World Pinball Championships – Final and Deciding Game

Some of you may have noticed the new overhead cameras in the A Division this year. They represent the kick-ass culmination of an idea I actively opposed, for reasons that remain unclear to me, except that I am apparently a bit of a cranky bastard at times.

We managed to remember to record two of the three games played in the A Finals, Cheetah and Creature from the Black Lagoon – unfortunately, though, we forgot to hit the red button for The Addams Family, where Bowen made an incredible save under high pressure. Thankfully, his save was captured on film, and I will provide a link to it at the end of this article. In this post, however, we are taking a closer look at the game played on Creature, which was the last game of the tournament, with three players still in contention for the $10,000 prize and title of World Pinball Champion.

Going into the final game, Keith Elwin was in the lead with 5 points, while Bowen Kerins and Andrei Massenkoff lurked just behind with 4 points each. Cayle George was the spoiler, having only 1 point but still playing with a chance at 3rd place. As the top seed, Keith chose to play Creature From The Black Lagoon, and consequently, the other players chose to play after him, so he was forced to go first.

If you care to read my narrative of the game while you’re watching the video, you might want to right-click here and open it in a new window.  Please note that my annotated times may be off by a second or two.

You will notice right away that Keith (player 1) often lets the ball bounce over, which is an expert technique that helps slow the ball down so it can be trapped more easily. On this particular machine, you could reliably let the feed from the pop bumpers bounce down to both flippers, for an easy trap on the right flipper. He uses this technique with less success on the feed from the left orbit, but most expert players will tend to use a live catch instead. On his first ball, Keith deliberately spells F-I-L-M in order (worth an extra 8 million), focusing on each feature in turn, but he drains with multiball still lit, having made two significant saves (at the cost of one tilt warning each), each of which pleases the crowd. At 2:31, he actually drains even though the ball hits the tip of the left flipper, because he didn’t attempt a third save.

Cayle has a little bit of a nervous habit involving extra flipper action, although sometimes he uses it to “settle” a ball that is trapped or nearly trapped on the opposite flipper.

Cayle, too, completes F-I-L-M on ball 1. Note that he makes an excellent live catch on the left flipper at 4:29. He promptly starts multiball, makes two perfect live catches on each flipper, finds the girl, rescues the girl, and collects a jackpot, all within 18 seconds. The tradeoff, of course, is that he hasn’t collected any CREATURE letters, so his jackpot is unmultiplied. He loses control and the multiball ends, but he immediately begins working on F-I-L-M again, until a flubbed live catch at 5:55 costs him the ball.

It takes about 90 seconds for Bowen to launch his first ball. This is allowable, and Bowen and many other expert players do intentionally pace themselves in order to play their best game. The uncharacteristically wild shot at 7:37 is an attempt to shoot the right saucer, collecting the Double Film Letter Bonus, worth 4 million. Since there is a ball saver, this is really not such a bad idea, although a crazy bounce sends the ball up the center lane instead. Note that Bowen, like many expert players, backhands the right ramp from the right flipper in order to move the ball to the left flipper for an easier shot at the Snackbar or the right saucer. After a missed shot, Bowen makes an aggressive slap save at 8:40, earning two tilt warnings but saving the ball.  The crowd doesn’t seem too impressed.

In the reflection, you can see Bowen moving to the side – he has switched hands in order to turn away from the machine and let the tilt bob settle. He waits 15 seconds, misses his shot again, and makes an excellent live catch at 9:05. He uncharacteristically misses yet again, and has no chance of making another save.

Andrei’s first ball begins at 9:58, and he attempts a shot at the right saucer, despite failing to spell K-I-S-S via the skill shot. He makes an unusual but impressive drop catch at 10:09, and again at 10:48.

Andrei is repeatedly choosing not to shoot the last K-I-S-S letter when he has the ball on the right flipper, possibly because he plans to collect it last, giving him an easy feed for starting multiball on the left (which is preferable to starting it on the right because of the safer feed). However, he then collects it prematurely at 11:18. I suspect that Andrei is feeling very tense as he plays, because although he shows excellent technique, his play on this ball overall shows less strategy than the other players, and twice he rolls through an already-lit P-A-I-D lane (top right area). He drains at 11:30 when his slap save comes up short.

Keith launches his second ball at 12:13, and tries a fadeaway pass to the right flipper, in order to setup a clean shot to the lock on the left, but the move fails, and the ball saver kicks in.  He relaunches gently and easily traps the ball from the jet bumpers, but at 12:39, he misses the lock shot and quickly drains down the right side, leaving multiball lit and victory further out of reach.

Cayle completes an intricate sequence of “test flips” before launching his second ball at 13:20.  He collects the L in F-I-L-M by hitting the P-A-I-D skill shot, and then uses a live catch on the right flipper.  He makes another excellent live catch on the left flipper at 13:38, part of a series of skillful catches as he starts the Move Your Car feature on the center lane.  Note how he repeatedly flips the left flipper at 14:21, to “settle” the ball on the right flipper.  Unfortunately, he only collects one Move Your Car award, then proceeds to work on spelling K-I-S-S.  At 15:10 and 15:15, he makes the dangerous shots needed to light the Snackbar and complete F-I-L-M.

Because he has already collected a Jackpot, he cannot light the Snackbar by shooting it when unlit.  At 15:39, he starts his second Multiball.  Cayle is in good shape at this point, having made more progress and certainly scored more points than the other players.  Unfortunately, he loses the Multiball in a failed trap attempt at 16:18, but promptly hits the restart at the Snackbar, a difficult shot from the right flipper.  At 16:32, a flubbed shot at the Snackbar ends the Multiball again.  Cayle continues to show excellent technique, such as the live catch at 16:53, but he misses more shots, and loses the ball after a save at 16:57.

Bowen begins his second ball at 17:44, misses a quick shot at the right saucer, and gives us the ironic thumbs up sign.  At 17:57, he accidentally plunges too hard, but makes an excellent live catch, setting himself up to spell F-I-L-M sequentially at 18:06, collecting the 8 million bonus, which he celebrates.  After a careful pass, he starts Multiball at the left lock at 18:13.  He misses two shots at the left lock, but after hitting the right saucer (and not finding the girl), he traps a ball on the left flipper and begins collecting CREATURE letters to increase the Jackpot multiplier.  Note, beginning at 18:51, how Bowen nudges the game to “swirl the cup” and ensure he collects three letters per CREATURE shot, rather than just two. At 19:10, he chooses to shoot the left lock, finding the girl, before resuming CREATURE shots.  Note that at 19:32, he is deliberately not completing the P-A-I-D lanes, so that they will be closer to completion for progress towards the next Multiball.  After a flubbed shot at 19:46, he finds both balls on the left flipper, and quickly drains one after attempting a shot at the Snackbar.  He gets the restart, from the right flipper, at 19:56.  While one ball is on the CREATURE ramp, he rescues the girl at 20:18, and three seconds after an unfortunate drain (20:25 to 20:28), he collects a Jackpot, which appears unmultiplied but is actually 2X, to the thrill of the crowd.  He immediately resumes collecting F-I-L-M, but takes a break at 20:49 to calm himself.  While trying to light the Snackbar, he is unable to make a save at 21:05 and his ball ends.

The crowd applauds his effort, as he is now in the lead.

Andrei starts by checking Instant Info at 21:39, and launches his second ball at 22:12, after two attempts to plunge gently to the P-A-I-D lanes.  He then drains intentionally, in order to reach the P-A-I-D lanes again via the ball saver.

He hits the right saucer to spell F-I-L-M sequentially, but unfortunately, drains carelessly at 22:44.

As he steps up for his third ball, Keith Elwin is facing huge obstacles.  Two other players have completed at least one Multiball and collected a Jackpot, while this is his last chance to do the same, and decisively enough that he can remain ahead of their final balls.

After a quick attempt to start Multiball, he uses the ball saver, regains control, and tries again at 23:22, missing narrowly but barely regaining control and hitting the right lock at 23:26.  After a tricky start, he traps one ball on the left flipper and works on increasing the Jackpot multiplier via the CREATURE ramp.  Note that he does not “stir” the cup, and collects only two letters per shot.  He obtains the 2X multiplier, finds and rescues the girl, and has both balls trapped on the right flipper at 24:42.  He carefully separates them and sends one up the center lane, then uses the right ramp to move the remaining ball to the left flipper for a clean shot at the 2X Jackpot, which he collects for 101,268,080 points.  Jet bumper hits are required to light the Super Jackpot, so he immediately shoots the center lane again, placing both balls in the bumpers and lighting the Super quickly.  At 25:16, he allows a risky extra bounce to get the ball onto the left flipper, but then misses the lit Super Jackpot, which luckily returns the ball to the right inlane, where he shoots the Snackbar “on the fly”, collecting 202,536,160 points for the 2X Super Jackpot.  He resumes work on the next Jackpot, but the balls collide and one is sent down the right inlane at 25:50.  Next, he shoots the center lane to start the Move Your Car feature, which he collects three times, completing the P-A-I-D lanes in the process.  After hitting the right saucer, he has L and M completed in F-I-L-M, but after a big save at 27:25, he lets the ball drain on the rebound, expecting that another save would not be possible because of Tilt warnings.  The crowd cheers as Keith has put up a score of 547,503,300 to take the lead, and if none of his opponents can beat that on their final ball, the championship as well.

Cayle is no threat to Keith’s point total, but he puts forth a valiant effort on ball 3, draining after a couple of missed shots at 28:30.

At 28:55, Bowen begins his third ball of play.  He is behind by approximately 350 million points, a serious but not insurmoutable obstacle on Creature.  At 29:05, he lights the Snackbar by hitting its standup targets, a risky but necessary move, as he has already collected a Jackpot.  He then shoots the right saucer to complete F-I-L-M, but misses the second shot to start Multiball.  At 29:20, he makes an excellent slap save which costs him one Tilt warning, and he lets the machine settle before handily starting Multiball at the right saucer.  He traps the first ball on the left flipper, performs a perfect live catch on the right flipper, and collects three CREATURE letters before a bad feed leads to a missed shot and a drain.  He hits the Snackbar just as the restart becomes available, and Multiball restarts.  Displeased that the left lock does not rescue the girl, he makes an obscene gesture at the machine at 30:58.  At 31:11, an error in ball handling ends the Multiball.  Undaunted, he continues by spelling K-I-S-S and P-A-I-D, then makes another warning-inducing save at 31:52.

After letting the game settle, he tries to work on the Snackbar targets, but drains (and tilts) at 32:19, ending his chance at becoming a repeat World Pinball Champion in 2010.

Andrei launches his final ball at 33:13, and immediately starts Multiball at the right lock.  He rescues the girl at the right saucer and displays excellent ball control with both balls at the same time, collecting two CREATURE letters before losing one ball at 34:01.  He easily restarts the Multiball, but loses one ball while collecting more CREATURE letters.  The other ball remains on the CREATURE ramp as the Multiball ends, leading to the “no points” sound effect at 34:51.  He promptly starts Move Your Car and collects all four shots, but is still facing a point deficit of more than 350 million.  At 36:21, a missed shot at K-I-S-S almost ends the ball, but he recovers and lets the ball bounce to the left flipper again at 36:27.

He completes K-I-S-S with no further difficulty, opens the Snackbar, but misses three shots at the right saucer before finally collecting it, incidentally starting Video Mode, which he does not complete.  At 37:45, he successfully starts his second Multiball.  He hits all three rescue shots, while collecting CREATURE letters quite handily, but drains one ball in traffic.  He immediately hits the restart, however.  He now has Rescue lit and a 2X multiplier in effect.  A Jackpot and Super Jackpot would surely win the game and the championship.  Unfortunately, he plunges too hard and immediately loses a ball, ending the Multiball!  Demoralized, the ball drains at 39:30 with Andrei making no attempt to save it, and Keith Elwin becomes the three-peat World Pinball Champion.

Thank you for reading all the way through.  I did promise you a link to Bowen’s amazing outlane save on The Addams Family.  Well, here it is, courtesy of Steven Bowden.  Enjoy!  Oh, and one more link to the final results.

Comments

  1. Sanjay

    Thank you for posting a great play-by-play description of the game, Kevin! You really get a feel of the game and a sense of the amount of pressure and thinking that must have gone on in the players’ minds during the game.

    Sooo glad to see the cameras. You could tell it really drew in the crowds and made them feel like they were part of the action.

    Looking forward to next year, as always!!

  2. Bowen

    One thing I noticed in the video — my “Sequential FILM Bonus” was a lie. I actually completed the letters in the order F-L-I-M, but was still

    And a correction: my jackpot on ball 2 -was- multiplied at 2x, just over 100 million. Creature, like many other Bly/Wms games of its era, displays the jackpot value in its animation, rather than displaying the actual number of awarded points. When the jackpot was awarded it was about 100 million; when the display effect was ready to show the award, the jackpot had dropped back to 50 million. Fish Tales and Whitewater sometimes have the same problem.

    Great video. All we need now is color commentary from Sean Grant and Rick Stetta. Congratulations Keith!

  3. Maurice

    Takin the sport to new levels with the camera you are.

  4. Mads Kristensen

    Thanks. This is great Kevin!

    What a fantastic tournament that surely deserved a final on this level. The fact that you also had those amazing screens – and took the time to post and comment this game just simply makes it all perfect.

    Hail to the crowd and the players. Especially Bowen for being there 100% – and always sharing his remarkable knowledge (also here). And one has got to bow for Keith. Being so very strong. Watching him play here – his efficiency – no better way to learn pinball.

    Hope to see more games and commentary of this quality in the future!

  5. this has got to be the most watched game of pinball in the history of forever

  6. Phantom Gremlin

    @Maurice
    It’s not a “sport” unless steroids help!

  7. Mats Runsten

    Excellent stuff and interesting commentaries!
    Now, if this could also be streamed live (in lower resolution of course) next year then my dreams are fullfilled Well, one of them anyway. 🙂

    /MCR

  8. I genuinely like your blog and the distinct stuff you are undertaking together with self-sufficiency

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