BattleBots Championship 2019
The BattleBots Championship 2019 ended with the two best bots in the arena for the final, and the best bot winning. Bite Force and Witch Doctor both displayed the keys to winning throughout the tournament, and these strengths manifested themselves in the final three battles. What separates these two from the other bots in the elite field of 8 is (1) balance and (2) better driving.
Witch Doctor repeatedly went head to head with its opponents – primary weapon on primary weapon – and was able to react quicker after the collisions and catch the other bot in vulnerable positions to deliver fatal blows. In converse, it is rarely vulnerable itself. It has balance between a powerful weapon and the rest of the bot. Mike Gellatly uses a tenacious style of attack driving: (1) attack head on and hard (2) create collision (3) react faster than opponent after collision (4) deliver powerful direct hits to vulnerable parts of the other robots.
Almost all robots have vulnerable areas, mostly the back and sides. In order to absorb huge hits and deliver huge hits, robots focus most of their 250 lb weight allowance towards the front. Its difficult to defend your entire robot because it marginalizes your ability to have a more powerful weapon or superior frontal strength (similar to a salary cap in Football). Most bots use a “keep my bot facing forwards” battle strategy because of this.
Witch Doctor is able to get around this using the Mike Gellatly strategy and the strength and reliability of Witch Doctor.
Bite Force uses balance to absorb powerful blows and then delivers precision fatal hits to its opponents. Paul Ventimiglia knows the weakness of his opponents – the exact weakness. He ended his semi-final with Tombstone with 1 precision hit and with Witch Doctor with 2 precise hits. No surprise, he won a $500,000 prize from NASA for building a robot, while still in college!
Bite Force has a unique construction which allows it to absorb powerful blows and distribute the force throughout the robot. Whereas Whiplash added a single part especially to defend against Tombstone, which Tombstone ripped off in less than 10 seconds, Bite Force absorbs pressure as an entire robot. This allows it to stay balanced, and allows Paul to pick out his exact kill spot and destroy the other bot with precision. This exact technique and strategy was on display in hyperbole against both Tombstone and Witch Doctor.
I correctly predicted 13 out of the 15 fights in the final 16, including the final two bots and the champion (see previous post). The only two battles I missed were Hydra losing to Minotaur, and Tombstone beating Whiplash. I hadn’t seen a weakness in Hydra until Minotaur ripped its back end off, and I thought Matt Vasquez was going to out-drive Ray Billings. In general, the robots that impressed throughout the tournament, did well in the final 16.
BattleBots Championship 2019 Top 8 Results
DeathRoll versus Minotaur
I had this at 50/50 with Death Roll winning and it played out just like that. It was the most exciting 1:35 minutes in the final 16. After DeathRoll got the first big hit, Minotaur dominated the first 44 seconds of the fight landing blow after blow on DeathRoll and winning the primary-on-primary battle. Minotaur was able to get just to the side of the vertical spinner with its drum spinner and win these battles. One significant impact at the 25 second mark sent DeathRoll rolling backwards, BUT also led to the disabling of the drum spinner 20 seconds later at he 44 second mark.
Ironically, it was a successful offensive blow that ultimately ended this fight for Minotaur.
Despite no primary weapon, Minotaur still almost won at the 1:25 mark when DeathRoll flipped inexplicably multiple times in the air and landed, compelling Kenny to say “How is DeathRoll even even still functioning?”
10 seconds later Minotaur was high-grounded, and lacked the motor power to get out – game over at the 1:35 mark.
Tombstone versus Whiplash
I thought Matt Vasquez would have taken a more strategic approach, but he ended up betting on his armor and lost – and that really sums up this fight.
Whiplash charged Tombstone quickly out of the gate and attacked his primary weapon. This is normally a great strategy, but Ray Billings went with his lightest blade, at 70 lbs, which spins up to speed much quicker. The result was Whiplash knocked Tombstone back and spun it around, but it ended up taking severe damage to its front armor.
Six hits in a row by Tombstone wore down Whiplash until the 7th hit, at the 37 second mark, took out his tire. Once the front armor was taken out, and Whiplash lost one wheel, Tombstone hugged him, and turned on him, shredding his second tire and knocking out Whiplash at the 55 second mark.
Witch Doctor versus SawBlaze
This was a classic Witch Doctor fight. Witch Doctor repeatedly hit the front of SawBlaze – slightly disorienting the less grounded robot – and then reacting quicker to the momentary disorientation, and taking advantage of hitting SawBlaze in vulnerable areas.
Perfect example, after two Witch Doctor blows SawBlaze scoops under Witch Doctor and slides them across the arena smashing them into the side and flipping them over. BUT, Witch Doctor self rights quicker than SawBlaze can react and goes on the offensive hitting SawBlaze just off center, then hitting it from behind, then upside down, and finally bending the primary weapon on SawBlaze with a blow at the 37 second mark.
This pattern repeated itself in a one sided beat down that lasted until the 2 minute mark. SawBlaze didn’t have the stability to self correct quick enough to respond to the more stable Witch Doctor.
A more balanced robot and the tenacious 4-step Mike Gellatly driving strategy and execution led to an easy win.
Biteforce versus Lock Jaw
I had this at 80/20 and it was more like 98/2. Biteforce was all over Lock Jaw from the start. The fatal blow came at the 1:30 mark and then Donald Hutson circled and smoked for about one minute before officially getting knocked out at the 2:30 mark.
Exposed tires and a weaker primary weapon were just too easy for Biteforce.
BattleBots Championship 2019 Semi Final Results
Witch Doctor versus DeathRoll
This was a one sided battle where the only damage inflicted to Witch Doctor was from destroying DeathRoll. It ended up being quite dramatic, sort of like a Rocky fight where Rocky beats up the opponent the entire fight and tires himself out and then he falls over from exhaustion, and then somehow he regains consciousness and stumbles to a victory.
At the 14 second mark both primary weapons went head-to-head and Witch Doctor clearly won the exchange. The camera shows Andrea Gellatly smiling from ear to ear after the exchange, and then at the 23 second mark you see Steven Martin frowning; great camera and editing work and also extremely revealing.
Witch Doctor threw DeathRoll around the arena, pinning it against the screws at the 45 second mark where smoke can be seen coming from Death Roll. At the one minute mark, DeathRoll loses their primary weapon and continues being smashed around the arena defenselessly.
At the 1:35 mark things change, as Witch Doctor’s wheels start smoking and stop working. Witch Doctor struggles to show any translational movement for 25 seconds and Death Roll stays away until the count down starts at the 2 minute mark.
Miraculously Witch Doctor’s wheels start working again at the 2:04 mark and Chris Rose exclaims, “It’s moving!” Witch Doctor squirms for another 45 seconds before the fight ends.
The fight went to the judges and in a split decision the correct verdict went the way of Witch Doctor, however, I am completely baffled how judge Jason could have given the win to DeathRoll? DeathRoll inflicted zero damage with its primary weapon, its own primary weapon was damaged 1 minute into the fight, and the only damage it inflicted on Witch Doctor was from getting its ass kicked.
Judge Jason also went against Derek and Lisa in the only two split decisions of the BattleBots Championship 2019 round of 16, voting for Huge over Whiplash and for Black Dragon over Lock Jaw.
Biteforce versus Tombstone
Tombstone has an 80 lb weapon and 5 lbs of armor versus Biteforce which has 80 lbs of armor and 40lbs of weapon. When I talk about balance this is the perfect example, and the result of this battle is hysterically indicative of the pitfalls of no balance.
Unlike Whiplash which bet on its armor and lost, Biteforce simply rolled into Tombstone, took one hit, stayed stable, and then delivered a precise blow to Tombstone’s wheel – game over. The design of Biteforce distributes the blow and its own weight so beautifully even a direct hit from Tombstone doesn’t produce the desired effect. Once the wheel is off Tombstone, it “spased” out and flopped around breaking its own blade in half and knocking itself out. Tombstone has no plan B.
A difference to note between the round of 8 and the semi final battle with Tombstone, Whiplash added a piece of armor (front grill) designed to combat Tombstone, whereas Biteforce uses the entire design of it’s robot to combat taking blows. It’s balance and distribution of weight allow it to take hits and, most importantly, respond quickly after while the opponent is vulnerable. In this case it took Biteforce two hits to eliminate Tombstone, one head-on, and one to the wheel once Tombstone was exposed.
Biteforce versus Witch Doctor
The final was a great finale to a super season between the top two bots, ranked #1 and #2, Biteforce and Witch Doctor put on a great show.
Witch Doctor came out winning the first 45 seconds of the battle. Mike moved Witch Doctor back and forth in front of Biteforce, landing blows and not giving Biteforce a clear shot. The battle was going the way of Witch Doctor until the 47 second mark.
Witch Doctor reverses out of a sticky situation creating space between the two bots. Biteforce then attacks and accelerates directly into Witch Doctor, knocking itself back. As Witch Doctor moves forward to attack something surprising happens: Biteforce – while going backwards – hits Witch Doctor in a specific vulnerable area in the front that flips the robot backwards and over! As per usual,. Biteforce tracks down Witch Doctor and hits her while she is upside down causing big time damage.Witch Doctor’s primary weapon is down.
Then seconds later we see Biteforce hit Witch Doctor in the same vulnerable spot and flips it into the air again. This time as Witch Doctor tries to self right, Biteforce takes out its self-righting mechanism – Game Over!
For Biteforce it was really only 5 precision blows that ended the match. 18 years of robot combat, creating a robot that landed on the moon while still in college, champion 3 of the last 4 years, Paul Ventimiglia is the Bill Belichick of robot battles. He was able to identify the specific area of weakness in Witch Doctor – one specific spot he knew would create the most damage.
The stability of his bot allows him to target the places his knowledge tells him will work. This combination came together perfectly in an elegant and masterful victory on the biggest stage against an amazing and awesome opponent! Congratulations to the whole Biteforce team for winning the BattleBots Championship 2019 and to a perfect season!
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