Dates: June 24th - 26th, 2011
A month later than usual, pinball fans from across the UK headed to a pub in the Cambridgeshire village of Swavesey for their annual get-together.
Machines began to arrive on Friday lunchtime and continued to roll up throughout the day, until the full complement of thirteen were set up in the pub's function room and ready to play.
They were: Batman Forever, Goldeneye, Nip-It, Hook, Mars - God of War, Attack from Mars, Spectrum, The Sopranos, Indiana Jones, The Machine - Bride of Pinbot, Space Station, Corvette and The Flintstones. Those thirteen were joined by Landlord, Will's Night Moves game in the pub's main bar area.
The Friday night session continued into the early hours of Saturday morning, but despite that, many were back when the pub re-opened a few hours later to join the day's new arrivals.
The whole event is organised by local pinball collector and restorer Mark Squires who contributed Nip-It, The Sopranos and Mars - God of War. There was no entry fee for the meeting, but the machines were mostly set on pay-to-play at 50p ($0.80, €0.55) per game, except for Nip-It which gave 2 games for 50p. All money raised would go to charity.
Last year, the temperatures for the weekend reached a record high for the year to date and wouldn't you know it, the same happened this year with a hot Saturday being a prelude for the 30°C+ Sunday. That led to plenty of bar sales and numerous breaks in the pubs garden area.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday there were two competitions run by Pinball News and played out on a pair of machines. A simple high score contest was held on The Sopranos.
Meanwhile, a 'closest to the target score' competition ran on the Attack from Mars which backed onto The Sopranos. Competitors had to try to score as close to 1 billion points as they could without going over.
In a 'back-to-basics' change, scores were recorded on a pin board which was flanked by the prize packages for the eventual winners.
The Saturday competition drew to a close just after 7pm when the winner of the High Score competition was Martin Ayub with 216M and the Closest to the Target winner was Nick Marshall with a score of 997,068,560.
The winners' prizes were donated by Pinball Renaissance of St Louis Park, Minnesota, while runners-up won NFV backglass posters from David Blake. The two competitions would start again on Sunday morning.
Another event which took place on both days was a prize raffle run by Gary Flower. With prizes of pinball clothing, magazines, toys and some non-pinball caps and chocolate, just about everyone dug deep into their pockets to buy tickets and raise more money for charity.
The whole weekend is designed to be more relaxed and casual than larger 'shows' with an equally casual closing time of around 1:30-2:00am; whenever Will decided to close the pub. The two competitions brought a little competitive spirit to proceedings, and that stepped up a gear on Sunday afternoon when they were joined by annual UK Pinball Cup tournament.
Entry to the UK Pinball Cup is also free and anyone could sign up for a place, but competitors are expected to pay for their games at the usual 50p per game rate, making it more expensive for those who progressed the furthest.
There were 11 machines used for the tournament. Spectrum had to make an early exit and Indiana Jones had an intermittent ball count problem, so it was also excluded.
Players could choose their own player numbers and an appropriately numbered ball was placed into the box used for the first round draw. Twenty-five competitors signed up - the last being Andrew Heighway who only just arrived in the nick of time as the first round was being drawn by organisers Martin Ayub and Nick Marshall.
The numbered balls were drawn out of the box to create seven groups of three and one group of four. Each group then played on a randomly drawn machine (using more numbered balls) and the top two from each match had their numbered balls returned to the box for the next round draw.
The single game, sudden death match format led to some big names dropping out early on, but that's something which always seems to happen at the UK Pinball Cup. Once the first round was over, players were drawn in pairs for head-to-head sudden death matches with the winner going though and the loser out of the competition.
Last year's winner, Richard Wade, got though to the quarter finals but failed to make it into the semis following his match with Ivan Durneen on Attack from Mars.
The two semi-finals pitted Ivan against Aid Cooper and co-organiser Nick Marshall against last-minute entrant Andrew Heighway.
Aid and Andrew were victorious in their matches and went into the final while Ivan and Nick played for third and fourth places. The final and play-off machines were drawn at random which left the final being contested on The Machine - Bride of Pinbot and the play-off on Goldeneye.
Neither player in the final did much with their first ball, but Andrew stretched out a lead with his second ball, and extended that on the third to end on 4.7M. Aid began his third and final ball with just under 700K, so needed a good run to have a shot at beating Andrew's total.
But it wasn't to be and so Andrew Heighway was this year's UK Pinball Cup winner. Nick defeated Ivan in the play-off to take third place.
Shortly afterwards, Mark Squires thanked everyone for coming, for playing in the UK Pinball Cup and the two side competitions, and for contributing to the raffle takings.
Before the presentation of the Cup, Mark and Gary drew the winning tickets for Sunday's raffle.
Straight after the draw, Mark Squires made the presentations to the top four in the UK Pinball Cup.
Ivan won a music player/radio with headphones while Nick won a pair of downlighters.
Aid also won some downlighters and also a Nokia mobile phone donated by Mark.
Finally, Andrew was presented with the UK Pinball Cup and his prizes.
Andrew also won a Nokia mobile phone and an electric shaver system which, like the downlighters and the music player, was donated by Lee Fensom.
Here are the full results of the 2011 UK Pinball Cup:
As the presentation ended, the Swavesey weekend came to an official end.
Soon after, the process of breaking down the games and loading them into vehicles for the journey home began. Several deals and trades were agreed in the sunshine, so quite a few machines didn't go home with the person who brought them, but that's just part of the fun of the Swavesey meet.
When the takings from each machine were added together along with the sale of raffle tickets, the total raised from the weekend was £852.56 - over than a third more than last year. As before, the money will be split between the event's two regular charities - the East Anglia's Children's Hospices - and the British Heart Foundation.
The turnout for this year's event was certainly up on last year and the games room was busy most of the weekend - as proved by the machine takings - despite the heat on Sunday afternoon.
So thanks to Mark or organising, and to Pinball Renaissance, Gary, Lee and Mark again for donating the prizes for the competitions and the raffle. We look forward to another weekend of pinball, socialising, beer and competitions next year.
© Pinball News 2011