CTWC 2020: A New World Order

Gallopin’ Gorgons!  This past Sunday’s CTWC Grand Championship matchup was truly a tournament for the ages.  Top-eight, single-elimination, same piece-set, with global participation.  CTWC has been around since 2010 and has always billed itself as the “World Championships.”  But Real Talk for a moment.  As Heather mentions in the Ecstasy of Order documentary, for the longest time, the “W” in “CTWC” was a kind of inside joke– it really was practically restricted to only the people who happened to live around LA.  Then in 2012 once it moved up to Oregon to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, it then –if we’re being honest here– should’ve been called:  “The-Classic-Tetris-World-Championship-that-only-people-who-can financially-afford-flying-to-Portland-and-staying-in-a-hotel-for-an-entire-weekend-can-attend.”

But then COVID happened this year.

For the first time in CTWC history, money and means would be far less obstacles to participation.  Though, to be fair:  You still needed decently fast internet, an NES, the game cartridge, and some minimum tech savvy to know how to stream on Twitch.  But this, beyond all doubt, was a far lighter lift and one trillion times more democratic than in previous years.  This year the existing Tetris world order was primed for a shaking up.

And boy, were things shook.

Below are several quick highlights of the tournament.  The first surprise:  Huff pulling up a 3v2 upset of two-time defending champion, Joseph Saelee in the opening round of eight!

Sir Huffulufugus would go onto semifinal where he ultimately lost to thirteen-year-old, No 1 seed, Dog, 1 vs 3. But in his final game, he noticeably scored a maxout but still lost to Dog who’d scored ~1.1 million by level 28! No shame, Huff, no shame. That was a match well played!


Finally, after two months and hundreds of contenders… the Grand Final Championship Match saw… Brother versus Brother. You literally couldn’t have scripted a more more cinematic, Hollywood-style final showdown. One day I’ll write up the match specific details, but for now, let’s just jump to the best part:

Down 0 vs 2 against his older brother, 15-year-old P1xelAndy, 13-year-old Dog was faced with that monstrosity of a set up. With his back against the wall, with no where else to turn, Dog then subsequently turned on beast mode and joined the Mount Rushmore of all-time Tetris greats, storming back to win the match in a reverse sweep. Words are inadequate here to describe Dog’s legendary comeback but as Liam Neeson’s character once told Bruce Wayne:

“If you make yourself more than just a man, then you make yourself something else entirely… Legend, Mr. Wayne.”

–Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)

And also:

Despite a misdrop (in the heat of Game 5, the Champion Match DECIDER!) that would’ve ended most people, a few pieces later, Dog manages to fight his way out of it! Good lord, what poise and composure. Tetris is so much about not only playing pixel-perfect, but also being able to think fast on your feet in the heat of a critical moment. Because no matter what, the pieces will just keep raining down! So when things do go wrong (and they always eventually will, if you’ve played long enough), not panicking, keeping calm, and fighting back one piece at a time is absolutely critical. Truly, a big kudos to Dog for battling his way outta that roof on level 24 in Game 5. Well done.

Taking a step back, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the gods who organized CTWC 2020 for us mere mortals: Director Vince Clemente, Keith Didion (vandweller), and Technical Wizard Extraordinaire Trey Harrison. Additionally, the commentating by Chris Tang, James Chen, and Arda Ocal were all also top-notch and superb as well. This year I really appreciated that they aired “Player Interview” videos before the matches that gave the audience a better chance to get to know the players. Many fans don’t closely follow the Classic Tetris scene so those interviews were a terrific “gateway introduction” into the Classic Tetris World. At the height of the stream yesterday, when Joseph was playing against Huff, the viewership reached ~30k on Twitch! Later, after Joseph was eliminated, those viewership numbers did drop though. Moving forward, whether or not the scene can grow and expand will highly depend on whether more players became well known.

So incredibly looking forward to next year! Well done to all players and organizers this time around and thank you for giving us such a great show! 🙏🙏🙏