Classic Tetris World Championship
Tournament information
SportClassic Tetris
Established2010
Number of
tournaments
14
VenuePasadena Convention Center (2024)
Oregon Convention Center (2012–19, 2022–23)
University of Southern California (2011)
Downtown Independent (2010)
Purse$10,000
Websitethectwc.com
Current champion
Justin Yu (2023)

The Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC) is a video game competition series, hosted by the Socal Gaming Expo. The competition launched in 2010, during the filming of Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters to determine the world's greatest Tetris player. Since 2021, the champion of each tournament has received the Jonas Neubauer Memorial Trophy, named after the seven-time record setting champion who died in 2021.[1] In its first two years, the competition was held in Los Angeles, California,[2] but was moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2012, and was held there annually through 2023 (with the exceptions of the 2020 and 2021 tournaments, held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The 2024 edition will be held in Pasadena, California.[3]

The contestants play the 1989 Nintendo version of Tetris on actual Nintendo Entertainment System consoles and cathode-ray tube (CRT) video displays. The final rounds are streamed online with live-edited screens and heads-up display to improve viewer experience. The tournament was initially dominated by Jonas Neubauer, who reached the finals in the first nine iterations of the tournament and won seven titles.

Following Neubauer's final win in 2017, before his sudden death four years later, the tournament came to be dominated by hypertapping, a style of playing in which the player rapidly taps the controller's D-pad to move pieces. This is in contrast to the delayed auto-shift (DAS) technique, in which the player simply holds down the D-pad to move the piece. Hypertapping was especially prevalent among a recent influx of younger players, a group largely inspired to pick up the game by Joseph "JdMfX_" Saelee, who won back-to-back titles while in high school, including a win against Neubauer in the 2018 final and one against Koji "Koryan" Nishio in the 2019 final. Thirteen-year-old Michael Artiaga "dogplayingtetris" won the 2020 edition of the tournament, beating his brother Andrew Artiaga "PixelAndy" in the final. Michael defended his title in 2021, defeating Jacob "Huffulufugus" Huff three games to one.

Although Huff fell short, he showed the effectiveness of a brand-new style of play, known as "rolling." Originally introduced by CTWC regular Chris "Cheez" Martinez, the playstyle involves partially depressing the controller's D-pad with one hand, while tapping the back of the controller with the fingers of the other, pushing the controller the rest of the way into the first hand and registering an input. The new strategy has brought in a wave of scoring records, with the world record more than quadrupling, and has seen former DAS players and hypertappers (including the Artiagas) adopt the playing style.[4]

The 2022 tournament, held in Portland for the first time in three years, was dominated by rollers. Eric "EricICX" Tolt defeated Justin Yu "Fractal161" to win the title three games to one. The third game saw both players exceed 2.1 million points, with Tolt winning the game and later the crown.

The 2023 event saw Yu win his first title, coming from 0–2 down to defeat Eve "Sidnev" Commandeur of the Netherlands 3–2 in the final. Commandeur also set the qualifying record with an amazing 16 max-outs. [5]

Competition

The champion is presented with the Jonas Neubauer Memorial Trophy, which is shaped like a J-tetromino.

The competition takes place over two days, with the qualifying round on the first day and the main event on the second. Contestants are allowed to bring their own controller, but it must be either an original, unmodified NES Controller or an aftermarket unit that is deemed a faithful enough reproduction of one. At the conclusion of the competition, prior to 2021, the champion and 2nd-place finisher were awarded a golden and silver T-tetromino trophy, respectively. After the sudden death of Jonas Neubauer in January 2021, it was announced during the 2021 championship that the tournament trophy was renamed to the Jonas Neubauer Trophy, redesigned as a golden J-tetromino, representing the "J" for "Jonas".[6]

Qualifying round

Qualifying takes place on a fixed number of NES stations. Entrants play "Type A" Tetris, starting on level 9 or higher, and are seeded based on their final score. Once an entrant's game ends for any reason, their score must be recorded by a tournament scorekeeper in order to be valid. Entrants may make as many qualifying attempts as they wish, but must return to the back of the waiting line for each one. Entrants may also pay a fee to rent a station for one hour, which allows unlimited qualifying attempts. In 2022, the lines were discontinued and each player could register for a two-hour time slot in which to make as many qualifying attempts as desired.

The top 32 scorers are seeded into a tournament bracket for the main event. In 2018, 40 players were allowed to qualify, with a "Round Zero" play-off held among the bottom 16 seeds to reduce the field to 32.[7] Forty-eight players qualified in 2016; the top 16 seeds automatically advanced, while the remaining 32 competed in "Round Zero" to fill the other 16 slots. In the event of multiple players maxing out (scoring 999,999 or higher), their second highest score is recorded to determine their seeding. This was especially utilized in 2018, when seven players maxed out, four of whom (Koji "Koryan" Nishio, Tomohiro "Green Tea" Tatejima, Jonas Neubauer and Harry Hong) maxed out twice. Thus, the officials needed their third highest scores just to determine the 1st to 4th seeding.[8]

Main event

A special cartridge given to supporters of the event in 2013

The Main Event is a single-elimination tournament consisting of five rounds of head-to-head matches, with seeds from opposite ends of the rankings pitted against each other in the first round (i.e. #1 vs. #32, #2 vs. #31, etc.). Matches are played with specially modified cartridges that can display seven-figure scores and give both players the same sequence of randomly determined blocks. Prior to the 2016 tournament, the main event was played using unmodified cartridges.

Since 2023, the cartridges used in matches has been further modified so that at level 39, the speed of the falling pieces increases to 2 cells per frame, a feature absent from the original Type A game.

Both players begin to play "Type A" Tetris at the same time on separate systems, and the game continues until one of the following occurs:[9]

During the first round, the higher-seeded player in a match chooses whether the first game will start at level 15 or 18. The lower seed chooses for the second game, and the higher seed for the third (if necessary). Starting with the second round, all games begin at level 18. Starting in 2022, all games begin at Level 18.

In a manner similar to the National Invitation Tournament, a silver tournament for the top 32 players who did not qualify for the Main Event was started in 2020 with its own championship and trophy (not to be confused with the silver trophy for the runner-up in the Main Event). Some news media have incorrectly called the winners of this bracket "world champions".[10]

History

Early years (2010–17)

The CTWC 2010 semifinals at the Downtown Independent

The inaugural Classic Tetris World Championship was held on August 8, 2010[1] at the Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles was chosen because several high-ranking players lived there.[11] Modeled after the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, eight players completed three Tetris challenges to decide the two finalists. Five of the eight seats in the semifinal were reserved for specific distinguished Tetris players: Jonas Neubauer, Harry Hong, Ben Mullen, Jesse Kelkar and Thor Aackerlund.[12] Neubauer won $1,000 after defeating Hong in the final. The tournament was attended by Henk Rogers and a film crew[11] for the 2011 documentary Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters.[12]

The second annual championship was held at the University of Southern California's Bovard Auditorium on October 16, 2011[2][13][14] with financial support from Electronic Arts.[15] The main tournament was now a single-elimination tournament, and all matches were best-of-three.[14] Neubauer successfully defended his title[16] against Alex Kerr in the final.[17] In addition to classic Tetris, tournaments were also held for EA's Tetris for PlayStation 3 (including both a solo and 2 vs 2 team tournament, with best-of-seven matches)[2][14][18] and the tabletop game Tetris Link.[13]

The 2011 tournament was expensive and poorly attended, and it was unclear if a third event would be feasible. In what Chris Tang describes as the tournament being "saved by a miracle", the Portland Retro Gaming Expo – held at the Oregon Convention Center – made arrangements for it to be held there in 2012.[15] Neubauer continued his winning streak in the 2012 and 2013 finals[16] which were now held as best-of-five matches.[19] His streak was interrupted in 2014 when he was defeated by Hong,[20] but he regained the title in 2015.[16]

The 2016 final between Jeff Moore (left) and Jonas Neubauer (right) became popular online due to its enthusiastic and repetitive commentary.

Neubauer's opponent in the 2016 final was Jeff Moore, a dark horse who was performing strongly. Moore's impressive play got the commentators "overly excited", and they enthusiastically yelled Boom! Tetris for Jeff every time he scored.[21] Although Moore was not able to defeat Neubauer, the match became popular on YouTube where it was parodized.[22] Writing for Engadget, James Trew credits the Neubauer–Moore match and Boom! Tetris for Jeff with "piqu[ing] the interest of younger eyes and kickstart[ing] a growing appetite for competitive classic Tetris videos."[21]

Hypertapping era (2018–21)

After watching the Neubauer–Moore match on YouTube, 15 year old Joseph Saelee became interested in Tetris. He prioritized learning a rare playstyle called hypertapping, which by 2017 had only been used competitively by two players – Thor Aackerlund and Koji "Koryan" Nishio. When hypertapping, the buttons on the game controller are pressed extremely rapidly with muscle tremors (rather than pressing and holding buttons). Within one year, Saelee had set numerous world records with the technique.[22]

Jonas Neubauer (left) and Joseph Saelee (right) posing with their trophies

Saelee, now 16 years old, entered the 2018 tournament hoping "just to qualify", without serious expectations for his first competition.[23] He was much younger than most competitors, who were in their thirties or forties. After defeating both Hong and Koryan, he had reached the final where he would face Neubauer.[24] Saelee won the final 3–0, becoming the new world champion.[25] He initially exited the stage speechless; Neubauer took the microphone to praise Saelee's play.[24]

The YouTube video of the Neubauer–Saelee match, titled "16 y/o Underdog vs. 7-time Champ", became the most viewed competitive Tetris match[24] and is credited with popularizing hypertapping and attracting young players to Tetris.[26] The 2018 event was shown on commercial television, with a recap airing on ESPN2.[27] Future recaps would air as part of ESPN8: The Ocho special programming.[28]

Saelee won back-to-back titles, defeating Koji Nishio.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 event was held online with a different set of rules from the in-person tournaments.[29] Michael Artiaga (aka dogplayingtetris) won the final. He became the youngest-ever champion at 13 years and 16 days of age, defeating his 15-year-old brother Andrew Artiaga (aka P1xelAndy). Michael Artiaga scored back-to-back CTWC victories by defeating Jacob Huff in the 2021 final.

Rolling era (2022–)

The CTWC returned to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo as an In-Person tournament with a similar format to 2019.[30]

The number of players for the main tournament draw was expanded from 40 to 48, with a "Round Zero" play-off for qualifiers ranked #17 to #48. The winner of each "Round Zero" match faced one of the top 16 seeds in the first round proper (winner of #17/#48 vs. #16, #18/#47 vs. #15, etc.)

Qualifying

Playoffs

Eric Tolt won the 13th CTWC final.

Qualifying continued to utilize the two-hour window format, with most max-outs and highest tiebreaker scores (kickers), determining seeding and the Top 48.

Playoffs were once again Best of Five matches with Level 18 opens, but also featured the so-called "Super Kill Screen." This activated at Level 39 to encourage competitors to be more aggressive at Level 29-38 speeds, as opposed to outlasting an opponent by avoiding a top out.[31]

Justin Yu would win the 14th event.

Results

Official rankings each year

Year Champion Runner-up 3rd place[a] 4th place[a]
2010 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Harry Hong United States Matt Buco United States Dana Wilcox
2011 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Alex Kerr United States Harry Hong United States Robin Mihara
2012 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Mike Winzinek United States Eli Markstrom United States Alex Kerr
2013 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Harry Hong United States Chad Muse United States Matt Buco
2014 United States Harry Hong United States Jonas Neubauer United States Terry Purcell United States Eli Markstrom
2015 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Sean Ritchie ("Quaid") United States Alex Kerr United States Harry Hong
2016 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Jeff Moore United States Harry Hong Japan Koji Nishio ("Koryan")
2017 United States Jonas Neubauer (7) United States Alex Kerr United States Sean Ritchie ("Quaid") United States Matt Buco
2018 United States Joseph Saelee United States Jonas Neubauer Japan Tomohiro Tatejima ("Greentea") Japan Koji Nishio ("Koryan")
2019 United States Joseph Saelee (2) Japan Koji Nishio ("Koryan") United States Aidan Jerdee ("Batfoy") United States Daniel Zhang ("DanQZ")
2020 United States Michael Artiaga ("Dog") United States Andrew Artiaga ("PixelAndy") United States Jacob Huff Indonesia Nenu Zefanya Kariko
2021 United States Michael Artiaga ("Dog") (2) United States Jacob Huff United States Joseph Saelee United States Andrew Artiaga ("PixelAndy")
2022 United States Eric Tolt ("EricICX") United States Justin Yu ("Fractal161") United States Andrew Artiaga ("PixelAndy") United States Michael Artiaga ("Dog")
2023 United States Justin Yu ("Fractal161") Netherlands Eve Commandeur ("Sidnev") United States Willis Gibson ("Blue Scuti") United States Michael Artiaga ("Dog")
Source:[32]
  1. ^ a b There is no match between the losing semi-finalists. Instead, 3rd and 4th place are distinguished based on the scores from the semi-final matches.

Notable achievements

Official Classic Tetris World Championship global stops

Since 2018, global CTWC stops have been officially added, many of which are directly linked to the CTWC main event in Portland. Other than prizes, the winner of each global stop is sponsored to fly to Portland and try to qualify for the finals.

Inaugural year Region Event/Location Organizer(s)
2018 Hong Kong CTWC Hong Kong Cyberport HK RETRO.HK, TKO
2018 Hong Kong CTWC Asia (Regional Finals) Cyberport HK / City University of Hong Kong RETRO.HK, TKO
2018 Singapore CTWC Singapore James Cook University Singapore / Versus City RetroDNA, RETRO.HK, TKO
2018 Germany CTWC Germany Gamescom TKO, Local Community
2019 Norway CTWC Norway Retrospillmessen TKO, Local Community
2019 Taiwan CTWC Taipei Taipei Game Show Summer Edition Brook Gaming, TKO
2019 Australia CTWC Australia 1989 Arcade Newtown Local Community
2019 Poland CTWC Poland various Local Community
2020 (cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic) Japan CTWC Japan Akihabara Hundred Square Club Local Community

Similar events and side events

During the expo there have been several tournaments on other systems over the years.[citation needed]

Classic Tetris Monthly (CTM)

There is a once-a-month online tournament called Classic Tetris Monthly (CTM) that was previously hosted on the same Twitch channel as the CTWC, but it now is hosted on MonthlyTetris. Competitors routinely compete from around the world in CTM, which is streamed remotely and thus allows for great flexibility on the part of the competitors. CTM is overseen and commentated chiefly by Keith "vandweller" Didion, who took over for Jessica "fridaywitch" Starr, the tournament's founder, in the Summer of 2018. Starr premiered the tournament on December 3, 2017, on her personal Twitch channel, with 16 participants that had qualified in the few weeks leading up to the event. Harry Hong, the 2014 CTWC champion, was the tournament's first victor. Didion opened a Twitch account dedicated to CTM, called MonthlyTetris, shortly after he began hosting. Additionally, the CTM Discord server is in many ways the center of the Classic Tetris Community, serving as its primary online meeting space.

Classic Tetris European Championship (CTEC)

Since 2015, a Classic Tetris European Championship has been played annually in Copenhagen. The tournament follows a similar structure, but is played on the PAL version of NES Tetris rather than the NTSC version. Due to the difference in framerates, the two versions of the game (both of which are designed for the NES) are balanced differently; pieces do not fall at identical speeds on the same level between the two versions. In addition, Delay Auto Shift (DAS) is faster in PAL compared to NTSC. At higher level play, this leads to significant differences in strategy and outcome. In particular, players who employ DAS as their primary strategy are able to play at the highest level.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Classic Tetris World Championship Coming to Los Angeles". Wired. August 3, 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Christopher MacManus (October 17, 2011). "Meet the new Tetris world champs". CNET News. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  3. ^ Classic Tetris World Championship (January 5, 2024). Classic Tetris World Championship 2024 Announcement. Retrieved January 5, 2024.
  4. ^ EricICX. "The History of NES Tetris World Records". YouTube. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  5. ^ "2023 10 - XXX-N - CTWC 2023, Portland, OR - Google Drive".
  6. ^ "Tetris Championship Twitter". Twitter. Archived from the original on November 15, 2021. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  7. ^ "Official Classic Tetris World Championship Site".
  8. ^ "CTWC Official on Instagram". Archived from the original on December 23, 2021. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  9. ^ "Official CTWC Rules".
  10. ^ "East Kentwood High School student wins Tetris World Championship". WOODTV.com. October 21, 2022. Retrieved December 30, 2023.
  11. ^ a b Rivera, Carla (August 8, 2010). "World Tetris Championship brings together nation's top-ranked players". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  12. ^ a b Cornelius, Adam (October 21, 2011). Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters (Documentary). Reclusion Films.
  13. ^ a b "Tetris World Championship". LA Weekly. October 18, 2011. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  14. ^ a b c "Classic Tetris World Championship". Archived from the original on October 18, 2011.
  15. ^ a b Tang, Chris (March 22, 2019). Tetris World Championship: Building Explosive Esports on 8-bit Nintendo. Game Developers Conference. San Francisco.
  16. ^ a b c Macgregor, Jodi (January 9, 2021). "Tetris champion Jonas Neubauer has died". PC Gamer. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  17. ^ Smith, Brian; Kerr, Alex (July 15, 2014). "Foreword". Tricks of the Classic NES Tetris Masters. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1500542191.
  18. ^ "Meet Fresno's Tetris champion". ABC7 Chicago. November 4, 2011. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  19. ^ "Results - Official Classic Tetris World Championship Site".
  20. ^ Kilbride, Michael J. (October 29, 2019). "Boom, Tetris for Joseph! Classic Tetris World Championship crowns new king". The Torch. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  21. ^ a b Trew, James (May 6, 2022). "How Gen Z is pushing NES Tetris to its limits". Engadget. Retrieved January 3, 2024.
  22. ^ a b Sweet, Jacob (March 26, 2021). "The Revolution in Classic Tetris". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  23. ^ Gilbert, Ben (October 23, 2018). "A 16 year old just became the new world champion of 'Tetris' — see the remarkable video of the winning game right here". Business Insider. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  24. ^ a b c Karnadi, Chris (July 21, 2022). "Teens are rewriting what is possible in the world of competitive Tetris". Polygon. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  25. ^ Wade, Jessie (October 22, 2018). "16-Year-Old Becomes New Tetris World Champion". IGN. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  26. ^ Leporati, Gregory (May 3, 2021). "Competitive 'Tetris' was soaring, then it lost a legend. What comes next is a puzzle". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 12, 2024.
  27. ^ CTWC. "Our recap of the 2018 CTWC on ESPN 2's The OCHO airs tomorrow at 4pm Eastern/1pm Pacific!". www.facebook.com. Retrieved January 12, 2024.
  28. ^ "How to watch ESPN8: The Ocho, 2023 edition". ESPN.com. August 2, 2023. Retrieved January 12, 2024.
  29. ^ "Rules 2020 – Classic Tetris World Championship". Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  30. ^ "2022 Rules – Classic Tetris World Championship". Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  31. ^ "2023 Rules – Classic Tetris World Championship". Retrieved October 16, 2023.
  32. ^ "Official rankings of CTWC from 2012 to 2022". CTWC. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  33. ^ "First Level 30 Live at CTWC! Joseph Saelee OWNS Tetris Qualifiers - CTWC 2018". CTWC. December 11, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  34. ^ "Official Maxout & Level 31 at CTWC (OWR)". Joseph Saelee. October 23, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  35. ^ a b "2019 CTWC Classic Tetris Rd. 3 - Part 1 - JOSEPH/GREENTEA". CTWC. November 18, 2019. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  36. ^ "Dr. Mario Championship RDS. 1-2 — Can Tetris Masters Dr. Mario?". YouTube.