PINBALL EXPO 2006
Welcome to the final part of our coverage of Pinball Expo 2006. In the previous seven articles we've looked at everything from the Stern factory tour, through the show halls and the seminars to the fireside chats and the banquet.
It's fitting, therefore, that our coverage ends with the Expo event that wraps up the show - the tournaments.
In truth, it's the Flip Out tournament that comes to a climax on Sunday afternoon but this year, for the eighth year running, there was also the team tournament - Pinbrawl.
Pinbrawl began back in 1999 as a head-to-head tournament organised by Robert Chesnavich between members of two leagues has now grown into 160 players in teams of four, divided into five divisions as well as a Zen Pinball tournament, a Most Valued Player award, best in show awards and a number of other awards. It is now run by John Kosmal and Josh Sharpe.
With awards for each member in the first and second placed teams in all divisions together with the special awards above, as you can see, there are an awful lot of trophies to give away.
Pinbrawl takes place in the second hall - where the Bumper Blast pre-expo party is held - and has the exclusive use of those games for the duration. This year Pinbrawl was dedicated to Steve Kordek for all he had achieved for pinball since he began in the industry back in 1937 at Genco.
A row of Steve's games were lined up and this huge banner was hung near the ceiling listing the games Steve designed and a few of his achievements.
Pinbrawl t-shirts were made up in two styles featuring the Pinbrawl logo and Steve's likeness.
Pinbrawl kicked off early on Friday morning - with registration at 7am followed by the raffle - with the first round taking place at 7:30am and subsequent rounds continuing right through the day. Entry cost $40 per person ($160 per team) and teams were divided into divisions by a ranking method, something which also decided who each team's opponents would be.
Unfortunately, the Pinbrawl tournament coincides with the second day of seminars which kicked off at 8am and also continued all day forcing a decision whether to cover Pinbrawl or the seminars. As you may have seen from the earlier report, I decided you'd rather read and listen to the eight seminars instead so cannot report on how the Pinbrawl tournament went.
However, I can bring you the results and the winners of the A division - the elite players - were the team "Wicked Shimmy" made up by Trent Augenstein (Captain), Jim Belsito, Chris Newsom and John McEwen. They beat "Fast Times at Rosemont High" in the final.
In the B Division it was "Gladys Knight & The Pimps" - that's Terry Newland (Captain), Jerry Duffy, Jennie Duffy and Steve Fry who triumphed over the appropriately named "Impending Doom" to take the title of B Division Champions.
The C Division Champions were "The JPA Crushers" who were Koi Morris (Captain), Tim Post, Paul Drabik & Andrew Drabik. They beat the "Kung-Fu Gofers" into second place.
Meanwhile, in the D Division it was the team from Colorado - the "Lyons Classic Pinball Flippers" consisting of Adam Lefkoff (Captain), Kevin Carroll, Carole Carroll & Jeff Knight who won the Champions title by beating "The Tabarnaks".
Finally, the E Division was taken by The Outholes - Richard Swanson (C), Jeff Giesting, Chris Kubiak, Erik Hacker who kept PSA Pinball away from the Champions title.
Thanks to Pinlicious, Mick, Tracy, JLS, ZAC and TMK for the pictures above. You can get more information about Pinbrawl including many more pictures at the tournament website www.pinbrawl.org.
While Pinbrawl is the team tournament, Flip Out is the individual competition.
It traditionally takes place on the newest game from the sponsoring manufacturer, which since 2000 had been Stern of course. This year was no different and ten Pirates Of The Caribbean were set up in the show lobby for players to try to qualify before the cut-off time of 7pm Saturday evening.
There were three divisions "World Cup", "B" and "C" along with separate divisions for women, seniors, youths, tots and a 1930's game division for play on a pre-war game. Players could choose which of the three main tournament divisions (A, B or C) they wished to play in and the top eight scorers in each division qualified to take part in the quarter-finals. Also, the top four women scorers would qualify for the Women's Division semi-finals (and possibly for the A, B or C division play-offs if the score was a qualifying one).
In the 1930's division it was Mitsuya Ishihama from Tokyo who won the first place trophy.
The Women's Division was won by Roya Naini who took away this trophy.
Alysa Parks was second, Wendi Jankowitz came third and Jennie Duffy was fourth. They all received plaques.
The Seniors Division was won by Ken Wren who was also qualified 4th for the C Division.
In the C Division the top eight qualifiers were Toshiaki Koide, Todd Seaver, Bob Schmidt, Ken Wren, Chuck Sanderson, Orin Day, Jim Seward and Bob Whitley. Toshiaki, Chuck, Orin and Jim survived the quarter-finals to go into the semis. From those it was Chuck and Orin who went on to play in the C Division final and from that it was Orin Day who triumphed in the best-of-three-games to take the title, a trophy and a $500 prize. Chuck was second winning $250 and a plaque, Toshiaki third and Jim fourth both got plaques too.
Orin would go into the Grand Wizard final against the winners of the World Cup and B Divisions once they had been decided.
In that B Division, the top eight scorers who qualified for the quarter-final rounds were: Greg Davis, Jason Werdrick, Sean Hall, Steve Walker, Jeff Rank, Terry Newland, Jeff Knight and Dan Dolney.
The quarter-final winners were Greg, Steve, Terry and Jason who proceeded to the semi-finals where Steve and Jason were victorious and went on to the final. In the third place play-off, Greg beat Terry to knock him down to fourth. Again, both Greg and Terry received plaques.
The three game final saw Jason beat Steve to take the B Division Championship, a trophy and the $1,000 prize. Steve took away $250 and a plaque for second place.
The World Cup (or A) Division final eight was packed full of well known tournament players: Keith Elwin, John Kosmal, Donavan Stepp, Chris Newsom, Andy Rosa, Jim Belsito, Bowen Kerins and Paul Madison.
In the quarter-finals, Donavan Stepp, Chris Newsom, Bowen Kerins and Paul Madison lost out leaving Keith Elwin to play Andy Rosa in one semi-final and Jim Belsito to play John Kosmal in the other. Keith beat Andy and John beat Jim to go into the final. In the third/fourth play-off, Jim Belsito won to take the third place plaque with Andy Rosa getting the fourth position plaque.
Like the other divisions, the final was a best-of-three-games format. In the first, Keith - who was playing second - opened an early lead with a great first ball of 369.6M vs John's 69.7M. The lead was unassailable giving Keith the first game by 398.1M to 70.7M with his last ball unplayed.
The second game followed a similar pattern with John improving to finish on 94.7M. But it was not enough to beat Keith's first ball score of 97.8M which he improved on his second to 167.6M with no need to play the third.
So it was Keith Elwin who took the World Cup Championship and received the trophy from Rob Berk along with a prize of $2,000.
John received $500 and a plaque for his second place with Jim and Andy both received plaques.
Which led to the Grand Wizard play-offs between the winners of the A, B and C divisions, that is Keith Elwin, Jason Werdrick and Orin Day in a single three-player to find the ultimate champion.
Orin started first racking up 10.5M on his first ball. Jason was player two and scored 5.9M while Keith had a bad first ball collecting 423K points.
By the end of the second ball Keith had recovered and turned the tables to take the lead with 15.8M to Orin's 11M and Jason's 6.6M.
But ball three saw yet another twist of fate as Jason pull off a spectacular recovery despite Orin's good third ball to win the game with 63.9M vs Orin's 45.5M and Keith's 17.7M.
So Jason Wedrick was crowned Grand Wizard by Brigitt Berk and receives the customary stupidly-sized trophy.
Ben made the documentary as part of a college project and showed it here at Expo. It featured interviews with many in the pinball business including Roger Sharpe, Kerry Stair of Mantis Amusements, Gary Stern and Marc Shoenberg of Stern Pinball as well as Neil Shatz and Josh Sharpe.
It covered the production process and a look around the Stern factory with Lord Of The Ring and NASCAR in production, and spoke to many players and collectors to find out what it about pinball that draws them in and keeps them interested.
Ben's documentary also included coverage from Pinbrawl 2005 with chats to the organisers and the players.
And that brings us to the end of our Pinball Expo coverage for 2006 with just time for a few final thoughts.
It was another good show with plenty of games with a good range from early EMs through late EMs, early solid state and the very latest Pirates Of The Caribbean from Stern along with the newest video pinball games such as GlobalVR's UltraPin.
In many ways the seminars will be familiar to regular Expo attendees but once again they were interspersed with new and unfamiliar speakers thus preventing them becoming too stale. Some worked well, others less so, but at least they all had something worthwhile to say.
The game selection in the two halls was pretty good, although it lacked some of the more popular - and hence more expensive - games such as Medieval Madness and the more recent Stern games. But for anyone wanting to try games they may have missed out on in the '70s, '80s and '90s there were a few surprises and a couple of rare gems to be found at Expo.
The tournaments were well received. Although the price of entry to Pinbrawl appeared expensive at $160 per team, it did provide some evidence of dedication to the event and allowed suitable prizes to be bought for the winners. The Flip Out tournament is relegated to the quiet part of Sunday afternoon when everyone else is either packing their games away or waiting for their plane back home. I've said this before but I still believe it could be made a bigger spectacle with public announcements about the players, the current score and the prizes as they are awarded. This is still a major tournament and should be treated as such.
Rather ironically, as the internet appreciation of pinball has grown - and many attendees only knew about Expo through internet resources - the internet get-together has shrunk in size and scope. The timing of the meeting - straight after one of the fireside chats - didn't help, but it would be good to meet some of those who post and send e-mail comments in a more relaxed, less formal and better supported environment than the current gathering.
At last, after several years playing with the length of the banquet, this year the organisers got things spot on. There were all the usual elements - the charity auction, the meal, the inductees, the main speaker and the other awards - but the proceedings didn't drag and those not in attendance didn't have to wait too long to get back into the hall.
Should you go to Pinball Expo? If you've been recently you might feel it's just more of the same, but in truth each year does have enough new and different to make it worthwhile. If you've been put off by previous banquets or attitudes, criticisms have been noted and things have changed. And if you've never been, well, you really should make it part of your travel plans. No other show is as ambitious with it's number of events and range of games to play. If there's something you'd like to see there, talk to the organisers and they may well be receptive, especially if you offer to organise it yourself.
We hope you've enjoyed this year's coverage. It is intended to complement the show and let you see and hear what you are missing if you didn't go, rather than be a replacement for visiting. From the comments received here at Pinball News, I know how much some of you were saddened not to be in a position to attend and so enjoyed these reports and hope to make it next year.
Our thanks go to all the speakers in the seminars and fireside chats, those who brought games for us all to play and enjoy, those who spent so much time organising and scoring at the tournaments, the vendors who supplied us with spares and parts for our games, the various exhibitors and sponsors, the hotel staff, the Stern staff and tour guides, and finally Rob and Mike who made the whole thing possible in this, the 22nd annual show.
© Pinball News 2006