A Chandler woman has proved herself a pinball wizard, joining the ranks of the game’s top female players in the world.
Tracy Lindbergh tied with three other women for fifth place in the third annual IFPA Women’s World Pinball Championship in Las Vegas last month.
Lindbergh competed against women from around the world. The founder of the female-only Belles & Chimes Phoenix pinball league said she was “super, super grateful” to have scored among the top eight female pinball players.
“One of my goals was to try to make it at least to round three,” she said. “I made it to round three. Some of these women are extremely highly ranked in the world.
“You play one player each round. We were all trying to play our best, but everybody was just happy for each other. It was just a wonderful, friendly crowd. We can be competitive but play.”
About 20 women from Chandler, Mesa, the West Valley and Tucson meet once a month in the Valley to play in the league.
The chapter, which formed a little over a year ago, plays tournaments at various locations, including Tilt Studio in Arizona Mills mall in Tempe.
Lindbergh, 39, who works at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, also runs a Tuesday night pinball league for men and women at Tilt.
She said players had 14 pinball machines available at the world tournament in Las Vegas. She likes older machines and played Abra Ca Dabra from 1975 and Sorcerer from 1985.
“One of the things I enjoy is being really targeted in what I’m trying to shoot for,” Lindbergh said. “I was there almost 10 hours. I was starting to feel fatigued by the time I was knocked out.
“The main thing I was trying to do in this year was staying calm and not letting one bad ball mess with my head. Often times in pinball, one good ball is all you need. Each game has its own strategy.”
While in Las Vegas, Lindbergh also played in the 2018 IFPA Pin-Masters: World Pin-Golf Championship, where she placed 48th among 75 players.
“It was a great time,” she said. “I got to know more of the players from around the world.”
While the women from the chapter were not physically at the tournaments in Las Vegas, “they were all texting me and wishing me luck,” Lindbergh said.
Chapter member Kathy Lovato is excited about Lindbergh’s performance in the IFPA Women’s World Pinball Championship.
“That just drives us to do better,” Lovato, 50, said.
She said Lindbergh sets the bar high during their Belles & Chimes gatherings.
“The trick is you have to beat Tracy,” Lovato said. “You know you have a good night if you can beat Tracy. It makes you feel good. She is so passionate. She’s just excited all the time about pinball. It’s just a fun environment.”
Lovato co-owns Starfighters Arcade in Mesa with her husband, Michael, and Steve Thomas. The arcade has pinball machines from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s and about 120 upright arcade games.
She said she was not really interested in pinball, though, until Lindbergh invited her to join the local Belles & Chimes chapter.
“I think women are getting together in a less-competitive nature. but it’s in an environment where we can learn and enjoy and have a good time,” Lovato said. “I play in the big tournaments as well.”
“It’s good, clean fun,” Lovato added. “I think anyone who plays pinball who’s over the age of 30 can remember the time as a kid that they were in an arcade, when you listen to the ’80s music and playing (a) game; that’s where it takes people.”
A physical therapist, Lovato also likes playing pinball with her sons, 16 and 13 years old. Belles & Chimes allows her to connect with adult friends, who share a common interest, too.
“It’s just more like adult friends,” Lovato said. “Usually you’re meeting other women at kids’ baseball games. When you enjoy it together, it’s different.”
Belles & Chimes began in Oakland, California, in 2013. Like its parent, the local chapter’s goal is to bring together women of all pinball skill levels in a supportive, fun environment where they can learn from each other, make friends and participate in competitions.
Lindbergh, who started playing pinball at age 13, said she believes there is no reason women can’t be as good at the game as men.
“My hope would be that because I think some of the women are really developing their skills and getting better, I’d like to see another member qualifying for the world championships,” Lindbergh said. “I’d love to see at least one other Phoenix member in the championship.”
Male and female pinball lovers, including children, can test their skills in modern and classic pinball tournaments at ZapCon 6 on April 21 and 22 at Mesa Convention Center, 263 N. Center St.