Dates: May 21st - 23rd, 2010
The annual gathering of UK pinball fans took place at the White Horse Inn, Swavesey, near Cambridge last weekend.
Set-up began on Friday, continuing long into the night ahead of the official first day on Saturday.
As you can see, the weekend weather was excellent and the temperature hit its high for the year so far at around 27°C (80°F). Lovely conditions to be sitting in the pub's garden, maybe not so good to be inside the venue's function room playing pinball. But the great selection of games to play, all brought along by private collectors, regularly tempted everyone inside as the bar resounded to the snap of flippers flipping.
The main row consisted of a Frank Thomas' Big Hurt, Indianapolis 500, Baywatch, Starship Troopers, Getaway, Attack From Mars, Rollergames, Guns 'N Roses and Black Knight.
On the back wall were two early solid state Bally machines - an Eight Ball and a Paragon.
Many players succumbed to the Eight Ball's short ball times but the occasional prolonged and high scoring game showed how it was possible to master the machine with the judicious use of nudging skills.
Meanwhile, the line-up was completed by two machines back to back along the left side of the room. The Bally World Cup Soccer and Creature from the Black Lagoon were used for two fun competitions on Saturday and returned to general play on Sunday before the day's main tournament began.
The machines were all in very good condition and held up well to two days of heavy play with very few issues along the way. With a room full of pinball collectors, any problems were quickly identified and rectified.
The whole weekend was organised by local collector and restorer Mark Squires and was designed to be a fund raiser for charity. Although there was no entry fee, all the machines were set to coin play. Most were £0.50 ($0.72, €0.58) per play, 2 games for £1 although some awarded 3 games for £1. Prices were in line with most arcade prices in the UK (where you can still find pinball in an arcade) and cheaper than playing the very newest Stern games which often cost £1 a go.
A hot May weekend called for plenty of liquid refreshments and the bar did a brisk trade in ales, lagers and ciders as well as soft drinks served with plenty of ice. Many and varied discussions about pinball took place in the garden behind the pub and no doubt many parts and machine trades were negotiated over a cold pint.
The whole weekend is designed to be relaxed and casual. The pinball continued until the early hours and it was rarely difficult to get a game on any specific machine - either on your own or as part of a group.
It wasn't all laid-back though. There were two competitions on Saturday and one on Sunday.
The two Saturday contests were run by Pinball News and consisted of high score tournaments using alternative controls for the flipper buttons.
In "Flipper Footsie", the World Cup Soccer's football theme was extended by forcing players to flip with their feet. Two foot pedals were mounted on a rubber mat and competitors had to resist the urge to use the regular flipper buttons (which were disconnected) and use the pedals instead.
Most players stood up to play initially, but after later seeing how others were finding it easier to sit on a stool, they played again in a seated position. Entry to the competition was the regular price of a game (£0.50 a go) and players could try as many times as the wanted to get one of the top 4 scores of the day.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon behind the World Cup Soccer was the home to the "Pinball Safari" competition. This returned flipper control to the hands but the switches were hidden inside two cuddly animal toys.
To flip, competitors could either turn the animals on their side which would hold the flipper up, or they could shake the lion and the hippo to give a momentary flip. The lion controlled the left flipper and the hippo the right.
The silliness of seeing adults playing with cuddly soft toys added to the fun factor while any nudging was out of the question with both hands fully occupied.
The scores achieved on both competitions were entered on a laptop computer and shown on a monitor.
The top four scorers on both games when the competitions closed shortly after 6pm won prizes. Because there was a last minute rush to compete, those who had put their money on the playfield glass (in the traditional pinball way) by the closing time of 6pm were allowed to play their games.
The two highest scorers each received a Nokia speaker system from Mark Squires along with four prizes generously donated by Todd Andersen of Pinball Renaissance in Minnesota. Second placed competitors received three PinRen prizes, third place got two and the fourth-positioned competitor got one prize.
On the World Cup Soccer, Nick Marshall was the top scorer with 889M and winner of Flipper Footsie. Aid Cooper was the close runner-up on 854M, Keith Donaldson was third with his 770M and Phil Dixon's 662M was fourth.
In Pinball Safari on the Creature, it was Martin Ayub who tamed the beasts with a score of 105M to take the win. Mike Coates was second with 60M, Nick Marshall's 31M took third and Dave Edwards was fourth with his 24M.
Sunday brought the third competitive event of the weekend as the UK Pinball Cup made its first appearance at the Swavesey meet.
The UK Pinball Cup had previously been a staple part of the Pinballers Anonymous Monster Meet which took place in May each year. With the Monster Meet not taking place this year, the Cup moved to its new home at Swavesey.
However, the tragic and untimely death of pinball collector and stalwart show supporter Nigel Hill in January led to the dedication of a new trophy in his name.
Registration for the Cup opened at 11am and continued until 1:40pm when the first round of matches was drawn. The format was a couple of single elimination group rounds of 3 or 4 player matches to reduce the number of players from 22 to 15 and then down to 8. After which, rounds of straight head-to-head matches halved the field each time from the 8 quarter-finalists to the 4 semi-finalists and then down to the two finalists.
There was no entry fee for the Cup, but players had to pay for their games at the standard rate of £0.50 per play. That meant those who progressed the furthest paid the most.
The players in each group along with the games they would be playing were drawn by tournament organisers Martin Ayub and Nick Marshall . Player numbers were written on large coloured balls which were mixed up in a box and drawn out to form the groupings and the selected machine. Winning players' numbers were put back in the box for the next round.
There were some early surprises as top players were rapidly eliminated. The rounds progressed very quickly with the pairing for the final being resolved in around an hour and a quarter.
Those finalists were Richard Wade and Greg Mott and the randomly drawn machine on which they would play their final match was Paragon.
In keeping with the earlier rounds, the final was a single, winner-takes-all game. The Paragon had been set to 5 ball play in order to give fair value-for-money during the weekend and it stayed this way for the final.
Richard played first and led the scoring after both players had finished their first ball. He maintained the lead through each of the next three balls and left Greg some work to do on his final ball if he was to win the final.
Unfortunately for Greg it was not to be, and as the last ball of the final drained it was Richard Wade who had won the 2010 UK Pinball Cup - his first ever tournament win.
Shortly afterwards, Mark Squires thanked everyone for coming, for playing in the UK Pinball Cup. He spoke about Nigel Hill's great contribution to pinball in the UK and his unwavering support of the Swavesey event in particular. Nigel's wife Theresa, his daughter Rebecca and son Jack all played in the Cup and attended the presentation of the memorial trophy.
For winning the UK Pinball Cup, Richard took ownership of the main trophy for a year and received a smaller trophy to keep permanently. His main prize was a Nokia N79 mobile phone donated by Mark and this was accompanied by a selection of Pinball Renaissance goodies.
Here are the full results of the 2010 UK Pinball Cup.
As the presentation ended, the Swavesey weekend came to an official end. The first of the games to make its homeward journey was wheeled out on a trolley and loaded into its van. As the numbers slowly diminished, the remaining games were still available for visitors to play until the final one was depowered and packed away around 5pm.
When the takings from each machine were added together along with a number of generous cash donations, the total raised from the weekend was £630 ($920/€742) which was split between the event's regular charity - the East Anglia's Children's Hospices - and the British Heart Foundation in Nigel's memory.
© Pinball News 2010