The term “Classic Tetris” usually refers to the game’s NES port. It is considered the original gold standard and is the version played on the CTWC tournaments. That means original NES consoles, consoles, and big old CRT TVs. “A lot of people make fun of us in the comments. They like, Can’t you buy new TVs?” Cornelius Engadget said.
This not only ensures originality, but creates a level playing field. Other competitions, like Classic Tetris Monthly, are more relaxed about the hardware/simulation you can play with, but usually CTWC and any world records run on original Nintendo consoles. There is a slight concession allowing a special version of the game that has been modified to allow for higher scores (often done with Game Genie) and you’ll understand why later.
Saelee’s victory in the 2018 CTWC Finals may have taken everyone by surprise, but it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Interest in the game has been steadily growing since the tournament’s opening event in 2010, which was also the subject of a documentary: Trance System: Masters of Tetris (directed by Cornelius). The film followed a group of high-ranking players at the climax of the first CTWC event. winner? Jonas Neubauer.
CTWC quickly found a home at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo and grew in size every year. In 2016, a newcomer found his way to the final against Neubauer, who was contending for his sixth title. That player, Jeff Moore, was going through his life, scoring frequent goals for Tetris much to the surprise of commentators. “Boom, Tetris for Jeff” they were shouting every time he slid a long bar down the right side of the screen.
Commentators are so excited about this new black horse candidate, Jeff, that they kind of said, ‘Boom, Tetris to Jeff’ might be a bit excessive. And people stumbled upon the video by accident. [on YouTube]Cornelius said. T-shirts were cut and T-shirts printed. “Boom, Tetris for Jeff” was just the right kind of silly at the right place (YouTube) to pique young eyes and start a growing appetite for classic competitive Tetris videos.
“There are a lot of young players coming into the game, especially since Joseph Sally won the world championship, because he kind of blew up the scene in terms of teens and stuff.” Christopher “Cheese” Martinez, Engadget told.
Cheez, as he’s known in the Tetris community, is one of those teens. He found the game via a video of Saelee winning the world championship and then another recommendation about it tetris effect. At 16, he’s exploring a game that was already twice his age. Like many new teenage players, his progress was remarkably fast.
Before competitions like the CTWC were held, there were two beluga whales for the elite classic Tetris players. The main one was ‘maxout’. The NES version of the game only has a six-digit scoreboard which means 999,999 is the highest score you can get, but getting to that was tricky, not least because of the elusive second goal: beating Level 29 (also known as the “Screen”). the kill”).
As anyone who’s played any version of Tetris knows, one of the main dynamics is that you clear lines to advance to the next level, as blocks fall faster than the previous one. In NES Tetris, level 29 is when the game reached its maximum speed and was impossible to beat when DAS was the only gameplay. This, in turn, means that if you’re playing to get the maximum, you have to get there before level 29.
was maxout officially Harry Hong first achieved it in 2009, but it’s widely accepted that another old-school player, Thor Akerlund, achieved it earlier, but long before video phones, YouTube, and social media. Aackerlund also claimed to have reached level 30 (albeit briefly) but legend about the achievement means that it will take many years before the kill screen is truly considered defeated.
After Hong’s cap in 2009, a slow trickle of players started hitting the target every year. Until you get to 2019, that’s when the number accelerates exponentially. “It took me a year, and I’ve progressed very slowly compared to many players now actually. People max out four or five months. It’s kind of ridiculous.” Shays said. He made his first maximum match in 2019 and was the 65th player ever to do so. Today, about 400 people have reached the Million Point Magic.
For pass level 29 “Kill Screen”. This was, at one point, considered nearly impossible. A solid wall that can’t be beat because of how the game is designed. DAS simply cannot move the pieces to either edge fast enough, which means that once the “stack” is above a certain height, the math takes over and failure is guaranteed. Despite that glimpse of level 30 by Aackerlund, the reign of terror in Kill Screen really ended when Saelee reached the verified level 33 just months after winning his first world championship.
However, even though the two main goals of a high-profile Tetris game are no longer far off, these accomplishments seem almost outlandish by today’s standards. As DAS gave way to higher pressure, the once-impossible quickly became a rite of passage for elite players. But with the kill screen limitation now removed, the theoretical result limit has also been eliminated. While level 29 maybe It was Supposedly the last level (the level counter breaks once you hit 30 and the speed no longer increases no matter what level you hit) the overpressure might not have been fast enough to allow players to advance any further.
Cheez had other ideas.
While he was making a name for himself as a player with high pressure, Cheez eventually found a video of someone using a technique that doubled the inputs for one click. “They would put their thumb down, swipe down and up on their other thumb, and you get two entrances pretty much the same movement. So I kind of got inspired by that in late 2020. Rolling became a thing.”
Rolling over is a strange technique to watch. Most players place the controller on their thighs or knees, many wear one glove and then “strum” the controller from below with one thumb on the D-pad. However, no matter how much you get there, you can move blocks left and right faster than clicking Shift. Cornelius says it’s such an effective technique that some fans consider it a cheat. It’s perfectly legal in the eyes of CTWCs because it’s done with unmodified NES hardware and nothing but your hands.
Rolling is very effective, it allows players to break apart the existing limits of the game. Remember how Saelee achieved Level 1 33 in 2019? Well, when I interviewed Cheez for this story, the new record for the highest was 63 – screen kills and then some. By the time I clicked publish, that record had been broken again, with the impressive 95 now hitting the winning target.
Not only does this rapid progression break new world records, but it fundamentally changes the way the game is played strategically And physically. The classic competitive Tetris game is all about score. It’s not how many lines or how many Tetrises you make, just who scores the most points in the top three game.
In the ancient world, the difficult limitation of the kill screen forced players to focus on effective play, and scored as many Tetrises as possible before level 29. In the age of rolling, the pros train by start At level 29. This is where Game Genie comes in as the original version of the game can only be counted above 999,999 which is what you will definitely need once you reach that level. If you hone your skills as quickly as possible, this becomes the new normal and you can theoretically play indefinitely. This is how we can go from the impossible kill screen to level 95. But this also presents some challenges for the burgeoning esports, and it’s something Cornelius is all too aware of.
“I expect that in, maybe this year, maybe five years later, but very soon, everyone will always max out at level 28. And they will always reach level 50. And they deal with a million more points. And that will be really… from… Swing first, miss first, is all that really matters,” he said.
This is already happening, at least in the record-setting circuit. Shortly before interviewing Cheez, he had recently set a world record for the highest score: 2.3 million which included a level show of 61 and a total of 551 lines – both also new world records at the time. All of these have since been hit, and by a large margin. The game is now in the phase where players look to more specialized or specific goals and records to break – such as the highest score achieved with the start of level 29 – because these are the areas of the game that are not yet broken.
In early 2021, something unexpected shook the Tetris community. On January 5th, when he was 39, Neubauer collapsed and died of sudden cardiac arrhythmia of unspecified cause. The most famous character in the game has disappeared, and with him the last DAS hero. “Jonas’ death is a big part of the story and he was my friend,” Cornelius said. “Obviously, nothing beats losing in general. But for the Tetris scene, it was really nice to have one old guard person who could really hang out with all the kids.
Despite the renewed interest in the game from a much younger generation, Tetris is still somewhat of a fringe esports game. You’ll find featured games on ESPN obviously growing in popularity, but the prize pools remain modest compared to more popular games like counter strike or league of legends.
“The highest-paid tournament is CTWC right now. And the first place prize is $3,000. So it’s no It is an electronic game But it’s a reasonable amount of money anyway.” Shays said. When I asked him if he was considering doing it full time if that became an option, he was diplomatic. “Honestly, it’s hard to predict the future of the scene, but if the money is good, I might try to I make it a function sometime, but I don’t know how stable it is.”
Cornelius is more optimistic about the future he can lead us to. “You know, when you watch an Olympic sport, you don’t watch to see somebody beat other people twice as much, you see people winning by these tiny, tiny, almost imperceptible margins,” he said. “I think that’s where Tetris is headed, where players are all going to converge at a point where they’re all playing exactly the same thing. There’s one perfect way to play and we’re seeing them just trying to add, just push it a little bit every year.”
Cheez, for his part, reached the semi-finals of the monthly Classic Tetris event in April and will undoubtedly be looking to top his top seven places for 2020 at CTWC after finishing 21st in last year’s event. One thing is for sure, whoever wins will most likely be a drummer which means Cheez’s mark on the championship and the game in general is indelible.
Thanks to the pandemic, CTWC has had to launch the competition online. Plans for this year have yet to be confirmed, but the hope is to return to an in-person event if possible. Current world champion Michael “Dog” Artiaga is set to return to defend his title. After Saelee won in 2018, he won again in 2019. Dog took the title in the next two years and there is a group of guys ready to win his title. The dog is widely considered to be the one to beat, especially after scoring a high of 2.2 million at level 29. Because today’s Tetris starts where the old game left off.