Classic Tetris World Championship

The Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC) is a video game competition series, hosted by the Portland Retro 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.[1] In its first two years, the competition was held in Los Angeles, California,[2] but was moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2012, and has been held there annually since (with the exceptions of the 2020 and 2021 tournaments, held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Classic Tetris World Championship
Classic Tetris World Championship logo.svg
Tournament information
SportClassic Tetris
Number of
VenueOnline format (2020–2021)
Oregon Convention Center (2012–19, 2022-present)
University of Southern California (2011)
Downtown Independent (2010)
Current champion
Michael Artiaga (2021)

The contestants play the 1989 Nintendo version of Tetris on actual Nintendo Entertainment System consoles and CRT televisions. 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.

Since Neubauer's final win in 2017, the tournament has been 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 is especially prevalent among a recent influx of younger players. Joseph Saelee 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 "dogplayingtetris" Artiaga won the 2020 edition of the tournament, beating his brother Andrew "PixelAndy" Artiaga in the final. The younger Artiaga then successfully 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 player taps the back of the controller with one hand, into the fingers of the other, which are pressed on the D-pad. The new strategy has brought in a wave of scoring records and has seen former hypertappers (including the Artiagas), adopt the playing style.[citation needed]

The 2022 tournament, which will once again be held in conjunction with the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, will take place October 14th-16th.

In addition to classic Tetris, related games have been variously exhibited in side tournaments at CTWC events, including Tetris & Dr. Mario (1994), Tetris: The Grand Master (1998), Tetris for PS3 (2011), Tetris Ultimate (2014), and Tetris Effect (2018). The 2020 game Tetris Effect: Connected features a "Classic Score Attack" multiplayer mode allowing players to closely replicate the tournament's match format on modern consumer machines. The game mode was designed by Tomohiro "Greentea" Tatejima, a strong Classic Tetris player and CTWC participant.[3]


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, the champion and 2nd-place finisher are 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".[4]

Qualifying RoundEdit

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, his/her 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.

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.[5] 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.[6]

Main EventEdit

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.

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:[7]

  • Trailing player "tops-out," or allows the blocks to reach the top of the screen (leader wins)
  • Leader tops-out; trailing player fails to match that score before topping-out (leader wins)
  • Leader tops-out; trailing player passes that score (trailing player wins)

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.



The inaugural edition of CTWC was held at the Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles, California[8] on August 8, 2010.[1] Los Angeles was chosen as the location of the tournament because several high-ranking players lived there.[8] The main event took place in a theater room, with the players' game boards projected onto the large screen behind them.[9]

The 2010 championship had the flavor of an invitational tournament due to its original concept; five of the eight seats in the semifinals were automatically issued to certain distinguished players. The top two Tetris score recordholders Jonas Neubauer and Harry Hong, who had each achieved the maximum score of 999,999 points, were invited. Also included were the top two recordholders for the most lines cleared in a single game, Ben Mullen (296 lines) and Jesse Kelkar (291 lines). The final reserved seat was given to Thor Aackerlund, the champion of the 1990 Nintendo World Championships. Three spots were remaining for qualifiers: the top 3 players in the "Type B" games (on level 18–0) in a certain period could join the semifinal.[9]

The 8-player semifinals had 3 rounds of "Type A" games in order to determine the two finalists. Each player had their line count (in the first round) or score (in rounds 2 and 3) calculated as a percentage of the highest line count or score reached by a player in that round. The percentages in the three rounds were averaged together, and the two players with the highest averages advanced to the final. The final was a best-of-3 "Type A" game.[9]

Hong and Neubauer performed well in all three rounds of the semifinals and advanced to the final. In game 1, Hong suffered from misdrops, and despite pulling off a daring I-piece tuck, was unable to recover his position and topped-out. In game 2, Hong had built a 50,000 point lead before topping-out, allowing Neubauer to catch up and win the title with a level 23 tetris.[9]


2011 Tetris World Champions
Classic Tetris   Jonas Neubauer
PSN Tetris (Solo)   John Tran
PSN Tetris (Team) Team Hard Drop
  John Tran
  Roger Teng
Tetris Link   Daniel Anderson

The second annual championship was held at the University of Southern California's Bovard Auditorium on October 16, 2011.[2][10][11]

The concept of assigned spots in the semifinals did not carry over to the 2011 championship. In the qualifying, the top 8 scorers of "Type B" games advanced to the main tournament. An additional 100,000 points were awarded for completing Level 19.[11] The main tournament was a single-elimination tournament consisting of three rounds, and all matches were the best of three.[11]

Neubauer successfully defended his title against Alex Kerr in the final.[12][better source needed] In addition to the main event, tournaments were also held for Tetris for PlayStation 3 (including both a solo and 2 vs 2 team tournament, with best-of-seven matches)[2][11][13] and for the tabletop game Tetris Link.[10]


As the tournament moved to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, the rules were renewed and established as the current rules:

  • The qualifying uses "Type A" game and the top 32 players are seeded to the main tournament bracket. ("Type B" games are no longer used)
  • The main event is a single-elimination tournament with four rounds and a final. Matches in the rounds are played best of three (first to two games) while the final is played best of five (first to three).
  • The standings between players reached the same round are determined by 1) games won in the losing match, and 2) combined scores of the two games lost in the losing round.[14]


A slight change was applied in determining the rankings: if players are tied for rounds advanced and games won in a losing match, the sum of two games in the losing match plus qualification score was used. However, this rule was used only in 2015 and 2016.[14]


From 2016, the contenders play with specially modified cartridges during the main tournament. The modified cartridge can count the score in 7 digits and enables each player to receive the same order of pieces, in order to avoid the inequity of I-piece supplies and the periods of I-piece droughts. The referee rolls two 10-sided dice before each game to determine a random seed (and the random seeds in the cartridge are changed every year).

Qualifying games are still played with the original unmodified cartridges.


The number of players for the main tournament draw was expanded from 32 to 40, with a "Round Zero" play-off introduced for qualifiers ranked #25 to #40. The winner of each "Round Zero" match faced one of the top 8 seeds in the first round proper (winner of #25/#40 vs. #8, #26/#39 vs. #7, etc.)[15]


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.) [16]

Matches in rounds 0-2 are played best of three while rounds 3-5 are played best of five.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held online with a different set of rules from the in-person tournaments.[17]


  • Players have 2 hours to make unlimited qualifying attempts, with the Top 64 being seeded for the Double-Elimination tournament.

Double-Elimination Playoffs (Top 64):

  • The Top 64 are distributed among eight separate 8-seeded Double-Elimination Brackets.
  • All matches are a Best of Five, with all games starting at Level 18.
  • Players do NOT get the same order of pieces, as they use the original unmodified cartridges.
  • The winner of each bracket advances to the Top 8.

Single-Elimination Playoffs (Top 8):

  • The Top 8 are reseeded based on their Top 64 performance.
  • All matches are a Best of Five, with all games starting at Level 18.
  • Players get the same order of pieces, as they use the specially modified cartridges.


Official rankings each yearEdit

Year Champion Runner-up 3rd place[a] 4th place[a]
2010   Jonas Neubauer   Harry Hong   Matt Buco   Dana Wilcox
2011   Jonas Neubauer   Alex Kerr   Harry Hong   Robin Mihara
2012   Jonas Neubauer   Mike Winzinek   Eli Markstrom   Alex Kerr
2013   Jonas Neubauer   Harry Hong   Chad Muse   Matt Buco
2014   Harry Hong   Jonas Neubauer   Terry Purcell   Eli Markstrom
2015   Jonas Neubauer   Sean Ritchie ("Quaid")   Alex Kerr   Harry Hong
2016   Jonas Neubauer   Jeff Moore   Harry Hong   Koji Nishio ("Koryan")
2017   Jonas Neubauer (7)   Alex Kerr   Sean Ritchie ("Quaid")   Matt Buco
2018   Joseph Saelee   Jonas Neubauer   Tomohiro Tatejima ("Greentea")   Koji Nishio ("Koryan")
2019   Joseph Saelee (2)   Koji Nishio ("Koryan")   Aidan Jerdee ("Batfoy")   Daniel Zhang ("DanQZ")
2020   Michael Artiaga ("Dog")   Andrew Artiaga ("PixelAndy")   Jacob Huff   Nenu Zefanya Kariko
2021   Michael Artiaga ("Dog") (2)   Jacob Huff   Joseph Saelee   Andrew Artiaga ("PixelAndy")
  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 achievementsEdit

  • First level 30 in qualifying round of CTWC: Joseph Saelee, 2018[19]
  • First level 31 in qualifying round of CTWC: Joseph Saelee, 2019[20]
  • First max-out in CTWC tournament: Joseph Saelee, 2019[21]
  • First double max-out in CTWC tournament: Joseph Saelee and Tomohiro Tatejima, 2019[21]
  • First double 1.1 million score in CTWC tournament: Michael Artiaga and Koji Nishio, 2020
  • First double 1.3 million score in CTWC tournament: Michael Artiaga and Minjun Kim ("Pokenerd"), 2021

Official Classic Tetris World Championship Global StopsEdit

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

Similar events and side eventsEdit

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

  • Tetris on the PlayStation 3: 4-player 2-vs-2 team battle with no items (2011)
  • Tetris Ultimate on the PlayStation 4: versus mode (2015)
  • Tetris & Dr. Mario on SNES: Tetris versus mode, held as a tournament for those who didn't participate in the main event (2016-2017)
  • Tetris: The Grand Master 2 on Arcade: versus mode with no items (2016)
  • Tetris: The Grand Master on Arcade: regular games racing for the fastest time (2017)
  • Tetris Effect on the PlayStation 4: separate gameplays on Journey mode and Mystery mode (2018)
  • Nintendo NES Tetris with extra rules: no next preview Level 18 and race from Level 0 to Level 19 (2018)

Classic Tetris Monthly (CTM)Edit

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 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.

Classic Tetris European Championship (CTEC)Edit

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 alsoEdit


  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. ^ Mathew Olson (October 28, 2020). "Tetris Effect: Connected Brings Some Competitive Edge Back to the Chillest Tetris". ReedPop. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  4. ^ "Tetris Championship Twitter". Twitter. Archived from the original on November 15, 2021. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  5. ^ "Official Classic Tetris World Championship Site".
  6. ^ "CTWC Official on Instagram". Archived from the original on December 23, 2021. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  7. ^ "Official CTWC Rules".
  8. ^ a b Rivera, Carla (August 8, 2010). "World Tetris Championship brings together nation's top-ranked players". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d Cornelius, Adam (October 21, 2011). Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters (Documentary). Reclusion Films.
  10. ^ a b "Tetris World Championship". LA Weekly. October 18, 2011. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d "Classic Tetris World Championship". Archived from the original on October 18, 2011.
  12. ^ Smith, Brian (July 15, 2014). Tricks of the Classic NES Tetris Masters. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1500542191.
  13. ^ "Meet Fresno's Tetris champion". ABC7 Chicago. November 4, 2011. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Results - Official Classic Tetris World Championship Site".
  15. ^ "Official CTWC Facebook 2018 Rule Changes". Facebook.
  16. ^ "Classic Tetris World Championship". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  17. ^ "Rules 2020 – Classic Tetris World Championship". Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  18. ^ "Official rankings of CTWC from 2012 to 2021". CTWC. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  19. ^ "First Level 30 Live at CTWC! Joseph Saelee OWNS Tetris Qualifiers - CTWC 2018". CTWC. December 11, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  20. ^ "Official Maxout & Level 31 at CTWC (OWR)". Joseph Saelee. October 23, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  21. ^ a b "2019 CTWC Classic Tetris Rd. 3 - Part 1 - JOSEPH/GREENTEA". CTWC. November 18, 2019. Retrieved December 8, 2019.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit