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The Anaheim Convention Center is a very cold place. It was unusually warm outside, but inside, the air conditioning was cranked up so high that on the previous day, pretty much everybody had jackets or something with long sleeves on by the end of that last fight. And the people that hadn't brought anything with long sleeves that first day made sure to for the second. Do radio waves move more efficiently through cold air or something?

The air was also very dry. Part of me wanted to run over and stick my head in the RC boat pond to get some moisture to my skin. Except then my head would have been wet, and the cold air probably would have given me hypothermia. I bet if I had licked a robot, my tongue would have gotten stuck. And there were plenty of occasions where I had good reason to lick a robot, too!

For this fight, Ze Uber Wedge has little to no weapon available. Devil's Plunger shoves it all around the arena and ends things by putting Ze Uber Wedge on its side in the pit.

Terrabyte's drum grinds on Titan's flipping wedge, bending it. After another hit from the drum, CO2 appears to escape from Titan's body. And another hit from the drum flips Titan onto its back. Titan is no longer moving, and taps out.

It's a wedge fight that belongs to Max Wedge, which gets under Nasty Attitude the majority of the time and even flips Nasty Attitude twice. But as the fight wears on, Nasty Attitude gets one flip in, which puts Max Wedge on its non-invertible back. I don't know, it seems like Max Wedge might want to rethink those fins.

Stewie's drum disables CH53's spinning bar in the first hit. Stewie continues to attack, bouncing CH53's body all over the place with that drum. Eventually, CH53 taps itself out of the tournament.

Stahl randomly drives itself into various I-beams. After about a minute, WarSaw's disk stops spinning for no apparent reason. This results in random fits of poor driving. When the judges get their chance to speak, they give it to WarSaw.

This is the last fight in the winners bracket before it turns into a single-elimination bracket. The winner moves to the quarterfinals, while the loser must win one more fight to get out of the losers bracket and into the quarterfinals.

Fight. Psychotron quickly shoves Whacker of Weeds toward the pit. Whacker of Weeds goes entirely into the pit. Psychotron, having pushed so hard, gets its wedge high-centered on the lip of the pit. So now neither robot can move. But according to the rules, since Psychotron initiated the pitting, it wins.

Except the fight is stopped and the robots are freed. Not only is Psychotron taken off the lip of the pit, Whacker of Weeds is lifted entirely out of the pit and placed back on the arena floor. When the fight resumes, Psychotron again gets its wedge high-centered on the lip of the pit. Whacker of Weeds is declared the winner, even though that second part of the fight should never have taken place. Meanwhile, attention moves over to the fight in the BotBash arena. After further deliberation, Psychotron is correctly given the win.

For most of this fight, Jimmy shoves Tuka the Cat around the arena. But then Jimmy abruptly stops moving. So Tuka the Cat wins.

Both robots get their weapons up to speed. Neither is able to disable the other's spinning device. Back Stabber hits Who's Your Daddy? in the side a couple of times. Then Who's Your Daddy? wedges underneath Back Stabber and pushes it into the wall. Then pushes it over in the other corner. Then gives it another slam. Back Stabber taps out.

After getting to take all of Saturday off, CycloneBot must begin to fight its way through the tournament. It's still a full-body spinner that uses all 220 of its pounds to hit opponents. The team has been perfecting the LED's on the sides of the robot. What function do these LED's serve? Battery level displays? Damage indicators? No! When CycloneBot spins around really fast, the LED's rapidly turn on and off to spell messages. Everybody gets their first glimpse of this feature when CycloneBot does its pre-fight testing. It spins up, and all of a sudden, we can see the word "CYCLONEBOT" floating in the aura around the robot (in a font with serifs, no less!). This new feature does nothing to help the robot fight, but it sure does catch an audience's attention. Actually, I've got to admit, if I was fighting against CycloneBot, I might very well be distracted by the robot spelling things during the fight. I'm extremely susceptible to blinking lights.

Fight. CycloneBot moves to the center of the arena to spin up. So Vicious Circle comes over and wedges it into the wall to keep it from doing that. While CycloneBot isn't spinning, Vicious Circle hits it with its spinning disk a couple of times. As CycloneBot drives back out to the middle of the arena, it appears that one of its wheels is no longer working. It tries to spin, but with only half of its wheels, that's pretty difficult to do. Despite its best efforts, CycloneBot is declared knocked out.

Every time I see PsychoX, I think that it should be a super heavyweight. Its body is really, really big.

Fight. SJ shoves PsychoX all over the arena. PsychoX is definitely being bullied around. Finally, SJ puts PsychoX into the pit. Diagonally. PsychoX isn't escaping from that.

Compressor seems to be having trouble with its left wheel. Particle Accelerator gradually pushes Compressor toward the pit and finally puts it in. Compressor can't escape.

If you're following along with the ladders, you're probably confused by this match-up. Initially, the byes were distributed unevenly through the super heavyweight brackets, resulting in one of the round one losers bracket fights being robot versus robot while another of the round one losers bracket fights was bye versus bye. So Seismic was moved vertically up the losers bracket so that all of the round one fights were robot versus bye. Now we jump into round two of the losers bracket, which is filled with robots wanting to get back on the winners side.

Blue Engine has opted for its horizontal spinning disk weapon for this fight. Which it uses to tear a piece off of Seismic during the battle. But then Blue Engine's disk becomes broken and dangling. So now it's a pushing match! If I hadn't made it my job to recount this fight, I would have gone over to do my other job. Suddenly, Seismic quits moving and begins to emit smoke. It's toasted a speed controller, and Seismic is out.

Okay, lest you think I was shirking my duties as frequency volunteer, by this point, I had gotten this whole thing down to a system. My initial problem was that I instinctively wanted to write down the fight synopsis the instant the fight was over. But that interfered with collecting the frequency clips from the competitors. So once the fight ended, I would head into the Steel Conflict arena and gather the frequency clips. If any of them needed to be immediately transported over to the BotBash arena so they could start their fight over there, then Stephen or I would do that. Then place the just-used clips back on the board, give any available clips to the next two competitors in the Steel Conflict arena, and then I'd get about two minutes to scribble on a notepad while dark, terrible things were going on in the BotBash arena and nobody needed any more clips.

Anyway, fight. Marvin spins up its drum. And Maximus shoves Marvin all over the arena, including one slam that places Marvin's spinning drum right against the protective Lexan. Eventually, Maximus puts Marvin in the pit, where it can't escape.

Ouch! still isn't spinning, so Gammakaze pushes it a bit. Ouch! drives itself into the pit, quickly ending this fight.

For whatever reason, Star Hawk has replaced its unique three-disk spinning thing with a more standard single spinning disk.

Fight. The two robots hit one another. Then they do it again. On this second confrontation, The Judge gets its hammer stuck in one of Star Hawk's wheel cavities. The hammer is loose in the cavity, but The Judge can't pull it out. So The Judge pushes Star Hawk into the pit. The Judge finally frees its hammer and Star Hawk is still stuck in the pit. So Star Hawk is out of the game.

We're now at the point in the middleweight losers bracket where they'll be allowing four losing robots to compete in a single-elimination bracket with the four remaining winners.

Fight. Ze Uber Wedge is still having problems, this time with its left drive. Both robots spin up. Then we wait for them to hit each other. Then they do, weapon to weapon. You know, WarSaw isn't exactly being the pinnacle of robot driving, either. WarSaw high-centers itself on the I-beam. A timeout is called to give WarSaw its free unsticking. Both robots spin up again (after the box has been re-closed, of course). There's a hit. And another hit, which knocks WarSaw back onto the I-beam once more. Sorry, but you've already been freed once, WarSaw. You're out.

Fight. Megabyte spins up. Shovelhead absorbs a blow, then shoves Megabyte into the I-beam, stopping it from spinning. Shovelhead tries to push Megabyte into the pit, but ends up pitting itself with Megabyte on top of it. In an effort to escape, Shovelhead lifts its actuated plate, but that only frees Megabyte to drive around the arena floor while Shovelhead remains in the pit. Shovelhead tries to escape, but only succeeds in placing itself further in the pit. Megabyte wins.

Everybody was wondering -- could Alcoholic Stepfather go all the way after so many losses over the years? It faced a formidable opponent in Tombstone and its spinning bar.

Fight. Tombstone spins up. Alcoholic Stepfather drives in unconventional directions, to the delight of the crowd, positioning itself. Finally, a huge collision as the two robots meet, spinner to wedge. Both robots are thrown backward. And Tombstone's bar has broken in half!

Oh, but Tombstone isn't giving up that easily. It continues to spin what's left of the bar, causing the robot to vibrate, since the bar is severely off-balance now. But that bar is back up to spinning at damage-inducing speeds. And Tombstone hits Alcoholic Stepfather a couple more times. This clearly isn't over yet. Alcoholic Stepfather nudges a badly-vibrating Tombstone toward the pit. And gradually pushes Tombstone in! Three in a row for Alcoholic Stepfather!

Again, the winners of the next three fights all are reinserted into the winners bracket.

Fight. Max Wedge gets under Tuka the Cat. And again. And again. Every time the two meet, Max Wedge is the one to get underneath to push Tuka the Cat around. And pretty much every time it does, Max Wedge slams Tuka the Cat into one of the I-beams. One of those slams tips Tuka the Cat upside-down against the I-beam. Tuka the Cat has no way of escaping from that position, so Max Wedge wins.

Man, Titan is speedy in there. But Who's Your Daddy? is knocking it around. At one point, Who's Your Daddy? mightily shoves Titan into the corner. And Titan taps out of the tournament.

Stewie uses that spinning drum to bounce and push Whacker of Weeds around. Whacker of Weeds winds up on top of Stewie, and neither robot can get it off of there. Therefore, a timeout is called to separate the two. But when the fight resumes, Whacker of Weeds is no longer working. Stewie wins.

It looks like CycloneBot is still having trouble with that wheel. While CycloneBot struggles to spin or even move in a straight line, Particle Accelerator attacks it. Particle Accelerator shoves CycloneBot into the corner. Smoke begins to emerge from CycloneBot's body. And that's a knockout.

For a very short time, I was worried that these two might not get a chance to fight one another at this tournament! But then I realized that, like the eruption of Mauna Loa, some things are inevitable. Blue Engine has reattached its pipe wedge for this fight.

Fight. Both robots ram one another (there's a shock, I know). Maximus flips Blue Engine once. And for most of the fight, Maximus seems to be controlling Blue Engine. But then Maximus backs itself into the pit, managing to take all four of its huge wheels off the ground. Blue Engine knows better than to help Maximus get out of that, so Maximus is a goner.

Gammakaze shoves The Judge around a bit. The Judge seems reluctant to fire its weapon. At one point, as Gammakaze wedges itself underneath The Judge, The Judge fires. But between the powerful weapon movement and Gammakaze's pushing, The Judge is flipped upside-down against the I-beam. The Judge can't bring its hammer back to self-right, so it's all over.

Shiva isn't spinning for this fight. PsychoX has an addition sticking out of its back that's designed to keep Shiva at bay. But during the course of ramming, that addition gets stuck on Shiva's shell. The two robots struggle to separate. The referee begins to count down until the timeout is called to unstick them. Just as the referee reaches the call for a timeout, PsychoX gets off of Shiva. Since the robots have just separated themselves, the referee says go. But the announcer called a timeout, and since the announcer has an audio amplification system behind him, Shiva's driver stops. But since PsychoX's driver heard the referee cancel the timeout, he continues to ram Shiva. There's some yelling between Shiva's driver, the referee, and the announcer as they try to determine whether the fight is still on. After a few seconds, it's established that there is no timeout, so everybody goes back to fighting. But since neither robot has a working weapon, this is a dull pushing match. And even though PsychoX is the one designed for pushing, Shiva is given the judges' decision, 20-13.

Once again, it was time to take a break from the huge robots to allow SozBots to showcase its smaller competitors. Aww, isn't they cute little robots? With tiny little weapons and teensy battle scars? Yes they is! I could just eat you all up!

There. Just thought I'd break up the monotony of reading a long series of fight reports with some vomiting.

All right, we're down to single elimination for the middleweights. I don't care whether you came from the winners bracket or the losers bracket -- you lose here, you're out.

Fight. Every single time these two meet, Max Wedge gets underneath Psychotron. Psychotron is bounced all over the place by Max Wedge. Over the course of the three minutes, in addition to the regular hits, Max Wedge flips Psychotron a total of eight times. The fight goes the distance, but obviously, the judges have to give the nod to Max Wedge.

Devil's Plunger is the dominant one here, shoving Who's Your Daddy? all around. One of Devil's Plunger's aggressive attacks flips itself upside down. Still, Devil's Plunger continues to shove Who's Your Daddy? all around. Near the end, Devil's Plunger goes up against the I-beam, but escapes. The judges score the fight in favor of Devil's Plunger.

Nasty Attitude is all over Stewie in this fight. There are plenty of big slams of Stewie into the I-beams courtesy of Nasty Attitude. I didn't even count the number of times Nasty Attitude slammed Stewie into the wall (this shouldn't be a surprise, as I haven't counted the number of times any robot has slammed its opponent into the wall). After a while, Nasty Attitude gets flipped upside-down by Stewie's drum. Oh, now you've done it, Stewie. Nasty Attitude shoves Stewie into the pit, where it remains until it is declared knocked out.

This is the last fight of the heavyweight winners bracket before we learn which robot will emerge from the losers bracket to get one more shot at the title. Unlike the middleweights, a loss here will only send the robot to the losers bracket.

Fight. Vicious Circle uses its weapon to make sparks on SJ's body a few times. In fact, it's a while before SJ even fires its hammer. From all accounts, Vicious Circle is looking to be winning this fight. But SJ wedges underneath Vicious Circle, charges the entire length of the floor, fires the hammer with Vicious Circle under it (the hammer doubles as a lifting arm), and puts Vicious Circle upside-down in the corner. With no way to get out of that position, Vicious Circle loses, sending SJ to the finals.

Ze Uber Wedge is still having trouble with the left side of its drive. Both robots spin up their weapons. They meet, and the first collision tears Terrabyte's left tire off! But a little thing like a missing tire isn't going to upset Terrabyte -- it'll just drive on the rim. However, with Terrabyte missing a tire and Ze Uber Wedge having that recurring drive problem, neither is moving around that perfectly anymore. There's another weapon-to-weapon collision, which stops Ze Uber Wedge's bar from spinning. Another hit from Terrabyte knocks one of the hammer heads off the bar. Then the two go back to having trouble driving. Every now and then, Terrabyte hits Ze Uber Wedge. And that's time. This one kind of surprises me, but the judges give the nod to Ze Uber Wedge.

These next two fights will determine which two super heavyweights will join Alcoholic Stepfather and Megabyte in the single-elimination semifinals.

The match starts with Gammakaze nearly lifting Shovelhead over the I-beam and out of the arena. But Shovelhead stays in, so the fight continues. For the first half of the fight, Gammakaze is in control. But during the second half, Shovelhead takes over being the dominant robot. As time runs out, Shovelhead uses that lifting plate to flip Gammakaze over. And I'm guessing that's what swayed the judges to put Shovelhead through to the semis.

Blue Engine is still using its wedge. Tombstone's weapon isn't working for this fight. I'm guessing it must have been damaged in a previous battle.

Blue Engine shoves Tombstone all around for these three minutes. A little offensive action with the pipe wedge, but most of the time, Blue Engine rams Tombstone with its steeper rear plate. Meanwhile, Tombstone is doing nothing offensive. When time is up, the judges have to give the victory to Blue Engine.

I've lost all track of the various weapons Particle Accelerator can attach to itself and the many ways it can do so. For this fight, Particle Accelerator has added extensions to its lifting arm. But it turns out that Shiva isn't spinning for this fight, so Particle Accelerator doesn't really have to worry. Particle Accelerator gets its lifter underneath Shiva and slowly lifts. It lifts, it lifts... and flips Shiva onto its head. Farewell, Shiva.

Then the Steel Conflict/BotBash arenas took their final break so SozBots could finish its tournament. The only problem with SozBots was that its spectators were coming over from watching the other two tournaments, whose arenas were larger with much more seating. And it turns out you just can't crowd 100+ people around a 7' 7' arena without a few of those people being unable to see. Not to mention giving the builders room to actually be able to pilot their creations. So, simply because the robots were smaller, the audience was smaller, too.

Of course, I was adding to the congestion by cramming myself on the bleachers next to the SozBots arena so I could get a look at everything, too. So I guess I can't criticize.

Soon, the middleweight tournament will be over. Really. It will.

Fight. It's a close wedge fight (both of these wedges have proven themselves in the past), although Devil's Plunger appears to have a slight advantage to my eyes. There are many pushing matches and slams. One of those slams is initiated by Max Wedge, resting Devil's Plunger on the I-beam. Devil's Plunger tries to escape... it wiggles down, but its wedge keeps its tires off the floor. Max Wedge wins.

For a change of pace, this time Ze Uber Wedge has control over its left side, but has no power to its weapon. It's another wedge fight, with Nasty Attitude slamming Ze Uber Wedge around most of the time. Ze Uber Wedge pushes Nasty Attitude into the pit. But Nasty Attitude turns around, slowly moves toward the wall, then quickly kicks it into reverse to jump out of the pit and back into the fight. And for the rest of that fight, Nasty Attitude takes out large amounts of aggression on Ze Uber Wedge, beating up all over the place. Time's up, and Nasty Attitude moves to the finals.

One of these two robots will face SJ in the finals. They're going to fight to decide which one it will be. This time, Particle Accelerator has added a big rubber bumper.

Fight. Vicious Circle easily knocks Particle Accelerator's bumper off. Then there's a little driving. Particle Accelerator gets its lifting mechanism under Vicious Circle and lifts. That takes Vicious Circle's wheels off the ground. So Particle Accelerator pushes Vicious Circle over to the pit and puts it in. Vicious Circle can't get out, which puts Particle Accelerator through to the end.

Things don't look good for the underdog Alcoholic Stepfather. In order to achieve omnidirectional drive, the robot has to sacrifice some traction, since the wheels have to grip the floor in certain directions while providing nearly no friction in other directions. And while it's been doing great at destroying spinners with its super-fortified wedge, it's going to have to engage in a pushing match with Shovelhead. And Shovelhead was designed to excel at pushing matches. The only way I see Alcoholic Stepfather winning this is if it can swoop around to Shovelhead's side and quickly push it to an awkward position in the pit. Doesn't look good. Though I'm still rooting for Alcoholic Stepfather simply because it's so cool. And I really want to see the robot that had never won a fight before this tournament take the whole thing.

Fight. And there goes Shovelhead, using that lifting plate to press Alcoholic Stepfather against the I-beam. And then lifts Alcoholic Stepfather on top of the I-beam. Alcoholic Stepfather escapes, albeit upside-down. So Shovelhead lifts the invertible Alcoholic Stepfather and places it on its side. Alcoholic Stepfather has no way of freeing itself from that, so this fight is over. As Alcoholic Stepfather is counted out, it shoots some huge flames, much to the delight of the crowd.

Since Megabyte has 120 extra pounds to play with, why not have some fun for its second fight against Blue Engine this weekend? For this fight only, Megabyte will compete as a multibot. Besides the huge spinning part, the other two robots that will take on Blue Engine are twin hobbyweights Romulus and Remus, also from the Robotic Death Company team. Two 12-pound robots in the arena with a super heavyweight and a dangerous spinning heavyweight. The two questions on everybody's mind: Will those tiny things pose any threat to Blue Engine? And how long before one of them makes contact with Megabyte, which will undoubtedly scatter it across the floor?

After this fight took place, Stephen jokingly asked me how I was going to transcribe this one. I'm still not sure, but here goes:

Things start with Blue Engine pressing its pipe wedge into Megabyte. Blue Engine shoves Megabyte into the corner for a while, preventing it from spinning. While Blue Engine does this, Romulus tries to ram under Blue Engine, which is comical, since it can completely fit underneath Blue Engine's body. Megabyte escapes and spins up. Blue Engine drives around the arena. With its high ground clearance, Romulus and Remus are serving only as speed bumps to Blue Engine -- nothing more. Blue Engine continues to charge into Megabyte, but can't completely slow the spinner down. Megabyte chews on the rear of Blue Engine. Eventually, a hit from Blue Engine knocks Megabyte into Romulus, tearing it apart, causing the audience to cheer. The rest of the fight consists of Megabyte doing some general grinding on Blue Engine and Remus thinking twice about getting in there. And there's time.

I thought this fight could go either way, and actually suspected that Blue Engine had won it. But the judges give the fight to Megabyte, 18-15. Close, confusing fight.

And now, with no fights left except for the finals of each weight class, it's time for the first and only grudge match to take place in the Steel Conflict arena this weekend. The robot pictured on the right is a middleweight. It's pretty much finished, but it hasn't been given a name yet. Its builder would like to give it a test fight, and since it has a spinning drum for a weapon, The Evil Spinner Destroyer would like to destroy it. Hmm, they should fight one another.

The fight begins with a lot of driving with no connection between the two robots. Finally, the spinning drum makes contact with the back underside of The Evil Spinner Destroyer. Big time. The drum comes to a stop. But now that panel on The Evil Spinner Destroyer is loose. The bot with no name pushes The Evil Spinner Destroyer into various walls. Sometimes it spins its drum for a short time, but it isn't getting any consistency with it. And really, not much happens for the rest of the fight. The announcers throw it to the audience, and the audience declares the bot with no name the winner.

The winner of this fight will receive $1,225 in cash and prizes. The loser will receive $625 in cash and prizes. Both builders will be happy; which will be more happy? Let's find out.

Particle Accelerator still doesn't have its spinning weapon for this fight, so it leads with the lifter. There's some driving. Particle Accelerator lifts SJ, but can't do anything with the body. SJ is placed on the floor. Then SJ takes over, slamming Particle Accelerator into the wall and flipping it onto its invertible back. And SJ performs another slam. A third slam from SJ rests Particle Accelerator's body against the I-beam with none of its wheels touching the ground. That's all she wrote for Particle Accelerator... SJ is the heavyweight champion.

It's a rematch of today's earlier fight. As you may wish to remember, Max Wedge was dominating the fight before one flip stranded it on its back. It's still wearing those fins. Will the same thing happen again, or will Max Wedge get revenge?

Fight. On the first wedge-on-wedge collision, Nasty Attitude goes through the air. Then Max Wedge pushes Nasty Attitude into the pit. We've seen Nasty Attitude get out of the pit before. It readies itself... it charges... it gets caught on the lip of the pit. Now Nasty Attitude is stuck, all of its wheels off the ground, and you know that Max Wedge is stopping here to win the middleweight championship.

Last fight of the night! The super heavyweight champion will receive the largest purse: $600 in cash, a $500 gift certificate to the Robot MarketPlace, free registration at the next Steel Conflict, and a one-year subscription to Servo Magazine. This is another in-tournament rematch. Earlier today, Shovelhead lost to Megabyte. Shovelhead is fighting for its honor. Megabyte is fighting for yet another title in a weight class higher than its fighting weight.

Fight. Shovelhead goes for the early box-long rush. Megabyte slightly moves to the side, and Shovelhead misses. Megabyte was expecting that, as it didn't even bother to try spinning up until after Shovelhead missed it. Now Megabyte is up to speed. The first collision between the two disables Shovelhead's left side. That's never good. Shovelhead tries to continue, but after a couple more hits from Megabyte, it taps out. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the winner of the 340-pound weight class at Steel Conflict -- the 220-pound Megabyte. Megabyte will next move to MechWar 8, where it will compete in the 390-pound weight class. After that, it will start taking on SUV's and army tanks.

And that was pretty much the end of the Southwest Division Championships. Some of the builders up and left; some of the builders stayed to help take everything down. Since I was there as a volunteer, I thought it would be polite of me to assist in the teardown. My stick-thin arms limited me to folding the pit tables and chairs, but still, it was something. I hung around to watch the braver (drunker?) folks separate the panels of the Steel Conflict floor by playing Jump Up and Down on a Panel while a Forklift Raises You in the Air until the Welds Suddenly Snap. I was also surprised to learn that not a single robot had damaged the concrete floor of the convention center, even after so many were dropped onto it from the BotBash arena. I eventually left, filled with the tingling sensation that comes from being right in the middle of a large robot fighting competition. I hope it's not tetanus.

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