Date: 11th & 12th February, 2017 Location: Pinball Universe, Daimlerstraße 41-43, D-32257 Bünde, Germany Each year, a single tournament in each of fifteen different European countries is selected as that country’s qualifying tournament for the IFPA European Championship Series (ECS). The WPPR points earned by players from each tournament are totalled and a ranking table produced. The IFPA ECS rankings for 2016 Once all the qualifying tournaments have been played, the top 32 players automatically qualify for the ECS finals which – wherever possible – are held in a different country each year. For the final of the 2016 season we were in Germany at Pinball Universe in the snowy town of Bünde, 90km west of Hanover. The Pinball Universe building in Bünde Pinball Universe has several locations across Germany, but this custom-built building is their main base, and it’s an impressive operation. From the outset it is clear that brand recognition is an important part of the business. One of many Pinball Universe branded vehicles Their main showroom is up a flight of stairs, and this was where the free play practice area was located. Up to the showroom Inside the showroom visitors get to see the latest Stern Pinball machines, which on this trip included Batman 66 Premium and Aerosmith Pro. Everything in the showroom is very clean, with a counter for drinks and a seating area. Some of the Pinball Universe showroom games More showroom games More showroom games Two Kiss games – a Pro and a Premium Batman 66 Premium The free play area extended into a side room where a selection of Pinball Universe’s restored games were set up along with a few more interesting new games such as Pabst Can Crusher, Spider-Man home edition, Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International and Scoregasm Master. The second free play area The left bank of machines The right bank Pabst Can Crusher and Spider-Man Home Edition The Spider-Man playfield The opposite end of the room From the balcony overlooking the ground floor you get to see some of the boxes from the Stern games in the showroom. Stern Pinball boxes But you need to head to the ground level for a much better idea of the sheer number of new games Pinball Universe must have in stock. Stern pinball machine boxes – these rows are two boxes deep …and more Boxes on the ground floor too Since we are now on the lower level, let’s take a look at some of the other rooms. A dining area was set up which initially contained fruit, snacks and a stocked refrigerator with fruit juices, water, soft drinks and beer. The dining area This room would be where the daily meal was served on both Saturday and Sunday. Next door was the machine preparation area where Pinball Universe take new-in-box pinball machines and undertake their own pre-delivery checks, mods and protectors. The machine preparation workshop In the room was a Batman Limited Edition which needed some protectors added to stop the ball breaking some of them plastics. A Batman 66 LE being prepared for delivery Pinball Universe cut their own plastics in another part of the building, so it shouldn’t take long create a set of protectors for a new game. Batman 66 LE Then we come to the two tournament areas. The main ECS area contained 35 dot-matrix pinballs from 1991 to the present. The main ECS tournament area The left bank of machines The right bank of machines Out in the warehouse, another twelve recent Stern Pinball machines were set up. These would be used for the side tournament on Saturday and then for Sunday’s tournament. The side tournament machines The left bank of machines The right bank of machines The machines were: Main ECS Tournament Area Iron Man Vault Edition X-Men Magneto LE Metallica Premium Indiana Jones (Stern) CSI Transformers Pro Rollercoaster Tycoon AC/DC Luci Sporanos, The Pirates of the Caribbean Kiss Pro Batman – The Dark Knight Shrek Spider-Man WWE Wrestlemania LE Tron NBA Terminator 3 Jackbot World Cup Soccer Creature from the Black Lagoon Judge Dredd Getaway, The – High Speed 2 Tommy Fish Tales Whitewater Demolition Man No Fear NBA Fastbreak Shadow, The Terminator 2 Monster Bash Attack from Mars Indianapolis 500 Dirty Harry Side Tournament Area Iron Man Vault Edition Kiss Pro Metallica Premium Walking Dead, The Pro Star Trek Pro Spider-Man Vault Edition Game of Thrones Pro Avatar LE X-Men Premium Ghostbusters Pro AC/DE Premium Mustang LE And so to the tournaments themselves. The main ECS took place on Saturday starting at 1pm. It was scheduled to finish between midnight and 1am, but everyone suspected it might take a few hours longer. Entry to the whole weekend cost €120 ($128/£102) which included both main tournaments, the side-tournament (if available), access to the free play areas, unlimited drinks and a buffet meal each day. Everyone taking part had to register on the ground floor in order to get their player badge and to also receive a Pinball Universe goody bag. This goodie bag included paper pads and a pen for running tournaments, packs of mints, hair tonic, a collapsible ruler, post cards, flyers, stickers and a Millennium Falcon model kit – all items made by firms local to Pinball Universe in Bünde. The Pinball Universe goodie bag IFPA Country Director for Germany, Tobias Wagemann explained the rules to players in the showroom before everyone trooped downstairs to begin. ECS players assemble Tobias explains how the ECS final works Players learn the rules and the timings for the day’s activities The format pitched pairs of players against each in a best-of-seven match. The highest-seeded player had choice of machine or position for the first game, with the loser having choice after that. Match pairings were pre-selected and shown on a paper chart. The main ECS winner’s bracket Once a match had been decided, the winner continued to the next stage of the chart, while the loser entered the loser bracket for a second chance at making it to the final. The loser bracket The ECS trophies The first matches get underway The first matches get underway Once players were relegated to the loser bracket they played a best-of-five head-to-head match to continue. The loser from the pair was out of the ECS. Players check their progress and next opponents All was not over though, as there was a separate side tournament for those who were eliminated and for non-ECS players who wanted to take part. This side tournament was held on the twelve machines on the warehouse floor. Trophies for the side tournament The format for the side tournament gave each player sixteen entries which they could play over and of the twelve machines, although no single machine could be played more than twice. Players in Saturday’s side tournament All the scores on each machine were ranked and ranking points awarded, with 100 for the top score, 99 for second and so on. The total points for a player’s sixteen entries gave them their overall points score, with the top eight players going into the semi-finals. The latest scores were shown on a big monitor With the ECS finals also taking place at the same time, only ECS players who had been eliminated from the ECS were allowed to compete in the side tournament. Also, because of the time required to play sixteen games, only those eliminated early could hope to play all their games before the end of qualifying at 8pm. Before that, around 5pm, food was served to all competitors. Because of the timing of our games, by the time we got to the dining area most of it had already ben consumed, but you get an idea of what was available in the pictures below. Dinner time This consisted of soups, salad, bread and a selection of cold meats. The previously seen fruit, chocolate bars and drinks were also available. Salad and bread Two different soups were available – chicken goulash and leak & potato Play continued in both tournaments as soon as dinner was over, so now would be a good time to have a look around the amazing Pinball Universe facility in Bünde while Saturday’s ECS play-offs and the side tournament were under way. Returning to the tournament areas, the main ECS tournament was gradually whittling down the number of players in the winner bracket, as more matches were completed. Play in the main ECS finals Play in the main ECS finals The winner and loser brackets begin to fill up Those out of the ECS or who never qualified were free to play in the side tournament. Play in the side tournament Play in the side tournament The top eight would progress to the semi-finals The top eight were: Saturday Side Tournament Qualifiers Mario Kertels Roland Schwarz Dirk Elzholz Marcin Kisiel Gabriele Tedeschi Didier Dujardin Peter Blakemore Ernö Rotter The eight were split into two groups of four with each group playing a single game to decide which two would go through to the final. One of the two semi-final matches Dirk plays on Mustang The final four were: Saturday Side Tournament Finalists Dirk Elzholz Gabriele Tedeschi Peter Blakemore Ernö Rotter The final of Saturday’s side tournament The final was won by Ernö who finished ahead of Gabriele in second, with Peter third and Dirk fourth. Winner of Saturday’s side tournament, Ernö Rotter Second place, Gabriele Tedeschi Third place, Peter Blakemore Fourth place, Dirk Elzholz The top four in Saturday’s side tournament Meanwhile, the number of players left in the main ECS tournament began to dwindle as the night continued. The main ECS tournament later on Saturday night The main ECS tournament later on Saturday night Franck and Daniele battle it out on Creature As we said earlier, the main ECS finals were unlikely to finish on time, and so it proved. With a fresh tournament to play on Sunday, we stayed until around 1am at which point there was clearly still some way to go. As it turned out, the match above between Franck and Daniele was the semi-final in the winner bracket which Daniele won. Franck then joined the loser bracket where he played Cayle George. Cayle had had a remarkable run having lost his first round match to Olivier Renders but continuing right through the loser bracket to the final match against Franck, which he also won. That made Franck third, and Taco Wouters – who he beat in the previous winner bracket round – was fourth. So the final was between Daniele and Cayle. Cayle needed to beat Daniele in the best-of-seven match, and even if he did that, he then had to beat him again in the final best-of-five loser bracket match. And that’s exactly what he did. A narrow 4-3 victory in the first match was followed by a 3-0 win in the second. Both skill and stamina were needed, since the final didn’t actually end until 8am – the latest of any tournament Pinball News has ever reported from. The final winner bracket In order to allow some time to recover, the trophy presentation was deferred until 1pm on Sunday, but even then Daniele was sleeping and not able to attend. The trophies were presented by Tobias in the showroom upstairs. Cayle receives his trophy IFPA ECS Winner, Cayle George Third place, Franck Bona Fourth place, Taco Wouters Three of the top four, with Daniele’s second place trophy Sunday’s tournament was a ‘Swiss-style’ format of 16 rounds, where players are drawn against different opponents and play different machines in each round. When all rounds have been played, the eight players with the most wins went into the play-offs to decide the overall winner. Trophies for the top eight in Sunday’s tournament The tournament began at 10am with the announcement of the first round draw. Players discover their opponent and the machine they will be playing The matches are under way When a match was over, the winner returned to the computer and selected the winner. Once all matches in a round were over, the next round was drawn. The match pairings and standings were shown on a monitor At 1pm there was a break for lunch. Again, this was included in the cost of the event, but unlike yesterday most of the food was hot. It was generally agreed that players preferred Sunday’s hot food over Saturday’s cold buffet. The queue for Sunday’s lunch The delicious hot food dishes With lunch over, play resumed in Sunday’s tournament’s qualifying round. Waiting for the next round to begin Unfortunately we had an 8pm flight to catch from Hanover which is an hour’s drive away from Bünde, so we had to leave at 5:30pm, just after round 14 of 16 had been completed. By the end of qualifying, the standings looked like this: Sunday Tournament Qualifying 1 Roland Schwarz 2= Robert Sutter 2= Cesare Datri 4 Paul Jongma 5= Levente Tregova 5= Ernö Rotter 7 Michael Trepp 8 Roberto Pedroni 9 Jim Lindsay 10 Albert Nomden 11= Taco Wouters 11= Reiner Pfeiffer 13 Kirsten Adam 14= Erwin Deutschländer 14= Peter Blakemore 16= Gabriele Tedeschi 16= Fabio Squadrani 16= Ivan Geentjens 19= Marc Steinmeier 19= Heinz Baumann 19= Marcin Kisiel 22= Ollivier Francq 22= Philipp Unger 24 Martin Ayub 25 David Mainwaring 26= Stefan Hänsch 26= Dirk Elzholz 26= Marco Suvanto 29= Jürg Berchtold 29= Didier Dujardin 31 Mathias Jäger 32= Sven Göttsche 32= Benjamin Gräbeldinger 34 Luhn Stephan 35 William Dutton 36 Andrej Demsar 37= David Dutton 37= Kim Danielmeier 39= Mario Kertels 39= Rich Mallett 41= Heinz Berges 41= Flavio Baddaria 41= Mirco de Marchi 41= Ergun Erdemir 45 Norman Heikamp 46= Lars Thiele 46= Carsten Menke 48= Karl Weber 48= Ari Sovijärvi 50 Dina Fukson 51= Louis Hänsch 51= Lutz Schroeder 51= Jendrik Thiele 54 Thomas Doepelheuer 55 Margit Danielmeier 56= Simon Niehausmeier 56= Tobias Wagemann 58 Archibald Lefevre 59 Jonathan Joosten 60 Olivier Renders 61 Franck Bona 62 Florian Thomas 63 Daniela Oymann The final placings for both the ECS and Sunday’s tournament are still being drawn up, so we will update this report with those as soon as we get them.. Holding the ECS at Pinball Universe was undoubtedly a success. Their selection of new and expertly restored games has to be second to none, and they have the space to hold two tournaments simultaneously while still providing an extensive free play area. In fact, the whole facility is very impressive, with around as many new-in-box machines as you are likely to see at the Stern Pinball factory. Talking to the company owners, they tell us these machines are selling because they are creating a new, untapped market for pinballs in Germany. That’s hugely encouraging in itself, but they are also able to provide players with a world class tournament venue which will receive its next influx of guests at the forthcoming Pinball Universe Battle at the end of March.