics and high score tournament games.
There were six games set up for individual high score tournaments: Guns N Roses, Monopoly, The Simpsons Pinball Party, The Machine - Bride Of Pinbot, Tales Of The Arabian Nights and Johnny Mnemonic.
While along the back wall were the 12 games of the Classics Tournament.
The games used for the Classics were all pre-1985: Kiss, Cleopatra, Oxo, Strikes and Spares, Hotdoggin', Mata Hari, Eight Ball, Nip-It, Freedom, Amigo, Mars - God Of War and Fireball.
Behind the Classics players were the 11 games used for the Country Tournament.
They were Star Trek - The Next Generation, Doctor Who, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Twilight Zone, Revenge From Mars, Junkyard, The Shadow, Roadshow, Whitewater, Indiana Jones and Terminator 3.
In the other direction from the lobby was the main EPC Tournament hall.
There were three rows of games; the row shown above, the row below and a third against the back wall.
In total there were 24 games in the main hall, all had signs on showing their short-form name which was used in the schedule and results displays.
Front row: Theatre Of Magic, The Shadow, Fish Tales, No Good Gofers, Pinball Magic, Funhouse, Twilight Zone, Doctor Who.
Middle row: Medieval Madness, Indiana Jones, The Addams Family, Monster Bash, Roadshow, Congo, Creature From The Black Lagoon, Tales From The Crypt.
Back row: Cirqus Voltaire, Cactus Canyon, Demolition Man, World Cup Soccer, Judge Dredd, Attack From Mars, Terminator 2 and Dirty Harry.
The machines were in good condition and stood up to the weekend of punishing play. Flippers remained strong and there was enough space for players, competitors and referees to move around.
The organisers' desk was next to the entrance to the hall. while just to the right of that was the door on which the next matches and the rules were posted.
The type was rather small and the area became crowded at times as competitors vied to find out who and what they would be playing next.
So that's how the EPC was set up in the KTH building. Now lets look at the different tournaments.
This began on Saturday morning at 10am when the twelve national teams of 4 players assembled. In fact, there were only eleven teams because unfortunately the defending champions Hungary were not able to attend. So that left two groups of 4 teams and one group of 3.
The groups and teams were:
Group A - USA, Belgium, Spain, Austria
Group B - Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France
Group C - Holland, Germany, Finland
Each team in the group played a match against every other team in the group. Each match consisted of 3 games.
The first game was a 2-player 4-ball game on a randomly chosen machine, with each team member playing one ball. After all 4 balls had been played, the country with the highest score received 5 points.
In the second and third games, teams split in two and played two members of the opposing team on two machines simultaneously. The first pair played on the same machine as the first game, the others played on a different machine. Games two and three were played as 4-player 3-ball games, with each player getting to play 3 balls. At the end, the player with the highest score on each machine won 9 points for their team, second place won 5 points and third place won 2 points.
All the points were then added up and the winning country declared for that match. Teams then rotated and played the next country in the same way. Total points scored and conceded were also recorded so they could be used to decide a tie.
In group A, the USA won all three of their matches (winning 81 points and conceding just 30), Spain came second (63-48) losing to the USA but winning their remaining games, Austria won against Belgium to get third place (winning 39 points but losing 72), leaving Belgium in fourth (37-74).
Group B produced a closer result with three teams winning two of their matches. Switzerland, the United Kingdom and France all had two wins but France's superior points balance (67-44) earned them the top spot, with Switzerland (58-53) in second, the United Kingdom (53-58) came third and hosts Sweden lost all three games to end up fourth (44-67)
The three teams in Group C had a clear-cut result with The Netherlands winning their two matches against Germany and Finland to take first place (49-25), in the remaining match Germany beat Finland for second place (40-34) leaving Finland in third (22-52).
The three winners from each group went into the semi-final along with the highest scoring second place team which was Spain with a net +15 points difference (63-48).
The semi-finals saw The Netherlands pitched against Spain and the USA against France. The format was the same as the qualifying round except both teams could choose one of the machines for their second and third games.
In the first semi-final The Netherlands overcame the Spanish challenge to move on to the final round.
Last year's runners-up, the USA also won against the French team to join The Netherlands in the final.
In a tense final, things were changed around. Two players from each country played a four-player three-ball game on a machine chosen by one of the teams, meanwhile the remaining two players from each country did the same on a different machine chosen by the other team.
Points were awarded as before for the top three finishers.
Then the process was repeated on two other machines.
If, at the end of those four games, the number of points was equal, a two-player four-ball game like game 1 above would decide the outcome.
As it was, that proved unnecessary as The Netherlands team of Albert Nomden, Paul Jongma, Dirk Klaver and Mark Vanderguten won on Doctor Who to take the top points and clinch the title.
Second were the USA team of Trent Augenstein, Lyman Sheats, Chris Newsom and Neil Shatz.
In the third place play-off, the Spanish team of Angel Martinez Navajas, Carlos García, Adrian Blasco and Juan Escuder took third place, beating the French team of Aurelie Bona, Franck Bona, Jean-Philippe Passarieu and Stéphane Pinck who were fourth.
The Classics Tournament was played on the 12 games in the second hall: Kiss, Cleopatra, Oxo, Strikes and Spares, Hotdoggin', Mata Hari, Eight Ball, Nip-It, Freedom, Amigo, Mars - God Of War and Fireball.
Competitors played to get their best score on a selection of any 5 games from the group of 12 and their scores were ranked against other scores on the same machines. There was no limit to the number of tries they could have as long as they kept paying, so players would often set up camp on a machine and then keep playing until they got a decent score, which they then recorded and moved on to the next machine.
The sixteen players with the top rankings at the end of qualifying at 7pm Saturday evening then went through to the quarter-finals a little later at 10pm.
Those sixteen were: Trent Augenstein, Anders Birgersson, Johan Genberg, Dan Hagman, Andreas Harre, Per Holknekt, Jörgen Holm, Michael Lindström, Jochen Ludwig, Chris Newsom, Antti Peltonen, Martin Tiljander, Mats Runsten, Markus Salo, Neil Shatz, Roy Wils.
Players then took part in four-player games on three randomly selected machines, earning three points for first place, two points for second and one point for third. Points are then added up after all three games and the top two players from each group of four go through to the semi-finals.
The same format was used for the semi-finals which produced a final four of: Dan Hagman, Andreas Harre, Chris Newsom and Martin Tiljander.
The final used the same format with games played on Kiss, Hotdoggin' and Nip-It. Martin won first on Kiss with Chris second. Chris improved to win the second game on Hotdoggin' with Dan second. On the final game it was Dan's turn to improve and take first place with Andreas second, but Chris's third place was enough to give him six points and first place overall.
Dan's first and second places on the last two games were enough to earn him second place overall.
Martin's win on Kiss gained him third place.
Andreas came a creditable fourth in the exciting final.
In addition to the Classics and Country Tournaments, there were also individual High Score Tournaments run on six games: Guns N Roses, Monopoly, The Simpsons Pinball Party, The Machine - Bride Of Pinbot, Tales Of The Arabian Nights and Johnny Mnemonic.
Each machine was set to paid play, so entrants could try as often as they liked to beat the highest score to date. There were no play-offs, so whoever got the highest score won the prize which was a plaque and a 500SEK (US$72, 36GBP, €54) prize.
The winners were:
All games were set to 3-ball tournament mode with no extra balls.
A total of 167 players registered for the EPC and 155 actually played, coming from all over the continent and from the US to try to become the champion of Europe.
Due to the number of players, competitors were split into four groups and they played their qualifying rounds at different times. The first group played on Friday evening from 5:30pm to 7pm. The second group also played on Friday from 7pm until 11pm.
The third and fourth groups were deferred until the following day and were mainly reserved for foreign visitors who may be traveling long distances on Friday. Group three played its qualifying matches between 10am and 2:30pm on Saturday. Group four included most of the players in the Country Tournament, so qualification began at 2:30pm, after the Country Tournament had finished, and ran until 7pm.
The format for all four groups was the same. Each player was drawn on five randomly selected machines to play two two-player games with a random opponent. Each player's highest score from the two games was their qualifying score on that machine.
Once everyone had played their two games, they moved on to their next machine with a different random opponent. This continued until all five machines had been played twice.
Each player's best scores on their selected machines are then compared to all the other players' scores and ranking points are given. If you achieved the best score on a machine you earn 100 points. If it is the second best score you get 85 points, the third best nets you 78 points and so on down the list with the lowest scores getting almost zero points.
Your points on all five machines are then totaled to give you your total score and ranking. This was displayed in the lobby so players could track their progress as their results were added and also see what the current best scores were for each machine.
By then end of Saturday's qualifying, the top 48 would progress to Sunday's final rounds. The top 24 had an advantage, since they would skip the first of Sunday's rounds whereas positions 25 to 48 would have play-offs for the final 8 places.
The top 24 qualifiers were:
Those who would compete in Sunday's play-offs were:
First thing Sunday morning brought the play-off round with qualifiers 25-48 divided into groups of three to play three games on three random machines. The theme of "three" continues with the points scoring where the winner of each game gets three points, second place 1 point and the loser no points.
Then, after all three games have been played, the qualifier with the most points from each of the eight matches joins the main group to form the thirty-two who continue in the EPC.
We're now at the second round of qualifying with thirty-two players who are split into sixteen pairs to play head-to-head best-of-three games, playing one game each on three randomly selected machines.
There is a slight change to the rules this time. Players are allowed thirty seconds of warm-up play on each machine to gauge the angles, feel and sensitivity of the machine. After thirty seconds are up, the other player gets the same time for their warm-up.
The second round reduced the numbers to sixteen and those players then went into the quarter-final where they played another three games in the same manner as the previous round to produce the eight players for the semi-final.
In the semi-final matches, it was Mats, Franck, Jorian and Lyman who won and proceeded to the final game.
The final was played on a Medieval Madness machine and played as a 4-player 5-ball game. The highest qualifier had their choice of player position so Mats chose to be the last player, Franck then chose to be player three, Jorian decided not to start and so took player two leaving Lyman to kick-off the final.
Again, each player had thirty seconds to get a feel for the game after which Lyman began on ball one.
It didn't take long before he had built up an impressive score, all the more creditable in the arena of the EPC where a large crowd was watching his every move.
Several times applause broke out as he lit all four Madness features before starting Trolls and then Multiball Madness. The audience were assisted by a projector showing the output from an overhead camera looking at the playfield provided by production company Steam who were filming for their upcoming pinball documentary.
By the end of his first ball, Lyman had scored a truly impressive 121,316,330. Jorian, Franck and Mats all failed to put up a competitive reply, none of them even getting 2 million.
In truth, Lyman's first ball defeated the competition. Jorian scored 1m on his first ball, upping that to 2.2m on his second, 20m on the third, 28m on the fourth and ending on 29,411,110 for fourth place.
Mats started badly with 106K, building that with subsequent balls to 834K, 17m, 23m and ending on 45,040,150 which secured third place.
Franck had the best chance of catching Lyman. His first ball only yielded 1m and then he increased that score to 2.2m with ball two.But a good third ball pushed the total to just shy of 48m although the fourth added only 7m to that before a final push to end on 74,994,440 and clinch second place.
All of which left Lyman first ball total of 121m more than enough to win the game. But he didn't rest on his laurels and instead bumped that up with subsequent balls to 147m, 181m, 202m and ended ball five with 226,542,950 and just one shot away from starting Battle For The Kingdom.
So Lyman Sheats from the USA won the 2007 European Pinball Championship.
Besides winning the title and the cup, Lyman also won 12,000SEK (US$1700, 871GBP, €1295) and a plaque.
Second place Frenchman Franck Bona won a plaque and 5,000SEK (US$723, 363GBP, €540).
Finishing in third place earned Mats Runsten from Sweden a plaque and 3,000SEK (US$434, 218GBP, €324).
While fourth place finalist Jorian Engelbrektsson received his plaque and 1,000SEK (US$145, 72GBP, €108).
Here are the full final results for all players at the EPC. Positions 1 - 48 are from Sunday's rounds while 49 - 155 are from the qualifying rounds on Friday and Saturday. Due to no-shows on Sunday, some contestants may appear twice if they filled in for missing players.
Sweden was a good city to hold this year's event, despite the heavy rain at times. Hotel accommodation was plentiful, or a good standard and not too expensive. For future reference, we stayed at the Central Hotel on Vasagatan opposite the central station and the Hotel Tegnerlunden on Tegnerlunden opposite the park. Both were within 20 minutes walk of the EPC venue with the Central slightly the better of the two.
The event was billed as only being about competitive pinball and true enough, there wasn't much to do if you weren't taking part in any of the tournaments.
There was, actually, a single vendor - Albert Medaillon - who was promoting his neon signs and LED replacement lamps, but the price of the recreational games and lack of availability during busy tournament periods meant they weren't a reason to come if you didn't plan to compete.
For those who were there to win, though, the tournaments were well run and thought out introducing some useful concepts to international tournaments such as the 30 second warm-up periods and playing two games on each machine, rather than just one. Both these helped calm nerves and get the best from the players and making it more representative of skill levels. It was no co-incidence that the four EPC finalists were all in the top five qualifying positions and it's clear the competitive nature of this year's EPC brought out some of the best players and raised the overall standard of play.
The space around machines and the number and quality of the stewards are all to be applauded as is the results and projection systems which made the progress of the tournaments transparent and obvious to all. Players like the different groupings for the qualifying rounds of the EPC and the way the schedule was adhered to, allowing them to plan their journeys and time more effectively.
So, a definite thumbs up to the organisers and workers at the EPC. Your hard work in planning and running the major European championships was much appreciated by all the players.
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For further information about the 2007 EPC visit the website at www.europinball.org where you can find rules, results and news.
There is no firm information about the venue for 2008's EPC. There is a strong possibility it will be in Denmark but we will bring you that news when it's confirmed.