Date: 25th-27th August, 2023

Location: Mercure Daventry Court Hotel, Sedgemoor Way, Daventry NN11 0SG, UK

While the Mercure Daventry Court Hotel is once again host for the annual UK Pinfest show, this is the first year that organiser Philip Murphy has taken over the entire hotel. That means all the rooms are booked by show visitors and all areas of the hotel are available to use for the show, from the lobby to the main hall and all the smaller conference rooms.

The Mercure Daventry Court Hotel which again host the UK Pinfest show
The Mercure Daventry Court Hotel which again host the UK Pinfest show

In fact, as soon as you enter the hotel you reach the registration desk where show entry can be purchased along with assorted items of show memorabilia from UK Pinfest and also the North-East Retro Gaming (NERG) show which Philip also organises.

The front desk in reception
The front desk in reception
UK Pinfest T-shirts were available for just £10
UK Pinfest T-shirts were available for just £10
Plenty of NERG shirts were also available
Plenty of NERG shirts were also available
Walter Day and Billy Mitchell were guests at NERG this year and signed merchandise
Walter Day and Billy Mitchell were guests at NERG this year and signed merchandise

Before the show could begin though, all the machines and stands needed to be set up in the main hall (Danetree Suite), in the side rooms and in the hotel lobby.

Many game donors and their machines arrived on both the Wednesday and the Thursday, ahead of the official opening on Friday evening. Several people working on the show commented that for them the Wednesday night is the new Thursday night.

We didn’t arrive until Friday morning when machine unloading and set up was in full flow.

There is only a single vehicle bay and loading door which can create congestion at certain times and means vans have to be moved as soon as they have disgorged their contents.

The hotel's sole loading bay for the Danetree Suite hall
The hotel’s sole loading bay for the Danetree Suite hall

Let’s take a look around the hall as it was on Friday morning.

Pinballs waiting to be set up
Pinballs waiting to be set up
The view from the loading doors
The view from the loading doors
Without the correct power, there is no show
Without the correct power, there is no show

Slowly, but surely, the number of machines on their legs increased throughout Friday afternoon.

The view from the public entrance
The view from the public entrance
More machines ready
More machines ready in the main tournament area

The Addams Family Challenge shocker chair returned, which makes players sit in an ‘electric’ chair and use hand grips to flip the flippers. We covered the development of the chair in an earlier Pinball News article.

Setting up the Addams Family Shocker Chair
Setting up the Addams Family Challenge chair
Between two of the rows of machines
Between two of the rows of machines
Retro Arcade Specialist were setting up their stand but also managing to make some sales
Retro Arcade Specialist were setting up their stand but also managing to make some sales

Along with their parts stand Retro Arcade Specialist brough along several interesting machines, including the new This Is Spinal Tap game from home pin which was making its UK (and possibly European) debut at the show.

It remained covered until the show opened, but we’ll have more details and pictures a little later in this report.

London Pinball were organising their stand too, with assorted parts, manuals and flyers
London Pinball were organising their stand too, with assorted parts, manuals and flyers

It wasn’t only in the main hall where pinballs were being readied for the start of the show. The corridor outside had several pinballs and video games on free play.

WWF Royal Rumble, Star Wars, Demolition Man and Terminator 2
WWF Royal Rumble, Star Wars, Demolition Man and Terminator 2
It's not 100% pinball at UK Pinfest
It’s not 100% pinball at UK Pinfest

At the back of the main hall there were also Rocky & Bullwinkle and Austin Powers pinballs available to play.

Setting up games for the Ladies Tournament and the UK Pinball League finals
Setting up games in a side room for the Ladies Tournament and the UK Pinball League finals
In another side room, the Pinball Classics tournament machines were being prepared for Saturday's qualifying
In another side room, the Pinball Classics tournament machines were being prepared for Saturday’s qualifying

Returning to the hotel’s lobby, there were eight more pinballs available to play. Most of these were on coin play for charity. Over the course of the weekend they raised a grand total of £1,255.20 which is a new record for the show.

James Bond, Tron, Foo Fighters and Godzilla in the hotel's reception area
James Bond, Tron, Foo Fighters and Godzilla in the hotel’s reception area
Scooby-Doo, The Big Lebowski and Magic Girl were also in the reception area
Scooby-Doo, The Big Lebowski and Magic Girl were also in the reception area
Finally, this beautiful Deadpool was used on Saturday and Sunday for the Deadpool Challenge tournament
Finally, this beautiful Deadpool was used on Saturday and Sunday for Gonzo’s Deadpool Challenge tournament

The hotel’s lobby was also where one of the two bars could be found. When the show hall was open guests could use a second bar in there, but outside show hours the lobby bar was open late into the night.

The bar in the lobby
The bar in the lobby

The bar staff served a reasonable selection of draught and bottled drinks, along with tea and coffee.

The draught taps at the bar
The draught taps at the bar
Starbucks coffee and tea were also available, although at high prices
Starbucks coffee and tea were also available, although at high prices

As well as drinks, the hotel served hot food. There was a bar menu available most of the day, and an extra food counter set up for lunch and dinner service.

The bar food menu
The bar food menu
The additional food counter service
The additional food counter service
Chilli, rice and chips were available along with nachos and filled baked potatoes
Chilli, rice and chips were available along with nachos and filled baked potatoes
The food counter prices
The food counter prices

Before we leave the facilities behind, it’s worth noting that the show booked out the entire accommodation at the hotel – all 150 rooms – offering a special room rate of £64 for single occupancy including a full buffet breakfast, which is slightly cheaper than the 2022 rate of £65.50.

Inside the main hall, the final touches were being made to the machines and stands.

One of the rows of pinballs
One of the rows of pinballs
The main tournament machines were ready
The main tournament machines were ready
More machines in the main hall
More machines in the main hall
More machines in the main hall
More machines in the main hall
David Duncan and his father were ready with their Retro Arcade Specialists stand
David Duncan and his father were ready with their Retro Arcade Specialists stand

This also gave us the opportunity to examine the This Is Spinal Tap machine from Homepin in more detail. Retro Arcade Specialists are the UK distributor for Homepin games and had this early model flown over from the Homepin factory in Taiwan for the show.

This Is Spinal Tap's playfield
This Is Spinal Tap’s playfield
The game's topper includes an animated jaw and lighting effect, but neither were working on this version
The game’s topper includes an animated jaw and lighting effect, but neither were working on this version

Here are some more shots of the playfield’s features.

The playfield is brightly lit thanks to the integrated LED strips
The playfield is brightly lit thanks to the integrated LED strips
The posts have chrome acorn nuts to give an improved appearance
The posts have chromed acorn nuts to give an improved appearance
The central three drop targets
The central three drop targets
The pod ball lock device
The pod ball lock device
The drum kit with the exploding drummer effect
The drum kit with the exploding drummer effect
Some of the guitars are motorised
Some of the guitars are motorised
The upper part of the playfield
The upper part of the playfield

The game features both a large backbox LCD panel and an orange dot matrix display. The LCD panel mostly shows clips from the This Is Spinal Tap movie which are synchronised to the gameplay with occasional graphic overlays or special display animations. The dot matrix display shows the game scores and most player instructions. It even includes a rudimentary video mode.

It's a video mode
It’s a video mode

Unfortunately, like much of the software, the information was minimal and tended to confuse rather than enlighten.

The video mode begins
The video mode begins
The centre post was a later addition to the game following testing on-site in Taiwan
The centre post was a later addition to the game following testing on-site in Taiwan

Full public entry to UK Pinfest didn’t begin until 10am on Saturday morning, but there was a limited number of VIP tickets available which gave access to the main show hall on Friday and Saturday evenings from 7pm.

VIP ticket-holders wait outside the show hall ahead of the 7pm opening on Friday
VIP ticket-holders wait outside the show hall ahead of the 7pm opening on Friday
The main show hall's doors are opened
The main show hall’s doors are opened

Although restricted to VIP ticket holders, the hall was soon busy for the Friday evening session.

The main hall on Friday evening
The main hall on Friday evening
Many guests wanted to try This Is Spinal Tap for themselves
Many guests wanted to try This Is Spinal Tap for themselves

For players into their tournaments, there were plenty to enjoy at UK Pinfest.

The schedule of events
The schedule of events

The Ladies Tournament kicked things off at 7:30pm on Friday, with two hours of qualifying before the final rounds around 10:30pm

Qualifying in the Ladies Tournament
Qualifying in the Ladies Tournament
The organisers certainly knew how to look after their players
The organisers certainly knew how to look after their players

After the initial rounds were over, the last four who contested the final were Amanda Simpson, Lucy Vince, Rhian Best and Sarah Vince.

The final four in the Ladies Tournament: Amanda Simpson, Lucy Vince, Rhian Best and Sarah Vince
The final four in the Ladies Tournament: Amanda Simpson, Lucy Vince, Rhian Best and Sarah Vince

It was decided to play the final on a single machine – Creature from the Black Lagoon. Lucy played first, but it was her mother, Sarah, who set the pace with 29M after ball 1, 20M ahead of the closest challenger, Amanda.

Amanda nearly caught up on the second ball, reaching 27.5M while Sarah only improved marginally to 32.5M. Rhian was on 15.7M and Lucy on 6M.

Amanda did move slightly ahead on her third ball to 33.5M, but Sarah soon added another 20M on her final ball to secure the win. Rhian was third on 22.6M with Lucy fourth on 6.6M.

Trophies were awarded by UK Pinfest organiser, Philip Murphy, and David Duncan from Retro Arcade Specialists who sponsored the tournament.

Winner of the UK Pinfest Ladies Tournament, Sarah Vince
Winner of the UK Pinfest Ladies Tournament, Sarah Vince
Second place, Amanda Simpson
Second place, Amanda Simpson
Third place, Rhian Best
Third place, Rhian Best
Fourth place, Lucy Vince
Fourth place, Lucy Vince

Before the Open Tournament began on Saturday morning, there was free practice on the machines on Friday evening – another reason to buy one of the VIP tickets.

Practice on the ten Open Tournament machines on Friday night
Practice on the ten Open Tournament machines on Friday night

Also on Friday night was the first of two Stall Ball tournaments held in the main show hall.

The concept of Stall Ball is a simple one. Players line up to take part and whoever is at the front of the queue plays on the single machine used, which in this case was a Twilight Zone. The line quickly snakes around the hall as more and more players join in.

The start of the line to play Stall Ball
The start of the line to play Stall Ball

Each player’s job is to put the ball into one of the nominated scoops, locks or kicker holes which ‘stalls’ the ball. If they achieve that, they quickly leave the machine to the next player and join the back of the queue to play again, but if they drain then they are out.

As consolation for being knocked out, Kirk from Tilt pinball, beer and coffee bar in Birmingham had arrange for everyone to receive a free can of pale ale as soon as they were eliminated.

With potentially only one or two flips needed to stall the ball, the line moved quickly.

Stall the ball, but don't drain
Stall the ball, but don’t drain

It didn’t take too long before the three remaining players were competing to win the Friday Stall Ball.

It will soon be decided
It will soon be decided

That winner was Will Jarvis, with Graeme Burchael second and Dan Prachar third.

Dan Prachar (3rd), Will Jarvis (1st) and Graeme Burchael (2nd)
Dan Prachar (3rd), Will Jarvis (1st) and Graeme Burchael (2nd) with organiser Philip Murphy

The main hall closed at 11pm on Friday as guests and staff drifted off, either to bed or to the lobby to continue playing the machines there or join in the karaoke in the bar area.

All the machines are switched off for the night... well, nearly all of them
All the machines are switched off for the night… well, nearly all of them
Karaoke and dancing continued into the early hours
Karaoke and dancing continued into the early hours

On Saturday morning, the day began at 9am when the UK Pinball League play-offs began in the same side room and on many of the same machines used to host the Ladies Tournament the previous night.

The UK Pinball League play-offs
The UK Pinball League play-offs

The top thirty-seven players assembled from each of the UK Pinball League’s six regions came together to compete.

Trophies for the top players in each region and for Saturday's finals
Trophies for the top players in each region and for Saturday’s finals

Everyone played a single game on each of the nominated machines in groups of four. The scores were ranked and the top sixteen went on to the final rounds later that afternoon. They were:

PosNameScore
1Will Jarvis252
2Andy Foster221
3Peter Blakemore207
4Luke Grayson203
5Paul Owen195
6Chris Poyntz190
7Ian Walmsley179
8Wayne Johns176
8Keith Boreland176
10Garry Speight168
10Matt Vince168
12Martyn Iles165
13David Dutton164
14Lynn Cowan159
14Gene Aw159
16Chris Edis157

These sixteen then played five rounds of four-player games, with points awarded using the 4-2-1-0 system. When all five rounds were over, the player with the most points was the winner. That was Andy Foster with 18 out of a possible 20 points. Luke Grayson was second after tying with Paul Owen on 11 points but took second as he beat Paul when they played in the same group. Likewise, Ian Walmsley was fourth after a four-way tie on 10 points. Trophies were presented by UK Pinball League Coordinator, Wayne Johns.

Winner of the UK Pinball League final, Andy Foster
Winner of the UK Pinball League final, Andy Foster
Second place, Luke Grayson
Second place, Luke Grayson
Third place, Paul Owen
Third place, Paul Owen
Fourth place, Ian Walmsley
Fourth place, Ian Walmsley

The main hall re-opened at 10am to anyone with a Saturday or full weekend pass. At the back of the hall, qualifying in the Open Tournament began on the ten available machines. They were:

NASCAR007 James Bond: Dr. No
Game of ThronesMetallica
F-14 TomcatThe Beatles
BlackjackJurassic Park
Iron ManFoo Fighters
The Open Tournament area began quietly but that soon changed
The Open Tournament area began quietly but that soon changed
Quiet immediately after the doors opened
Quiet immediately after the doors opened
The view of the hall from the stage at the back of the room
The view of the hall from the stage at the back of the room

The Open Tournament used the Drains Tournament Manager system to record all the scores and rank the players. Entry cost either £10 for registration plus a single 3-game card, or £20 for registration plus four 3-game cards. All entry money was paid out as prizes to the eventual top eight players.

The DTM system recorded the scores and produced the rankings
The DTM system recorded the scores and produced the rankings

The rest of the hall soon filled with show guests keen to get some flipper time.

Saturday's show guests enjoying the pinballs
Saturday’s show guests enjoying the pinballs
Any vacated machines were soon put back into action
Any vacated machines were soon put back into action
The show featured a wide mix of machines from early electromechanical to the very latest releases
The show featured a wide mix of machines from early electromechanical to the very latest releases
Several machines were advertised for sale, while there were also plenty of deals to be done on other titles
Several machines were advertised for sale, while there were also plenty of deals to be done on other titles
There was no shortage of customised or modded games on the floor
There was no shortage of customised or modded games on the floor
The Addams Family Challenge chair provided plenty of fun over the show weekend
The Addams Family Challenge chair provided plenty of fun over the show weekend

There were three vendors with stands in the main hall – Retro Arcade Specialists, London Pinball and 1-Stop Pinball.

Sarah was usually to be found running the London Pinball stand
Sarah was usually to be found running the London Pinball stand
Some of the items for sale on the London Pinball stand
Some of the items for sale on the London Pinball stand

Another machine joined the mix in the corridor at the back of the hall, as Batman 66 arrived.

Batman 66 arrived on Saturday
Batman 66 arrived on Saturday

Also new on Saturday was Steve Pagett’s selection of various pinball and arcade parts which were for sale as part of his clearing out of surplus stock.

Steve Pagett was selling off surplus parts
Steve Pagett was selling off surplus parts

Here’s our exclusive Twelve Minute Tour video walk through the hotel, including the lobby games, the main hall and the side rooms. This year, for the first time, it is available in 4K UHD. Click the setting cog at the bottom right and choose 2160p (4K) to get the highest quality.

There were further tournaments taking place in two of the side rooms on the way to Steve’s sale.

The Pinball Classics were under way with eight machines used. They were:

GenesisXenon
Black HoleFlash Gordon
Tag TeamQuicksilver
BarracoraGalaxy
Qualifying play in the Pinball Classics tournament
Qualifying play in the Pinball Classics tournament

It was a simple qualification system, with the top two scorers on each machine progressing to the play-offs, although players could only qualify on one machine. Qualifying continued until 6pm with the final rounds beginning at 10am on Sunday.

Pinball Classics qualifying
Pinball Classics qualifying
Tournament T-shirts were available
Tournament T-shirts were available

In another side room, the Scottish Pinball Association were organising the ever-popular NBA Challenge. This pits two players from a group of four against each other on a pair of linked NBA Fastbreak machines.

The two NBA Fastbreak machines used for the NBA Challenge tournament
The two NBA Fastbreak machines used for the NBA Challenge tournament

Everyone in the four-player group played against each other, earning 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw (it does happen) and 0 points for a loss. The top two from each group progressed to the play-offs, with ties decided by the for/against points difference.

The qualifying took place during Saturday, running from 10am until 6pm, before the grand finals on Sunday afternoon.

Qualifying in the NBA Challenge
Qualifying in the NBA Challenge

If you still hankered for more competitive action you could find it out in the hotel’s lobby where Gonzo’s Deadpool Challenge was generating much fun and excitement.

Plenty of fun challenging friends on Deadpool
Plenty of fun challenging friends on Deadpool

We had other plans on Saturday night and so missed the re-run of the Stall Ball competition during the evening’s VIP session, and also a new Upside Down Challenge which involved wearing inverting glasses to play Stranger Things.

Martin Bedford plays 'Upside Down' on Stranger Things
Martin Bedford plays ‘Upside Down’ on Stranger Things
(picture: David Bowery)

There was also a further qualifying round in the Open tournament, but even those not part of the VIP session could keep track of the qualifying positions through the neverdrains.com website.

There was a final qualifying session for the Open from 10am until midday when the main hall reopened on Sunday morning.

That Open qualifying coincided with the final rounds of the Pinball Classics tournament. As we said earlier, the top two scorers on each of the eight machines qualified. Those sixteen were:

David FowlerYuen Aw
Ian ClarkNick Clark
Matt VinceDavid Tucker
Owen LloydAlan Jones
Will JarvisAndrew Foster
Kurt LouvvieAlan Irving
Axel VercauterenYvan Raets
Craig PullenRich Mallett
Play-offs in the Pinball Classics
Play-offs in the Pinball Classics

The first round of three-game four-player matches saw those sixteen reduced to eight for the two semi-finals.

Another round of three-game four-player matches gave us the final four of Craig Pullen, Axel Vercauteren, Matt Vince and Rich Mallett. They played three four-player matches on Genesis, Quicksilver and Tag-Team Pinball using the same 4-2-1-0 scoring system employed throughout the play-offs.

Craig begins on Genesis
Craig begins on Genesis

In a close game, Rich won on Genesis with 341K. Craig was second on 319K, Axel third on 234K and Matt fourth on 123K.

Things were shaken up by the result on Quicksilver which saw Axel win on 747K, with Craig second on 314K, Matt third on 180K and Rich fourth with 104K.

So, going into the decider, Axel had 5 points, Craig and Rich had 4, while Matt had 1. Any of Axel, Craig or Rich could win if they won the final game on Tag-Team Pinball.

Rich leads off on Tag-Team Pinball
Rich leads off on Tag-Team Pinball

Rich started reasonably with 450K on his first ball, but Matt more than doubled that, while Craig and Axel had poor first balls. Rich caught up and overtook on his second ball to go into the last ball with a healthy 1.867M score, to Matt’s 1.015M. Further rapid drains from Craig and Axel appeared to put them out of contention on 224K and 34K respectively.

Rich repeated his first ball performance on ball 3, ending on 2.383M, double his nearest challenger, Matt’s, score. Matt only managed to add around 200K, putting him on 1.228M. Craig was denied the good final ball he needed, ending on 338K. Axel, though, did finally get a decent run of the ball.

Axel steps up to play the last ball of the final
Axel steps up to play the last ball of the final

His total on 1.272M was enough for second place in the game, but Rich’s 1.867M had won both the game and the tournament overall.

So, Rich had a total of 8 points, Axel 7 points, Craig 4 points and Matt 2 points. Cash prizes and trophies were awarded by Tournament Director, Shaun Harvey.

Winner of the Pinball Classics 2023 tournament, Rich Mallett
Winner of the Pinball Classics 2023 tournament, Rich Mallett
Second place, Axel Vercauteren
Second place, Axel Vercauteren
Third place, Craig Pullen
Third place, Craig Pullen
Fourth place, Matt Vince
Fourth place, Matt Vince

While the Pinball Classics play-offs were underway, the cheers rang out from the room next door where the Under-14s NBA Challenge was taking place.

The Under-14s NBA Challenge
The Under-14s NBA Challenge

The ten competitors were paired up to play two consecutive games on the two machines. For the second game the two players swapped machines to eliminate any advantage resulting from one machine playing ‘easier’ than the other.

The four winning players with the highest score moved on to the semi-finals, from which the top two contested the final. The final two were Ethan Campbell and James Aw, with Ethan triumphing to take first place. Katie Vince was third with her brother Daniel fourth.

UK Pinfest organiser, Philip Murphy, presented them with their trophies.

Winner of the NBA Challenge Under-14s, Ethan Campbell
Winner of the NBA Challenge Under-14s, Ethan Campbell
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)
Second place, James Aw
Second place, James Aw
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)
Third place, Katie Vince
Third place, Katie Vince
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)
Fourth place, Daniel Vince
Fourth place, Daniel Vince
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)

The next action was in the main hall where Ailsa Clunie presented the Best-in-Show award for the machine judged by a mystery cabal of judges as the best out of the 140 pinballs at this year’s UK Pinfest.

The prize went to Antony Hobbs for this very special The Addams Family restoration, which included black ramps, a custom Thing box, art blades, embedded cabinet light strips, a super-size colour DMD, a black engraved lock bar and a whole host of additional upgrades.

The winner of the Best-in-Show award for 2023
The winner of the Best-in-Show award for 2023
Playfield detail from the Best-in-Show winner
Playfield detail from the Best-in-Show winner
Antony Hobbs receives his Best-in-Show award for his The Addams Family
Antony Hobbs receives his Best-in-Show award for his The Addams Family
(picture: Silverpaolo)

The next presentation was for the new inductees into the UK Pinball Group Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame has been running since 2008 and in that time has inducted 27 members for the outstanding contributions they have made to pinball in the UK. For 2023 there were two new inductees chosen from those suggested by the community, both of whom have been in pinball for many years and both have had a big impact on the pinball scene in the UK. They were introduced, on behalf of the entire Nominations and Inductions Committee, by Pinball News Editor, Martin Ayub.

The first inductee of 2023 was Steve Pagett.

2023 UK Pinball Group Hall of Fame inductee, Steve Pagett
2023 UK Pinball Group Hall of Fame inductee, Steve Pagett
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)

Steve has unrivalled experience in buying, selling, operating and repairing pinballs, videos and fruit machines. He’s been supporting shows by taking games for the public to enjoy since the early ’90s as well as operating games in multiple locations, culminating in the creation of the Electric Circus public arcade and bar in Nuneaton. Although Electric Circus closed recently, its spirit lives on with Steve now operating and maintaining many of his pinballs at Tilt in Birmingham.

The second inductee for 2023 was Wayne Johns.

2023 UK Pinball Group Hall of Fame inductee, Wayne Johns
2023 UK Pinball Group Hall of Fame inductee, Wayne Johns
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)

Wayne is well-known for his extensive tournament and league organising skills, but he is also a top international player, a strong advocate for grassroots competitive pinball, the current IFPA Country Director for the UK, a machine collector and also a former Guinness World Record holder for continuous play. Along the way he has raised thousands of pounds for charity, in particular Prostate Cancer UK. At UK Pinfest he was organising the UK Pinball League finals and co-organising the Open Tournament.

Then it was back to the tournaments.

The NBA Challenge had eight finalists who made it through Saturday’s qualifying round.

The final eight in the NBA Challenge
The final eight in the NBA Challenge

We were busy competing in the Open Tournament, so missed the NBA Challenge finals. However, it was a triumph for Adam Thompson who finished ahead of Chris G. with Carl Spiby third and Ryan Curtis fourth. UK Pinfest organiser, Philip Murphy presented the trophies and cash prizes.

Winner of the NBA Challenge, Adam Thomson
Winner of the NBA Challenge, Adam Thomson
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)
Second place, Chris G
Second place, Chris G
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)
Third place, Carl Spiby
Third place, Carl Spiby
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)
Fourth place, Ryan Curtis
Fourth place, Ryan Curtis
(picture: Ailsa Clunie)

Meanwhile, the top twenty-four qualifiers in the Open were continuing to the play-offs. The top eight got a bye through the first round, leaving sixteen competing for the opportunity to meet them in the quarter-finals. The twenty-four qualifiers were:

PositionNamePoints
1Kurt Louwie274
2Craig Pullen264
2Nathan Garwood164
4Josh Iles256
5Yuen Aw253
6Axel Vercautem249
7Gene Aw248
8Rich Mallet241
9Martin Ayub240
9Ian Walmsley240
11Brad Atwood239
12Will Jarvis236
13Matt Vince229
14David Fowler228
15Owen Lloyd227
16Yvan Raets225
17Greg Mott218
17Neil McRae218
19Daniel Ormerod216
20David Tucker215
21Jeremy Dorling208
22Andy Foster207
23Dan Prachar206
24Ryan Pullen203

The sixteen players in the first round were paired up to play three randomly-selected machines as two-player games. The first player to win two games went through to the quarter-finals.

Open co-organiser, Wayne, explains the format to the players
Open co-organiser, Wayne, explains the format to the players

There were cash prizes for the top eight finishers. All entry fees were returned as prizes with 35% to the winner, 20% to second place, 15% to third, 10% to 4th and 5% each to the 5th-8th place losing semi-finalists. This year the prize pot was £3,375 which resulted in 1st-4th prizes of £1200, £675, £505 and £335 respectively, with £165 awarded for 5th-8th places.

Throughout the Open, streaming of selected tables was available on the Pinball Live Twitch channel. There were several camera rigs which were moved between games to ensure there was always good coverage of interesting matches.

Some of the camera rigs in the Open play-offs
Some of the camera rigs in the Open play-offs

Live streams were shown on a couple of monitors to give spectators a good view of the action.

The playfield monitor
The playfield monitor
The live stream monitor
The live stream monitor
The audience for the final rounds
The audience for the final rounds

As the rounds completed, the number of players reduced from 16 to 8 to the final 4. They were:

The Open Tournament final four: Greg Mott, Craig Pullen, Matt Vince & Andy Foster
The Open Tournament final four: Greg Mott, Craig Pullen, Matt Vince & Andy Foster

The three games chosen to play were NASCAR, James Bond 007 and Foo Fighters.

Greg went first on the game one of the three games of the final
Greg went first on the game one of the three games of the final

It was Craig who quickly got to grips with NASCAR, scoring 25M on ball one compared to the other three’s scores of 3M, 2M and 1M.

Craig took the win on the first game, NASCAR
Craig took the win on the first game, NASCAR

Craig’s lead diminished slightly on ball two as Andy bumped his score up to 6M while Craig, Greg and Matt all had fairly quick drains.

Ball three was no kinder to Greg who ended on 3.7M. Craig and Andy both added around 15M to their totals to keep their separation in 1st and 2nd respectively. Matt had a better final ball ball but remained in 3rd.

The impressive Pinfest 2023 trophies were created and funded by Colin Chapman
The impressive Pinfest 2023 trophies for all the tournaments were created and funded by Colin Chapman

As 4th placed player on the first game, Greg went first on the second game, James Bond 007. His 11M was better than Matt or Andy, but once again Craig took the lead on 42M. Greg had a better second ball, nudging into the lead with 46M. Matt had another bad ball with a total after ball two of just 2M. Andy raced ahead with his score of 104M, way ahead of Craig’s 54M.

Greg couldn’t capitalise on his better second ball and ended his game on 47M for 3rd place. Matt only improved a little to 30M but it was still 4th place.

Matt playing James Bond 007
Matt playing James Bond 007

The win would be between Andy and Craig. Andy ended his third ball on 120M, a lead of 66M, but would it be enough?

The answer was ‘no’. Craig had a fruitful Bird 1 multiball and surpassed Andy’s score with a 4.5M double jackpot shot.

The points totals going into the last game were: Craig 8, Andy 4, Matt 1, Greg 1.

With two wins under his belt, Craig had not quite won the final with his 8 points, so it was a question of whether Andy could win the last game to add to his two 2nd places to match Craig’s points. As long as he didn’t finish last, Craig would pick up at least one more point which would guaranteed him the win overall.

Andy playing Foo Fighters to try to save the final
Andy playing Foo Fighters to try to save the final

Matt began and racked up a decent score of 72M on his first ball. Greg was next and crept slightly into the lead with 73M. Andy needed the win but started badly with a quick drain for only 2M. Craig did the same, tilting when trying to save the ball with 2M on the board.

A slight fumble ended Matt’s second ball after he had doubled his score to 142M. Greg was close behind on his ball two score of 134M. The win Andy needed looked a tough ask when he ended ball two on 78M. Craig was still in 4th place with his 46M, but it would prove irrelevant if Andy couldn’t win.

On ball three, Matt piled on the pressure with a decent ball to end on 312M. Greg didn’t add much more to end on 141M. Andy needed another 234M to go into first place, but despite a valiant attempt he could only reach 150M for second place. With Andy not winning on Foo Fighters Craig had already won the final, but played his last ball anyway, ending on 80M.

Matt’s win on the final game gave him third overall with Greg fourth.

The prizes were presented by Open Tournament co-organiser Paul Garner and David from Retro Arcade Specialists.

Winner of the 2023 UK Pinfest Open Tournament, Craig Pullen
Winner of the 2023 UK Pinfest Open Tournament, Craig Pullen
Second place, Andy Foster
Second place, Andy Foster
Third place, Matt Vince
Third place, Matt Vince
Fourth place, Greg Mott
Fourth place, Greg Mott

The final of the Open Tournament ended around 6pm, long after the show had closed to the public at 4:30pm, although show guests were welcome to remain to watch the final. As a result, the Open Tournament’s awards ceremony also marked the end of UK Pinfest for 2023.

Time to start packing the games up
Time to start packing the games up

The set-up of the show had been spread across three days. The tear down was also not overly rushed. While many game donors wanted to get their games and themselves home on Sunday night, many more machines weren’t packed away until the Monday, which also happened to be a public holiday.

The end of the show
Ultraman is one of many machines packed up at the end of the show
Always a poignant time when it's the end of another successful show
Always a poignant time when it’s the end of another successful show

There’s no doubt that UK Pinfest becomes bigger and bigger each year. The physical dimensions of the main hall limits how many machines can be located there, but the show’s complete takeover of the Mercure Daventry Court hotel meant all the side rooms and the lobby were available to use as well.

When UK Pinfest began in 2018 there were 111 pinballs. This year that had increased to 140. Many thanks to everyone who brought a machine, as well as all the tournament organisers, the repair crew, the show organising team, the streaming crew, the vendors and the various sponsors of events.

It’s tempting to think a move to a larger location would allow that expansion to continue, and yet the size, pricing and convenience of the current Daventry home feels about right for the premier UK show in its present form. As with his other show, NERG, organiser Phillip Murphy has built strong community support for UK Pinfest, so that while new features and events have been added each year, that growth has always been organic.

We are already looking forward to 2024’s show. The dates haven’t been officially announced yet, but it will almost certainly be held over the August Bank Holiday weekend as usual.

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