On August 8, 2010 history was written. The greatest Tetris players converged upon the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles, CA to find the answer to one simple question: Who is the Greatest Tetris player on earth?
I was honored to be a vendor at the Classic Tetris World Championship, to witness the answering of this question, and to meet the people and personalities connected with this fantastic game!
My booth was fairly simple. I’m a video game collector, so I brought along a table full of my extras. Although I did make a few sales, the better part seemed to be meeting each person who came by my booth.
GirlGamer.com came by and interviewed me as part of their live stream of the event.
(Part 1: You can find me starting at 26 minutes in.)
Watch live video from girlgamertv on Justin.tv
(Part 2: This one features me right at the beginning. Thanks GirlGamer.com!)
Watch live video from girlgamertv on Justin.tv
When I noticed Harry Hong looking over my games, I introduced myself and told him that I recognized him from his Tetris videos. He humbly introduced me to the red-headed guy beside him. “Jonas is pretty good too,” explained Hong. At that point, I had no idea who Jonas Neubauer was, but I figured I’d try to get all of the finalists to sign a boxed Tetris for my collection. I ask the two of them for their autographs, and Neubauer signed the box asking, “Do you mind if I write a saying?” He wrote out, “To a fellow Blockhead!”
Little did I know at the time that these were the two best Tetris players in the world. Just hours in the future, the two would have eliminated all other semifinalists to face each other for the title. As Neubauer walked away, he commented on signing my game, “Thanks for asking me to sign that. That made my day!” I smiled to myself thinking, “Cool guy…I hope he’s actually a semifinalist and that I just didn’t get some random dude to sign my box…”
At 3:00pm, we wrapped up the booth by raffling off an original top loading NES system and some random NES carts. Congratulations to Quan Chi from 120-Games for winning the top loader!
The competition itself was phenomenal. It was like going to a sporting event, except everyone was cheering for their favorite athlete/gamer.
What really seemed to get the crowd going was the video intro by the creator of Tetris Alexey Pajitnov.
Additionally, Tetris’ agent Henk Rogers made an in-person appearance and gave his hopes for the competition.
The line-up was impressive:
- Trey Harrison: Former Nintendo World Championship competitor. Echo Park, CA.
- Dana Wilcox: A crowd favorite. Oakland, CA
- Matt Buco: A walk-in to the competition. As I talked to Matt pre-game, he explained that he was playing much better after taking the edge off with a couple beers. New York
- Ben Mullen: 1st place with the record for the most lines in a Tetris game. Minnesota
- Jesse Kelkar: Hold the 2nd place record for the number of lines in a Tetris game. Los Angeles, CA
- Harry Hong: Hong was the first player on record to max out Tetris on the NES. Los Angeles, CA
- Jonas Neubauer: Able to max out Tetris score starting at Level 19. Los Angeles, CA
- Thor Aackerlund: The legendary 1990 Nintendo World Champion.
Each of the players was amazing. Naturally, even their worst day playing Tetris would put most of us to shame.
Preliminary Round 1:
The first round was simply for lines. Each player needed to get the most lines possible. That means that neither time nor score mattered. Heck, getting a “Tetris” (aka 4 lines at once) didn’t even matter. Neubauer came out on top of this first round with 294. Tied behind him were Harry Hong and Ben Mullen who both had scores of 290. Surprisingly, Thor Aackerlund seemed to choke during this first round with a score of just 89 points.
Preliminary Round 2:
The second round was for score. Thus, getting a “Tetris” was important again. This round was also untimed. But let’s be honest. Each of the competitors was lightening fast! Thor made a fantastic comeback in Round 2 showing the crowd that he still had it! Naturally, the crowd went wild with Thor’s 469,454 point victory! Following behind him were Neubauer and Hong.
Preliminary Round 3:
The third and final round in the preliminaries was identical to the second round. However, and like the rounds before it, Hong and Neubauer were neck and neck. The round finished with Hong in first place, Neubauer in second, and Thor in third. Had Thor done better in his first round, he may have had a chance for the final; however, he and the other six contestants were eliminated.
There was some downtime between the preliminary rounds and the finals, so I decided to do a little meet and greet. I talked with Thor Aackerlund and asked him how he felt about the competition. He got a big smile on his face and explained, “It’s time to pass the torch to a new generation. I ended up exactly where I wanted to be [in the competition], right in the middle.” Thor had a great attitude. He played was happy to step out of the spotlight and to allow someone new to step into it.
Who would have thought that Tetris could be sport enjoyed by spectators, hecklers, and geeks going nuts?! Watching the entire competition was a blast, but the finals were the natural climax. While Hong and Neubauer are both incredibly talented players, Neubauer seemed to keep the cooler head during the competition. Hong played fantastically, but he stumbled twice. Although he made brilliant recoveries each time, his errors cost him. Neubauer, a more slow and steady player during the competition, gained his two out of three wins over Hong to claim the title of Classic Tetris World Champion!
While Harry Hong was awarded with a new Wii and games for second place, Jonas Neubauer went home with $1,000 reward, a huge trophy, and some serious Tetris bragging rights! Yup, I’m pretty sure I want to be Jonas when I grow up…
None of this would have been possible without the endless hours of work that Vince Clemente put into pulling this all off. He’s the man behinds the scenes who pulled all this off. Additionally, Sergio (aka “The Applemonkey”) did a great job pulling together vendors! Well done guys!