The Original Classic Tetris World Championship Players: Where Are They Now?

8 people become the Original Tetris Player at the 1st Classic Tetris World Championship
The preliminary rounds of the Classic Tetris World Championship

The Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC) made it’s debut on August 8, 2010 at the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles. The tournament had 8 players qualify for the tournament. These players would become the Original CTWC Players. The events of the 1st CTWC are in the free documentary, Ecstasy of Order.

(Last Updated: 2/23/21)

Who are the Original CTWC Players?

They are long time Tetris Masters that have been brought together for the first ever Classic Tetris World Championship. And they are:

Let’s get to know more about all of these players. They will be introduced in First Name Alphabetical Order.

Ben Mullen

Ben Mullen at the 2019 CTWC. He is one of the 8 Original Tetris Players

  • Number of CTWC Main Event Appearance: 9
  • Years Qualified: 2010-2014, 2016-2019

Ben Mullen was notable in 2010 for having the NES Tetris World Record for most lines cleared, with 296. (That record has since been beaten by Joseph Saelee with 326 lines).  Ben’s world record gave him an automatic spot in the main event of the 1st annual CTWC.

At the 1st CTWC, he placed second place in the first game of the match, where you had to clear the most lines, by making it all the way to the Level 29 and clearing 290 lines. Unfortunately, he suffered in the next 2 games, which focused on getting the highest score, which made him finish in 6th place.

Ever since his appearance in the first tournament, he has qualified for many tournaments only missing 2015 CTWC. He participated in the 2020 CTWC, but did not qualify for the Top 64.

Dana Wilcox

Dana Wilcox makes an appearance at the 2019 CTWC after a 2 year break.

  • Number of CTWC Main Event Appearance: 7
  • Years Qualified: 2010-2016
  • Other Facts: Achieved her 1st Maxout in 2015

Dana Wilcox was 4th All-Time in Points, with a NES Tetris score of 722,065. She made it to the 2010 CTWC through the qualifying round. She barely qualified for the main event after bumping Alex Kerr down on the leaderboard. At the tournament, she finished in fourth place behind Jonas, Harry, and Buco.

After the first tournament, she returned to several tournaments afterwards. In 2015, she maxed out the game. In 2019, she came back to the CTWC but did not qualify. I don’t know if she will return to the next tournament. But if she does, I hope she competes in the main event.

Harry Hong

Harry Hong makes an appearance at the 2019 CTWC

  • Number of CTWC Main Event Appearance: 11
  • Years Qualified: 2010-2020
  • Other Facts: He is the first person to maxout NES Tetris and is also a 2014 CTWC Champion

Harry Hong was most notable for achieving the first maxout on NES Tetris. This caught the attention on Adam Cornelius, who dedicated a documentary on Harry’s accomplishment. This led to other Tetris masters to surface. Eventually, a tournament was organized where the Tetris Masters faced off.

Harry’s maxout gave him a guaranteed spot at the CTWC. In the preliminary rounds, he finished in the Top 2 which earned him a spot in the finals. He finished in 2nd place, after getting defeated by Jonas Neubauer.

Since the first tournament, he won the CTWC in 2014 and qualified for every tournament from 2010-2020. I talk more about him in a page I dedicate to the CTWC winners.

Jesse Kelkar

Original Tetris Player, Jesse Kelkar, showing off her Tetris skills for the documentary, Ecstasy of Order.

  • Number of CTWC Main Event Appearance: 2
  • Years Qualified: 2010, 2012

Jesse Kelkar became the 2nd All-Time (at the time) for most lines clears, which was 291. This achievement sent her straight to the 1st Classic Tetris World Championship.

At the tournament, she suffered in Games 1 and 3 which made her finish in last place.

After the tournament, she was not able to qualify for the 2011 CTWC but qualified in 2012 where she made the Top 16. She has not been in any other CTWC since.  Wherever she is, I hope she is doing fine.

Jonas Neubauer

Jonas Neubauer makes an appearance at the 2019 CTWC

  • Number of CTWC Main Event Appearances: 11
  • Years Qualified: 2010-2020
  • Other Facts: He is a 7-time Classic Tetris World Champion

Jonas Neubauer became the 2nd person to maxout the game. This gave him a guaranteed spot at the Classic Tetris World Championship, he was only one of 2 people to achieve a maxout at the time.

In the Preliminary, he finished in the Top 2 and advanced to the finals. Jonas became the first winner of the CTWC after defeating Harry Hong.

After the 2010 CTWC, he returned to every other Championship and won the tournament six more times. A lot has happened to him since becoming a Tetris celebrity. I write more about this in a dedicated page for Tetris Champions.

Jonas died on January 5, 2021 at the age of 39.

Matt Buco

Matt Buco makes an appearance at the 2019 CTWC

  • Number of CTWC Main Event Appearance: 10
  • Years Qualified: 2010-2019

Matt Buco made it to the preliminary rounds through the qualifiers. Though not much is said about him in the documentary, Ecstasy of Order, he managed to reach third place in the tournament and get his own group of fans.

Since then, he has appeared in the first 10 tournaments in total. His most notable accomplishment was his Quarterfinals performance at the 2017 CTWC. He participated in 2020 and 2021 but failed to qualify for the main bracket.

Thor AackerlundThor Aackerlund being interviewed in the documentary, Ecstasy of Order

  • Number of CTWC Main Event Appearance: 1
  • Years Qualified: 2010
  • Other Facts: The original NES Tetris hypertapper, Winner of 1990 Nintendo World Championship, First person to reach Level 30 in NES Tetris.

In 1990, Thor Aackerlund won the Nintendo World Championship which included NES Tetris. One thing that was noticeable in his gameplay was his hypertapping skills. It was especially unique to see Thor hypertap the D-Pad with his left thumb. The hypertappers that you currently see at the CTWC, use their right hand to press the D-Pad which is on the left side of the controller. Thor did not have to do that.

Since becoming the Nintendo World Champion, he has appeared in various ad promotions until he disappeared. In 2010, Thor finally makes a public appearance in 2010 in the documentary Ecstasy of Order. Where he explains his reasons for staying hidden from the public.

With his status, he was given an automatic spot at the Tetris World Championship. In the first round, Thor had an early top out in the first game. He managed to do very well in the next two games, but it was not enough for him to make it to the Finals. Thor ended up finishing 5th place.

After that tournament, Thor retired from the competition. Although he is not an active competitor at the CTWC, he does appear as an audience member from time to time.

He created a new series on his YouTube channel that is focuses on both retro and current gen gaming, and PC gaming and tech.

Trey Harrison

Trey Harrison being interviewed about his technical work at the CTWC
Source: Classic Tetris Youtube Channel
  • Number of CTWC Main Event Appearance: 9
  • Years Qualified: 2010, 2012-2019
  • Other Facts: One of the current 3 organizers of the CTWC. He’s the tech guy for the event.

Trey Harrison started his esport career as a competitor at the 1990 Nintendo World Championship. Like Dana Wilcox and Matt Buco, he entered Classic Tetris World Championship through the qualifiers. At the CTWC, he finished in 7th place after an early top out in Game 2.

Since the tournament’s move to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, he has qualified for all of the in-person tournaments. He participated in the 2020 CTWC, but did not qualify despite his 909K score.

Not only is he a competitor, he is also one of the organizers. As the CTWC Tech Director, Trey is responsible for all the tech setup for the CTWC. The current head-up display that you see at the tournament was created thanks to this guy.

How is Trey able to show the game in high definition to the audience?

Basically, Trey uses a software that captures the Standard Definition Game and redraws it in high definition. He explains more about this in a forum.  He also helped improve the broadcast experience in general, which was one factor that got me watching the CTWC in the first place. For more details on what makes the CTWC a good viewing experience, check out Chris Tang’s Presentation.

How do CTWC competitors get the same pieces?

Trey developed a special NES cartridge that has 1000 random piece patterns. The referee will roll the dice to determine which pattern the players get. This helps create fairness in the competition so that no one is at a disadvantage because of a difficult piece sequence.

Why write an article on these players?

As new players enter the tournament, I want to be able to honor the ones that have been here since the beginning. After watching Ecstasy of Order, I wanted to know where these players are now and if they competed in any future events. I also wrote this article in hopes that all 8 of these players reunite at the CTWC.

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