Classic Tetris World Championship

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Classic Tetris World Championship
Classic Tetris World Championship logo.svg
Tournament information
LocationPortland, Oregon
Number of
One annually
Current champion
Joseph Saelee

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] The first two years the competition was held in Los Angeles, California,[2] but has since moved to Portland, Oregon, and has been held there annually since 2012.

The contestants play Nintendo's Tetris (1989) on actual Nintendo Entertainment Systems and CRT televisions. The final rounds are streamed online with live-edited screens and Head-up display to improve viewer experience. The tournament has been dominated by Jonas Neubauer, who has reached the finals in all nine iterations of the tournament and has won seven titles, losing only twice, in 2014 to Harry Hong and in 2018 to Joseph Saelee.


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 a faithful reproduction of one. At the conclusion of the competition, the champion and 2nd place finisher are awarded a golden and silver T-piece trophy respectively.

Qualifying Round[edit]

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 for the qualifiers seeded 25th through 40th to reduce the field to 32.[3] 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.[4]

Main Event[edit]

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 (#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:[3]

  • 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.

Rule Changes by Year[edit]

The tournament rules have been subject to change as seen in below:


The inaugural edition of CTWC had the flavor of an invitational tournament due to its original concept;[5] five spots were automatically filled with the world record holders Jonas Neubauer, Harry Hong (by achieving the max-out, or 999,999 points), Ben Mullen, and Jesse Kelkar (for records of most/second most lines cleared: 296 and 291, respectively), and the 1990 Nintendo World Championships champion Thor Aackerlund. Three spots were remaining for qualifiers: top 3 players in the "Type B" games (with Level 18 and Height 0) in a certain period could join the semifinal.

The 8-player semifinal consisted of three rounds of "Type A" games to decide two finalists: The first was for most lines, and the last two were for most points. Calculated by the percentages of lines or scores compared to the best player of each round, the top two players advance to the final. The final was the best of three head-to-head matches by using "Type A" games.


In the qualifying, top 8 scorers of "Type B" games advanced to the main tournament. An additional 100,000 points were awarded for completing Level 19.[6]

The main tournament was a single-elimination tournament consisting of three rounds, and all matches were the best of three.


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.[7]


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.[7]


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.)[3]


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.) [8]

Matches in rounds 0-2 are played best of three (first to two games) while rounds 3-5 are played best of five (first to three).


Year Champion 2nd place 3rd place 4th place
2010 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Harry Hong United States Matt "Buco" Buco United States Dana Wilcox
2011 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Alex Kerr United States Robin Mihara United States Harry Hong
2012 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Mike Winzinek United States Eli Markstrom United States Alex Kerr
2013[9] United States Jonas Neubauer United States Harry Hong United States Chad Muse United States Matt "Buco" 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 "Quaid" Ritchie United States Alex Kerr United States Harry Hong
2016 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Jeff Moore United States Harry Hong Japan Koji "Koryan" Nishio
2017 United States Jonas Neubauer United States Alex Kerr United States Sean "Hauser" Ritchie United States Matt "Buco" Buco
2018 United States Joseph Saelee United States Jonas Neubauer Japan Tomohiro "Greentea" Tatejima Japan Koji "Koryan" Nishio

Similar events and side events[edit]

Since 2015 a European Championship is played in Copenhagen, Denmark. The tournament follows the same structure but is played on the PAL version, which runs a bit faster.

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)

There is also a Classic Tetris Monthly tournament, using similar format as the Classic Tetris World Championship. This is an online tournament hosted on the same Twitch channel as the annual world championships themselves.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Classic Tetris World Championship Coming to Los Angeles". Wired. August 3, 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  2. ^ Christopher MacManus (October 17, 2011). "Meet the new Tetris world champs". CNET News. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "Official Classic Tetris World Championship Site".
  4. ^ "CTWC Official on Instagram". Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  5. ^ Cornelius, Adam (October 21, 2011). Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters (Documentary). Reclusion Films.
  6. ^ "Classic Tetris World Championship".
  7. ^ a b "Results - Official Classic Tetris World Championship Site".
  8. ^ "Classic Tetris World Championship". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  9. ^ Ritchie, Ryan (October 16, 2014). "King of the Block: Meet the World's Greatest 'Tetris' Player". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 1, 2015.

External links[edit]