Classic Tetris World Championship: A Tetris Tournament

The Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC) is an annual tournament where Tetris Masters compete against each other head to head. The event uses the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version of Tetris. Every year, players from around the world travel to Portland, Oregon to compete at the CTWC.

NES Tetris Gameplay
Gameplay of NES Tetris

You can watch the tournament live by following their Twitch Channel, ClassicTetris and ClassicTetris2.

The 2024 Classic Tetris World Championship will be at the SoCal Retro Gaming Expo in Pasadena, CA on June 7-9.

Watch all of the recorded Annual CTWC matches below.

Annual CTWC Timestamps

The Gold Bracket is the main event where the players compete to become the Tetris World Champion. The other brackets are lower tiered brackets that give more players the opportunity to participate in a Tetris match.

I found this tournament after the 2016 CTWC Finals appeared on the YouTube homepage under the gaming section. I do not know why YouTube recommended this video, but it did. Based off some of the YouTube comments, I was not the only one to find myself watching this without actively searching for it. I now look forward to watching the tournament every year, and you can find out when the next one will happen at CTWC website.

How does each game at the Classic Tetris World Championship work?

In each game of the main event, both players play Tetris at the same time on different NES stations. Both players get the same piece sequences. In each game, the player that finishes with the highest score wins.

Here are the 3 scenarios that can happen at the competition.

  1. Trailing player “tops-out,” or allows the blocks to reach the top of the screen (leader wins)
  2. Leader tops-out; trailing player fails to match that score before topping-out (leader wins)
  3. Leader tops-out; trailing player passes that score (trailing player wins)

In Scenario 1, the leader automatically wins the game as they already have the higher score. In Scenarios 2 and 3, the trailing player keeps playing in hopes of beating the leader’s score and win the game. If they fail to beat that score before topping out, the leader wins.

Jeff Moore and Jonas Neubauer compete at the Finals of the 2016 Classic Tetris World Championship
Jeff is about to do a Tetris. The hearts below the names indicate how many games a player has won. The total scores are above the player’s board. The red or green numbers (located below the total score) shows the difference in points.

Format of the Tournament

The qualifiers happens on Friday and Saturday. The Top 48 advance to the Main Tournament, which is a Single-Elimination Playoff. Each match is a Best of Five and all games start at Level 18.

Round 0-1 of the Main tournament begin on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Top 16 compete against each other to become the next Tetris World Champion.

Terms to be familiar with when watching the CTWC

Burn: Clearing lines that are not Tetrises. Although it does not score as much points per line as a Tetris, it is necessary to burn lines in order to stay in the game and avoid topping out.

Drought: When a player goes through 13 or more pieces without an I-piece.

Tetris: Clearing 4 horizontal lines at once, it scores the most points per line cleared. When a player does a Tetris, you might hear the announcer say, “Boom! Tetris For [Name]”.

Tetris Rate (TRT): The percentage of lines cleared with a Tetris out of the total lines cleared. A rate of 60% puts a player on pace to maxout the game.

Level 29 Killscreen: The term, “Killscreen”, has become mostly obsolete for Level 29. At Level 29, the pieces fall at the fastest speed in the game. It is impossible to move pieces left and right by holding the buttons on the controller. The Rolling technique makes it possible for players to survive indefinitely.

Level 39 Super Killscreen: To prevent games from going on indefinitely, the tournament modified the game to add a faster speed at Level 39. It goes twice as fast as the Level 29 speeds. This incentivizes players to go for Tetrises, instead of clearing singles and doubles indefinitely.

Where to learn more about the Classic Tetris World Championship

If you want to know more about this tournament, check out this video

The next CTWC tournament will be live on Twitch channel, ClassicTetris and ClassicTetris2. Their past tournaments can be found on their YouTube channel.

Follow them on social media.

One more thing to note is that there are things in NES Tetris that are different from Modern Tetris games. Over the years, there were new mechanics that have been added to Modern Tetris it different from the NES Tetris that you see at the CTWC.

Be sure to check out my other articles on CTWC here.