Ron’s Part 1: 22nd International Close Up Competition

So, it’s 10:30am on a Saturday morning and the registrants of the International Magic Convention in London are sitting in the auditorium of the Shaw Theatre in London ready to watch this year’s Close Up Competition. There are a total of 18 acts ready to perform – a bit of a marathon for the spectators, but one that we hope is worth it. As ever, Bob Hamilton is there ready to film it all so that we can see the action “up close” on the big screen. John Derris makes the introductions.

As I have said in another blog post, this is not necessarily a “who did what” review, more an overall view of each act.

Karl Berseus (Sweden)
Always the worst spot in any competition, Karl gave a confident performance of what, I presume, is the street act that he performs all the time. A few funny moments, such as having bow ties on his Cups and Balls to make it more “formal”. A few fumbles, however, seemed to prove that nerves are never far away when performing in this spot.

Steve Dela (U.K.)
Steve performed the act that won him 2nd place at the IBM British Ring Convention at the end of September, including another Cups and Balls routine. Very competently performed act.

Rex Cooper (U.K.)
Full of up-to-date comedy – NOT! If there was a prize for the most un-PC act, then this Chinese Themed act would take it hands down. Dodgy Chinese accent and really bad patter made this act cringe-worthy. Oh, and the Benson Bowl routine that was performed made it 3 Cups and Balls-style routines in the first 3 acts!

David Blanco (U.K.)
David performed a parlour-size Coins To Glass routine that he performed at the British Ring Stage Competition. In that performance, he was lost in the stage but in this one, it seemed to be the right size of stage for the act. Sadly, it was the only trick that he performed, taking some 7 or 8 minutes to perform.

Ferenc Galambos (Hungary)
Last year’s winner came out with the same act that he did last year in the guise of a Spanish Matador. This year, however, wasn’t to be his day as he fumbled a few basic moves in his (and the competition’s fourth) Cups and Balls routine. Another personal negative point came when he used Sponge Balls as his first final load for the routine (an audience are likely to think that they have been squashed into the cups the entire time) but he did have a good idea of loading large stacks of coins under 2 of the cups as a kicker. He finished the whole act by using a Throw Coil – not exactly something I’d expect to see in a Close Up Competition!

Erik Nordvall (Sweden)
You know how you get one of those days where nothing seems to go right? We’ve all had those days where nothing works or you spill cards all over the table. Well, sadly for Ali Cook look-a-like Erik he had to have one of those days performing at Ron’s. Obvious loads under the card case along with basic top palms did not bode well, but when he totally messed up half way through his Colour Changing Triumph effect, I wouldn’t have blamed him if he made his apologies and left. However, he didn’t and soldiered through to the end of his act. I hope that this will help build his character and make him a better performer for it.

Olmac (France)
Walked on and did a very, very funny bit with a couple of well known magicians gizmos (TT). He then did a brilliant production of the 4 aces from a blank faced deck. After a few effects with the aces, he had one of them signed. This ace then vanished and was found sealed inside a CD which had been sitting in a CD player on the table the whole time. Very, very clever. The only thing that bugged me about that part of the routine is that he broke the CD to give the spectator back their card. Why didn’t he just give them the CD with the card in it? Probably because the method wouldn’t allow him. For me, the only negative point of a very cleaver, and very fooling, effect.

William Houston (U.K.)
Where did this guy come from? This young man walked onto the stage and looked like a scared rabbit in the headlights. He then proceeded to do some brilliant coin and card magic with influences of Apollo Robbins, Chris Kenner and Homer Liwag. He also had a brilliant 4 ace routine that only used 4 aces – no extra cards were apparently used. With the aces in “T Formation”, he proceeded to cover the leader ace with one hand and one of the other aces with his other hand. After a moment, the follower ace had vanished and joined the leader ace. It was as clean as that! Excellent stuff.

Rick Merrill (U.S.A.)
A brilliant act! Very, very funny with some brilliant coin work including a great routine with simply a Sharpie and a Silver Dollar which was performed in his shirt sleeves. Also a load of gags using Sharpies that had everyone laughing.

James James (U.K.)
A street entertainer originally from Edinburgh who did what is basically his street act. Sadly, this one wasn’t anywhere near the calibre of the previous 3 acts and it showed with sloppy loads and a not-so-good performance of the Cups and Balls. The final load under the hat was telegraphed in such a way that Stevie Wonder would have seen it.

Ralf Gagel (Germany)
Opened with the Kennedy Floating Cigarette. Done OK? He also performed a semi-decent Bill To Lemon where the spectator had the choice of lemon, orange or apple. The spectator chose the lemon and that’s where the £20 note appeared. Did he get lucky or did he have a new method up his sleeve? He closed his performance with a performance of the Devano Rising Card.

Szabo G. Gabor (Hungary)
Starts off with a Jumbo Deck vanisher to make a jumbo deck of cards change into one of El Duco’s larger than normal decks of cards (approx the size of 2 cards). These cards made his handling very, very sloppy and not very interesting to watch. It was at this point that Bobby Bernard, sitting behind me, started snoring.

Antonio Perete (Spain)
This guy was a nutter! A really funny 5 or 6 minute presentation for having a card appear on his tie magically with a safety pin. He then performed the late Steve Hamilton’s excellent handling of the Coins To Glass and followed this with (yet another) Cups and Balls routine. Doesn’t sound much, but his presentation was manic and very funny.

Mario Bove (Italy)
Mario gave a competent “Gambling Demonstration” type of performance starting with the cutting of the 4 Kings. He then performed an “Invisible Palm” routine ending with the Kings turning into the 4 Aces whilst they were in the case. A Middle Deal demonstration followed with the other 3 hands each getting the Jacks, Queens and Kings and ended with the deck in full deck order. A technically competent performance.

Kostya Kimlat (USA)
Kostya came out and performed the Card on Ceiling – with a thought of card! I won’t explain what happens other than that the card is not named by the spectator until it is half way to the ceiling! He finished with a card routine that incorporated a series of heavy concepts (Taoism, Zenism, etc), but was a very entertaining routine.

Martin Eisler (Germany)
This act started with a kids’ TV voiceover, which was very sarcastic and very funny. After Eisler got introduced by the voiceover, he started producing “extra” coins. Produces his cards and starts to perform a few matrixes (starting with the coins vanishing from his hand to under the cards). Excellent misdirection after the first couple to produce some jumbo cards, then performed the Matrix with jumbo cards and normal coins. Then produced jumbo cous and did a Reverse Matrix. Finished with an excellent Matrix (with visible kickback) using cards and dice. A very clever routine that ended with the production of cuddly toys representing the 2 main characters from the imaginary kids’ TV show.

Helder Guimaraes (Portugal)
This young guy came out with a routine that started slowly and ended by fooling a lot of the magicians watching very badly. He placed a folded card on the table, where it stayed for the whole routine. Produces the 4 Jokers which were then signed. He starts to perform the Travellers only to find that 3 Jokers and a Queen have travelled to his pockets. The 3 Jokers are turned into the other 3 Queens and the Jokers are found back in his pocket. But where’s the final signed Joker? Sitting folded on the table the entire time! We all missed it! Brilliant routine. He finished with an Invisible Deck-style routine using a blank faced deck.

Philipp Tawfik (Austria)
The final act of the 18 act marathon performed a very nice deck production, then started an Ace production routine which seemed to go wrong at every level, but that he seemed to be able to save every time it went “wrong.” He then performed a false dealing routine, Guy Hollingworth’s “Quartet Transposition” and ended with the deck in full deck order. A nice wee routine, but nothing too special.

Here’s the scores on the doors for the different routines:-

  • Cups and Balls – 6
  • Coins Across/3 Fly – 5
  • Silent Acts – 3
  • Bro. John Hamman Signed Card variations – 2
  • Gambling related routines – 3

Yes, a full one third of the acts performed some kind of Cups and Balls routine, including TWO street acts!

I made a few predictions for the awards that are presented at this Competition. Three “Merit Awards”, each of equal stature, are presented as well as prizes for first, second and third places. As with most people who watched the competition, I made a few predictions, which were:-

  • First prize to Rick Merril (USA)
  • Second prize to Helder Guimaraes (Portugal)
  • Third prize to Kostya Kimlat (USA)
  • Merit Prizes to Olmac (France), William Houston (UK) and Martin Eisler (Germany)

Those were my predictions, the awards themselves went as follows:-

  • The “Merit Awards” were awarded to Kostya Kimlat (USA), Olmack (France) and Antonio Perete (Spain)
  • Third prize of a trophy and £100 went to William Houston (UK)
  • Second prize of a trophy and £500 went to Rick Merril (USA)
  • The winner taking the first prize of the Kevin Reay Trophy and £1,000 went to Martin Eisler of Germany. Congratulations to Martin on winning the competition.

Apparently, the judges walked in to discuss the competition and found that they all had the 6 award winners in their lists. Just a few tweaks were required and the decision was made in less than an hour.

All in all, it was an excellent competition – one of the strongest in a long time – and I highly recommend that you buy the DVD when it is released near the end of February.

Speak soon

The Cardman 🙂

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