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NPPL Chicago Open
1st Place Pro - Dynasty
Chicago, has always been an anchor point in the middle of the NPPL season, with its local draw of midwest teams and central location for those flying in from both the East and West Coasts. The more recent incarnations of the NPPL have located their Chicago event at Challenge Park Extreme in Channahon, Illinois, just outside of Joliet. Originally conceived as a paintball field with theme park operating principles applied, CPX has numerous built-up themed fields with set pieces such as building fronts and ancient temples, built by a theme park and set design and construction firm. In addition to a skate park, CPX also boasts a paintball tournament complex, with multiple fields ready to go, and full support of a pro-shop and recreation complex.
Tied in with the NPPL Chicago Open as it has been for the past few years, was the Viper Scenarios produced Living Legends of Paintball. Living Legends includes a scenario oriented competition played on the site's "Bedlam" field, a typical midwest downtown area, complete with paved streets, sidewalks, cars and multistory buildings. More than that, Living Legends has become a homecoming event for the paintball industry, where many prominent figures from paintball's past, even those who are no longer active, come out of the woodwork to socialize and take a few shots at each other.
The NPPL competition drew out 71 teams over the course of the event's 3 days, competing at various levels and in assorted game formats. The teams started out playing 8 game preliminary rounds, each within their own division, with final prelim rankings based on the totals of their 8 game scores.
With pump and stock class paintball having a larger following on the west coast and in Hawaii, than in the midwest the Pump division drew out five teams, a third of the pump turn-out in Huntington Beach. It should come as no surprise to long-time paintballers that St. Louis based Total Greif (note: Greif is not grief misspelled - it is the German word for cross) which is a long-standing pump and stock centered team, not only ranked first out of the prelims, but won every single game they played.
Back in the 90s, the Chicago Open and World Cup were the only two NPPL events each year to feature 5-man competition in addition to the then standard 10-man. This is also a part of the reason they tended to be the larger events of the season, though a different scheduling scheme meant they played their games on different days, so it was common for 10-man teams to split into 5-man teams and play in both, unlike the current system that puts both formats on the fields the same days.
The Division 4 5-man competition brought out 11 teams, from as far away as Hawaii to join in the action. Here it was Iron Legion that finished the round with the highest rank, also undefeated.
Sixteen teams competed in Division 3 5-man, designed for teams with more experience. This group was led by DBS Kidz 2.
Seven-man competition began at the Division 2 skill level, where sixteen teams took to the field. Although the appearance of Farside brought back memory's of tournament paintball's Golden Era, their finish was not so strong. D-II prelims wrapped up with LSD Savage in the top position.
With fewer teams playing serious tournament ball in recent years, Division I has arguably suffered the most, and Chicago saw 6 teams competing in this class. Texas Storm, another team with a long tradition finished the prelims in the top ranked spot, dropping only one of their games.
The NPPL is built around the promotion of professional paintball, and has managed to keep a full roster of pro teams each season, despite the contraction of tournament paintball. The pro teams played in two separate divisions of eight teams each, giving them seven games as they played against each team in their own division. Infamous and Blast topped the two pro prelim divisions, both ending the round with a couple of losses, a testament to how well matched most of the pro teams are against each other.
On Sunday as the tournament progressed to its final rounds, the top four pump teams played in best two out of three games pitting the first ranked team against the fourth, and the second and third against each other. The two losing teams faced off in the finals to play for third and fourth place while the two winning teams, Total Greif and Zero battled it out for first and second. That pairing went to Total Greif, who took first place with a pair of wins. In fact Total Greif played the entire tournament without losing a single game.
The D-IV 5-man competition went to an Elite 8 round, taking the top 8 finishers from the preliminary round and matching them strongest against the weakest, for a best two out of three elimination round. The four winning teams moved on to the semi-finals that re-ranked them for the final round where Toxic had a win, loss and win against University of Michigan for third place, and Centermass Hawaii posted back to back wins against Asylum Ballerz for first place.
Division Thee, playing 7-man also went to an Elite 8 knock-out round followed by semifinals and finals where Boom II dropped their first game against Raiders, but won the second two, finishing in third place. The battle for first place was much harder fought. DBS Kidz 2 lost their first game against TKO-Blackout, but won the second. The third game between the teams ended by running down the clock, neither team making a flag hang, but Doodlebug Sportz Kidz 2 took the game on total points (eliminations and live players) for a first place finish.
The competition got tougher moving up the ladder to Division Two. This group also played an Elite 8 knock-out round, getting rid of half the 8 teams that advanced from the preliminaries. Their semifinal re-ranked the remaining for teams for the finals where Marine Team One dropped their first game against Top Gun Evolution, but won the next two for a third place finish. In the battle for first it was LSD Savage defeating 3CT in the first game, but losing the second. They recovered with a win in the third and final game, securing the division's trophy.
With the smaller group of teams playing in Division One, the top four went straight to the semifinals, with no knock-out rounds. Re-ranked, the same four teams went into a hard fought finals. Impact Echo lost their first game against Critical Wrecking Crew, but one the next two, finishing the tournament in third place. In the battle for first Texas Storm defeated Dynasty 2 in the first game, but the teams tied when the clock ran out on the second game. The third game went to Dynasty 2, who ended up finishing first, with more total points for the round.
The pro teams, played in a different format than the amateurs, the structure of which is designed to give spectators more opportunities to watch professional paintball players battle it out on the field. The professional Elite 8 round took the top four teams from each of the two pro divisions and pitted them against each other for three pairings (one against each of the other teams from their division) of best two out of three games. The top two teams from each of the two divisions then went on to the semifinals, pitted highest ranked against the weakest where Dynasty defeated Impact with back to back wins, and Uprising and Avalanche had a game go to the clock, followed by a win for Avalanche and another game go to the clock, this win went to Avalanche with had earned more points.
The pro finals round for third place went to Uprising over Impact, and in the finals, Dynasty took home the big trophy beating Avalanche in two consecutive games.
From here, the NPPL goes on a summer hiatus, with its shorter 4-event season. When the fall comes around, it will be time for the DC Challenge at Pev's Paintball in Aldie, Virginia.