Date: July 2015
A summary of 2014 (with particular emphasis on the Stern Trophy tournament) and the first half of 2015 in Poland, concentrating on the events in the south of the country and a look ahead to what's coming up in the next six months.
Towards the end of last year we had a large concentration of pinball events - and tournaments in particular - around the world, even in Poland. The southern part of Poland certainly had more pinball events than the rest.
The history of the Polish pinball renaissance starts in 2001 when the first Polish Pinball Championship (the official name for which was the Qultural Polish Pinball Championships) was organised and held in the cult underground club Centralny Dom Qultury (CDQ in short). Jarek Guła, the owner and manager of the venue had the initial idea for an annual pinball competition, and pretty soon it began to attract a growing number of pinball aficionados.
But it took another ten years before new pinball tournaments started to appear. First in Warsaw and the surrounding areas, then in Mysłowice (Silesia region), and three years ago a regular tournament – the Plaza Park Pinball Party in Dźwirzyno, near Kołobrzeg - launched on the Baltic Sea coast.
Last year, other than the Plaza Park Pinball Party and the inaugural Polish Pinball Open, all the large tournaments were held in the southern part of the country.
This was a result of the positioning of the current two largest, permanent pinball locations in Poland - club Printimus Pinball in Bytom (Silesia again) with more than 30 pinball machines at present, and pub Chmiel in the famous city of Kraków, offering over 20 machines - and the appearance of a new authorised Stern Pinball distributor, which caused something of a sensation.
The name of the distributor is Flippery.pl (‘flippery’ being the Polish plural word for pinballs) and, as we shall see, this company managed to create a second sensation at the end of November last year.
But let’s rewind and start at the very beginning of 2014.
The first batch of brand new Stern pinballs arrived in Poland in the second half of January 2014. That was the start.
At present, Stern pinballs are in ten locations spread across nine Polish cities. Amongst them is Rzeszów, the largest city in the Podkarpackie Province and where Flipppery.pl has its headquarters. Rzeszów’s Kula Bowling & Club is located in the Nowy Świat shopping centre, and has six Stern pinballs available to play.
Sebastian Sołtys - who is a Flippery.pl’s chief - and Daniel Kaczmarek (also from Rzeszów) - one of Poland’s biggest pinball collectors - decided to organise a tournament unlike any other seen in the whole world.
The Stern Trophy - held on November 22nd - was the first full tournament played only on machines from Stern Pinball .
Some were a few years old while others were brand new, some were regular Pro versions and others were Limited Edition models. No other manufacturer's machines were allowed to be used in the tournament.
The most valuable of these pinballs were from Daniel’s collection. Metallica - Master of Puppets, AC/DC - Back in Black, Star Trek and X-Men were set up on coin play in the front of the room where tournament was being held.
Two free play machines - Mustang and Metallica - stood near them, and they were used for a side tournament. The rules of the side tournament were easy – every contestant played each machine once, and both scores were added together to produce a single rank. The format made sense because the scoring systems of both pinballs are very similar.
Thirteen Stern pinballs were in the tournament room. Some of them were the current models from the company, including the latest The Walking Dead and a special version of Iron Man – the Vault Edition.
Others were a little older, such as Spider-Man (2007) and Avatar (2010) from Daniel’s collection, or other people’s machines like Terminator 3 from Printimus Pinball and The Lord of the Rings from Czarek in Warsaw, both from 2003.
For some of the contestant this was the first time they had ever seen many of these models. There were even those who had never played a Stern pinball before!
Each of 47 contestants played three ball games on 8 out of the 13 machines. Ranking points were awarded for each machine with 32 points for the top score, followed by 31 points for second highest and so on. The 22 players who had the greatest number of ranking points qualified for play-offs. The top two went straight into the third round of play-offs, while the next four (qualifiers 3 to 6) skipped the first round. All the subsequent rounds were played in a double-elimination best-two-out-of-three bracket.
The final was played on three machines and took place around 1am. It was between three contestants: Łukasz Wawryka from Brzesko (also in the southern part of Poland) and two Warsaw players, Marcin Dylewski and Aleksander Żurkowski (twice the Polish champ; check out his pinball dance!).
The winner was Łukasz, Marcin was second, and Aleksander third.
The Stern Trophy was a big, BIG success. First of all, as I said, it was the first tournament played using only Stern pinballs. It was also an opportunity to play on Limited Edition models which are very unusual in tournaments.
Some people complained that they have to pay extra for this. Well, I think this complaint is too far-fetched.
The second most common objection raised was the inability to play the tournament machines out of competition. Those people don’t understand that almost nobody allows something like that. Of course it would be better if something like that would be possible and there were some practice or warm-up games. That’s why I proposed such an idea for the next Stern Trophy – each contestant could play twice on each chosen pinball, with the better of two games counting as their tournament score.
This tournament was a pinball one, but the event also offered the opportunity to play pool and bowling for free. I took great pleasure playing pool, and could say, like ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) at the end of The Color of Money, “Hey - I'm back”.
You see I used to play billiards (pool and carom billiards) a lot, but I’m kidding by comparing myself with this fictional pool ace. What I want to say more seriously is that it is great how, during a pinball tournament, you can also play something else, and even nicer that it was free. It’s not uncommon for there to be video arcade games available, but pool and bowling are much rarer. It’s an especially good choice if you remember how many pinball games have a bowling theme, and even more are based on pool.
The organisers also provided hot drinks, cookies, and coupons for the bars. All contestants were given souvenirs, with more for those who qualified in second round. The top three received iPod minis, and The Walking Dead pinball T-shirts and stickers from Stern Pinball.
I could say: “I’ll be back in Rzeszów for next Stern Trophy later this year”. It will probably take place in October at the same venue but with a larger number of machines and, I expect, a larger number of players, especially from abroad (just two Hungarians attended this time).
Players who want to compete in Stern-only tournaments in Poland don’t have to wait until the final quarter of this year. A second exclusively-Stern tournament was organised in May. The Kula Cup took place on 16th May.
As you could probably guess, it was held at the same place – Kula club in Rzeszów. This time 21 players competed on 8 Stern pinballs. The winner was one of the best Polish pinball players, Daniel Nowak. Two machines were prepared for free play and two others - premium versions – for an extra fee. You can find more about that at flippery.pl.
In Printimus Pinball we have 3 Sterns: AC/DC, Terminator 3, and one from first Stern company (Stern Electronics, Inc. 1977-1985, where Sam Stern - Gary’s father - was president), Orbitor 1.
The Orbitor 1 game is absolutely crazy, a one-of-a-kind pinball game, and it was the last production pinball made by Stern Electronics... Maybe significant? Who knows? (I know – “The Shadow knows!”) ;) By the way, I like someone’s comment on Printimus Pinball’s facebook profile to a picture with Orbitor 1 and The Wizard of Oz: “Orbitor and WOZ? Good luck, Orbitor!”
Sometimes he doesn’t have enough space for all of them in the rooms where they could be set-up. Presently in Chmiel, 21 pinballs are ready to play any time (except Monday when the pub is closed). That’s why we could call this pub “The only pinball pub in Poland”, or maybe even “The biggest pinball pub in Europe”? Of course there are some other Polish pubs with pinballs, but they only have one or two machines.
So this is the first and most important part of Chmiel’s uniqueness. But there is something more.
This place is located only a few hundred metres from Wawel castle (Polish for “Kings’ castle”). Kraków used to be capital of Poland (it was the second capital after Gniezno, the third and present is Warsaw ), and its history goes back as far as middle ages. In fact the cellars where this pub is located date from the 14th century!
To think that only a year ago Pub Chmiel started with just the one pinball. Now the pub's collection consists of titles from the ‘80s and ‘90s such as: The Getaway: High Speed II, Black Knight 2000 and Creature from the Black Lagoon. So many classics alongside the less famous Radical! (Bally 1990, around 1,300 produced). There are also games for Sci-Fi and thriller movie fans, cat lovers, road works afficionados, and bare-knuckle boxing in pubs – I don't think you will have any problems deciphering those last three titles. ;)
Talking about The Champion Pub, this Williams pinball from 1998 was the only one made by (IPDB writes: "Concept by") by Pete Piotrowski . This is very interesting for me because he definitely has a Polish surname, and I’m looking for Poles or people with Polish roots in pinball history, such as Steve Kordek, Ed Krynski, Scott Slomiany, Ed Cebula, Greg Kmiec or Louis Koziarz.
Some others sources on the internet tell me that Pete Piotrowski had worked on other pinballs but there's nothing about that at IPDB. He was certainly in the team which worked on one of the two Pinball 2000 machines which was planned but never built. This one is Playboy. It was never finished, so Revenge from Mars and Star Wars: Episode One were the end of Williams’ Pinball 2000 series, and of Williams as a pinball maker.
Let’s go back to Kraków.
The second big, non-league tournament held on 29th November became an official IFPA Flippin’ With The Greats fundraiser - Chmiel Poland.
Because of the timing - only one week after the big event in Rzeszów about which I just wrote - the turnout was small (20 people) but it was good company.
Apart from the locals, people came from Śląsk and Warsaw – the two strongest pinball centres in Poland. The winner was the Polish champion from 2013 - Armand Maculewicz from Sosnowiec (near Śląsk).
In second place came Marcin Krysinski – the Printimus Pinball representative - and third place was taken by Daniel Kaczmarek.
Among the locals, the best player was the host, Maciek vel Mezik Olesiak. Unfortunately Robert Gałązka, the best player in Kraków's Chmiel League, wasn’t able to participate.
Talking about the league in Kraków, it has the official name Chmielowa Liga Flipperowa and it consists of fourteen rounds, the best eleven of which count towards the final rank.
In the first edition, Maciek took second place while in third was Łukasz Wawryka (from Brzesko, less than 60km from Kraków). I took fifth place which was a good result for me.
The second 2015 edition will have nine or ten meetings. At the time or writing, (end of June), we have held our fifth meeting. Maciek is currently in first place and Robert is eight, but everything could change, in particular because one of the best Polish pinballers, Daniel Nowak, has started to play in Chmiel League along with Jakub Ciepliński (Warsaw). They have to travel a longer distance to participate (200 km and over 350km respectively). As a result, the Chmielowa Liga Flipperowa is no longer exclusively for southern Poland’s players.
After starting the second edition of the League, a third big tournament was organised at Chmiel.
The Beer Cup II had a main part and a classics tournament played on three machines (the same as the number used in the 2015 league).
There was also a third mini-contest on one machine in the smoking room – an F14 Tomcat. Do you remember the phrase ‘The winner takes it all’? It was certainly the case this time, because Konrad Masłowski from Warsaw was the top player in all three.
It was also a very happy night for one contestant from Kraków who specialised this year on the classic machines. Michał Klimaszewski, known as ‘Kot’ (cat) who is a ‘cat traveller’ (http://kociepodroze.blogspot.com/). He took third place and a trophy for his achievement.
At the moment, the Chmiel beer pub has the second largest collection of pinballs available in one place in Poland. Other places don’t have more than a few, most of them just one or sometimes two.
The biggest pinball place and the only pinball place which is strictly a pinball club is Printimus Pinball in Bytom (90 km from Kraków).
There are 34 machines, including such gems as Monster Bash, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Attack from Mars and Twilight Zone.
This year we have also got the second season of the league (but with different rules) and bigger classic tournament: six machines, all players play each machines as many times as they want and choose the score they want to record immediately after the game. The best eight play in quarter-final, followed by the semi-finals and final.
There are also two mini leagues: Stern (play on two machines: AC/DC and Terminator 3) and JJP (play on The Wizard of Oz).
Last year there was also some extra qualification – an all-year competition on nine chosen sci-fi and horror-themed machines. This year, during each round (or as we call it, ‘tournament day’) there is a competition for the best score on one machines. It could be tournament machine, or just a regular game. Every time there is some kind of pinball-themed prize for the best score, for example: a DVD of the Demolition Man film, an Arabian Nights package of almonds or raisins, or the last one, the film Mars Attacks! which in fact has no real relationship to the Attack/Revenge from Mars pinballs.
We still have the Roger Sharpe Contest which you can see in this video, and we still vote for the best playing style. Both will take place during the Printimus Pinball Cup 2015 about which I will write more below.
The leagues in both these places - Chmiel pub and Printimus Pinball - are not purely local. Players from those clubs often change, while players from other regions attend, particularly when they don’t have any places near them which can compare with Kraków’s and Bytom’s.
Of course that could change. A good example is Łódź, where the Port Łódź mall organised ‘Turniej flipperowy’ which translates exactly as ‘pinball tournament’. Simple and obvious, right? ;)
Three Stern machines were joined by several more donated by a few collectors. In the end twelve pinballs were prepared for the tournament, which was won by the well-known Polish expert in pinball repairs, Andrzej Karpiński! Special congratulations too for the junior player from Warsaw, Mateusz Gwizdała, who took fourth place.
It was the first - and surely not the last - tournament held in Łódź, which is the third largest city in Poland in terms of registered population (706,004) and fourth in terms of area (293.25 square kilometres).
OK, so let’s take a look into the future, especially in the southern part of Poland in the second half of this year.
In September, the Printimus Pinball club will be organising the Printimus Pinball Cup, which this year is also part of the IFPA’s European Championship Series or ECS (and we hope to organise next year’s ECS final).
Players from at least nine countries will participate, including the IFPA world champion, Daniele Acciari.
We have prepared something more that just a good pinball event by including some side tournaments and contests. We can also reveal that we will be making a visit to the Muzeum Techniki Wojskowej w Zabrzu im. JerzegoTadeusza Widuchowskiego (Museum of Army Engineering in Zabrze).
Their exhibits are almost exclusively of Russian (mostly Soviet) equipment, or equipment produced in Poland under Russian license, because that was how we used to supply the Polish army.
One more big tournament is sure to be organised in Chmiel. The closest tournament is the fourth edition of the previously-mentioned Plaza Park Pinball Party held on the Polish Baltic coast at the end of holiday season. This event can boast around 40 machines – a number that hasn't been exceeded in Poland yet. Of course, much more important is to have a joyful event and emotions, good company, beach and sun, and good food and beer.
As you can see, you can enjoy pinball in Poland in a number of very different surroundings. : )
Join us. You will be made very welcome!
© Pinball News 2015