Tetris Champion: Winners of the Classic Tetris World Championship

Tetris Champions
Listed from left to right: Jonas Neubauer, Joseph Saelee, and Harry Hong pose for a picture at the CTWC Afterparty. All of them are Tetris World Champions

Since 2010, The Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC) had 6 different players become a World Tetris Champion, they are Jonas Neubauer, Harry Hong, Joseph Saelee, Dog, EricICX, and Fractal. Let’s get to know more about them. I will be listing them, starting with the person that won their first tournament the earliest. Their Twitch channels are also listed so you can watch them live whenever they are streaming.

Jonas Neubauer (7-Time Tetris Champion)

Jonas Neubauer, 7-time Tetris Champion

  • Location: Hawaii, USA
  • Number of Wins: 7
  • Years Qualified: 2010 – 2020
  • Years Won: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017
  • Other Facts: He was in the Finals of the first 9 Annual CTWC (2010-2018)
  • Twitch: NubbinsGoody

In 2010, Jonas Neubauer became the first person to win the CTWC. He was the 7-time Tetris World Champion. This gave him the status of Greatest of All Time (GOAT) in Classic Tetris.

Between 2010 and 2018, he had been in the Finals of every tournament. Within those 9 occasions that he was in the Finals, he only lost in 2014 and 2018.

In 2019, he lost in the Round of 32 after topping out early in the last 2 games.

In Jonas’s last CTWC appearance in 2020, he qualified at the #31 seed after getting one Max-Out. He lost the first match, which put him in Loser’s Bracket (The early rounds were Double-Elimination). He managed to work his way through the Loser’s Bracket to advance to the Group Finals. In the Group Finals, Jonas was eliminated and finished in the Top 16.

Besides being the GOAT, he is the ambassador for Tetris as he has traveled to different countries to promote Tetris. Jonas has been to Germany and Taiwan where he commentated for their CTWC Regional Tournament. He has also been to Denmark as the commentator for the European Championship.

How did Jonas end up visiting Albacete, Spain?

A Popular Spanish Esports commentator, named Ibai, did commentary for the CTWC 2018 Finals on his Twitch Channel, which can be viewed here. But basically Ibai created a joke backstory for Jonas and Joseph Saelee. He did this by claiming that Jonas is a 60 year old Baker from Albacete, Spain and that Joseph was a 16 year old Fortnite Player from Luxembourg. Spanish articles ended up taking the made up backstories as true.

With Jonas’s publicity in Spain, he ended up getting invited to Albacete and the mayor handed him the knife to the city (which is Albacete’s version of “the key to the city”).

Jonas’s appearance on Network TV

Jonas on ABC’s To Tell The Truth sitting at the left of a Lego Walker

His status has also gave him a TV appearance on ABC’s To Tell The Truth in 2019. In the episode that he was on, 4 celebrities had to figure out which panelist of 3 people were telling the truth about being a Lego Master Builder. Jonas was one of those 3 panelist that had to fool celebrities into thinking that he was the Lego Master Builder. After the real Lego Master Builder was revealed, the celebrities then had to figure out which of the 2 remaining panelist is a Lego Walker. By Lego Walker, I mean a guy that literally walks barefoot on Legos. That episode also featured Anthony Anderson walking on legos.

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

Harry Hong (2014 Tetris Champion)

At the 5th annual CTWC, Harry Hong became the second person to be World Champion of Tetris. He was able to accomplish this by defeating then 4-time reigning champion, Jonas Neubauer, in the Finals. I talk more about the Harry and Jonas rivalry in the next heading.

In 2009, Harry became the first person to max-out the game of NES Tetris with the highest score of 999,999. This inspired Adam Cornelius to create a short documentary on his achievement, which led to the discovery of other Tetris Masters. Eventually, the CTWC was born to determine who the best Tetris player is.

Between 2010 and 2020, he and Jonas had qualified for every tournament. In 2010, he finished and second place. In 2011, he finished in the Top 4. Between 2012 and 2018, he had appeared in the Top 8 of every CTWC.

In 2021, Harry Hong retired as a competitor of CTWC.

The rivalry against Jonas Neubauer

The rivalry between Harry and Jonas has existed since the beginning of the CTWC. In 2010, they both advanced to the finals and competed head to head for the first championship.

In 2013, they faced each other again in the finals in a very intense match. This match was a Best of 5, with the champion being the first player to win 3 games. Harry won the first 2 games which meant that one more win would win it all for him. However Jonas ended up winning the last 3 games, taking the championship away from Harry. This became the first CTWC Finals to come down to Game 5 and the first to have a player overcome a 0-2 deficit.

In 2014, they faced off in the finals for a third time (second time in a row). While Jonas won Game 1, Harry won the next 3 games to become the new champion and taking it away from Jonas (then 4-time reigning champion). This was the last time Harry would face Jonas.

Joseph Saelee (2-time Tetris Champion)

  • Location: California, USA
  • Number of wins: 2
  • Years Won: 2018 and 2019
  • Years Qualified: 2018 – 2021
  • Other facts:
  • Twitch: JdMfX_

After watching the CTWC videos on YouTube, Joseph Saelee decided to play NES Tetris and would eventually develop the ability to press the D-Pad more than 10 times per second. This skill made him a hypertapper, which meant that he had the ability to move Tetris pieces left and right quicker than players that hold the D-Pad. His hypertapping abilities allowed him to go beyond Level 29 (aka The Killscreen) and reach Level 32.

Joseph’s first CTWC appearance

In 2018, he flew to Portland, Oregon to compete at the CTWC.  At the qualifier, he achieve a maxout score which allowed him to qualify for the CTWC. As he would mention throughout that tournament, he came to the event hoping to just qualify and be a part of the Tetris community.

He ended up doing very well at the tournament. He defeated Jani Herlevi (European Champion), Harry Hong (2014 Winner), and Koryan (another Hypertapper who reached Level 30) to get into the finals. In the Finals, he swept 7-time Champion, Jonas Neubauer, in a Best of 5 match to win the tournament at the age of 16.

At the afterparty, he got to be in a photo with the other champions.

In 2020 and 2021, he made the Top 8 and Top 4, respectively. In both those cases, he was defeated by Huff in a Game 5 Decider.

2019

After winning the CTWC, he would end up breaking his own record for highest level reached by hypertapping all the way to Level 33. He also won the CTWC West Coast Regional Tournament which awarded him airfare to Portland to return to the CTWC as reigning champion.

At the 2019 CTWC, he ended up making history by getting the first max-out in the tournament. In that same match, he and Greentea became the first players to get a double max-out. Joseph would eventually defeat Koryan in the finals to become a back-to-back Tetris World Champion.

In December, two months after his second CTWC victory, he obtained the world record for highest NES Tetris score of 1,357,428. Thanks to a game genie code, players have the ability to have the game count the score beyond the max-out score.

2020

In February, Joseph beat his own record for highest level by reaching Level 34. Four months later, he reached Level 35 (which was World Record at the time.)  In that same month, he also managed to beat his previous NES Tetris Score record by scoring 1,390,780.

Joseph qualified for the 2020 CTWC as the #1 seed after scoring 12 maxouts. I write more about his performance here, as he did make the Top 8. He was defeated by Huff in the Quarterfinals.

2021

Joseph qualified for the 2021 CTWC as the #3 seed. He made it back into the Top 8. In the Semi-Finals, he was defeated by Huff again.

Since then, Joseph has not participated in any further Annual CTWC events.

Michael “Dog” Artiaga (2-Time Tetris Champion)

Dog with the CTWC 2020 Trophy

  • Location: Texas, USA
  • First Appearance: 2020
  • Years Won: 2020 and 2021
  • Years Qualified: 2020 – Present
  • Twitch: dogplayingtetris
  • Other Facts:
    • Youngest Person to Maxout (Achieved this on 12/20/2019)
    • Reached Level 47
    • Has a PB (Personal Best) of 5,266,780

Dog discovered the CTWC after watching the 2018 Finals. In the summer of 2019, he started playing NES Tetris himself.

He later founded Classic Tetris Brawl (CTB) in November 2019. The CTB is an online server that hosts monthly divisional tournaments and events. To learn more about it, join their Discord.

On December 2019, he got his first Maxout, making him the youngest person to do so.

2020

He attended the 2020 CTWC, which was held online due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

In Qualifying, he scored 6 maxouts to get the #4 seed. For more details about his early round performance, check out the article I wrote on all of the Top 8 players. There was an epic match where Dog had to face Koryan to get to the Top 8, check it out here. Without going into too much details, he made the Top 8 as the #1 seed as he only lost one game in the early rounds.

To start off the Top 8 Matches, Dog faced Cheez (#8 seed) in the Quarterfinals. Cheez won Game 1 after Dog topped out at Level 19. But, Dog won the next 3 games to win the match.

In the Semifinals, he faced Huff (#5 seed). Dog won the first game with a 1.1 Million. Huff won Game 2. Eventually, Dog would win the next 2 games to win the match.

In the Finals, Dog faced his brother, PixelAndy (#3 seed). PixelAndy won the first 2 games, which put Dog in danger of elimination. However, Dog won the next 3 games to overcome an 0-2 deficit to win the match. With that, Dog won the 2020 Classic Tetris World Championship at the age of 13.

For more information, check out my article on his overall performance at the 2020 CTWC.

2021

Dog entered the 2021 CTWC as a defending champion. He made it to the Top 8 by knocking out players that were using a new playstyle called rolling, even winning a game that ended in a double 1.3 Million.

In the Top 8 rounds, he knocked out Tristop, PixelAndy, and Huff to become a back-to-back Tetris World Champion.

Eric “EricICX” Tolt (2022 Tetris Champion)

  • Location: Pennsylvania, USA
  • First Appearance: 2020
  • Years Won: 2022
  • Years Qualified: 2020 – Present
  • Twitch: EricICX
  • Other Facts:
    • First Person To Reach Glitch Colored Levels in NTSC version of NES Tetris
    • Has World Record for Highest Score of 6,492,500
    • Has World Record for Highest Level of 146

EricICX discovered CTWC after watching the 2017 Finals. He started playing Tetris in Mid-2018.

On November 2019, he got his first Maxout.

Eventually he competed in CTWC in 2020 and 2021, where he finished in Top 24 and Top 32, respectively. In his first competition, he was a hypertapper. The next competition, he started to learn the Rolling technique

At the 2022 CTWC, he qualified as the #2 Seed with an impressive 14 Maxouts in the qualifying session. And eventually, won the entire tournament with only 2 games lost.

After his win, he was interviewed on the Piece Dependency Podcast.

Justin “Fractal” Yu (2023 Tetris Champion)

Fractal's CTWC Photo shoot

  • Location: Texas, USA
  • First Appearance: 2020
  • Years Won: 2023
  • Years Qualified: 2020 – Present
  • Twitch: Fractal161

Fractal discovered CTWC around 2016 from watching the matches on YouTube. Eventually, he started playing the game in 2018.

In January 2020, Fractal got his first Maxout.

Fractal competed at the CTWC in 2020 and 2021, where he finished in the Top 16 in both of those years.

In February 2022, he had mastered the Rolling technique and used it to become the first person to reach glitched colors on the PAL version of NES Tetris.

After this, he was interviewed on the Piece Dependency Podcast.

At the 2022 CTWC, Fractal was the #1 seed going into the tournament by getting 14 Maxouts in Qualifying. In the tournament, he demonstrated that he was capable to surviving a long time on Killscreen levels. Which led to him advancing to the Finals, where he was competing against EricICX who was also capable to surviving on Killscreen. (This was before the Level 39 Super Killscreen was implemented). The Finals turned into a very long Killscreen battle, where Fractal was defeated by EricICX in a battle of who could survive the longest.

Fractal was back in the Finals again at the 2023 CTWC, where a Level 39 Super Killscreen was implemented. He was able to score high on the Killscreen levels and swept all of his opponents on his way to the Finals. At the Finals, Fractal overcame an 2-0 deficit to become the 2023 Classic Tetris World Champion.

Afterwards, he was interviewed by his university, MIT.