August 18th, 2013 - After an intense second day of action which saw an incredible four million point games, Phil Tudose emerged as the winner of the second Wildcard Online Qualifier with a score of 1,020,900... but the margin was razor-thin.
It was 12:06 PM Sunday—hour 39 of the 48-hour tournament—when Eric Tessler announced Jon McKinnell as the new leader with the weekend's first million-point game (knocking yours truly out of a top spot that I'd been holding for much longer than I had any right to).
Phenomenal Phil Tudose then took the lead from McKinnell, Steve Wiltshire joined the millionaire circle just below him, and Tessler himself reached a new personal best with a 966,000 point kill screen.
Then came the tournament's most dramatic moment: a fourth place that should have been first.
Arriving at the 115th board (of the game's 116 playable boards) with 1,006,900, a spare man to sacrifice for extra points, and only 14,000 points away from Tudose's leading score, Ben Falls had the tournament cinched.
More than 30,000 points remained in the tank before the kill screen (board #117). Grabbing less than half of them would have leapfrogged Falls from 4th place to 1st.
"Sac it!" Falls said when entering board 115, referring to his spare man.
The cash-in ended prematurely: a mistimed jump turned what could have been more than 13,000 points into a mere 3,300.
"Oh, fucking hell!" Falls yelled after the death.
Falls stood at 1,010,200, ready to replay the board, and none too worried about his chances. "Oh well, it's all good."
A simple, safe run to the top would have pushed Falls' score past 1,018,000, with just 2,000 points needed on the final rivet board (a certainty) to overtake 1st place.
Falls, however, opted to double-hammer the board.
It was a decision that would cost him $200 (the difference between first prize and third).
Rattled confidence, some unsteerable barrels, and a final, desperate wall-jump that didn't pay off claimed Falls' last life, which earned him only 2,500 points.
Final score: 1,012,700. Good for 4th, yet only 8,200 points from ultimate victory.
"Oh my God, I fucking blew it!" Falls said with a laugh while entering his initials, shrugging away an ending that would have sent many careening into a whirlwhind of anguish and property damage. "Those bastards wouldn't steer."
Falls then turned off his microphone.
He returned (in seemingly high spirits) 2 minutes later and ended the stream with another good-natured chuckle. It was a show of emotional composure at least as impressive as his skill at the game, and ought to go down as one of the most graceful losses in the annals of tournament classic gaming.
Start at 2:03:00 to watch the final board
Who Writes This Stuff?
It seems like every one of these tournaments ends with final-moment suspense that feels almost scripted, and this weekend's was no exception.
The last quarter drop was called at 9 PM Pacific, and about two hours later Daniel Dock and Jeff Wolfe were the last players with running games.
Dock was on pace to take 6th place (and 7th in the overall wildcard standings), but made a fatal mistake on the Level 20 elevator board.
Wolfe, meanwhile, was pushing a potentially tournament-winning run. He reached the penultimate board of Level 18 with all eyes on him before a mistimed jump (very similar to Falls' botched cash-in) ended his game, and the tournament, at 10:44 PM.
Phil Tudose has emerged over the last few months as the most feared Donkey Kong player on the circuit. He put up million-point scores in both of the Wildcard qualifiers, and very nearly crossed the elusive 1,100,000 mark a few weeks ago.
Even after securing victory on Sunday, Tudose played through another run, killing off all his spare lives early with the sole purpose of snatching the $50 "longest last man" bounty from Ben Falls, whose 50 boards had topped my own 48 boards the night before. Phil ran his man through 86.
There is doubt at this time as to whether Phil will take the wildcard spot that he has more than earned at the Kong Off 3, but if he does, I have no reservations about predicting a top 3 finish in the tournament. He is absolutely good enough to defeat the very best.
One More To Go...
It was a spectacular weekend all around, and a special thrill for me personally to have been in the top 3 for 33 hours, and in the lead for 19 of those. As a "second tier" player, I don't expect that to ever happen again in a Donkey Kong tournament. The big boys got a late start, but I knew they were coming for the top spots.
Thanks to John Salter and Eric Tessler as always, and also to Cat DeSpira who covered the event for Twin Galaxies. Cat outdid herself with a lengthy, detailed report that I enthusiastically recommend.
The third and final Wildcard Qualifier is scheduled for October 11th through the 13th, concluding the race to be among the 8 pre-qualifiers for the Wildcard Division at the Kong Off 3.
Visit the Donkey Kong Forum for rules and registration information.
|30||Jason Corey Brittain||288,400||7,300|
|39||Andrew John Purkett||95,000||4,300|
|No Submission (17)|
|N/A||Craig Rout Gallant||N/A||N/A|
|N/A||Svavar Gunnar Gunnarsson||N/A||N/A|
|N/A||Justin Lee Ramser||N/A||N/A|
$250 - Jon Mckinnell (1,019,800)
$100 - Steve Wiltshire (1,016,100)
$50 - Ben Falls (1,012,700)
(* - Phil Tudose placed 1st but was ineligible for 1st place prize money since he won a prize in the previous round.)
$50 Longest last man - Phil Tudose (86 boards: 5-1 to 19-2)
$25 Largest score improvement based on the Donkey Kong High Score List (offered by Corey Chambers) - Shawn Robinson
$25 Mystery bounty (25th place) - Ken House (383,900)
Unclaimed Bounties: (will stay open for the next tournament)
$50 first 1 million point submission for any player who had not yet reached that milestone (offered by Daniel Desjardins)
$50 first 1.1 million point submission
The Current 8 Wildcard Qualifiers (and which of the two tourneys earned them the spot):
1. Phil Tudose: 1,051,600 (#1)
2. Jon Mckinnell: 1,019,800 (#2)
3. Ben Falls: 1,012,700 (#2)
4. Jeff Wolfe: 997,800 (#1)
5. Eric Tessler: 966,000 (#2)
6. Corey Chambers: 964,500 (#1)
7. Chris Psaros: 893,100 (#2)
8. Daniel Dock: 839,300 (#2)
Top 12 player Dave McCrary earned "wildcard insurance" with his score of 934,000 in WCQ #1. He will take one of the 8 spots should he lose his Top 12 status by the time of the Kong Off 3. The same is technically true of Dean Saglio (who won the previous round), but Dean cannot lose his status.