|Robbie Lakeman at Funspot, 2013|
June 19th, 2014 - It's beginning to feel inevitable. Robbie Lakeman, who put world champion Dr. Hank Chien on notice at around this time last year, has been slowly but steadily edging his high score upward, most recently eclipsing the "1.1" mark near the end of May.
With his personal best now standing at 1,113,400 points (the fourth-highest arcade machine score of all time), Lakeman is poised just behind Ross Benziger and Vincent Lemay, determined to end Chien's unbroken three-and-a-half year reign as the King of Kong.
Lakeman has been "going deep" for the past several weeks, coming just a few levels short in attempts that are easily maintaining world record pace. Sentiment around the community is that if Lakeman stays hungry and keeps pushing, the record will fall soon.
Lakeman's most recent leaderboard jump actually netted him a cool $50 from none other than Tim Sczerby (the eccentric and irascible former world champion snubbed by The King of Kong producers from inclusion in the film... and who'll be damned if he lets anyone forget it). Lakeman challenged Sczerby to a $50 bet that he'd beat him to "1.1". May's game did the deed, and Sczerby, true to his word, paid up.
The Donkey Kong Online Open #3 kicks off this Friday at 9 PM Pacific and runs all weekend. With a world record cash bounty of $1,100 up for grabs for the duration of the tournament, and with all eyes on Lakeman as the successor to the throne, there's no better moment than this one.
It's been a busy few months for competitive Kongers, with two tournaments having come and gone, a bit of history made, and another missed by an inch.
The second annual No-Hammer March Madness—a bracket-style elimination tourney—crowned Jon "Fast Eddie" McKinnell of Edinburgh, Scotland the champ for the second year in a row.
The devilishly challenging no-hammer variant, feared and despised by many of Donkey Kong's top competitors, forces the player to make his way through the chaos without using his one and only defensive weapon. Mandatory risk-taking greatly steepens the luck factor relative to standard play, while still demanding that the player recognize and maximize favorable situations.
Or, in the pithier words of Hank Chien, "no-hammer is 90% luck and 90% skill."
As the tournament progressed over several weeks, McKinnell stunned his already-intimidated opponents by crossing one of the final pieces of unfinished business from the Donkey Kong community's collective "to do" list: on April 20th, during a tournament practice game, he finessed his way through all 117 boards to became the first player ever to reach a no-hammer kill screen.
That performance, followed shortly thereafter with his repeat victory in the March Madness tournament, cemented McKinnell as the unrivaled no-hammer master.
Benziger In DKO #2: "You Deprived Me of History!"
Ross Benziger, no stranger to first place in online Donkey Kong tournaments (having won two in a row last year), took down the Online Open #2, held May 2nd through the 4th... but in the process managed to snatch a nasty defeat from the jaws of victory.
|Benziger at the Kong Off 3 (Photo: William McEvoy)|
Benziger was ripping through the game that would win him the tournament, cruising at over 980,000 points and still on his first man, when, just minutes from becoming the first Donkey Kong player to ever achieve a million points on a single life, calamity struck.
Several weeks of concentrated no-hammer practice for the March Madness tournament, combined with the shower of nerves erupting from what he was about to accomplish in this tournament, threw him into a moment of confusion. He began the rivet board on level 20-6 on autopilot, going into a pattern known as the "reverse weave"—a no-hammer only strategy rarely used in standard play due to its higher risk. "Oh my God, what am I doing?" he said. "No hammer, I hate you so bad!"
One agonizing thing led to another, Benziger lost a life, then launched into a tirade as profane as it was understandable:
"I just spaced out, forgot that I was playing regular... no hammer's taught me so many bad habits... Oh God, that's painful... I will never play no-hammer again! No-hammer, you deprived me of history! Never again, that is a promise!"
Minutes later, Benziger reached the kill screen and turned in the weekend's top score. The "first-man million" would have to wait for another day, but the $200 first-place prize was a nice salve on the wound.
The other big surprise of the weekend was the emergence of relative newcomer Wes Copeland, who has only been playing Donkey Kong for 9 months but managed to take second place in the tournament (and jump from 31st place in the all-time standings all the way up to 17th) with a huge 1,028,200. Jeff Willms is the only other Donkey Kong player to have ever made such lightning-quick progress from zero to a million, a journey that for most players is measured in years.
Other top finishers in May's tournament included Eric Tessler, Tim Sczerby, and Jeff Harrist.
I personally ended up on the prize money bubble, but was happy that this tourney allowed me to (just barely) keep "the streak" alive—I'd kill screened in each of the prior three online tournaments and wanted to make it four in a row. 5 minutes before the last quarter deadline, I abandoned a weak game in progress, threw in another quarter, went for the hail-mary, and managed to go all the way through to a simple, low-pace kill screen. Not quite good enough for the winner's circle, but I'm pleased with my consistency at landing just outside it!
Sign Up for #3!
Join us for the third DK Open this weekend! As always, entry is free, there are cash prizes for top scores, plus random "mystery bounties" that players of all skill levels can win. And with Robbie Lakeman in the hunt for the world record, it should be an exciting two days.
Finally, a quick "welcome back" to Twin Galaxies. After months of limbo, the new site went live as promised near the end of April. Based on what I've seen so far, the future looks bright, and Jace Hall truly seems to be a custodian we can all get behind.
Final Scoreboard and Prizes: Donkey Kong Online Open 2014, #2
Total Entrants: 64 Total Submitting Players: 40
$200 1st - Ross Benziger (1,067,700)
$150 2nd - Wes Copeland (1,028,200)
$100 3rd - Jeff Harrist (868,900)
(3rd place Eric Tessler is the tournament organizer and 4th place Tim Sczerby won a prize in the previous tourney, thus both were ineligible for prize money. Therefore, 3rd prize went to Jeff Harrist in 5th place)
$50 Longest First Man - Graham Hawkins (67 boards)
$50 Longest Last Man - Tim Sczerby (49 boards)
$50 Mystery Bounty #1 (23rd place) - Andrew Barrow
$50 Mystery Bounty #2 (11th place) - Martin Laing
$20 Mystery Bounty #3 (36th place) - Katherine Williams
$30 Top 1-1 High Score - Robbie Lakeman (12,100)
$20 Runner-Up 1-1 High Score - Mitchell Meerman (8,400)