Date: 13th - 15th November, 2015
We've previously reported on the opening, the temporary closure, the threat of confiscation, and the success of the appeal by the Pbal Gallery pinball museum in Budapest. So when we heard there was a pinball tournament planned there in November, we just had to visit and show our support.
This was our first visit, not just to the museum, but to Budapest and also to Hungary. Our two hour Ryanair flight from London landed at Ferenc Liszt Airport mid-afternoon on Friday. Twenty-five minutes and 7,000 Forints ($25/€22.50/£16) later, and our taxi dropped us off outside the Hilton.
From there it was a five-minute walk across Váci út and down Radnóti Miklós utca for three blocks to the Museum, which was easily spotted thanks to the neon sign outside.
A pair of notice-covered doors opens out onto the street which, with smoking banned inside, became the gathering point for smokers attending the tournament.
Go through the doors and you have a few steps down before you reach the front desk.
Registered players signed in at the reception desk, and collected their player badge and Classics Tournament score card.
They were also asked to sign the tournament poster situated at the bottom of the stairs.
The Museum is made up of a series of cave-like rooms of varying size. Some feature bare stonework, while others have a much more contemporary look with plastered walls and suspended ceilings.
We would be competing in three tournaments over the weekend. The main Hungarian Pinball Open had a qualifying round which could be played on either Friday evening at 7pm, or Saturday morning at 9am. The Classics Tournament qualifying could be played at any time on Friday or Saturday, but in practical terms couldn't be played while you were playing in the Open. Then there was a Pingolf Tournament on Sunday, and a Team Tournament which was also held on Sunday.
Entry to the event cost 12,000 Forints ($41/€38/£27) which included all tournaments and a Goulash lunch on Saturday. The prize for the winner of the Open was a restored and clearcoated F-14 Tomcat machine.
Two guests were celebrating their birthdays on Friday, so in the evening several boxes of delicious cakes were delivered to the upstairs chill-out area so everyone could help them celebrate.
Our Open qualifying was on Saturday, so we played our Classics games on Friday.
Classics qualifying ran from 4pm until midnight on Friday, and continued at 9am on Saturday until 5pm. Competitors could choose to play any six from the fifteen machines available. The machines were:
However, instead of just playing a single game on each, a three-player game was started with the same player playing all three. The scores from the three games were added together to give an overall score for that machine.
Scores on each machine were ranked, the total ranking points for the six machines were added up and the top sixteen players qualified for the play-offs which took place on Saturday evening.
Those sixteen qualifiers were:
Both of the qualification sessions for the main Hungarian Pinball Open tournament divided players into four groups of 18 (72 players per session) and created 17 matches where everyone in the group played a single 2-player, 3-ball game against every other player in that group.
When all seventeen matches in the group were completed, the seven players with the most wins progressed to the play-offs on Saturday evening. In most cases 10 or more wins would be enough to guarantee progression, while 9 wins was more precarious and could lead to a tie-break.
If a tie was created, it would be broken by creating a mini-league between the affected players to see who beat who in the head-to-head matches, with the player or players with the most wins progressing. If that still failed to break the tie, a play-off game would be used to decide.
The Friday night session finished around midnight, after which players and spectators were invited to take a coach on a short sightseeing tour which ended at the Gozdu Sky Terrace rooftop bar.
With the start of our qualifying session only a few hours away, we grabbed a taxi and returned to the Hilton for a few hours' sleep and a hearty breakfast before returning to the Museum for our qualifying sessions.
The machines used in qualifying in the four areas were:
As results were reported they were recorded on paper on the wall and an overall tally of wins for each player was updated.
There was a break for lunch where all players were provided with a bowl of traditional Hungarian Goulash and slices of bread to help mop up the sauce.
Soon after the last game of the second session had been recorded at around 3pm, the list of the 48 qualifiers was announced.
They would shortly begin the play-offs to reduce the numbers from 48 to 24.
In this round the seven qualifiers from one of Friday's groups were pitted against seven from one of Saturday's groups. Every player played a single game against each of the seven qualifiers in their opposite group.
In addition, they carried forward the number of wins they achieved in qualifying, so a good performance in the qualifying round put you in good stead to be one of the six who make it through this second round, or even one of the top two who earns a bye through the next round.
That third round saw the sixteen players who finished 3rd-6th in the four second round groups play four 4-player games with scoring of 8-5-3-1 for 1st to 4th places in each game.
The top two from those matches (eight players) were joined by the eight who received a bye after the second round, and they played the quarter-finals in the same format as the third round to reduce the number remaining to eight.
The semi-finals used the same format, with two 4-player games where the top two went into the final. For these games all the action moved to the back room.
The final four were Daniele Acciari, Markus Stix, Mathias Leurs and Krisztián Szalai. We'll re-join them shortly, but interspersed with the Open play-off rounds were the play-offs for the Classic Tournament.
The sixteen qualifiers played eight head-to-head best-of-five matches to whittle the numbers down to eight and then to the final four.
The four who went to the final were György Kovács, Rafael Masedo Rodríguez, Cezary Glowala and Sághy Kálmán.
The Classic Tournament final was decided by a single 5-ball game on Bally's Kiss.
Cezary Glowala was player one, followed by Sághy Kálmán and Rafael Masedo Rodríguez, with György Kovács the fourth player.
Cezary got off to a good start, racking up 160K by his second ball, more than three times his nearest rival. He strengthened that position with another 100K on his third ball, while György was closest of the others on 145K.
Rafael was a little way behind on 112K with Sághy some way off the pace with 39K after some tough rebounds.
Cezary added around another 100K on his fourth and final balls to end on 456K.
Sághy started to have more of the run of the ball, but it was ultimately too little, too late as he ended on 111K. Rafael only improved slightly with a 177K total, which left György as the only man standing between Cezary and victory.
György moved ahead of Rafael into second place, but his game ended on 190K, making Cezary the winner.
Prizes from the Museum and the sponsors were then presented by tournament director and fellow Classic Tournament finalist Sághy Kálmán.
With the clock showing something around midnight, it was time for the Hungarian Pinball Open final. The machine chosen for the final was Stern's Star Trek LE.
Krisztián began the final with a 66M first ball.
Daniele had an uncharacteristic rapid drain of his first ball with only 251K on the scoreboard. Mathias played third and only fared slightly better 5M, while Markus did a little better still with his 24M first ball score.
Krisztián only added 13M on his second ball to reach 79M, Daniele had a second bad ball to reach just 1.2M. Mathias did about as well as Krisztián to stand on 17M, but it was Markus who started challenging for the lead with his ball 2 total of 62M.
Ball three changed everything at the top.
Krisztián scored another 7M to reach 86M. Daniele finally had a good ball and jumped up to 50M. Mathias mirrored Krisztián again to add 7M to his total and score 24M. But it was Markus who powered ahead, reached Kobayashi Maru multiball, and ended his third ball with 203M on the board.
The fourth ball brought only small increases all round. Going into the last ball Krisztián had 97M, Daniele 57M, Mathias 27M and Markus 227M. Could any of the chasing pack catch Markus?
Krisztián really looked like he could do it. He put together some good multiball modes and had brought his score up to 217.9M when a desperate save resulted in a tilt.
Daniele struggled to really get going and could only add another 11M to end his game with 68.0M.
Mathias finally had a half-decent run and was closing in on Daniele's score when the ball drained. After the bonus had been added, his total was 68.1M, just 85K ahead but enough to secure third place. Markus didn't need to play his fifth ball as he'd already won.
Prizes were presented by Museum owner Balázs Pálfi and Sághy Kálmán.
That was far from the end of competitive events though, as Sunday still held the Pingolf and Team tournaments.
Pingolf required players to play three 9-hole rounds on a total of 27 separate machines. A target score was set on each machine. If that score was reached within the three balls allowed, the score for that 'hole' was the number of balls it took. If the target wasn't reached, then there were various numbers of balls for different score levels.
So for Revenge from Mars above, the target was 50M. Score that on the first ball and you received a 1 (hole-in-one) for that game. Use two balls and get a 2. Achieve it on the third ball and get a 3.
Fail to reach 50M after three balls and if your score was above 37.5M you got a 4, between 37.5M and 25M and it's a 5, and if your score was below 25M you got a 6.
The aim was to complete all 27 holes (machines) with the lowest total score possible.
There were no play-offs or a final in the Pingolf. When everyone had finished all their games the results were announced, with Daniele making up for his disappointment in the Open final by taking first place here.
Trophies were presented by Gábor Vanderer and Balázs Pálfi.
The final event was the Team Tournament. Six teams of four competed in the back room:
The teams played a single 4-player game on each of four machines, with each player playing one ball of the game. The scores on each machine were ranked and ranking points awarded.
When all the scores had been recorded, the winners were Adolf + The Piss Artists, with De Gernoazen second and Samorza Team third.
The Team Tournament result brings our coverage of the three days of the Hungarian Pinball Open to an end.
The team at the Pbal Gallery Hungarian Pinball Museum is no stranger to organising pinball tournaments, but this was their biggest yet with the maximum number of players allowed (all 144 of them) taking part over the two days.
As first-time visitors, we thoroughly enjoyed the event. Holding the Open and Classics tournaments on Friday and Saturday meant there was no rush to complete proceedings late on Sunday afternoon so players could get home in time for work on Monday.
We also enjoyed the formats. How many PinGolf tournaments have 27 holes to play, and when was the last Classics Tournament in which you took part where everyone gets to play 27 games? Meanwhile, everyone in the open had a guaranteed minimum of 17 matches which allows for a few stumbles without the possibility of getting your second wind.
Our suggestions for improvement concern what to do about no-shows, making sure the number of carry-over wins for the second round of the Open is correct before the round starts, and maybe freeing up some of the modern machines after the first round of the Open so those who were eliminated have something to play. Those quibbles aside though, we had a fun time despite not even getting a sniff of a trophy.
Budapest is a very attractive city, with a curious mix of neoclassical and baroque architecture sitting alongside concrete monstrosities from the communist era and much more contemporary steel and glass constructions. Our mini-sightseeing tour left us regretting not having more time to explore - something we'll surely remedy on our next visit.
© Pinball News 2015