Date: 18th & 19th November, 2011
This was the third Irish Pinball Open to be hosted by Heighway Pinball's Andrew Heighway and it held a special significance because it could also be the last, with plans for Heighway Pinball to move to the UK next year.
For now though, visitors from Ireland, the UK and Germany traveled to a house in the small Irish town of Clough, about 20 miles south-west of Limerick.
Inside, Andy had a selection of solid state and dot matrix games, from 1978's Bally Playboy to 2010's New Canasta from Spanish manufacturer MarsaPlay.
In the kitchen/dining room was a Williams High Speed 2 - The Getaway, but the newest machine in the house was in the hallway.
No, that's not a mirror behind it, there were actually two New Canasta games in the hallway, but unfortunately the second one wasn't booting up correctly and was switched off. We got the opportunity to dive into New Canasta to see how it is built and functions, so we'll have much more on the game coming up soon here at Pinball News.
Entry to the weekend of pinball action was free, but visitors on Saturday were requested to contribute €10 to cover the costs of the pizza, snacks, drinks and the hot food which would be served on Saturday afternoon.
The main Irish Pinball Open tournament would be held on the Saturday, but on Friday evening, just as soon as everyone had arrived, the Irish Pinball Classic tournament took place.
Six machines were chosen for the qualifying round and all eleven players played a single game on each. 11 points were awarded for the top score down to 1 for the lowest score and the top 8 players went into the semi-finals.
The machines used were; Black Hole, Funhouse, Rollergames, Playboy, Defender and New Canasta (since despite being a 2010 game, it is based on a 1986 design - Canasta '86). It would have been good to use Playboy but it was not behaving and needed attention before it could be considered ready for a tournament like this.
The results of the qualifying round were:
For the semi-finals, four two-player games were held on machines drawn at random. Black Hole, Funhouse and Defender (twice) were the chosen machines. The winner from each game would go into the final, with the losers having a play-off for 5th-8th places.
Dave Sanders beat Peter Blakemore in the first game, Greg Mott beat Peter Scheldt, Andy Heighway beat Justin Walker and Matt Vince beat Martin Ayub to set up the final four who played their last game of the tournament on Funhouse.
The winner with an impressive 15,083100 was Andy. Matt was second on 6,669,070 while Dave was third with 2,546,050 and Greg fourth on 1,282,810.
In the play-off for the remaining places, Peter Scheldt finished ahead of Peter Blakemore on New Canasta to get 5th and 6th respectively. Martin was 7th and Justin 8th.
The tournament has continued into the early hours, so once it was over players could either continue playing the games, or head off to bed. Most visitors were staying at the nearby Ballycannon Lodge, which continues to get good reports for its spacious rooms and impressive full Irish breakfasts.
Saturday was the day for the main tournament of the weekend, the Irish Pinball Open. Martin from Pinball News was organising this and like the Classic the night before, it too used six machines from the pool and they were chosen for reliability, variety and contrast from the night before's tournament.
Consequently, the 2011 Irish Pinball Open was to be played on High Speed 2, Monster Bash, Jackbot, Rollergames and Playboy. Unfortunately though, despite having a new driver board fitted, Playboy continued misbehaving and not kicking the ball out of the top kicker lane, so Black Hole was a late substitution.
Another three players had joined the field to give a total of fourteen - significantly down on last year's thirty, but the dates were announced late and there had been a series of pinball shows in the calendar recently, so players were possibly feeling a little jaded by the time the Irish Pinball Open came around.
In the qualifying round, everyone played a game on each of the six machines - either singly or in groups - and their scores were ranked, with 100 points for the top score. The points gaps between positions was greater at the top of the rankings (10 points) and closer together at the bottom (3 points).
Around 3:30pm, hot food arrived with breaded chicken pieces, sausages and chips for everyone playing the the tournament.
Here are the qualifying results, with each players machine scores (their best scores are on the left, their worst on the right) and their total points:
After the qualifying round, the format changed to double-elimination until it got to the final. The top 12 qualifiers went into the first round of play-offs but players in 13th and 14th were not yet out and went into the loser bracket's first round.
Three groups of four played on randomly selected machines, and the lowest scorer from each dropped down to the loser bracket. The remaining nine were then mixed up and played in three groups of three with the lowest scorers once again joining the loser bracket.
This continued until there were three main bracket winners and one loser bracket winner. These four then played off in a single final game held on a randomly drawn machine.
They were Dave Sanders, Greg Mott, Martin Ayub and Matt Vince.
Each finalist put their choice of final machine into the hat and one was drawn. That machine was Jackbot, which was Martin's selection.
Matt Vince was first to play.
The first ball produced some close scores but by the second Dave had scored some big points with multiball jackpots and set himself up for the Casino Run mode.
Dave ended his third ball on 2.7bn, well ahead of Matt's 953m total. Greg was in fourth at this stage with a little over 200m and needed to double that to take third from Martin, and double it again to put himself anywhere near Matt's total.
Sadly it was not to be and Greg ended on 402m and fourth place. Martin had the last ball, starting on 480m and needing to double it to snatch second place from Matt.
Once again it was not to be, and Martin's 661m final score kept him in third.
With the final over, most players departed for Auntie Lena's pub in Adare for some dinner and celebratory/commiseratory drinks. But not before they posed for a group photo.
A few hardy souls returned for more pinball into the early hours before crashing for the night.
On Sunday morning there was more pinball available for those who wondered what might have been, if only they could replay their games from the Open the previous evening. In most cases, the answer was that they would have done even worse, so some impromptu multi-player games took over until it was time to depart, say goodbye to the Irish Pinball Open and start the journey home.
Many thanks to Andrew for a fun weekend of casual and competitive pinball play, together with lots of drinks, snacks and pinball banter. Will his return to the UK signal the demise of the Irish Pinball Open, or will there be another event held next year? Check the Pinball News Diary page later in 2012 to find out.
© Pinball News 2011