SWISS OPEN 2011
Dates: July 9th, 2011
Report by Phillip Eaton
Following the closure in early 2011 of the Hurricane Flipperclub near Zürich - venue for the European Pinball Championships 2010 - some of the Hurricane regulars decided to get together to open a new place to play pinball, and so PinballEd in Kollbrunn came to be.
The venue is so named after the man who put his name to the lease, Edy Flammer, but also as a kind of play on the words in English, as in “I’m pinballed out!”.
Located around 20 minutes drive from Zurich near the large town of Winterthur, PinballEd played host to the inaugural Swiss Open 2011, filling a vacant calendar slot traditionally occupied by the former Hurricane annual “grosse Turnier”, and with the same tournament director, Robert Sutter, or Röbi to his friends.
So, it was time to brush up those German language skills, meet up with some old acquaintances and get stuck in.
Turning up late to the event due to not reading the instructions properly, I was expecting the event to be well into the first round and my scores to be zero, but fortunately, I wasn't the last to arrive.
Really, I had no excuse for being late as I’d been to the location on a previous occasion, but our visitors from other countries did have an excuse, because finding the venue is not that easy, and the sketchy location info on the PinballEd website isn’t really the best guide (and that’s not just because it's in German, sorry Edy).
The PinballEd venue is located in some sort of ex-commercial building that looks to have been re-purposed as a bunch of art studios, with some woodworking and mechanical areas, and a small cafe/restaurant.
Once at the building, and you’ve found the right door (no signs yet), you have to board a dubious-looking, unmarked industrial lift with big garage-like swing doors. You take it to the second floor and then walk down an anonymous corridor with yet more unmarked wooden doors.
However, once you make it to the pinball venue, things start looking up. The main room is around 5 metres square and filled with machines, and on the side of that is a bar room with a stereo hi-fi, TV, large drinks refrigerator and some odd triangular tables with benches. (The bar was the only area in the venue where smoking was allowed.)
On the other side of the bar room is a second games room that is about half the size of the main room. Altogether, there are about 20 to 25 machines in the venue, almost all being late DMD, plus both Pinball 2000s. Weather for the event was quite warm, but luckily the place is on the 2nd floor and is surrounded by windows.
Registration for the tournament was 35 CHF (~€30) and that included morning croissants, a rather good Thai red curry lunch provided by a local restaurant, with a choice of rice dishes with or without meat, various other accompaniments and some large help-yourself cakes later on in the evening.
Having visited Thailand recently, I can confirm that the food was of a good standard, but to standard Swiss heat levels i.e. “Chilies? What chilies?”. The lunch was actually a conspicuous break with tradition; for most summer Swiss pinball events, lunch is typically an outside grill.
The tournament format was fairly simple. Röbi Sutter had devised a new Excel spreadsheet system where all players were pitched into rounds of pre-determined 4-player groups which eventually ended up with similar performing players against each other.
Röbi’s systems are well-crafted, as they allow him to re-jig player groups, and then print and hand out score sheets to each group after every round. These are then filled in by the group members themselves and handed back. (It’s simpler than I make it sound!) This makes it possible for him to run the tournament pretty much single-handedly.
Scoring was relatively straightforward; 7 for the win, 5 for second, 3 for third and 1 for last place. Each round consisted of a game on two different machines, the scores being added together to give a total score for each round - maximum 14, minimum 2 - for each player.
To avoid any big delays during the rounds, all machines in the tournament were given a target score and any player topping it would automatically get maximum points, meaning you could end up with, for example, 7-7-3-1 points for the four players, if two people beat the target.
Machines for each group were chosen at random at the start of each round.
What do you think the chances are of actually getting to play a different machine every round when machines are chosen at random? My maths & statistics education was long ago, but from empirical experience, the chances are a lot less than playing the same machine from the fourteen machine pool, four times in fifteen plays. This happened to me with two different machines on this occasion! Still, at least it wasn’t on Indy 500.
First tournament teething problems, I guess, but from then on there didn’t seem to be many other machine problems at all, which is not surprising as a good few of them had come from the Hurricane Flipperclub and all were in very good condition.
Here are the results.
As the day wore on, the temperature outside (and thus the temperature inside) rose, and we all became thankful for the two or three large fans and the air conditioner unit that were dotted around the place. I'd forgotten just how smelly groups of hot people can get in an enclosed space.
Then, as the evening went on, it inevitably came down to the finals between the usual suspects, with the final game on Doctor Who between the top four qualifiers; Michael Trepp, Martin Wiest, Klaus Erhard and Robert Sutter.
Here are the qualifying positions:
The room fell silent as all the other machines were turned off.
By 21:50 it was all over. Robbie Sutter had pulled off another win, despite a spirited final come back by Martin Wiest. After a lot of handshakes and pictures, people slowly made their way home and Edy’s team of helpers cleared away the remaining snacks and rubbish.
In conversation with Edy, Röbi and the rest of the organisers, they were very happy with the way the event had turned out and they have future plans to add yet more interest to the event and perhaps increase the numbers somewhat, following this years deliberate lack of publicity, to get things rolling for the first year.
Personally, I had a great day - lots of good pinball on some machines I rarely get to play, socialising with many good friends, good food and (for me) a short drive home.
PinballEd is currently run on an informal basis without a set opening schedule or membership system. They do however have a web forum, where you can register and find out the latest, including announcements of upcoming game evenings.
Find it at: http://www.pinballed.ch.
© Pinball News 2011