The History Of The Classic Tetris World Championship

First Annual Classic Tetris World Championship at Downtown Independent Theater
The 1st Annual Classic Tetris World Championship at Downtown Independent Theater

In August 8, 2010, the first ever Classic Tetris World Championship would take place. And several of these Tetris Masters would compete to become the Tetris World Champion. It amazes me to see a very small tournament end up growing exponentially over the last 10 year. Before I say more about what it has become now, let’s learn about how this whole event started.

In 2009, Harry Hong recorded the first maxout on NES Tetris, by getting the highest possible score of 999,999. Adam Cornelius decided to hold a fundraiser to create a documentary to honor Harry’s achievement, which led to other top scoring players to emerge to the public. Robin Mihara joined Adam Cornelius to interview different Tetris Masters. In 2010, Robin set up the first Classic Tetris World Championship to determine who the best Tetris player is.

Harry Hong with a maxout score on NES Tetris in the background
Harry Hong with a maxout score on NES Tetris in the background

The Humble Beginning of the Classic Tetris World Championship

The first tournament took place at the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles, California. This tournament had a total of 8 players who qualified for the main event. All of the players competed in 3 rounds. The first round was a competition to clear the most lines. The other 2 rounds required everyone to get the highest score. After the third round, the Top 2 players advance to the finals where they play a Best of 3 match. The interviews of the Tetris masters and the events of the first CTWC can be found in the free documentary, Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters.

In 2011, the second annual Classic Tetris World Championship (it was called Tetris World Championship) took place at USC in Los Angeles. This event also featured 8 players who qualified for the main event. This time, the main event featured an eight player single elimination tournament.

Classic Tetris World Championship gets a permanent home in Portland, Oregon

In 2012, The Classic Tetris World Championship finally gets a permanent home at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. With the venue already covered, the organizers focused on improving the tournament itself including a new format.

In this format, the qualifiers takes place where players wait in line to play a game to get a high score. At the end of the qualifiers, the Top 32 are places on a seeded bracket for the main event. The next day, the main event starts where players compete head to head.

Competitors get the Same Piece Sequences

In 2016, Trey Harrison developed a modified NES Tetris cartridge for the main event. This allowed the game to score points beyond the Max Out score and players were able to compete with the same piece sets.

If you’re wondering how they get both players to have the same piece sequences despite NES Tetris being a single player game, the cartridge used at the CTWC has 1000 piece sequences already programmed. The referee rolls a pair of dice to determine which sequence the players get. The piece sequences are different each year.

My Thoughts on the Classic Tetris World Championship today

I only discovered this tournament after the 2016 Finals that was known for the meme, Boom! Tetris for Jeff. But it’s amazing to see how quickly the tournament has grown in the past few years. After that meme, more people started to join the competition with a 16-year old that become the 2018 Classic Tetris World Champion. The 2020 CTWC will be happening in November, and I look forward to seeing how competitive this year will get.

For more info on tournament’s history, check out GDC (Game Developers Conference), where Chris Tang talks about what makes the CTWC a successful Esports tournament. It was interesting to see how the organizers did not see much hope what they decided to hold a second tournament in 2011.

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