ON YOUR MARKS...
Date: 18th & 19th April, 2015
Report by Robert Glashüttner
Austria has a new cosy yet spacious and good looking pinball location near Graz. On the 18th and 19th April, it was inaugurated with its first tournament.
Everyone who has ever organised a bigger pinball tournament and carried those large machines around for hours, knows how hard it is to get everything in place and running perfectly. It would seem a good idea if you could actually hold a pinball event at a location where there are already lots of pins standing around. Maybe a distributor?
This is exactly what Graz pinball club Flippnic did when it joined up with Austrian pinball distributor Siegfried Niegelhell recently.
Bernd Prucher, one of Austria's most prolific pinball collectors and organizers, agreed terms with the company based in Badendorf, Styria, and rented a hall large enough to sport around 40 machines.
Those were only the pins brought in from two collectors, though. The brand new machines owned by the distributor, including The Walking Dead and a WWE Wrestlemania LE, were located in a separate showroom on the first floor of the building. Those machines (and some more in the vicinity) were also used for the tournament, albeit with the newer ones reserved for the final rounds.
Over sixty players were registered for the 'Auf die Kugel(n), fertig, los!' tournament - the name is a pinball modification of 'On your marks, get set, go!' in German; 'Kugel' means ball. Most of the players were Austrian, with a bunch of Hungarian players as well as a German player mixed in.
The first day saw the players competing under the Swiss system, spread over 18 rounds. There were no EM machines played in the tournament, so the oldest pins in the competition were the likes of Fire! (1987) or Atlantis (1989). Aside from the machines themselves, the visually most striking thing was clearly the decor and interior: a nice carpeted floor, army camouflage cloth covering the walls to evoke the feeling of being in a big arcade instead of a dry factory building, some wooden benches and a bar. You could really see the effort that went into shaping this place.
No wonder then that players were in a really good mood during the tournament. Despite the fact that almost everyone in the room was competing, this first pinball tournament in Badendorf really had a special, laid-back vibe to it.
You could play your game, then walk around between the pins or sit down and have a chat or a drink. Alternatively, you could choose to go outside for a walk or a smoke, or go upstairs for a brief visit to the brand new machines there (also, during regular tournament play, you sometimes had to play upstairs).
The machines were in a very good condition. If a pin caused any trouble there was always a staff member and/or a technician nearby to take care of it.
Almost all of the active members of the Austrian pinball scene were present, including world top 100 players Markus Stix and Roland Schwarz.
Stix also served as a staff member to help with tech and rule troubleshooting. With Bernd Prucher from Flippnic serving as the main organizer, Stefan Riedler of Flippersportverein Austria (Flipper Sports Club Austria took care of book-keeping and communications.
The second half of the first day determined who qualified for the second day, where the players were put in four groups of eight players each. At about 6:30pm, day one of 'Auf die Kugel(n), fertig, los!' was finished and players were able to get some rest.
On day two, every player had to face each of the other seven players in their group. The four players with the most wins in each group would then advanced to the single-elimination stage of the tournament which would start with 16 players.
The group stage changed the character of the tournament a little bit. Some players who hadn't qualified weren't present for day two. Most of the qualified 32 players knew each other and their skill sets, so the competition naturally intensified. A lot of close and suspense-packed games were played. In the end, every player who had at least four wins (out of seven games) in their respective group advanced to the top 16.
Now it was time for some quality pinball performances!
The single-elimination tournament games were all played as best-of-three, with the exception being the grand final which was played as a single game again. One of the best match-ups of the whole tournament had to be the semi-final between Markus Stix and Jörg Buchacher on The Walking Dead.
While Stix played some solid but not brilliant balls, Buchacher managed to keep calm and concentrate while competing against Austria's best player and having a bunch of people standing around the machine watching him. His presence of mind paid off: After tying 1-1, Buchacher took the third game and advanced to the finals. Well deserved!
For the final game, audio and video expert Markus Schrodt prepared a camera and a microphone for the most important game of the tournament, played on a WWE Wrestlemania Pro machine.
After two days of playing many games of pinball, both final contenders, Jörg Buchacher and Alexander Muer, were quite exhausted. The idea of the organisers was to have a final game that doesn't take too long because of the high skills that the best two players of the tournament will bring to the table.
In the end, Wrestlemania was not very kind to either of them, and punished shots that were a little off with quick drains. After a short game, Muer came out victorious, being the first tournament winner at the new, charming Badenberg pinball location in Styria.
The new location will serve as the venue for the next big Austrian tournament, the Austrian Pinball Open, which will be taking place on the 19th and 20th September, 2015.
© Pinball News 2015