February 13

News : For Top Pinball Competitors, Jitters Only Help : NY Times

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The best pinball players in New York State had been competing all afternoon on Saturday, and now it was down to the last few silver balls, in a title match between the Storm and Zen, two dominant players whose styles could not have been more different.

The Storm — the alias of Sean Grant, 44, a native New Yorker — embodied the city’s intensity as he brooded and hunched over the machine.

Zen — Nick Zendejas, a Colorado transplant — smiled serenely and spun two steel balls in his hand while chatting with other players between turns.

Each man had won a dozen games to reach the finals of this state championship, in which the top 16 players in points competed to advance to the national championship held by the International Flipper Pinball Association.

 Saturday’s tournament took place in a loft on West 20th Street in Manhattan, the home of Steve Marsh, 55, a patent lawyer who is an expert player and owns eight pinball machines of various vintages.

Machines from the 1970s included Mars Trek and Gold Strike and offered basic features such as 1,000-point targets and simple bumpers and scoring lanes.

Among the more modern machines were ones devoted to “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Wizard of Oz.” They had elaborate computerized graphics, illuminated figurines and the capacity for competitors to play five balls at once with multiple sets of flippers.

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