PAPA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Date: 7th - 10th April & 12th - 14th April, 2016
Report by Bob Matthews
I’d like to preface my report with a big thank you to the PAPA folks, who graciously let us use their huge collection of games each year. People sometimes forget that it costs them quite a bit of money and a lot of mostly volunteered time to maintain that facility. Kudos to PAPA President Kevin Martin, Director of Operations Mark Steinman, Tournament Directors Doug Polka and Elizabeth Cromwell and lead Technician Steve Eckert.
The week began with the PAPA Circuit Final in its new format.
For the first three years, the Circuit took the top 20 players, who then played an extended 4-player stepladder elimination match where the loser of each game was eliminated and the next higher player then added for the subsequent game.
This year, the Circuit took the top 40 players and broke them into groups of four. These 10 groups then played four games, using PAPA-point scoring, with the top two from each group moving on to round two. Those 20 people were assigned to five groups and then played another four games in groups of four, again with the top two from each group moving on. Each of the first two rounds had one tiebreaker, with Andrei Massenkoff besting Andy Rosa to survive round one, and Robert Gagno taking out Brian Dye in round two.
The final 10 players then entered the stepladder elimination finals, based on their original positions, starting with the four players seeded lowest. Original #1 seed, Raymond Davidson, had been eliminated in round two, leaving Robert Gagno as the top seed for the stepladder portion.
The stepladder - a series of four-player games where the low scorer each game was eliminated - weeded out players one-by-one until a not-surprising final group of Robert Gagno, Zach Sharpe, Keith Elwin and Bowen Kerins remained.
Bowen then was nudged out to finish 4th, next Robert in 3rd, leaving Zach and Keith for the best-two-of-three final.
Keith took game one on Whirlwind, passing Zach’s 10M score on ball three. Zach then chose Game of Thrones for game two. Keith completely annihilated the game with a ridiculous 17B - plunging off ball three at that! - to 3B win to emerge as the Circuit Champion, adding yet another banner to his PAPA legacy.
PAPA 19 had 23 of the world’s top 25 players present; only Jorian Engelbrektsson and Roy Wils missed the event. Two-thirds of the top 100 was represented as well.
The competition was brutal in every division, in both A/B/C/D and Classics. Everyone who qualified for a play-off really had to earn it this year. Over 500 players participated in total, with C having the most at 160.
Players in A and B played the most entries per person, and the portion of entries voided was progressively higher as you went up in skill; over half of the A entries were voids versus 1-in-6 in D. There were die-hards everywhere, too, with A, B, C and Classics each having some players put in over 20 entries.
The tournaments themselves ran pretty smoothly with very few hiccups. The ever-present machine breakdowns were handled quickly, as were the rulings, by the great PAPA staff.
Waiting lines for the games were longer than usual in the A and D banks this year.
The longer waits in A were due to the IFPA players influx and eligibility restrictions; the D lines were long due to that bank being shared with the Juniors, Seniors, Women’s and Split Flipper events.
Each division had specific entry restrictions so that no one 'sand-bagged' and entered a level below their true skill. Some people wondered how a few players ranked better than the #200 restriction could be in the PAPA B results. The rankings used for division restrictions are those prior to the start of qualifying. A few people did well enough in the three PAPA Classics events that their ranks rose into the top 200 during the three days of qualifying for the A/B/C/D divisions (nice job, Dean Grover, Darren Kamnitzer and Todd Seaver).
The IFPA ranking site now updates rankings consecutively by day during PAPA, so the rankings of players entering Classics 2 reflects any changes due to their performance in Classics 1 the day before. The A/B/C/D division results reflect all three days of Classics.
For example, look at Bowen Kerins’ rank each day for an example. He was 26th entering Classics 1 on Thursday, which he won; 17th entering Classics 2 on Friday, where he placed 4th; 12th on Saturday for Classics 3, which he also won; and 9th for the A division on Sunday. Note that these figures may change slightly once the PAPA Circuit results are posted, since that tournament took place first. WPPR rankings are recomputed in chronological order when events are submitted.
Congratulations go out to all of the winners; you did yourselves and your friends proud.
Robert Gagno from Canada emerged from the carnage as the winner in A, able to plunge off his final ball on Flash Gordon having already secured the victory. He played well in his earlier rounds, too, tying for the most points in each of them.
Robert was recently the subject of a special project film, Wizard Mode. I remarked to him upon his victory that they may need to go back and write a new ending to the film to include his win here. Stay tuned.
The other three players in the A finals were Zach Sharpe (2nd), Jim Belsito (3rd) and Jon Replogle (4th).
Andrei Massenkoff was the top qualifier in A; both he and #2 qualifier Keith Elwin had early runs that stood up until the end, with a large margin between their scores and the rest of the field.
Steve Zumoff, who won B, was the last qualifier in at position 24 before going all the way to victory. That just goes to show that the main thing is to get in; once you’re in, anything can happen. Lewis Bevans, the C winner, qualified 3rd and D winner Alex Fruzynski qualified 21st.
I made a prediction a few months ago that the competitive level in “A” this year was so high that “at least five players ranked in the top 25 won’t make the cut.” Six didn’t make it.
PAPA A went the distance with just one tie-breaker, that for the 8th and final 'bye' spot, which Andy Rosa claimed over Marcus Hugosson. Other than that, there were no tie-breakers at any other stage - not to make the cut, not to advance to the next round, not to decide position in the finals. A bit less dramatic than usual.
There’s always drama at the end of qualifying when someone makes a run at that last play-off spot. PAPA TV was on the air for the end of qualifying in A to catch it if it happened. Unlike last year and a couple of other times, no one got directly 'Belsitoed' out of the final play-off spot at the last moment this year. Kevin Birrell’s late slide into the #24 slot was not due to the last-minute ticket he played, it was an earlier entry that backed in as a few other entries bled points faster near the end of qualifying.
Bowen Kerins basically owned PAPA Classics this year, taking two 1st places and a 4th place in the three events.
This is the second time that a player has won two Classics events; Zach Sharpe won two back in 2012. Keith Elwin played in only one Classics event, winning Classics 2 to prevent a sweep.
Jim Belsito - #3 in PAPA A, #4 in IFPA, #2 in Classics 2, #10 in Classics 1, #24 in the Circuit, over 300 WPPRs. Jim was the only player to make the final four in both PAPA “A” and IFPA.
Two other players reached the final eight in both PAPA A and IFPA. Jon Replogle took 4th in PAPA A and 7th in IFPA. Former world champion Andrei Massenkoff finished 8th in both PAPA A and IFPA.
In what Keith Elwin calls the “first loser” department, the Sharpe brothers took second-place in all three high-profile events: Josh lost to Daniele in the finals for 2nd place in the IFPA event, and Zach was 2nd in PAPA A and the Circuit, plus one of the three Classics events. Zach added 6th place and 7th place finishes in the other two Classics events to emerge as top WPPR earner for the duration with over 370 points.
PAPA Classics has gotten huge. Player counts this year were 178, 180 and 192 for the three one-day events. There has been talk amongst players of “why not go to 32 qualifiers with that many people?” I can’t speak for Mark, but I see that as a no-go in the current format.
Classics used to end qualifying around 7pm or 7:30pm with play-offs starting half an hour later. When they moved to 24 people for the play-offs, they moved up the cut off to 6pm. and now start the play-offs as early as 6:15pm if there is no tiebreaker needed to get in. Despite this, the play-offs on Thursday didn’t end until midnight. There’s just no time for another round without making the qualifying time even shorter; you’d have to stop play by 4:30pm at the latest.
The only way to do it would be to limit people to a maximum of 3 or 4 attempts; 4 attempts would give you one try at each of the 12 games with the first three, then one more try on your “best four” machines for entry 4. But in the current unlimited format, it’s just not feasible. I’m sure they’re looking at options for how to best handle the crowds in the future; wish them luck.
I noticed that several of the Europeans visiting for IFPA played fewer PAPA entries per person than the Americans, even though they were here the whole time. Many Europeans find the unlimited entry format distasteful, so this was not entirely unexpected. For many of them, PAPA was a bonus of their trip for IFPA: “I’ll play an entry or two; if I get in, fine, if not, I’m not spending more.” The Americans took PAPA A more seriously on the whole; with lower travel costs they could spend more on entries.
The winner was Europe in the closest Epstein Cup match ever. The posted score was 120-114, but there was a typo in one of the match sheets where Robert Gagno’s score on Robocop was transposed; the US-Canada team should have 2 more points, Europe 2 fewer for a final result of Europe 118, US 116.
Congratulations to Team Europe, consisting of captain Daniele Acciari, Jörgen Holm, Mats Runsten, Paul Jongma, Robert Sutter, Markus Stix, Marcus Hugosson and Michael Trepp! Individual performances of note were Marcus Hugosson’s perfect 21 (first place score all three games) for Europe, and Robert Gagno’s 19 points for the US/Canada team.
This year’s IFPA World Championship field of 64 had representatives from 20 different countries across four continents. The country listing, after a few late cancellations, was as follows:
There were also two each from Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, Japan, Spain, Italy, Finland, Denmark, Australia, the Netherlands, and Austria, plus one each from Norway, Thailand and France.
Former IFPA champions participating were Daniele Acciari, Bowen Kerins, Jörgen Holm and Cayle George.
Zach Sharpe was high qualifier with 132 points, outpacing the rest of the field handily. Jim Belsito’s 118 was second best, while Daniele Acciari, Robert Sutter and Josh Sharpe each had 114.
The cut for a double bye was 112 points. The cut for a single bye was 106 points. The cut to get in was 96, with a seven-way play-off for the last spot at 94 points - a play-off won by Nick Zendejas.
Match play provided quite a few upsets this year. As a result, the final eight players who returned on Sunday included only one player ranked in the world top ten. The final eight had world rankings of #4, 11, 21, 22, 25, 32, 43 and 44.
Second-round upsets included Trent Augenstein taking out Keith Elwin, Colin MacAlpine besting Jörgen Holm, Johan Genberg over Cayle George, and Jon Replogle defeating Andy Rosa.
Round of 16 upsets featured Julio Vicario Soriano defeating Zach Sharpe, Jon Replogle over Bowen Kerins, and Adam Becker besting Robert Sutter.
In the round of eight on Sunday, Jim Belsito defeated Jon Replogle 4-2, Daniele Acciari took out Lyman Sheats 4-1, Josh Sharpe won over Adam Becker 4-2, and Julio Vicario Soriano eliminated Andrei Massenkoff 4-2.
That set up semi-final matches between Jim and Daniele, won by Daniele 4-0, and Josh and Julio, which went to sudden death with Josh winning 5-3.
Daniele then defeated Josh in the final 4-2. Julio bested Jim in the consolation match for 3rd place 2-0.
Daniele Acciari cruised to victory this year with an amazing won-loss record of 16-4. This is Daniele’s fourth IFPA win since he started playing them in 2010. The only other active player with more than one IFPA win is Bowen Kerins, with two. Daniele’s record at the IFPA World Championships since 2010 is 1st, 12th, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 1st, 1st. Seven events with four firsts, two more top-4 and a 'worst' finish of top-16. Incredible. The only thing comparable is probably Keith Elwin’s run at PAPA.
“Never walk away from the game until you see your score is higher than your opponents.” (paraphrasing) - Josh Sharpe.
It’s game 2 of the IFPA quarter-final match between Adam Becker and Josh Sharpe on Metallica. Adam is done with his game; Josh, as player 2, has almost caught up to Adam - he’s within 4M. Josh has the Crank It Up scoop lit, so he shoots it, chooses to take the 5M “Crank It Down” award - enough to win the game - and walks away from the machine.
The game fails to score the 5M, and an extremely surprised (and embarrassed) Josh loses. (The score failure is caused by a software bug that’s been fixed in later versions.)
Moral: Do what I say, not what I do. Don’t walk away.
It’s the semi-finals of Classics 1, with Zach Sharpe, Bowen Kerins, yours truly Bob Matthews, and Kevin Stone on Paragon. Players 1-3 are done; Zach and Bob have mediocre scores of 288K and 347K respectively; Bowen has rolled the game to the tune of 1.084M. Kevin is starting ball three with just over 50K, i.e. he’s behind Bowen by more than a rollover - he’s been lapped.
Kevin starts playing, saying he at least wants to unlap himself. He almost loses his ball twice in the first twenty seconds making desperation saves, then starts to get a rhythm. He gets his 5X multiplier and same player shoots again, and gets to superbonus. He plays his extra ball and repeats the 5X and same player, now with max bonus at 5x49K = 245K. Kevin eventually gets to 1.1M+, not only unlapping himself, but coming all the way back on his last ball to win the game, to the sound of much applause from everyone watching. He said it was easily his career best-ever PAPA moment.
Moral: You’re never out of it until the last ball drains.
Both pre-PAPA and pre-IFPA events were held at the local Pinball Factory clubhouse.
The pre-PAPA event on Tuesday was HERB-style (pump-and-dump) qualifying, and was won by Levente Tregova of Switzerland.
The pre-IFPA event on Monday used a PinGolf format similar to the one used last year for the pre-Pinburgh tournament, and was won by local favorite David “DJ” Riel.
Dan Spolar’s Project Pinball ran their charity booth at PAPA, using a new Ghostbusters machine.
Daniele also won first place on this, receiving a basket of chocolates and other goodies as his prize. Proceeds as always go to support placing pinball machines in children’s hospitals.
As always, parking at PAPA is a challenge on weekdays. It was okay on Wednesday for the Circuit finals with limited attendance, but was bad Thursday, and horrible Friday. The PA system was often announcing “move your car” under outside threat of tickets and towing. Some vehicles did get cited. The absence of walking-distance hotels and eateries continues to plague PAPA, and no practical shuttle solution has yet been found.
There was food on-site during PAPA - but not during IFPA or the Circuit - but only a limited selection (pulled pork, burgers, chicken fingers, etc.). As always, going out for a decent meal means risking not finding a parking spot when you return.
That said, there are plenty of good places to eat within a reasonable driving distance. Bob’s Diner, about five minutes away on Main Street, saw frequent use. I had lunch there one day with the Swiss trio of Robert Sutter, Levente Tregova and Michael Trepp, and dinner one day with the German squad of Ernö Rotter, Martin Hotze and Andreas Harre.
There were some noteworthy changes as a result of the Pittsburgh events.
While Jorian is still #1, his margin over his closest competitors has narrowed from 160+ points over Keith and Daniele to now just about 30 points over each of Zach, Daniele and Keith. The race for 2016’s #1 is on.
Jim Belsito rocketed back into the top 10 at #7 (back down to #9 as I post this) with his stellar performance, and Bowen Kerins zoomed all the way from #26 to #11 based on his own excellence. Jon Replogle moved into the top 25 with his two top-8s in PAPA and IFPA, while Julio Vicario Soriano also moved up 25 spots with his 3rd place finish in IFPA.
Post-PAPA/IFPA, there is surprisingly little change in the number of WPPRs needed to attain a particular ranking from the same time a year ago. The points for #1, #25, #50, #100, #250 and #500 have moved very little.
What has changed is the number needed for other spots within the top 15, which are all up substantially from a year ago.
PAPA A this year had the highest 'strength of field' tournament rating ever, surpassing Pinburgh 2015 by a hair. With IFPA's current WPPR formula and player ratings, the maximum 'strength of field' add-on is 67.38, producing a maximum event value of 149.07. This is the value of a tournament if all of the top 64 ranked players and all of the top rated players not ranked in the top 64 all play in the event, and if the event is also a major, for which values are multiplied by 1.5 (the value is computed as (32 + 67.38) x 1.5). The maximum event value varies slightly over time as player ratings change. Player ranking changes do not affect the maximum value, just which players constitute it.
PAPA A came in with a 'strength of field' of 63.15, for an event value of 142.71. Pinburgh 2015 rated out as 138.42 under a slightly different formula.
The IFPA championship and this year’s PAPA Classics events also came in extremely high in 'strength of field', each rating between 54 and 58. Everyone knows how tough PAPA Classics is; the 'strength of field' values show it. The European Pinball Championship’s strength is also always high. For reference, a typical PAPA Circuit or European Championship Series event has a strength of field between 15 and 35.
Both Bowen and Keith apparently have too many trophies at home already. They left their three Classics trophies behind, now zip-tied to the rafters at the PAPA facility near the broadcast booth. Keith left his PAPA Circuit belt behind as well, tied next to them.
Sunday night featured the post-PAPA party, lasting well into the wee hours as always. The main lights were turned off around 10 pm, leaving the facility lit by only the machines, a few special lights aimed at the rafters, and people’s glow sticks. Much fun as ever.
There used to be a lot of tailgating at PAPA back when it was held in the summer. Now that it’s a 'spring' event, that is much reduced. While a few hardy souls were at it, the cold, rain and yes, even snow, kept it to a lesser level than in the past.
Like most players, I practiced with a variety of fellow IFPAers from many countries all week. It was fun to trade notes and tips on the games, and since this was held at the PAPA facility, there was a much wider range of games on which to practice and exchange strategies than at any previous IFPA.
During IFPA, we were allowed to practice on any of the non-tournament games in the building; we were just asked to turn them off after we were done with them. The main desk was staffed all through PAPA but not during IFPA, so folks needing tokens for the games either had to stock up during PAPA or make sure they had some small bills handy during IFPA.
I was pleased to see Dave and Danielle Peck again. I visited them at their home in New Zealand a few months ago, fortuitously coinciding with one of Dave’s hosted events. They’ve been stateside for several weeks now, having come over for Danielle to play in the Women’s Championship and for both of them to play in the PinMasters event in Las Vegas in mid-March. Since then, they’ve been to New York City for some fun and a quick run at the SuperLeague, and taken a nice long holiday between that and PAPA / IFPA. They were their usual very-social selves, mingling merrily with fellow pin-travelers. They planned to visit Kentucky for a while post-IFPA before heading home.
Time for a little pinball geography trivia. There are very few places on Earth where you are on land and could go straight down through the center of the planet and emerge on dry land on the opposite side. One of those few places is New Zealand, where for much of the country, going through the center of the earth, you would come out in Spain. So, Dave and Danielle Peck live about as far away from fellow IFPA participant Julio Vicario Soriano [12,150 miles] as any people on the planet can be. Tunnelling down from the Peck’s place, you’d emerge in Osuna, Spain, about 300 miles from Julio’s home town of Valencia. For the curious, tunnelling through the earth from the PAPA facility, you would have a long swim ahead of you when you emerged in the southern Indian Ocean about 1000 miles WSW of Perth, Australia.
PAPA TV broadcast many hours of play during the nine-day series of events.
They aired portions of the Circuit Final (all of the 10-person stepladder finals and the end of the last group game to decide who made it to the top 10), the last minute qualifying in PAPA A, the PAPA A final rounds, and the IFPA Finals. The earlier IFPA rounds were not recorded since, of the 48 machines used for that event, only 10 were on camera, so it was impossible to follow an entire qualifying round or head-to-head match. For the IFPA final, machines were carted in to be under one of the cameras.
I did some broadcasting on PAPA TV, mostly of the Circuit finals and the PAPA A play-offs. Sitting in the booth calling the play-by-play is one of my favorite things to do if I’ve been eliminated. You get a good chance to watch top-caliber play and analyze it, both for the viewers’ benefit and potentially for your own improvement. It’s also fun to interact with your fellow broadcasters; I particularly like Steven Bowden in that regard since we both try to have some fun while going with the flow. We brought in Roberto Pedroni of Italy to call Daniele’s play for the IFPA finals to give their friends and fans back home a chance to hear the match in their native language and from the perspective of someone who knows Daniele well.
We know only a small number of you listen live; most wait for the uploaded stream. But we do our best to be both informative and entertaining. I would note that we on the microphones do not always choose which games or players to follow, so don’t blame us if there’s “too much of game X or player Y.” We can make suggestions, but the PAPA TV directors call the shots on that aspect of each broadcast.
As of this writing, some of the PAPA/IFPA videos have already been placed online (I know the 4+ hour Circuit Final is already there). I expect that they’ll all be available soon.
© Pinball News 2016