Date: 11th - 13th September, 2015
Last year we paid our first ever visit to the Printimus Pinball location in the city of Bytom, and indeed our first ever visit to Poland. We enjoyed it enough to board a plane to Katowice and return for a second year of competition in the Printimus Pinball Cup.
The weather was good - warm and mostly sunny all weekend - and so, given our extensive knowledge of the city's back streets and watering holes gained during last year's walking tour, we headed straight for Market Square. Flying can be a thirsty business.
With the Printimus Pinball venue not opening until 4pm and the first of the qualifying sessions not starting until 7pm, we had time for a little light refreshment on the Square.
For a visitor from points west, most local produce in Poland seem exceptionally good value. For example, main meals at this restaurant typically cost 15-30 Zlotys (zł) which is £2.60-£5.20 or $4.00-$8.00 or €3.50-€7.00. Half a litre of beer is around 6zł (£1.05/$1.60/€1.40).
Most goods in the shops have similarly lower prices with the exception of internationally-branded goods such as toiletries and packaged foods which are much more expensive than their locally-produced equivalents.
Our accommodation was at the Hotel Bristol which is located on Dworcowa - one of Bytom's most bustling thoroughfares, with a shopping mall at one end and the main train and bus stations at the other. Three nights at the hotel with a fairly minimalist breakfast cost 300zł (£52/€71/$80) per room.
From the hotel it was a brisk 10 minute walk to the Printimus building which is located on a light industrial estate on the south side of the city. The city is well served by trams, buses and, to a lesser extent, trains, but with clear skies and warm sunshine, walking was our preferred option each day.
Printimus is a full-service printing company owned and run by Marcin Krysiński. But Marcin is also a huge pinball fan, and has both the means and the space to build his own collection right inside the Printimus building.
Marcin's collection is supplemented by seven machines from Łukasz Dziatkiewicz and another four from local collectors to make a total of 33 pinballs available for guests to play this weekend.
Regular bi-monthly league meetings along with other tournaments are held here throughout the year, but the Printimus Pinball Cup which Marcin organises with Łukasz Dziatkiewicz is the main tournament and Poland's qualifier for the IFPA European Championship Series.
Events began at 4pm on Friday when the doors were opened for free practice on all the machines with the exception of the six games used for the Classic Tournament. Qualifying on these would begin at 7pm and continue throughout the weekend.
Here are the machines at Printimus Pinball for the Cup weekend:
There were also individual high score competitions on three of the main tournament machines - Fish Tales, The Wizard of Oz, and the reverse-flippered Monster Bash - and a Roger Sharpe contest on Bronco and Spirit of '76 where - as in Roger's famous demonstration in front of New York legislators - players had to plunge into a nominated top rollover lane. A total of six attempts were allowed - three on each machine - and anyone who was successful four or more times won a certificate signed by Roger.
There were two surprises for competitors who turned up on Friday. The first was a magic performance by illusionist Krystian Bączyński.
Then, after another hour of practice and Classic qualification, guests were treated to some burgers. These weren't just any burgers, as they were both beautifully presented - like you see in burger restaurant pictures but almost never in real life - and fully vegan, created by Marcin's daughter Dorota as she looks to expand her range of party food.
Talking of refreshments, tea and coffee was available for free, while 500ml bottles or cans of Polish beer were available for 5zł.
If you wanted other drinks or snacks, the vending machine one floor below was your friend.
As we said, qualifying for the Classic Tournament began first. Competitors could buy as many entries as the wished at 5zł each, with each entry giving you one play on three of the six machines.
All the scores on the machines were ranked, with the top score on a machine earning 100 points. The total ranking points scored across all three machines constituted an entry. The tricky part was choosing when to submit an entry, as each completed entry nullified your previous attempts. The key was to get three good games in a single entry. Two good games and one stinker was simply not enough to qualify, since only the top eight players would make it through to the semi-finals.
Qualifying ran from 7pm on Friday right through until 15 minutes after the final of the main tournament had concluded on Sunday.
That main tournament was scheduled to begin at 10am on Saturday, but by the time everything was ready to go and any no-shows had been substituted it was nearer 11am.
Everyone who entered received a welcome pack with plenty of printed material, including a fridge magnet, entry cards for the Roger Sharpe contest, Polish bumper stickers, and a map of the city of Bytom. Wristbands were also handed out - one for the main and another for the Classic tournament.
The 45 competitors were divided into two groups according to their IFPA ranking, and everyone played a single two-player game against every other member of their group. A player's ranking was determined by their number of wins.
The top eight in each group would move on to the A Division play-offs on Sunday. The next eight would form the B Division, with everyone else in the C Division.
Choice of machine was quite unusual. Every player was issued with a pack of credit card-style plastic cards - one for each machine in the tournament.
Everyone could choose twelve of their favourite machines and return the remaining cards to the tournament desk. Then, at the start of each round, the player with the most cards could choose the machine to play. In the case of both players having the same number of cards, the highest seed got to pick. Whoever did pick also had to play first in the two-player game.
At the end of the game, the winner took the machine card to the tournament desk to record the result.
When all (or nearly all) the matches in a round had been completed, the next round could start. In the meantime, the Classic Tournament machines beckoned for a quick game between rounds.
Once it began, the tournament was pretty full-on. There were meal breaks for a late lunch and dinner, but it took until around midnight before all the games in both groups had been completed.
During one of those breaks, Łukasz took a group of players on a visit to a nearby military equipment museum. With Poland's dependence on the Soviet Union following the Second World War the country was heavily militarised, and some of those vehicles still remain. They are displayed along with assorted military hardware from the Soviet years of 1945-89 and the post-'89 years when Poland gained full independence. All the equipment was well-maintained and all the vehicles were capable of being driven.
Then it was back to Printimus Pinball for the rest of the day to complete all the rounds. It took until around midnight for all the qualifying games to be completed and the groups for Sunday's rounds to be announced. But as Marcin said, "You're here to play pinball!", and indeed we were.
But not exclusively. So we headed back into town but were surprised to find the centre of the city almost deserted and nearly all the bars closed. Clearly Bytom is not the place to go for an active nightlife. However, we did find one particularly enjoyable bar on Market Square which seemed in no particular hurry to close and had an interesting selection of beers to enjoy.
Sunday also (officially) began at 10am, but in practice took a little longer to get going. Although it was nice to have a little warm-up time before the competitive matches started, this extra time would catch up with us later, as we shall see.
Before the first games, Łukasz made a couple of presentations. The first was to Marcin for co-organising and hosting the Printimus Pinball Cup weekend.
The editor of Pinball News, Martin Ayub, was also presented with a special miniature electronic pinball machine fridge magnet.
The format for Sunday first round was a mini-version of Saturday's. Once again it was a series of two-player head-to-head games, only this time everyone got to play the eight qualifying players in the opposite group, who they hadn't played on Saturday. Machine cards were chosen once again to decide the machine to play and the play order.
The number of wins would determine the positions in each division, with the result of the head-to-head game used to break any ties.
Amongst the various media outlets filming and recording interviews, the Red Bull girls' arrival provided some refreshment for both the throat and the eyes.
Food was also available to pre-order, including a repeat of the vegan burgers from Friday night. We opted to take a break and head into the city for a meal at one of the restaurants on Market Square (a square meal, perhaps), returning an hour later for the final few games and the final rounds.
Once all the group matches had been played, the three divisions were sliced into groups of four. The top four in the A division would play in the final, the next four would play for 5th-8th places, the next four for 9th-12th, and so on. The final would be delayed until all other matches had completed.
The top four who would contest the final were Daniele Celestino Acciari, Martin Ayub, Piotr Kochański and Mariusz Tkacz
Each finalist could choose a machine to play in the final except for fourth-ranked Mariusz who had The Wizard of Oz chosen for him as the last machine to play. Points were awarded for position on each game (4-2-1-0) but the number of points scored in the previous round also carried over, which meant Daniele already had a 3 point lead going into the final.
Daniele chose No Good Gofers as his machine, and while he had the lead after ball one with 3.99M to 2.7M, 0.8M and 0.5M, there was still a long way to go. But Daniele took control with ball two to stretch out a big lead with his 18.8M, a good 14M ahead of his closest contender.
He did a repeat performance on the third ball to win with 36M. Martin pulled back, taking his score from 2.5M to 15M for second place. Piotr took third with 8.8M and Mariusz was close behind on 5.5M.
Martin's choice of AC/DC Pro proved the perfect selection for Daniele who racked up a very impressive 213M on his first ball alone, while the others languished on 4.3M, 2.6M and 1.8M.
As if to prove a point, Daniele powered through to a total of 392M by the end of ball two, to Martin's 9.4M, Mariusz's 7.8M and Piotr's 5.8M.
Both Martin and Piotr had better third balls, resulting in a nail bitingly-close final score for second place. As Piotr got the double bonus it looked like he would take second, but in fact ended up tantalisingly close in third.
Daniele didn't need to play his third ball as he had already won after his first ball.
So Daniele had 8 points, Martin 4 points, Piotr 2 points and Mariusz had yet to score.
The next game was Piotr's choice of Funhouse.
Nobody had a great start, but Martin led the pack after the first ball with 1.4M, with Mariusz on 0.6M, Piotr on 0.36M and Daniele on 0.34M.
Ball two wasn't much better, but Daniele moved up into second place with 1.2M, behind Martin's 2.2M but ahead of Piotr's 0.99M and Mariusz's 0.83M.
The third ball changed everything. Piotr finally got into gear and took the win on 8.4M. Martin's third ball was a house ball, but his 2.4M held on for second place, while Daniele and Mariusz had similar fates, ending on 1.5M and 1.0M respectively.
So Daniele had 9 points, Martin 6 points, Piotr 6 points and Mariusz was still to score.
The final game was preselected as The Wizard of Oz, with Mariusz starting off.
Martin had a clear lead after the first ball. His 95K score was a long way ahead of Daniele's 14K, Mariusz's 11K and Piotr's 7K - a situation not much changed by everyone's second ball which had Martin on 113K, Daniele on 22K, Mariusz on 15K and Piotr on 12K.
The final ball of the final game often causes upsets, but in this case it was more of the same, with everyone adding a few thousand to their score. Martin won with 116.5K, Daniele was second on 25.9K, Piotr took third with 17.4K ahead of Mariusz on 16.6K.
So the final points total was Daniele on 11, Martin on 10, Piotr on 7 and Mariusz on 0.
Here are the full results:
Before the presentations, there was the small matter of the Classic Tournament which had a final fifteen minutes of qualifying to play before the top eight could proceed to the semi-finals.
There was a last-minute flurry as players tried to grab one of the top eight places and get into the semi-finals, but as the final qualifying games ended nothing had changed and the last eight were:
These eight were split into two groups of four, each playing a set of machines chosen by the players, with points awarded for position on each of them. The top two from each group would go into the final.
The qualifiers from the semi-final were Daniele, Greg, Mariusz and Martin.
Each could choose a machine for the final, and the selections were Mata Hari, Sinbad, Haunted House and Spirit of '76.
With the clock now showing 01:30, it all came down to an exciting game on Greg's choice of Spirit of '76.
The result produced a second win of the evening for Daniele Acciari. Mariusz Tkacz improved on his Printimus Pinball Cup final position to finish second. Martin Ayub was third and Greg Mott fourth.
Here are the full results:
Then it was time for the presentations, with Łukasz handing out the prizes.
First there were prizes for the mini-tournaments. The winner of the high score competition on The Wizard of Oz was... yes, Daniele again, with more than 800K. He won a signed upper playfield from Jersey Jack Pinball.
The winner of the reverse flipper contest on Monster Bash was Balazs Takacs who managed to score 382M by playing cross-handed.
The winner of the high score contest on Fish Tales was Ernö Rotter, who received a suitably fishy prize for his 2.1 billion score.
It is a tradition that the players at the Printimus Pinball Cup all get to vote for the most stylish player of the weekend.
Although the author received a couple of votes (thanks guys), there was a clear winner in Rich Mallett, who won a very appropriate prize for his stylish play.
Then the awards for the two main tournaments were made, starting with the winner of the Printimus Pinball Cup 2015, Daniele Acciari.
Then it was the turn of the Classics Tournament awards, with some familiar faces amongst the winners.
Along with the plaques and cash prizes, the top players also received generous prize packs.
In fact the top three players in both tournaments won copies of Dying Light.
The winner of the Printimus Pinball Cup and the winner of the Classic Tournament each got to choose a pinball-inspired painting by Lucjan Nowinski to take home. But as Daniele won both tournaments, he won both paintings.
Prizes were also donated by the President of Bytom.
The award presentations finally ended around 2am and the 2015 Printimus Pinball Cup weekend drew to a close.
Marcin and Łukasz clearly put a lot of work into organising a packed weekend of competitive pinball with everything very professionally presented, from the welcome packs to the T-shirts, the machine cards, the certificates and the prize packages. The illusionist and the free burgers on Friday night were just the icing on the cake.
The machines held up well, with any faults quickly addressed by Mirek who also kept the supplies of cold beer coming. In fact our only suggestion would be for a little more time built into the schedule to allow some socialising in the city of Bytom.
We're certainly looking forward to the 2016 Printimus Pinball Cup, and this time perhaps exploring Bytom (and maybe other Polish cities) a little more.
© Pinball News 2015