Date: 15th-17th September, 2017
Location: Hall of Pinball-Fame, Badendorf 12, 8413 Badendorf, Austria

To find the Hall of Pinball-Fame you drive south from Vienna for about two hours until you reach the city of Graz.  Then go a little further, out into the countryside, to the village of Badendorf.  There, set on the side of a hill is a small industrial park which mainly seems to be concerned with making cement objects, and right at the entrance is an anonymous-looking three-storey building which is secretly the home to an impressive collection of modern pinballs.

The home of the Hall of Pinball-Fame in Badendorf
The home of the Hall of Pinball-Fame in Badendorf

If you didn’t know that this was the home of the Austrian Pinball Open, there was one small clue to be found.

We've found the right place
We’ve found the right place

We arrived late Friday night with the main and side tournaments starting on Saturday morning.  We wanted to arrive earlier on Friday so that we could play in the warm-up tournament which is held on Friday evening, but a mix of distant airport gates, a small quantity of beer and an unexplained gap of thirty minutes in our lives led to us missing the intended flight and having to catch a later one.

By the time we arrived soon after midnight, the final of the Warm-Up Tournament was about to begin.  It used a three-strikes Matchplay format where players were randomly paired up for head-to-head games on random machines.  Getting a win meant you carried on, but losing the game gave you a strike.  Once you get three strikes you are out of the tournament. The tournament continued until there were just two players remaining.  They then played in the final.

The final stages of the Warm-Up Tournament
The final stages of the Warm-Up Tournament

The final of the Warm-Up Tournament was held on Twilight Zone between Jasmin Ibric and Johannes Ostermeier.

Playing in the final of the Warm-Up Tournament
Playing in the final of the Warm-Up Tournament

The machine was clearly playing tough, and the final game didn’t last too long.  Johannes just set a three-ball score of 122M as player one, and Jasmin went into the very last ball just over 50M behind on 71M.

Playing in the final of the Warm-Up Tournament
Playing in the final of the Warm-Up Tournament

That last ball couldn’t manage to stay out of the drain for long, giving Jasmin little opportunity to catch Johannes’ score.  So Johannes won and Jasmin was second. Benjamin Gräbeldinger and Sandor Varga tied for third place.

Winner of the Warm-Up Tournament, Johannes Ostermeier
Winner of the Warm-Up Tournament, Johannes Ostermeier
The top four in the Warm-Up Tournament
The top four in the Warm-Up Tournament
Jasmin Ibric (2nd), Johannes Ostermeier (1st) & Benjamin Gräbeldinger (3rd equal)

Here are the full results of Friday night’s Warm-Up Tournament:

Austrian Pinball Open Warm-Up Tournament
1 Johannes Ostermeier
2 Jasmin Ibric
3 Sandor Varga
3 Benjamin Gräbeldinger
5 Klaus Löffler
5 Morten Søbyskogen
8 Jürgen Letzel
8 Stefan Herold
8 Zsolt Szabo
8 Laszlo Hornyik
12 Andreas Frank Meyer
12 Michael Heiler
12 Mirko Hertrich
12 Ralph Alexander
18 Peter Boncza
18 Herbert Mittelmaier
18 Arno Nöbl
18 Wolfgang Wetl
18 Wolfgang Haid
18 Markus Ramsner
18 Zsolt Csiszka
26 Roland Schwarz
26 Boldizsár Botka
26 Péter Szamosi
26 Sabine Fasching
26 Oyvind Winther
26 Reiner Pfeiffer
26 Elin Wilhelmsen
26 Rene Stiegler
26 Karin Eisenstecken
36 Felix Radinger
36 Daniela Neuberger
36 Simone Götzhaber
36 Frank Goeltl
36 Balázs Pálfi
36 János Sándor
36 Piller Zsolt
36 Sandra Søbyskogen
36 Gregor Ponert
36 Hribasek Helmut
36 Uwe Ramsner
47 Ingo Götzhaber
47 Reinhard Kremsmayr
47 Gregor Weisgerber
47 Stefan Karlhuber
47 Tamas Odler
47 Alexander Muer
47 Franz Polsterer
47 Zsolt Somogyvari
47 Gábor Vanderer
47 Tom-Andre Andersen
47 Sonja Heiler
56 Gabriella Medgyesi
56 Jürgen Ostermeier
56 Ernestine Lachnit
56 Stefan Riedler
56 Kurt Ploier
56 Herbert Buchberger
56 Kondora Zita
56 Sabine Ramsner
 

After the presentation of the trophies, it was time to unbox one of the special games at the event – a production Alien machine from Heighway Pinball, supplied by Stefan Riedler’s RS Pinball.  It joined a Star Wars Limited Edition which had been set up in the hall earlier that evening.

The Alien LE machine is unboxed
The Alien LE machine is unboxed
The box is removed
The box is removed
The game is set up
The game is set up
Under the Alien playfield
Under the Alien playfield

Although the tournament was over and the games set up for Saturday the night didn’t end there, with partying, drinks and more pinball playing until the early hours.  We left some time around 3:30am.

Despite forecasts of a hot, sunny weekend, we awoke to rain, low cloud and a chill in the air at our guest house on the other side of Badendorf.  The persistent drizzle mixed with heavy showers meant we wouldn’t be walking to the Hall of Pinball-Fame as we’d hoped.

Another wet day in the Austrian hills
Another wet day in the Austrian hills

Inside the hall players were gathering for the start of the qualifying rounds in the two tournaments.

Players assemble for the start of the tournaments
Players assemble for the start of the tournaments
Players' names are checked-off as they register
Players’ names are checked-off as they register

Before we get into the tournaments, let’s have a look around the building.  The main hall was on the ground floor and it contained the majority of the games as well as a seating area and the bar.

The bar in the main hall
The bar in the main hall

Murauer was the beer of choice for many, but the bar sold two other beers as well as plenty of soft drinks, coffee and snacks.  Prices were quite reasonable.  A 500ml bottle of beer was €2.70 ($3.16/£2.42), coffee was €1.50, while a coke would set you back €1.50.  A small hot dog could be bought for €2.50.

The apricot cake looked very appealing
The apricot cake looked very appealing

If you didn’t fancy sitting at the bar, bench seating and tables could be found towards the back of the hall on the left hand side.  On the left were the older ‘classics’ machines which were used in their own tournament two years ago but were included in the general mix of tournament games this time.

Tables and bench seats on the left side of the main hall
Tables and bench seats on the left side of the main hall

On the other side of the seating area was another mixed row of electronic pinballs.

The pinballs on the left side of the main hall
The pinballs on the left side of the main hall

On the right side of the hall were two rows of electronic pinballs – mostly Williams/Bally but with some Sega games in the mix.

The two rows of pinballs on the right side of the main hall
The two rows of pinballs on the right side of the main hall
More machines on the right side of the main hall
More machines on the right side of the main hall

The walls are covered with camouflage-style netting with decorated branches protruding into the room.

Some of the decorations in the main hall
Some of the decorations in the main hall

Moving out into the entrance lobby, there was a Williams Millionaire machine which was free to use for practice at any time.

There was a Millionaire machine in the lobby for practice
There was a Millionaire machine in the lobby for practice

From the lobby there was a staircase which led up to two more floors.  On the first there was an area which would be used to serve food at lunchtime, while one floor up were three more rooms full of pinballs.

The monitor on the second floor showing the same as the projector in the main hall
The monitor on the second floor showing the same as the projector in the main hall

The room on the right used to contain a mix of machines but is now a dedicated Stern room featuring an excellent selection of all the latest titles provided by Niegelhell. There’s a Pro and a Premium Game of Thrones, and when Star Wars is just arriving with operators and home buyers, here they have two Pros in addition to the LE downstairs.

Some of the machines in the Stern room on the second floor
Some of the machines in the Stern room on the second floor
Two new Star Wars Pro machines in the Stern room
Two new Star Wars Pro machines in the Stern room

On the right wall we find a Ghostbusters, an AC/DC Vault Edition, two Aerosmiths (Pro and LE), a Kiss LE and a Batman 66.

More Stern machines
More new Stern machines

The other two rooms are linked.  The first has machines which were, in the main, not part of Saturday’s tournaments and could be used for practice.  They included, not one, but two Whoa Nellie! games.

The practice room across from the Stern room
The practice room across from the Stern room

The second room was mostly Williams/Bally titles, with just a lone Batman: The Dark Knight representing Stern.  The numbers on the machines indicate duplicates, so in the picture below you can see the third Twilight Zone and the second Indiana Jones in the collection.

The third tournament room up on the second floor
The third tournament room up on the second floor
More machines in the third tournament room
More machines in the third tournament room

And so back to the tournaments.  Besides trophies, there were also custom beer glasses for the top players.

The trophies for the three tournaments
The trophies for the three tournaments

Stefan Riedler made the introductions and described how the Main and Side Tournaments would work.

Stefan greets visitors and tells them about the tournament formats
Stefan greets visitors and tells them about the tournament formats

The Main Tournament was a Swiss-style one, where everyone took part in 17 rounds of head-to-head games against other players with a similar ranking on pre-defined machines. The number of wins would determine the initial ranking, with the result of who beat who giving a more granular result which could be used in deciding the tied places.

The matches in each round were displayed on the projector screen
The matches in each round were displayed on the projector screen

The side tournament placed players in groups of four and gave them a machine to play.  They then played two four-player games on that machine with points awarded for positions in each game.  When both games were over, the two players with the most points moved on to the next round.

A few rounds of the Main Tournament were played first followed by a round of the Side Tournament, after which it was back to the Main.

The main tournament is underway
The main tournament is underway
The tournaments were played on modern and classic machines
The tournaments were played on modern and classic machines
Mostly though they were modern machines
Mostly though they were modern machines

At 1pm everything stopped for lunch which could be purchase with the tournament entry and cost €12 for both days.  This was served on the first floor and included a selection of meat and chicken dishes, vegetable sides and salad items, along with soup and bread, all supplied by an external catering company.

Some of the dishes available for Saturday's lunch
Some of the dishes available for Saturday’s lunch
Different meat dishes
Different meat dishes
Salad dishes
Salad dishes
Soup, bread and various sauces
Soup, bread and various sauces

We are happy to report that the quality of the food was high and there was plenty of it.  The buffet-style allowed guests to enjoy different courses if they wished, although there were no desserts.  If anyone wanted one of those, they could try the apricot sponge cake on sale at the bar.

The Main Tournament completed the 19 qualifying rounds on Saturday with the top 48 players out of the original 100 qualifying for Sunday’s play-offs.

The current standings were shown on the screen between rounds
The current standings were shown on the screen between rounds

The Side Tournament was played through all its rounds on Saturday with the exception of the final which would take place on Sunday. Nearly everyone who played in the Main also played in the Side.

Sunday’s play-offs in the Main Tournament put the 48 qualifiers into six groups of eight and allocated them a pool of seven machines to play (plus one spare in case of technical problems).  Most machines were in the main hall but some were upstairs.

Everyone played a single game against every other member of their group on a pre-selected machine from the pool.  When all seven games had been played, the four players with the most wins continued to the next round, while the remaining four dropped out of the tournament.

The play-offs began on Sunday morning
The play-offs began on Sunday morning
Tournament games in the Stern room
Tournament games in the Stern room

At midday on Sunday a raffle was drawn to win a restored Firepower II pinball.  Tickets were available for purchase for €2 each throughout the weekend until the draw took place.

This Firepower 2 machine was the prize in the raffle
This Firepower 2 machine was the prize in the raffle
The lucky winner
Daniela Neuberger was the lucky winner
Daniela with the organisers in front of her prize machine
Daniela with the organisers in front of her prize machine

There were then presentations to the top women players in the Main Tournament.  By this stage there were no more women remaining in the tournament, so the positions were based on their final rankings.

Third place in the women's rankings, Simone Götzhaber
Third place in the women’s rankings, Simone Götzhaber
Second place in the women's rankings, Elin Wilhelmsen
Second place in the women’s rankings, Elin Wilhelmsen
First place in the women's rankings, Edith Mayer
First place in the women’s rankings, Edith Mayer
The top women players
The top women players

Then the last few rounds of the Main Tournament took place.  After the group stage, it was down to head-to-head best-of-three games on randomly-selected machines.

The play-offs begin
The play-offs begin
Both tournaments reach their last few rounds
One of the semi-finals of the Main Tournament

There was a ruling needed on the semi-final match on Terminator 2 shown above when the drop target in front of the lock shot became intermittent.

The organisers make a ruling
The organisers make a ruling

The organisers decided it was a minor malfunction which affected both players equally and didn’t render the machine unplayable.  Krisztián Szalai had already won the first game and continued to win second too, booking his place in the final.

Only the two finals remained.

The Side Tournament three-way final played on three pre-chosen machines, starting with Revenge from Mars.  The three finalists were Boldizsár Botka, Krisztián Szalai and Cesare Datri, and Cesare began.

Cesare Datri in the final on Revenge from Mars
Cesare Datri in the final on Revenge from Mars

The second game was Farfalla.

The second game was Farfalla
Boldizsár on the second game – Farfalla

Finally it was time for the Alien which was set up at the front of the hall so everyone could see it clearly.  Krisztián had won the first two games and was in an unbeatable position going into the third.  Even so, he wanted to put in a good performance to try to achieve a clean sweep of victories.

Boldizsár Botka starts the final of the Side Tournament
Boldizsár Botka starts the final of the Side Tournament
Krisztián Szalai plays second
Krisztián Szalai plays second

Krisztián had a good first ball which set the pace for the others to try to catch.

Cesare Datri is player three
Cesare Datri is player three

Krisztián cemented the lead further on ball two and effectively wrapped it up on his final ball to end just under the 100M mark.  Boldizsár was second on nearly 17M while Cesare was third after a relatively quick game by his usual standards.

The final scores in the Side Tournamernt
The final scores in the Side Tournamernt

So, Krisztián won overall, Boldizsár was in second place, with Cesare third.

Here are the full results of the Side Tournament:

Austrian Pinball Open Side Tournament
1 Krisztián Szalai
2 Boldizsár Botka
3 Cesare Datri
5 Fabio Francescato
5 Markus Stix
5 Sandor Varga
8 Piller Zsolt
8 Rene Stiegler
8 Johannes Ostermeier
11 MArco MArocco
11 Peter Krajnc
11 Reiner Pfeiffer
13 Ingo Götzhaber
16 Klaus Löffler
16 Roberto Pedroni
16 Alexander Muer
16 János Sándor
16 David Mainwaring
21 Wolfgang Haid
21 Herbert Buchberger
21 Roland Schwarz
21 Jasmin Ibric
21 Michael Heiler
21 Arno Nöbl
27 Ewald Rath
27 Mirko Bogic
27 Sabine Ramsner
27 Enrico Giorgio de Stefani
27 Herbert Mittelmaier
27 Laszlo Hornyik
35 Martin Satzinger
35 Ralph Alexander
35 Željko Vasic
35 Stefan Karlhuber
35 Daniela Neuberger
35 Stefan Herold
35 Benjamin Gräbeldinger
35 Sabine Fasching
35 Elin Wilhelmsen
44 Martin Ayub
44 Gregor Weisgerber
44 Szabo Istvan
44 Peter Boncza
44 Ernestine Lachnit
44 Andreas Frank Meyer
44 Balázs Pálfi
44 Zsolt Somogyvari
44 Martin Obetzhofer
53 Morten Søbyskogen
53 Ales Rebec
53 Gregor Ponert
53 Reinhard Hager
53 Stefan Riedler
53 Jenna Muer
53 Bernd Prucher
53 Helmut Hribesek
53 Kurt Ploier
66 Andrej Demsar
66 Andrej Bukovšek
66 Andrej Rižner
66 Zsolt Csiszka
66 Karin Eisenstecken
66 Felix Radinger
66 Simone Götzhaber
66 Jürgen Ostermeier
66 Matej Kos
66 Zana Hrastovsek
66 Zsolt Szabo
66 Tamas Odler
66 Franz Polsterer
66 David Schrittwieser
66 Oyvind Winther
66 Helmut Fritz
66 Gábor Vanderer
85 Sandra Søbyskogen
85 Tom-Andre Andersen
85 Christoph Schützinger
85 Rudi Haferl
85 Wolfgang Wetl
85 Maximilian Hollwöger
85 Kondora Zita
85 Vid Kuklec
85 Antonella Iannotta
85 Sonja Heiler
85 Markus Ramsner
85 Uwe Ramsner
85 Gabriella Medgyesi
85 Gerhard Hornik
85 Reinhard Kremsmayr
85 Péter Szamosi
85 Jürgen Letzel
85 Frank Goeltl
85 Markus Schrodt
85 Susanne Schrittwieser
85 Mirko Hertrich
85 Walter Grill
 

Then it was the turn of the main tournament to reach the final.  This time there was just the one machine used – Star Wars.  Two of the three players were the same as the Side Tournament – Cesare Datri and Krisztián Szalai.  They were joined by Zsolt Szabo for the five ball game.

The last game of the final was on Star Trek
Stefan explains the details of the last game of the final on the Star Wars LE
Cesare Datri begins the last game of the final
Cesare Datri begins the last game of the final
Zsolt Szabo plays second
Zsolt Szabo plays second
Krisztián Szalai plays third
Krisztián Szalai plays third

Although it was clearly explained before starting that it was a five-ball game, some in the audience forgot and thought it was all over after the third ball.  The players knew well-enough though.

Star Wars is a game where the scoring is relatively modest until you string the shots together and build-up the playfield multiplier, at which point your score really starts climbing quickly.  Zsolt got into the flow of the game and his score jumped by 100M in a short space of time, giving him a commanding lead which he kept to the end.  It was very close for second place with Krisztián narrowly pipping Cesare again.

The final scores on Star Wars
The final scores on Star Wars

With all the tournaments over, the prize-giving ceremony could begin.

First came the presentations for the Side Tournament.

Third place, Cesari Datri
Third place, Cesari Datri
Second place, Boldizsár Botka
Second place, Boldizsár Botka
Winner of the Side Tournament, Krisztián Szalai
Winner of the Side Tournament, Krisztián Szalai

Then we had the main tournament presentations and the players who finished joint ninth.

The ninth place finishers
The ninth place finishers

Then the losing semi-finalists.

Fifth places (Stefan Karlhuber had already left)
Fifth places (Stefan Karlhuber had already left)

Then the top three who besides their trophies and beer glasses, also won baskets of assorted cured and potted meats.

Third place, Cesare Datri
Third place, Cesare Datri
Second place, Krisztián Szalai
Second place, Krisztián Szalai
Winner of the Austrian Pinball Open 2017, Zsolt Szabo
Winner of the Austrian Pinball Open 2017, Zsolt Szabo
The top three in the Main Tournament
The top three in the Main Tournament

Here are the full results of the Austrian Pinball Open Tournament:

Austrian Pinball Open Main Tournament
1 Zsolt Szabo
2 Krisztián Szalai
3 Cesare Datri
5 Stefan Karlhuber
5 Alexander Muer
5 Oyvind Winther
9 Szabo Istvan
9 Sandor Varga
9 Johannes Ostermeier
9 Roberto Pedroni
9 János Sándor
9 Piller Zsolt
18 Martin Ayub
18 Boldizsár Botka
18 Jürgen Letzel
18 Benjamin Gräbeldinger
18 Tamas Odler
18 Stefan Riedler
18 Herbert Mittelmaier
18 Michael Heiler
18 Ales Rebec
18 Fabio Francescato
18 Andrej Demsar
18 Andrej Bukovšek
25 Jasmin Ibric
25 Željko Vasic
31 Roland Schwarz
31 Felix Radinger
31 Gregor Weisgerber
31 Jürgen Ostermeier
31 Stefan Herold
31 Balazs Takacs
31 Balázs Pálfi
31 David Schrittwieser
31 Peter Krajnc
31 Markus Stix
41 Ingo Götzhaber
41 Patrick Weiss
41 Reinhard Kremsmayr
41 Mirko Hertrich
41 Martin Obetzhofer
41 Gábor Vanderer
41 David Mainwaring
41 Andrej Rižner
41 Mirko Bogic
47 Andreas Frank Meyer
47 Markus Schrodt
47 Arno Nöbl
49 Martin Satzinger
50 Kurt Ploier
51 Wolfgang Haid
52 Edith Mayer
53 Péter Szamosi
55 Franz Polsterer
55 Reiner Pfeiffer
55 Walter Grill
55 Vid Kuklec
58 Enrico Giorgio de Stefani
59 Maximilian Hollwöger
60 Helmut Hribesek
61 Elin Wilhelmsen
61 Herbert Buchberger
63 Herbert Mayer
64 Helmut Fritz
65 Ewald Rath
66 Rudi Haferl
67 Simone Götzhaber
68 Jenna Muer
69 Alexander Ralph
70 Siegfried Niegelhell
70 Sonja Heiler
72 Zsolt Somogyvari
72 Markus Ramsner
74 Zana Hrastovsek
75 Gregor Ponert
76 Wolfgang Wetl
77 MArco MArocco
78 Frank Goeltl
79 Zsolt Csiszka
80 Daniela Neuberger
81 Sabine Fasching
82 Gerhard Hornik
83 Tom-Andre Andersen
84 Ernestine Lachnit
85 Rene Stiegler
86 Peter Boncza
86 Klemens Weiss
88 Laszlo Hornyik
89 Karin Eisenstecken
90 Matej Kos
91 Morten Søbyskogen
92 Uwe Ramsner
93 Klaus Löffler
94 Kondora Zita
95 Reinhard Hager
95 Gabriella Medgyesi
97 Sandra Søbyskogen
98 Antonella Iannotta
99 Sabine Ramsner
100 Susanne Schrittwieser
 

With all the presentations over, we sprinted through the rain to jump in the car and start the two-hour drive back to Vienna airport.

The Hall of Pinball-Fame continues to amaze, with the best selection of games and an impressive main hall packed with machines, but still providing seating, tables and a bar.  Prices were very reasonable for the food, drinks and to enter the tournaments.  Having a Friday night warm-up even is also a fun way to begin a weekend of competitive pinball.  The location in the countryside south of Graz is a little restrictive, with only one guest house within walking distance – and a long, wet walk at that – but it’s easy to imagine how a similar building in a city would be prohibitively expensive.

But if a more remote location means we can enjoy such a great dedicated venue and jaw-dropping selection of machines, it’s a journey we are happy to make every time.

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