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PSP 2005 Los Angeles Open
 Feb 17-20, 2005 - Pomona Fairplex

X-Ball Open first place - Dynasty
X-Ball D1 first place - X Factor
X-Ball D2 first place - RockIt Kids
X-Ball D3 first place - San Diego Aftermath

5 Man D1 first place - Diesel
5 Man D2 first place - Bad Boyz
5 Man D3 first place - Punishment

Paintball Sports Promotions began its 2005 tournament paintball season with the Los Angeles Open.  In years past the kick-off event has been held at different cities and venues, but the Pamona Fairplex in Southern California, first used to host the LA Open in 2002, has stuck due to its easy access from the Los Angeles area, and lush green grass playing surface.  The actual playing fields, which are situated on the infield of a thoroughbred racing track are carefully cultivated throughout the year to create a natural turf surface. 

While in some ways the LA Open was the same event it has always been, in other aspects it was completely new.  It was the first time out for many of the new features and changes of the 2005 season.  Probably the most notable among these changes was the disappearance of ten man.  Since the introduction of divisional X-Ball PSP in 2002, and the abandonment of ten man in favor of seven man by the NPPL the same year, attendance to the ten man competition at PSP events has seen continual decline.  What used to be the “top dog” game format in the league was no longer.  While a number of die-hard ten man teams threw out the claim that “PSP was killing ten man” the reality was that the heavy hitting teams were choosing X-Ball over ten man.  The funeral bells for ten man could be heard ringing through 2004, and for 2005, PSP had to choose whether or not the expense of running a ten man competition side by side with the X-Ball and five man was worth it, compared to the number of teams competing.

For many, with a heart rooted in old school paintball, the loss of the last national 10 man circuit may sad thing.  For the five man teams, however, it is a benefit.  Through the 2004 season PSP tournaments started at the beginning of the week with 5 man competion, then moved into X-Ball and ten man toward the end of the week and the weekend.  For traveling teams, and teams with younger players still in school, getting away from their normal routine for three days at the start of the week is often harder than traveling for the end of the week and the weekend.  The 2005 season scheduling starts X-Ball games on Thursday, and has 5 man teams signing in during the day and evening Thursday, not starting to play until Friday.  This new schedule is likely to promote growth in what has become the only national 5 man tournament paintball circuit.  With the size of the 5 man competition in Pomona, and the number of fields available, the 5 man preliminary rounds were able to be scheduled into a single day, making travel even easier for the 5 man teams who would not begin competing until Saturday.

Along with the new schedule comes new staffing.  Keely Watson, now graduated from college, has stepped back from her previous year’s schedule as a tournament player to coordinate press and sponsor relations for Paintball Sports Promotions. 

Arguably the biggest change for the new year comes in the rules department.  In 2004, Paintball Sports Promotions unified its equipment rule set.  The league used game rules to govern how X-Ball and 5/10 man games would be played, and one common set of equipment rules.  This was a strong step forward over the previous year where referees would face separate though very similar equipment rules when moving from the X-Ball fields to the capture the flag fields.  In 2004 all three game formats utilized one set of equipment rules.  The major change in that rule set for 2005 is the abandonment of the semi-automatic limitation on paintguns, and the inclusion of a 15 ball per second rate of fire cap.

The change mimics the rule adopted by the National X Ball League holds its professional level competitions at PSP tournaments.  A continual problem in tournament paintball for the last several years has been cheating in the form of secret firing modes capable of enhancing rate of fire and or velocity during a game.  While game restrictions limited teams to traditional semi-automatic firing where the paintball gun fires only one shot per pull and release of the trigger, the technology has not been available to fully enforce this.  Because modern high-end paintball guns are operated by programmable microprocessors, most of which are built in such a way that it is not possible to decompile and examine their software, finding well designed cheater modes is next to impossible without an admission of guilt. 

Regardless of what advance testing methods are used off the field, players and teams with access to the right resources have been able to secretly switch into illegal performance boosting modes by tapping a secret code on their trigger, or input buttons of their paintgun.  Without knowing the secret access codes, referees have had no way to prove that a cheat was involved.  A few years ago, even though it existed and was used in national tournaments, this type of cheating technology was not common.  Today, cheater boards programmed with hidden modes are available as an off the shelf commercial product. 

Without a practical way to allow competitors to use their choice of commercially available paintball guns and circuit boards, and to also monitor that the number of paintballs fired matches the number of trigger pulls while a game is in progress, both the NXL and PSP have changed their rules to allow the enhanced rates of fire they do not have the technology to stop, and to instead place the limitations on things that can be measured.

The new PSP 2005 Equipment rules require that a paintgun fire as a traditional semi-auto for the first three shots after any time at which it has been at rest for a second or more.  After the first three shots, the marker may fire up to three shots for each complete cycle of the trigger.  While enforcement of these two rules has the same problems facing enforcement of true semi-automatic, allowing them in conjunction with the 15 ball per second rate of fire cap removes any advantage one might achieve by using a hidden cheater mode.  The actual limitation in the rules is not just 15 balls within a single second, but a minimum timing of 0.066 seconds between each shot.  Players caught shooting with 0.065 seconds gap between their shots (just under fifteen and a half shots per second) will be subject to a minor penalty.  A time gap of 0.060 seconds or less between any two shots (just under sixteen and a half shots per second) will result in a gross penalty. 

Enforcement of the velocity limits and the rate of fire achieved on field falls upon the use of new acoustic and radar technology to measure both velocity and rate of fire of players while they are shooting, during a game. 

As in past years, velocity ramping, or programming a paintgun to increase its dwell time as rate of fire increases, is prohibited.  Previously when paintguns were tested primarily before and after games, with equipment that had trouble determining velocity during a high speed multi-shot string, practical methods were not in place to check for velocity ramping.  The NXL began using Doppler RADAR guns to spot check velocity on field, to fight velocity ramping in 2004.

Another major rules change came in the way players are classified.  To unify the way teams and players are classified both X-Ball and 5-Man utilize One, Division I, Division II, and Division III player classifications rather than the older professional, amateur, novice, rookie system.

For the NXL, the LA Open meant the start of their third season.  Their games were slated to begin Thursday with a game between the Los Angeles Ironmen, and the Oakland Assassins.  The next match pitted Chicago Aftershock against the new team in the league, Boston Red Legion.

Wet weather and teams checking in late combined to bring a late start to the X-Ball competition on Thursday morning.  By adopting the same strategy as airlines, the PSP registration crew fast tracked teams through check in if they were scheduled to play in the morning’s earlier games.  The X-Ball scoreboard horns blew, starting their timers about an hour and a half behind schedule.  Through the day, by moving efficiently, the refs brought that gap down to about forty minutes, with the last games being played under the artificial lighting made possible in the race track location.

While the new equipment rules are in one way a step forward in developing gun restrictions that can actually be enforced, they are not perfect in that the technology needed to measure the rate of fire achieved by a paintgun on the field is not yet mature.  A single acoustic shot counter was used on Friday, spot checking suspicious players.  Additional counters are on order, and the NXL is still working to develop custom built equipment to measure rate of fire acoustically from across the field.  One of the goals in the equipment design, according to NXL commissioner Mike Ratco is that it be inexpensive so that it can be put to use by other leagues and event promoters.  Two Doppler RADAR guns, capable of spot checking velocities from across field were also used in addition to the handheld RadarChron chronographs which must be held next to the paintgun being checked. 

According to PSP ultimate judge Robert “Rosie” Rose, the first divisional X-Ball rate of fire penalty was issued to a Jax Worriors player .  The player's paintgun was timed at a peak rate of  over 22 bps between two shots.  The paintgun was confiscated and player suspended for the duration of the event.  Rose stated that the league is very serious about enforcing both rate of fire and velocity limits, and that once the test equipment details are worked out so that enforcement is more consistent, stronger penalties, possibly even one year suspensions will be in order.  While the technology is still being refined, an X-Ball player suspected of being in violation is suspended for two minutes, and the paintgun is examined during the suspension.  If the paintgun can be shown to operate illegally during the penalty time, further action, such as player suspension can be levied, depending on the particular penalty.

While the divisional X-Ball teams played their games, the pro teams of the NXL were also taking to the field.  The first face off of the season was between the Los Angeles Ironmen and the Oakland Assassins.  Oakland was victorious 11 to 8.  Boston Red Legion made their NXL debut against Chicago Aftershock, and lost the game by a single point, 10 to 11.  San Diego Legacy tied at 7 to 7 with Baltimore Trauma.  Each team earned a single point towards their ranking in the series playoffs.  Teams earn two points for a win during regular season play, or no points for a loss.  The Philly Americans, the leagues champion team for the previous two seasons, defeated New York Xtreme 12 to 7.  Detroit Strange and Miami Effect finished in a tie at 8 to 8.  All of the teams faced the rule changes of the new season.  The most notable of these was moving the coaches out of the coaches boxes and into the team staging pits, as well as allowing anyone in the pit area to yell out to the field.  This places a new dynamic in that the teams can now have more coaching, and the lead coach is now in a better position to observe the opposing team during the first half, and to communicated with his on-field players during the second half.

Friday proved to be another wet day, but in tournament paintball the game goes on unless the weather is so bad it is a threat to player safety. 

The divisional X Ball teams went at it, including the first round games for the open class division.  As a new classification with relatively few teams, the Open Class meant high caliber games from the start.  Naughty Dogs defeated Ultimate, Avalanche beat the Outlaws and Infamous took down Excessive.  Round two saw Dynasty defeating Infamous a solid 13 to 4, and Avalanche edging out the Naughty Dogs 7 to 6.  Ultimate took down the Outlaws 12 to 5 in the first elimination mach, and Excessive sent the Naughty Dogs home with a 13 to 3 game. 

On the NXL field Boston Red Legion proved that they were indeed ready for competition at the NXL level.  They defeated one of the league’s strongest teams, the Oakland Assassins 14 to 10.  San Diego took down Miami 8 to 6.  The two teams that faced off as the final pair for 2004 locked horns with this victory going to Detroit.  Strange bested the Philly Americans 10 to 8.  The LA Ironmen beat Baltimore Trauma 9 to 8 and Chicago Aftershock posted an 11 to 6 victory over New York Xtreme.

As the weekend progressed the weather worsened.  Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties all were under flood alerts while heavy rains soaked the region, triggering road closing mudslides in some areas.

On Saturday, the NXL, which has the luxury of being able to reschedule games, opted to move Saturday’s first two games to the next tournament, the Orlando Open.  As the weather relented slightly in the afternoon and evening Oakland took to the field against New York, winning 11 to 7.  Boston defeated Detroit 10 to 8.  It was hoped that overnight, drainage ditches cut alongside the fields could carry away much of the water that had been poured upon them by mother nature.

In Open Division X-Ball, rain delays weren’t an option.  Infamous defeated Ultimate 9 to 8, earning a game against Excessive.  Dynasty rolled Avalanche 12 to 3, earning themselves a position in the finals game on Sunday.  Avalanche would then play the winner of Excessive versus Infamous for a second chance at Dynasty in the finals. 

The five man competition started out with 50 teams.  Seven teams were in division 1, 25 in division 2, and 18 in division 3.  While division 2 and 3 teams played eight games each, division 1 teams were given only 6 games each during the preliminary rounds.  The small number of division 1 teams also meant that d1 skipped semifinals altogether.  Instead the top four out of the prelims went straight to finals.  For divisions 2 and 3, it was the top eight teams that went into the semifinal round, split into two divisions of four.  Each team played the three other teams in its division.

From the semifinals, the top two teams in each division, ranked by score advanced to the finals.  In division 3 finals, Punishment posted three wins, taking home first place.  Soultakkers lost their first game against Punishment, but won their other two for a second place finish.  Fatal Ignorance won their game against TPA, taking third and leaving TPA in fourth place.  N(X)N lost all of their finals games, finishing in fourth for division 2.  Team Splatball won only their game against N(X)N, finishing in third.  Static lost only one game, but only gathered enough points for second place, just behind Bad Boyz, who were undefeated in the finals.  Diesel swept through the division 1 finals undefeated taking home the d1 five man first place trophy.  Doc’s Raiders, dropping a game only to Diesel finished in second.  Spectrum PR, with a single win, finished in third, while San Diego Ravenous finished fourth.

The NXL got off to a good start on Sunday, with Boston Red Legion delivering a smashing 20 points against New York Xtreme’s 4.  This was followed by a 15 to 6 vicotry, Los Angeles Ironmen over Miami Effect.  Then the skies opened up with a deluge, and the day’s remaining three games were postponed.  Both the Orlando and Chicago tournaments would likely see make-up games from Pomona scheduled in.
 

For divisional X-Ball, schedules placed the finals game for each division on Sunday as well.  The double elimination tournament format meant that some teams went home fast after only a couple of games, but for the teams that got close to the top it was a grueling event.  Game after game of X-Ball’s continuous play format combined with rain pouring from the sky made the LA Open a tournament of endurance.

In division 3, San Diego Aftermath and United found themselves undefeated Saturday afternoon, facing each other for the right to play in the finals game.  Aftermath was victorious 5 to 4.  On Sunday morning United played East Coast Empire.  At this point both teams had faced a single loss each.  United rolled Empire 11 to 3 and found themselves right back where they were the day before, facing San Diego Aftermath, except this time it was for the trophy.  Aftermath won again, this time 6 to 4, bringing home first place.

In Division 2, it was Team Less Than Zero that knocked out Enemy 11 to 3 on Saturday afternoon.  When Enemy was shifted to the single loss bracket, they played against Rock It Kids for a shot at the finals.  The Kids took that game 9 to 5, and moved up to play LTX.  Sunday evening RockIt Kids defeated Less Than Zero 5 to 4, taking first place.

Momma’s Boy’s were undefeated in division 1, until they played X-Factor and took a 3 to 7 defeat.  This matched them against Hogan’s Alley Factory team, who also had a single loss.  Hogan’s took that game 7 to 5, moving them into the finals game on Sunday.  That game was a solid win by X-Factor who claimed first place with a score of 8 to 3.

Open division drew the most attention.  Dynasty’s takedown of Avalanche on Saturday had pitted ‘Lanche against Infamous, who they defeated 7 to 5.  That win put Avalanche back facing Dynasty, this time for the prize.  In a hard fought, but decisive win, Dynasty beat Avalanche 6 to 1, putting themselves in first place for the season so far.

From the green grass and wet skies of Los Angeles, the PSP is preparing for its next leg, which will be held on the green grass, with more likely sunny skies at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida.

 


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