Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters (2011) - full transcript

A documentary that captures the greatest world record Tetris players as they prepare for the Classic Tetris World Championship. From the days of Thor Aackerlund and his historic victory at the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, right up to the present and Harry Hong's perfect "Max-Out" score, this documentary expertly chronicles over two decades of Tetris Mastery.

It is estimated that two

out of every three Americans

have played Tetris.

Tetris is a game of skill.

Seven blocks of different shapes

descend from the top

of the screen.

The player must arrange them to

form and clear horizontal lines.

Success is measured

by the number of lines cleared

and the total number

of points scored.

As the player clears more lines,

the pieces fall faster.

The faster the pieces fall,

the more points are scored.

When the pieces reach the top

of the screen, the game is over.

Russian computer scientist,

Alexey Pajitnov,

invented Tetris in 1984

on an electronika 60.

In the years that followed,

the game exploded in popularity

and was ported to virtually

every computer and console on

the market.

In 1989, Nintendo

released Tetris for the game boy

and the Nintendo

entertainment system,

selling nearly 40 million copies

and bringing the game

to the masses.

In 1990, Nintendo chose Tetris

as the central game

in the largest video-game

tournament the world had ever

seen: The Nintendo

world championships.

A 14-year-old boy

from Texas named Thor won.

Nintendo's Tetris came to be

viewed as the definitive version

of the game...

Its secrets and mysteries

fascinating the best players

in the decades to come.

Every successful game ends with

the same message to the player.

This is the story of the people

who truly mastered the game.

I have done nothing but play

Tetris for many, many years,

and now I'm here because I heard

about a Tetris competition,

and I'm here, hopefully,

to win it.

I mean, I began Tetris really

when I was a kid.

I used to take statistics

of every single game I played,

and write down

whether I had a cup

of coffee beforehand

or something like that,

to kind of see what would make

me play Tetris the best.

And I found out that, actually,

exactly one half-hour

before you have...

After you have some coffee,

you play the best.

Top players, moving

to the Super Nintendo version,

we actually

play against each other

and every time you get a Tetris,

it sends garbage

to the other person.

Oh, the most painful misdrop

in Ashley's life.

Let's see if she can survive.


I'm sorry.

Tetris is not fair, folks.

I got to get it together.

I'm still in a viable place.

I can hear his breath.

Ben was just informed that

in the final match, the players

won't be allowed

to rotate the pieces.

This is considered

a very unusual style of playing.

Chk, chk, chk, chk, chk, chk,

chk, chk.

This is what 15 years of playing

one game and one game only will

get you... in a tournament

somewhere and a documentary


It's all about Tetris.

Chk, chk, chk, chk, chk, chk.

Goes a lot faster than that

if you're really good.

We have a new low...

53 points.

She came in and asked

for a glass of blood.

Mollin clears a little space,

gets ready for her long bar.

And look at this comeback.

Oh, mollin

takes it by a landslide.

You're a champion.

Mollin nylander.

And that's it,

everybody please go home.

So this one is $3.


You got three more for $5.


If I bought all three of 'em,

would you go to $4 for each?


You're a good Tetris hand?

Yeah, we are finding the best

Tetris player in the world.

We always had wondered why

the biggest game in the world,

or what's probably the...

The most played game ever,

didn't have a champion.

And games like pac-man had

Billy Mitchell and asteroids

now has John McAllister,

and Tetris is possibly even

played more than that.

And I decided to find

the best Tetris players

in the world

and play them in a contest.

It's the only video game

that can be described

as perfect, right?

Because how would you

improve it?

What, add a shape?

Take away a shape?

I believe that Tetris may

well be the first virtual sport.

If was going to practice, uh,

to be the smartest

or the fastest thinker

in the world, would I

play football?

I don't think so.

I would play Tetris.

For months, I've been

searching for these, uh,

crt televisions.

They're kind of hard to find,

but, uh, we're here

at this thrift store

and we found the mother lode.

There's about 10 in there.

Despite being based

in Portland, Oregon,

Robin decides to hold

his tournament in Los Angeles

in an effort

to draw more people.

He hopes that if he can get

the best players involved

and crown a champion,

he will have done his part

to legitimize Tetris

as a profession sport.

Well, I'm pretty happy with


No more Internet scoreboards,

no more second chances,

just a good old-fashioned

face-to-face tournament

for the ages.

It's a Tetris showdown

of the century,

and we're joined

live by Robin mihara.

So, the world championships.

What kind of competition

we talking about here?

Uh, we're talking

about the classic nes Tetris.

Uh, Tetris is probably

the most-played

video game of all time.

It's a...

It's an addicting game, and, uh,

it's stolen millions of hours

from millions of people.

The champion has never been

crowned, and I made it my goal

to seek out

and find a world champion.

Are you a big fan,

'cause I know when I play,

I like to stack 'em up

all on one side

and then you get

one of those long four ones,

'cause it's such a good payoff

when you get the four...


I do enjoy that maneuver.

The... the long bar to get

the Tetris is pretty solid.


Tetris is a game of

decisions, each one affecting

the next.

At speeds of up to two decisions

per second, the Tetris master

strives to make the right

decision every single time

up to 700 times per game.

To do this, the Tetris master

must maintain focus.

The four-line clear,

called a Tetris,

scores the most points.

The master

relentlessly pursues tetrises.

This is done by building a wall

and leaving a well.

The long bar

completes the Tetris.

The probably of getting

a long bar at any given moment

is about one out of seven.

The long bar is the most

important piece in the game.

An extended period without it

is known as a drought.

A long bar drought

is the most dreaded occurrence

in nes Tetris.

Robin is about to experience

a drought.


To survive the drought, Robin

is forced to start burning lines

off the top of his wall.

That was a drought.

I think I've narrowed down

what I consider to be the top

Tetris players in the world.

Uh, this is where they live.

And I've decided that I am going

to hold a massive contest,

invite them all,

and come out of there knowing

who the best Tetris player

in the world is.

Once I found twin galaxies...

They keep the world records

for all video games...

It dawned on me

that not only had several people

been playing this game

ever since it came

out 22 years ago, uh,

but a lot of people have been

taking it very, very seriously.

Quite a few years ago,

it all started with just

a mysterious tape popping up.


Well, a couple hundred thousand

on Tetris.

Well, this should definitely

be interesting,

and I had no idea

it was gonna snowball

so exponentially as it has.

Dana Wilcox, uh, kind

of out of nowhere,

just posted this score

a month ago.

I don't know very much

about her,

but she's from the Oakland area.

I mean, I had no idea

that that was even...

That twin galaxies even

existed until my friend was all,

"dude, check out

'king of Kong'."

And I saw "king of Kong"

and I was like...

You know, it's on.

Like, "whoa, that... that


And then I started

checking out Tetris on there,

and all the scores were crap.

When I was a kid,

my mom got pretty good.

We had this, like, dry-erase

white board, and it would say

what chore you had to do that


And in the top corner,

it would always say the reigning

highest Tetris score,

which my mom

held for two months,

and then I... I wiped her

off the board and that was it.

Do you remember

what the score was?

Uh, I think it was,

like 151-ish.

The next one I remember was,

uh, like, a 624.

I took a polaroid

of the TV, like, "624!

Check it out, bitches."

You know, I couldn't leave

the screen on for that long.


It's like an etch a sketch

that you freeze in time.

Like, no one

ever touches the TV again,

which maybe I would do

if I got... if I maxed it out.

Uh, Jessie Kelkar at one

point held the world record for


I wanna say somewhere

between 3 1/2 and 4 feet long

so he's almost doubled in size

since we got him.


Well, let's see.

My mom would've been the one

to bring the game

into the house.

She brought it home one night,

and the whole family

sat down and started playing.

And she had a natural knack

for it, and I turned out

to have a natural knack for it,

and so it would turn

into competitions

between me and my mom a lot.

And I was... would do my

schoolwork because she wouldn't

let me on the Nintendo before my

school... and yes, she would

check it, 'cause she was not

giving up that Nintendo for


My husband, you know,

goes onto Google, and he finds

twin galaxies' website.

This is, like, a serious website

and they track this stuff

and they've been doing it

since the '80s, and...

So, I sat and I played

and I got to level 29.

For the first time,

I saw level 29,

and I went, "whoa,"

and I finally got to 291,

and I was like, "okay, you know,

this is enough Tetris."

"I'll... I'll stick with 291.

Let's see how it goes,"

and I got the certificate

where I have, you know,

I am a world record holder

and whatnot.

And then I think Ben

came in about three months later

and just went,

"no, I'm not having this 291."

"I'm gonna go with 294,"

and I went, "oh."

Uh, Ben Mullen

is the world record holder

for the most number

of lines at 296,

which means, uh, incredibly,

he was able to score

six lines into what everyone

considers the death screen.

Lines in Tetris

have a real elegance to them

if you get really good

at getting a lot

of lines every time.

In high school,

I was to the point

where I could average

over 270 lines per game,

which, when you

average in some bad games,

I'm getting

to level 29 nearly every time.

So, this is just a quick game

I'm playing to show

that I'm still capable

of getting to level 29,

and I may or may not get there

because I can't remember

if the piece

I just dropped gets me there,

or not.

And I... Wish it luck.

Oh yeah, it does.

Okay, that's level 29.

That was really quick,

but level 29 does tend

to kill you.

So, I'm dead.

In high school,

I got an 820,000,

and that's a pretty good score

even today.

So, I started watching, and...

And people like Harry Hong

and whatnot would come along,

and they were scoring,

but they were scoring way

beneath what I had done.

So I got an arrogant attitude,

like, "I'm number 1.

No one can touch me."

Harry Hong's nothing.

Everybody's nothing.

That's the attitude I had,

so I wasn't trying

to make myself better,

and Harry Hong was.

I made it a goal

to get the Max.

Like, I had to.

I would say four years was...

Was a pretty long time.

I just believed...

I just made myself believe

that I was capable of doing it.

For the past couple of years,

there's been

a... a leapfrogging situation

where everyone was trying

to be the first person

to ever Max out the game.

There are two Paramount

achievements within nes Tetris,

largely dismissed

as unattainable.

The first is the Max out,

or a perfect score

of 999,999 points.

With only a six-digit score

counter, this

is the highest possible score.

The master strives to score

the Max before reaching

the level 29 kill screen,

a level so fast it is believed

impossible to survive.

To reach the Max

before hitting the kill screen,

the master must play perfectly,

scoring tetrises

at least 60 percent of the time.

But I didn't really reflect

on the fact that there's only

so many lines to work with,

so I had to fit

more and more perfection

into that same space.

No one ever thought

that there would be a Max out.

That's pushing the realms

of feasibility

and, lo and behold, little

while later, suddenly Harry

pulls out some more magic

from his hat, and poof.

That night when I got the

Max, I checked my score...

I just glanced at it real quick.

It was around, I believe, like,

in the high 960,000s,

and I knew I had to get a

Tetris, like, within the next,

like, five lines.

The pieces didn't come out to...

I had to really think quickly

on where to put the pieces

at that time.

I made, like, two-second, like,

last, maybe like,

last millisecond decision,

so I had to, like, maneuver,

like, really quickly.

I-I just dropped the controller,

you know, 'cause I was done.

You know, I-I dropped the

controller, and I just yelled.

I just yelled.

It was, like, 1:30 in the


I saved a bottle of

Johnny Walker just for, you

know, that occasion,

and I've had that bottle

for two years.

And that night,

we all took a shot of that,

and that was a good night, yeah.

That made me,

like, "all right, that's it.

I'm maxing it out."

Harry Hong is my hero.

'Cause before that, honestly,

I had started kind of, like,

in my own solitary Tetris world,

wondering if it was possible.

Harry did it first.

Uh, Jonas actually claimed that

he had done it before Harry,

but he didn't have

the appropriate video.

I got to show you the

technique that has really kind

of put me over the edge,

and it is, like, the eyes.

I got... I got, like, the eyes.

I can split it out

and check the next button,


Sometimes you need an advantage.

The first time I maxed it out,

I just...

I-It's a really weird thing.

You... you have this goal,

and you Max it out.

It's 1:00 A.M.

You have no camera, you have

no way to put this on film.

So, on my birthday last...

Last year in 2009, April 19th,

I saw that Harry had, you know,

given me the birthday present

of usurping me first to...

To the title.

And so, you know, I... I didn't

wanna see that on my birthday.

That kind of motivated me.

I was like,

"I need to do this."

The first video was, uh,

a level 18 Max out with no

sound, and the initial reaction

was, because there was no sound,

it seemed like I had something

to hide.

But yeah, the second one

was a level 19 Max

out with my at&t tilt phone.

Right off the bat, people kind

of dismissed it because they

couldn't see what was going on.

People comment on my video,

saying, "it's fake, it's a

glitch, he's cheating."

But, I mean... I mean, in a way,

I'll take that as a compliment,

you know, like,

I mean if they think it's really

that impossible

to play like that then.

You know,

that... that's good for me.

Dude, the best on that

YouTube was reading all the

comments of people that said,

like, "this is a fake video.

This is slowed down.

Oh, you know, look at..."


"You know,

one minute and 25 seconds

in, the camera glitches.

It's... it's clearly computer


But that...

That's the whole folklore thing.

That's the kind

of bigfoot photo type

of situation that I was...

That I was trying

to develop actually.

The second Paramount

achievement within the game

is passing the level 29 kill

screen and reaching level 30.

This is widely believed

to be impossible

because the pieces begin falling

too quickly to reach the sides.

Ben Mullen has come

the closest.

His record of 296 lines,

falling just four lines

short of level 30.

Getting that record,

it's really helpful

if you're good at getting

the level 29 a lot of times.

So, I just got to it

over and over,

built up as high as I could.

Got tetrises

and whatever I could do,

and eventually

I got six lines on there.

I mean, that's nuts

in and of itself.

You got to really build up

pretty darn high to do that.

To get really far past that,

you're gonna have to get

pieces at the edge on 29,

which is, to me, just crazy.

There is a significant jump

between level 28 and 29.

It boggled me, you know?

I absolutely had to find out

who has seen level 30.

Does level 30 exist?

Does it just keep going on


There are two known

strategies to reach level 30.

The first is to prepare a center

well at the end of level 28,

eliminating the need

for pieces to reach the sides.

The big question

is whether or not Thor

is going to participate.

He has claimed to get

past the death screen

on level 29 into 30, uh,

which is very hard to believe

once you've seen the speed

of 29.

He, I believe,

has maxed the game

out at the age of 14.

Uh, never saw it...

I don't know if anyone did...

But I have no reason

not to believe him.

He was the greatest Tetris

player in the world 20 years


He beat over a million kids, um,

and he... he beat us handily.

Robin mihara knows Nintendo.

He recently returned from

the Nintendo world championships

in universal city, California.

The key to success?

Hand-eye coordination.

Yup, an eagle eye,

a finger that flies and hours

and hours of practice.

You know, three months

of training and hundreds

and hundreds of lawns mowed, um,

all invested

into this one contest.

Welcome to universal studios,


This is the playing field

of the future,

the unprecedented 1990 Nintendo

world championships.

Nintendo had 12 massive

trailer trucks full of

equipment, and it was touring

around the... the country,

taking one winner from each

city, and then was gonna play

all of the winners together in

Hollywood, uh, to crown a


But after watching Thor play,

uh, he had the ability

to vibrate the directional pad

so that the piece actually

moved faster than the rest

of us could move it.

It seemed kind of unfair.

I ended up playing two of my...

My better games and ended

up taking third behind Thor,

who won it all.

Want me to write "damn you,

Thor," or anything?

He's the guy that beat me.

Yeah, do it, totally.

Totally good.

That's my quote.

The day that he

won the national championships,

I went to his room and talked

to him for the first time.

And he said that,

um, he had gotten to level 30.

This is a quote of his: "If you

get past level 30,

it's pretty easy to Max it out,"

and it was the first time

I'd ever heard someone

say that maxing

out Tetris was pretty easy.

I think, you know, in...

In 1990 I was really

obsessed with wanting

to win that competition.

Hey, is it weird

if I know Thor?

Thor won in Houston,

which was where I went

the very first time, and I

don't know if he had developed

the multi-tap technique by then.

By the end of the tour,

he had done it.

He was really moving

the pieces left

and right faster than everyone.

What none

of us practiced doing

was vibrate our left thumb...

And that's what Thor would do...

And he could get the piece to

move left to right faster

than all of us.

Now, if you watch,

Thor's got a technique

for his 10-second countdown

to get the long bar.

He's playing all the way

up there and he's vibrating it

so fast that it can get it

over his giant stack,

and he doesn't even

get the long bar.

He... he could have

demolished the score.

This is the seven champs

with Howard Phillips,

the face of Nintendo in the


And there's something about each

of us that was a little off,

like, I have a.D.D. And a couple

other guys were awkward.

And none of us were,

like, your everyday guy,

which is probably why we were

in the house playing Nintendo

for 10 hours a day.

Thor was kind of the guy

where it's like, you feared him,

but you didn't want to be him.

Thor would kind of come up

to us as sort of like an outcast

and he'd walk up and say,

"my name is Thor.

I'm good at games."

Then, you know, we'd go

to the arcade and, you know,

Thor would be there

and he'd walk up to us

and he'd say, "I'm Thor.

I'm good at games."

You know, is it an ocd thing?

You know, it's... it's like

some people who are, you know,

prodigies sometimes, you know,

have, you know, a little bit

of... of thing to that.

Kind of demonized him

as a child because he...

He squashed my dreams,

but now that I'm past that, I

just wanna know who this guy is.

I felt like he was

just like me, just a nerd.

We hung out,

like, in the mid-'90s and,

like, played games together.

After the Nintendo

world championships,

he kind of burnt

out on, uh, the fame.

There was a video someone

must have recorded off the TV

in early '90s,

and it was, um,

the home shopping network.

The woman was selling, uh,

micro machines.

32 different tracks to play


There he is, Thor.

He's our Nintendo world champ,

and he is over there having a


I'm pleading with him.

I'm going to send him a Nintendo

to practice if he needs one.

But if he can truly

get to level 30,

that's probably

the most difficult achievement

in gaming history, and he

needs to get that on tape.

The specific game, that's


This has to do more with my


The game that's over being

the dating game, uh,

of which I was never successful


So I guess I never pushed start

on that.

I didn't really

seek a geeky guy,

but I found out that I really

enjoy the things that he did.

And one of my lifelong goals

was to be able to solve

a rubik's cube,

ever seen the '80s, growing up.

Um, and Ben taught me and

slowly began to fall in love,

and now we're married.

Every... any way that you

can turn it has a number code

or a space or a dash.

Five, five, two, five...

One, nine, eight, two...

Sometimes you get stuck.

I learned it, uh,

for the specific purpose

of impressing women.



Oh, yeah.



I think we're all of one accord,

that we need to save

the Princess here.

At the end of Mario 3, I...

I really

believe that the appropriate way

to beat that game...

Or to not beat that game...

Is to have bowser

fall down his hole,

and then fall

right down that hole behind him.

Just kill yourself.

Well, they've just... they've

had such a struggle together,

and it feels just right

for them to go down together.

Cheapens the experience

to just beat bowser

and listen to a show tune.

I like all games that end

like Tetris, just in sadness

and walking away.

I've only just watched her

play and been like,

"will you stop playing Tetris?"

When we were talking about

this, I was like,

"have you even played Tetris?"

And she was like,

"yes, like, hello.

I had," and, like, listed off

her... the games of her


People who know Dana

very well are like... they've

known about her situation

for a long time.

They know that she's really good


my situation.

My condition.

Her condition.

To me, it kind of is a


What would be the best thing

if... when I Max out,

if the Nintendo or the TV

would just, like, explode.

That would be awesome.

What will happen

if you Max it out, Dana?

Are you still gonna play Tetris?

I think so, yeah.

As... as much

as you play Tetris now?

Um, I mean...

I think I'll always play Tetris.

And your controller

felt a little worn out to me.


They tend to get... it's sort

of a mushy feeling.

They get mushy.


I mean, that's everyone's

favorite part of the Harry

preview is that he's taking

apart the controller, and his

controller was the most mushy.

Well, it's probably

because he presses so hard.


Doesn't he loop something?

I remember seeing...

No, he, like,

plays through his t-shirt,

or a t-shirt, like this.


I... I use a shirt

on my left hand 'cause

the d-pad's too stiff,

I mean, too rough.

He loops his thumb through...

Which I tried, by the way,

after I saw that.

'Cause I was like,

"what is he doing?"

And I tried it and was like,

"I can play like that,

but I don't need to."

Why does he do that?

'Cause his... so his thumb

doesn't hurt.


'Cause he presses so hard.


All my controllers

are messed up, yeah.

How much you... how many you

went through with?

Three or four?

Three or four.

Yeah, like, four maybe.

When he wasn't getting the

record, he would...

He would blame the controller.

No, no,

but then that was legit.

I know.

I know it's legit,

but I... at the time, I was

like, "this is not legit, all


You're just blaming

the controller."

Yeah, never... never words

of encouragement.

It's always discouragement.

All the time.

"Harry, you'll never get it."


That's what...

Yes, but then to him,

that's... that's him trying to

encourage me.

That's... that's...


I felt like that

was the motivation.

I just remember that one time

where he had,

I think it was like 979,000

and then he totally choked.

He had it. He had it.

It was right there,

and he choked

and I just laughed at his face.

He did... he did say that

once... once he gets the record

he will never touch Tetris ever


He did say that.

Did you not say that?

Yeah, I did.


He told all of his...

All of his friends.

But then,

that was my motivation to,

like, because I wanted

to end it, you know?

I wanted to just be done

with it.

But then... no,

so for a while he didn't play.

Oh, yeah, that's right.

And then he started playing

this Internet Tetris.

It's not Tetris.

Not Nintendo Tetris.

It was Tetris friends.

It was like some Tetris

online, and I called him out.

I was like, what are you doing?

I thought you were done

with Tetris.

"This isn't Nintendo Tetris.

This is Tetris

with friends," or something.

Tetris friends, man.

Yeah, Tetris friends.

Wow. Wow.

And it slowly,

it started progressing

and then eventually...

I went back.

He went back to playing


If I start feeling

like physical discomfort

from playing Tetris,

I usually try to stop.

That's probably

a good policy.

What if your girlfriend yells

at you, like, come to dinner?

I stop then, too.


Unless I'm, like, unless I

have a really great game going,

I stop.

We have a different version

of that.

What's your version?

That you don't stop.

That I just...

you say, "one more game."

Keep playing

until the crack of dawn.

It's always one more game.

We're actually a mortgage

banker, um, which means that we

fund our own loans.

My real talent

is business-card throwing.

I have one stuck in the ceiling.

I don't know why,

but I have these kind of,

just ritual things I do.

And so I just kind of flicked it

and stuck one up there.

I like to think that Tetris

had something to do with that.

Jonas always wanted to be

some kind of prodigy.

I know he always used to scold


"Well, why didn't you get me a

piano and make me practice every


I could have been a prodigy."

I know.

"I could have been

a Beethoven, you know?"

This is factually correct.

My mom can't watch me play


She gets too...

She gets too stressed

out with the speed.

And if it really

gets, like, close, she gets

more stressed than I do.


Well, I was worried it's going

to bother him and make

him mess up, you know?

And if he does, I'm like, "oh,

it's all my fault.

I shouldn't have looked at it."

I can't watch, but,

yeah, I don't want to be

the smother mother, you know,

which is tempting when you

got somebody like Jonas.

The reason I think

that perfectionists actually

don't play the best Tetris

is that you have to kind

of be sloppy.

If I was hung up on how nice and

pretty the boards the looked,

I don't think I would be as good

as I am.

Yeah. That's where you take

after your dad, because he was a

real messy guy.

When it was competitive,

he didn't like to watch me.

Um, he... he scored pretty well.

I think his highest games

were about 200,000.

And when I was like 10 or 11,

I was scoring around then.

And then, I kind of left him

in the dust, unfortunately.

And so, there's a period

where he took that personally.

Once it got ridiculous,

he started coming back

and watching it,

and with my uncle, too, uh,

both of them.

His brother liked to watch

it quite a bit.

He was actually diagnosed, uh,

with cancer 16 months

before he passed.

We had a... we had a long window

to just kind of work things out.

And we spent a lot of days just

talking, having great, you know,

philosophical, deep, uh,

wonderful discussions

while I was playing Tetris.

I... I remember the first

time that I watched Jonas play.

I came here.

It was, uh, we were in high


And I'm watching, and I was

like, "dude, Jonas is really

good at Tetris."

And then just started seeing

more and more little moves.

If you play enough Tetris,

you get to see, like,

that he flipped right at

the very last possible second,

the only moment it worked.

And I asked him, I was like,

"how do you do it?"

You know, how is this, because I

can't think of it that fast.

And he goes, "you have to see

the next piece coming

and imagine... like,

when I'm placing this piece,

I'm actually thinking

about where the next one

is already going."

The master's primary

consideration is the next piece,

which, along with the piece in

play, allows for over 500

possible combinations of moves

at any given moment.

There are always many bad moves

and very few good ones.

Limited to a single piece

preview, the perfect moves

are unknowable.

The one trick

to training in Tetris

is to be always almost dead.

If you're almost dead,

you're probably training.

Robin is about to head south

to Los Angeles,

where he'll make his final

preparations for the tournament.

Two years ago,

if you brought up the Nintendo

world championships,

it was like sort of a novelty

piece of trivia about me.

If I was in a bar and my friend

would be like, you know,

this guy

is a Nintendo world champion.

The person who he was talking

to would always say,

"oh, is it, like 'the wizard'?"

And I'd be like, yeah.

That was actually...

"the wizard" was made

to sort of promote it.

It went from just, like,

this funny little tidbit

to me finding nintendoage.

But their editor

for their e-zine

asked me to write some articles,

which I did.

And it was really nice to,

like, have, you know,

a couple thousand people

reading my story.

And it's like I was getting

a little touch

of fame that I didn't get

when it actually happened.

Robin stops in sunnyvale,


to visit one of his old

competitive gaming buddies.

He hopes to get some help

running his Tetris tournament.

These are thumbs

genetically designed

to dominate video games.

These are massive.

And they're born to win.


I found the newspaper article

of my first game contest,

which was the Hawaii state

Nintendo championships.

And the game

was super Mario bros. 1.

I was the only one

who beat the game.

250-something-thousand points.

I had like four minutes left.

I just sat back, relaxed,

watched everybody else

dying on world 8-3.

But I was a kid at the time, and

I was just like, "wow, I'm

actually good at something."

You know, all this time I'd been

spending playing video games,

you know, it's not for nothing.

You know, I'd proven it.

That prepared me for rock

the rock,

which is the biggest game

contest, you know,

that they had on TV.

$25,000 contest.

And right now it is the

battleground for all the gamers

is to get busy

on Sonic and knuckles

for the $25,000 big day prize.

I did this thing

where I closed my eyes.

I played the game in my mind.

And I guess I freaked out

a lot of people,

which is a good thing.

Yes, he got it!

The sega world champion!

Here you go.

You know, this is it.

This is really awesome.

Um, I'm becoming

this larger-than-life

video-game star.

And I'm becoming

like Robin mihara,

which was the guy I thought,

like, this is the guy

I want to be when I grow up.

I want to be that cool kid

with the hat and the finger,

and he's got confidence.

And he looks good.

He plays good.

You know, stone cold,

just destroying everything

in his path.

And I was fine with living

up to that example.

Hey, man.

You just got to 30.

You're going to have

to pass out some of the pins

because we're all going

to be competing.

Don't let that scare you,


Please, please do anyway.

All right, I know that

already people are doubting him

because he doesn't have

any videotapes.

Uh, he really...

I sincerely believe he does not

want the spotlight ever again

because he feels like it kind

of was the, uh...

I forget how I phrased it.

Like the cornerstone

of a very difficult life.

I had always wondered,

you know,

what would happen if you

and Thor went face-to-face.


Who... who would, uh,

would win basically?

Thor was saying

that he wasn't going to compete.

Like he was going to come,

but he wasn't going to compete.

And so, I found him on Facebook.

Got into a little bit of why he

doesn't want to win again.

I think there was a sort

of a failed negotiation

with Nintendo.

He was kind

of getting pimped out.

Like, his dad

would drive him to trade shows

and consumer electronic show.

And I don't know

if he would speak for money,

or what he was doing exactly.

But, um, sounded like Thor

didn't get any of it.

I don't know, maybe it's also

just annoying to be known

as the Tetris champion.

Being a pretty big student

of the game,

I'm really excited about meeting

all of these people

and seeing their different

styles and personalities.

Most of these people,

I'm guessing, just play

by themselves in front of a TV

and didn't even know that other

people were doing the same thing

until they found twin galaxies.

So, I... I want to meet

them all and learn their tricks

and just talk about Tetris.

It's going to be exciting for

all of us to be able to talk to

somebody who really understands

the high level of the game.



Right. Straight down.


Can read your mind.

Totally closed my eyes

for that one.

Can you talk

when you're on 19?

Oh, yeah.

I love to talk when I'm on 19.

The stuff that you do is


It's like... it's like you can

see... that is so crazy

what you just did.

That is insane.

I'm nuts.

You put both of them

just wrong.

And then it was fine.


Isn't it gorgeous?

So, what are you seeing

when you did that?

Like, you're seeing the level

above it.

You don't care about...

yeah, you kind of just see...

It's just like in chess,

seeing a few moves ahead.


Like, you create a hole,

and it's gone.

It's just a... you think of it

as a combination.

I noticed

for your record game,

you were stacking on this side.


I don't know for some reason I

usually score higher on average

when I stack to the right.

Get there. Get there. Get there.

Get there. Oh, shit.



That's it.

You're a one-button player.

What do you mean?

You only flip one direction.

I have never played

any other way.

That is crazy.

Like, some of your flips are,

like, right before it lands.

I have never even heard

of not being a one-way flipper.

This might be one

of those breakthrough moments

we spoke of earlier.

"And then these guys came over,

and they showed me that you

could actually flip the pieces

in more than one direction."

Just never thought...

when all these years, I just

thought it did the same thing.

Yeah, because most... I

think every piece...

I was always like,

why would you use "b"

when you could use "a"?

Now, I have a hard time

setting this up.

Okay, here we go.

So, this is a t-spin.


Rotate it,

it just went right in there.

Dude, I have never done a


You've never seen that?

Not even accidentally.

This is pretty big.

Like, I didn't know

about a million things

that you just told me.

Do you guys think I'm stupid?

No, not whatsoever.

I mean, I've spent...

This has been like a year of

my life figuring this stuff out.

And then...

yeah, but this has been,

like, I've been playing Tetris

for, like, 20 years.

I don't even want to know how

many hours I've played Tetris.

Like, that would just depress

me to know.

There's some things that,

um, I've studied your games,

or a couple that I've seen,

and you have a few things

that no one else does.

Wow. Did you do that all on


Uh, I saw it develop.


The "I" blocks can be flipped

all over the place.

Little I block flips like that.

Just end around.

Um, so that right there,

hold on.

There we go.

Oh, damn.

I have never seen anybody do


But he actually did it clean,

like with a purpose.

That was awesome.

I can stamp it,

and I'd just gotten Tetris.

And I wasn't thinking

about playing.

I was just kind of playing,

you know, 9 or 10 years old,


And I put up

like 175,000 or whatever.

I tripled my highest score

since then.

It was just kind

of like an epiphany.

And ever since then,

I've just been kind of trying

to relegate the play

to the back of the mind.

I play better when I hum a song

to myself.

Random daydreaming, you know,

while I'm playing.

I almost believe that the mind

kind of has, like, a little,

like a buffering kind

of ram situation.

And so, if you think about

a move too much,

your next move suffers.

Like, there's some...

There's a loading screen

for the mind.

And I have definitely tested


Man, the heart rate

starts increasing.

At one point, I started getting,

like, tunnel vision.

I thought I was,

like, about to pass out.

Playing that many hours,

you got to think stuff.

You just think random

weird things.

When I was little,

I just figured there was

little electronic dwarfs

in the system.

And they were just, you know,

sadistic in the way

that they gave me pieces.

And that was my first concept

of the Tetris god.

So, there's a little bit of,

give-and-take war

with the game itself.

Sometimes you have to concede to


It is very difficult

to fight the game,

because it will win.

Sometimes I really do think

it has a mind of its own.

You have to think four or five

steps ahead in one second.

When I'm in the zone,

it feels like I'm pretty much,

like, one with the game,

in sync, just flowing.

It's like a constant flow.

You're just doing this thing,

and, like, things are changing.

It's really fluid.

And it just is always,

like, morphing into a new thing

that you're just

constantly reacting to.

When you're playing Tetris,

just put stuff where it fits.

It's that simple.

The definition of np-complete

is basically that with the input

size of the problem,

the time required

to calculate the answer,

um, basically increases

faster than polynomial time.

With a problem like Tetris,

it'll become longer than we,

like, humanly have on this earth

to even, like,

calculate the perfect answer.

This is, um,

Tetris grand master.

It came out in, uh, 1998.

I think I first played back

when I saw,

um, it was one of those videos

that went around on YouTube.

It was I think, uh, Tetris Japan

finals or something.

It was what was labeled

as a death mode video.

And I just thought

that was really cool.

It looks really,

uh, challenging.

It looks really fun.

Tetris: The grand master 2,

a Japanese arcade game,

awards grand master status

to players

who can survive invisible Tetris

for at least one minute.

In invisible Tetris, the pieces

disappear once they land.

Alex is one of only 30 grand

masters in the world.

I got

to the invisible credit roll

and somehow managed

to survive for long enough

to actually pull it together

and get the grade.

You have to learn the game

all over at a deeper level

in order to succeed.

Where you have to,

like, really know how is

this piece affecting the stack.

And that you have

to keep track of,

like, how can I keep

the stack easy to remember?

I just hope that I can, you

know, play pretty consistently.

I don't want to have, like,

a bad day or something.

I don't have

many other expectations

for myself other than that,

just to go and have a good time

playing some nes Tetris.

Nintendo Tetris allows

the player to start on any level

up to 19.

Starting on 19 is the only way

to train to become a master.

The basic thing

you got to do when you train is,

you do level 19.

And you try to Tetris


You fail because it's fast.

Nes Tetris,

or Nintendo Tetris,

the speed plateaus for 10 levels

at a speed that seems impossible

to most players.

Right when I know the piece

is done, as the next piece...

I'm already pressing the d-pad.

So, by the time it comes down,

it's already moving

in that direction.

Once you get past the panic

and you realize

that you're probably pushing way

too hard on the buttons,

I try really hard to shift

into my peripheral vision.

Because if you focus too hard

on the actual screen,

I find that flusters me.

It really makes sort

of a radical certainty

the only way to go.

It's better to put a piece

in the wrong place,

than to change your mind and try

to put it in the right place.

So, you have to go

with your first instinct.

And you have to have

the software in your brain

to make that first place

you think of the right place.

The last time I got

Tetris effect was when I was,


Shoot, I was in high school.

The Tetris effect

refers to players having dreams

or mild hallucinations

about the game.

I was doing

some specialty stacking.

Like, there's something that

sega Tetris players used to do.

They would draw a pattern

in the stack.

They would leave holes to make

a, uh, greater than shape

in the stack.

And so, the last time

I got Tetris effect really bad

was when I started doing that.

And I did it for, like, an hour

or something the first day.

And the next day, I was

just like, wanted to kill myself

because I couldn't stop thinking

about making the staircase

and, like, putting all the

pieces down.

Because it was something...

It was a totally new problem

for my brain to consider.

When I have a square

or rectangle shape

or a box of any sort

and I need to put things

into it...

It goes back to...

It's what everybody calls it.

"They say, Jesse,

your tetrisizing."

I daydream during the day.

I'll sit and play Tetris

in my head.

I have Tetris dreams at night,

sometimes, you know,

if I'm playing right

before I go to bed.

There was

a very interesting study

by some guys at Harvard

who were studying sleep.

And they did have people play

Tetris before they went to bed.

And sure enough,

they often dreamed about Tetris.

And the researchers

came to the general conclusion

from this and other data

that one of the purposes of

dreaming is memory consolidation

of things

you've learned during the day.

In 1992, Dr. Haier

used brain scans to show

that Tetris training can lead

to increased brain efficiency.

The brains of people

struggling to learn the game

showed high levels of activity,

indicated here

on the brain scan in red.

But the brains of players

who have mastered the game

showed very little activity

and appear to be at rest.

Now, of course,

on the second scan,

the game is faster.

The game is harder.

They're processing more.

And the question for us was, is

the brain more or less active?

Virtually everyone assumed

the brain had to be more active.

We had thought the brain

actually might be more efficient

as the Tetris program

became unconscious and automatic

and would require less activity,

less energy.

And sure enough,

that's what we found.

That software, so to speak,

in your brain

can become very powerful.

So much as you can get

out of its way,

you can become,

when you're playing,

when you calm yourself down

enough, like a human computer.

You would not believe...

I walk around in this t-shirt

all the time.

No one gets it.

No one gets it.

I'm like, "guys, really?"

To go along with it,

my Nintendo pants.

We have "Mario is my homeboy."

"Classically trained," with the

original Nintendo controller.

So, this will be

my official competition outfit.

Just being at the competition,

like I am so stoked about that,

that all I want to do is just go

play with these guys, you know,

these guys that are great.

The tournament

as I understand it basically is,

uh, three games

and you... the highest score

gets into the finals.

It's really going to come down

to who can survive to level 29,

because that's going to give you

another 200,000 points.

So, if I just

survive to level 29,

I will beat most of the people

who traditionally are...

Have lower scores than me.

Like players

like Jesse and Ben,

they will... I know

they'll play safe already.

You might just get a bad set

of pieces.

You never know.

So, I think playing a little

safe will be the best bet.

It's going to kind

of be a balance.

I'm going to try to...

I'm going to try to Tetris,

but try to do it in such a way

that I don't kill myself.

I've kind of designed

it to score consistently.

I don't want

to put down a 400,000.

That's... if you see

me put down a 400,000,

like, hide the sharp objects.

I'm hoping on Sunday,

it'll be over.

Like, you know,

I don't expect anything less

than, you know, a victory.

So, yeah.

Maybe I shouldn't have said

that, but okay.

Yeah, well I'll guarantee

the finals.

So, you...

You asked about Jonas,

but you haven't asked

about Thor.

Do you have any questions

about him?

From what I heard,

I heard he's not playing.

Uh, actually, we think he's

going to make an appearance.

He's definitely...

Appearance, as in,

like, participant or a...

Yeah. Yeah.

He's showing up tonight.

And he's going

to be in the tournament?

Uh, yes.


Sorry I didn't tell you.

No, last I knew,

I thought he wasn't going to be.

I just, I feel almost annoyed

that Thor hasn't done anything

in the way

of proving what he's done.

He recently had a Facebook


Just got to a million points

and level 30

for the first time in 20 years.

Well, you got the cellphone,

just take at least a cellphone

picture, something.

He finally broke out

his Nintendo,

and he says that,

uh, he got to level 30.

He says that he got to 30.

That's what he says.


He says that it, like,

killed his thumbs.

But it has never been on tape.

Yeah, I mean, if he recorded

it and showed you some of it,

then yeah.

Because I'm always...

I was always, like...


Yeah, about the whole

past-level-30 thing.

I can't imagine it.

Unless... unless he's, like,

you now, a finger-tapping god.

But even with that, I don't

think he could maneuver that

well, to get rid of 20-plus

pieces in that speed.

I mean, that's what I think.

But you know what, honestly,

what are we, like, five days


I mean, I really hope

Thor proves me wrong.

Robin has just found out

that Thor has finally arrived.

They've agreed to meet for

the first time in 20 years here

at the production's home base

in laguna beach, California.

Where is he?

20 years later.

Oh, yeah, brother.

Turned into a man.

How you doing?

We've both grown a little


Yeah. Yeah.

Do you feel any

responsibility to like people

that like see this game

as a religion

to like just show

what is possible?


Do you think that affected your

game at all?

It's an honor to be able to

actually meet some of them

popping up here today, like Thor

Aackerlund and Ben Mullen,

people I've just heard the names

of, read the legends of, seen

random forum posts from.

Now, seeing them live to life,

it's, wow, like a mortal walking

amongst gods.

Don't know what to do with

myself other than snap pictures

and humbly stay away

unless they beckon me.

With Kelly handy,

Robin decides to attempt

a world record on tengen Tetris.

Ben Mullen currently

holds the world record

with a score of 1.89 million.

The record on tengen Tetris

is known as a marathon

because the difficulty plateaus

at a sustainable level.

Robin has been playing

for about one hour.

Oh, okay.



There it is.



Oh, wait, wait, wait.

Let's see the high score on the


Having been reluctant to play

any Tetris since arriving,

Thor suddenly

decides to break both records.

Kelly, uh, Thor's about

to break the world record now.

What is... I don't even know

what my record is.


twelve thirty-eight.

I will never get there.

Let me tell you the story

of the signing

of the treaty of versailles.

It all began with world war I.

Thor has been

playing for over two hours.

He has smashed

both world records.


Good work, Thor.

Good game, Thor.

It's done.

Broke both records.

So, Thor, you just

broke the tengen record.

Was that something

you saw yourself trying

before you got here?

No, it just looked like fun.

Was it a game

that you'd ever played before?


It was actually the one

that I could rent.

So, I practiced that,

uh, because I didn't have

a Nintendo.

My friend, Aaron, did.

I was out of school by then.

Um, my last school

was in fifth grade.

So, I would hang out with him.

He was, like, my only people

that I knew in the neighborhood.

And he had

a Nintendo power thing,

and it was talking about nwc.

His parents took him down there,

and they took me with him.

It was fun, because socially,

I didn't really have

much exposure to anything,

because I was either at home,

or I had, like, two friends.

You know, um, my house

had burned down in '89.

And my mom was in the hospital

for a long time.

She had a attack of something

called ventricular fibrillation.

It's a kind of, uh,

tachycardia attack

where your heart tries to pump

too fast from the signals.

She had a lot

of facial paralysis,

like a stroke victim.

And, uh,

so that was pretty hard on us.

So, my dad, um,

wasn't really having any income.

And my mom was unable to work.

And, um, just being able to get

the prizes was helpful.

We've got some big winnings


$10,000 U.S. saving bond,

a large-screen panasonic TV,

a pair of reeboks...

You can keep those...

And a brand-new geo lsi


Like, I wanted

to give the car to my brother,

but we had to sell it.

Um, we had cash

in the savings bond then

and all this other stuff.

So, it was more like a relief

than anything else.

I didn't really have anything

left over from the fire.

But I did have a little metal

box that survived.

And what was in it

was micro machines.

And then, in a couple years,

I would be endorsing

the video game.

Micro machines for Nintendo

is one of the best, most

innovative racing games ever.

From there, I had, uh,

a short career endorsing things.

And my family had a lot

of financial difficulties.

And, uh, for a while,

this is interesting,

but my income from, uh, the nwc

and the endorsements

for several years was

the only income my family had.

You know, we basically became

pretty much almost homeless.

It left me with a really bitter,

uh, feeling.

I think you can make a lot

of parallels

with life philosophy that way,

because life isn't fair.

And all Tetris sure isn't fair.

You got to deal

with what they give you.

And, uh, sometimes, they

give you some really

hard-to-swallow garbage.

But, you know,

if you can chug through it,

that makes you a winner.

You want to call Harry, say,

where are you?

Robin was worried

you might have chickened out

because you were afraid of me,



Oh, I didn't get your name.

Good to finally meet you.

Alex, Jonas.

It's a pleasure, man.

What's up, yo?


Good to meet you.

You too, man.

We hung at a mall

and played mortal kombat

for a couple hours.




You know, the Tetris players

that are here right now

are going to shatter

any possible idea

of what people thought

could be obtained in Tetris.

I used to play

the original arcade version,

and I used to bet money

with guys at my high school.

Whoever could hold

the reins, you know,

king of the hill

in the arcade longest,

was sort of, you know,

the unspoken god of Tetris.

And, you know, I was that guy.

And to come here and see

these guys just wax the floor

with me was sort of like a level

of inhuman.

It's moving

faster than onlookers

can actually perceive the game.

These guys are thinking it,

you know, they're thinking

pieces ahead and making

sure that their platform's ready

for the next piece.

You know,

it's really something to watch.

I think anyone can appreciate

Tetris at that level.


The Tetris community

is a phenomenal community.

And it just needs to be exposed

to the world,

the world to see,

yeah, it's not just a game.

It's a history.

It's an evolution.

You kind of, like, shake

the whole controller with you.

It's not just your thumb.

Kind of like a drum.

It's, like, your whole

high school drum major.

Yeah, exactly, exactly,


'Cause you have been

to level 30.

Which I haven't even flirted

with, I think.

Yeah, I think all of us,

that's kind of the white

elephant in the room, is that

we want to see it.

I'll give it my best.

It's... it's something

that I probably won't see.

But I will watch in, like,


I was watching you earlier.

I think that you

could definitely

do it almost immediately,

if you do the center well.

The center well?



One down, one up.

Two over.

Survey says.

Six out.

Stick a white in there,

Kevin, if you want to stay.

All of a sudden,

I'm just looking, and like,

wow, I'm up against Robin.

He's destroying everyone.

He's wanting

to push it all in hard.

You only live once.

And I pushed in

and figured, why not?

Turn card.


So do I. King high.


Boom, baby!


That's right,

you are in my house now, bitch!


I couldn't contain

my excitement.

It was an absolutely incredible


Kind of felt

like some basketball player

that goes out to the hoop, boom,

dunks on Shaquille O'Neal.

Take that.

That's right.

It's my home, now.

They're, like, the only one


If anyone would be Tonya,

it would be Ben.


I've already actually

broken Harry's.

He's on his way

to the doctor right now.

See, you don't do... you

don't do the two buttons yet.

Well, I do, now.

I think Harry's 808 video

online doesn't use both buttons.

He and I talked about that.

I find it...

I feel the right side.

I find that to be unacceptable.

You mean, you leave your...

You leave your...

I mean, it works for him.

But I just, I would not do that.

You said was unacceptable

to go to the left?

No, see,

for my level 19-plus game...

No, I know that you...

I... I switched back, yeah.

The reason why I did it

to the left, began on the left,

was I score higher when I go to

the left.

Yeah, I've done it.

Back in the day, I used to play,

like, hours and hours

and hours, leaving a gap.

Good luck tomorrow, man.

Good luck.

You're awesome.

I appreciate that.

You're awesome, too,

you know that?

Why, thank you.

There are eight spots

in the semifinals.

Five are reserved for players

who hold previous world records.

Those players are Jonas, Harry,

Jesse, Ben and Thor.

The remaining three spots

are open to the public.

The preliminary round is

unlimited attempts at high score

on type b Tetris

with a 25-line limit.

Seven tetrises are possible

within the 25 lines.

Dana, Alex and Trey almost

qualify to reach the semis.

They'll have from noon

until 2 pm to post a high score.

I'm not gonna wish him luck.

She doesn't even like me,

doesn't want me to win.

It's got to be skill.

But I expect to win on skill,

not on luck.


Uh, this is my mother, Doris.

Yes. Hello.

She's the best mom

a Tetris player could have.

I'm about nervous enough

to throw up, because everyone

I know is expecting me to win.

There are some times

when you're just in a zone.

You know where to put

every piece.

You know what that's going

to leave you with.

Anyway, I came out here, uh,

from New York.

I was just hoping

to make it to the semi rounds,

maybe be, like,

the underdog or something.

I think the highest

you can get is seven tetrises.

And at that point, you've hit

sort of the 25-line limit

and the game ends.

So, I think it would be cool

to play in the semifinals,

although I know that I'll just

get destroyed there.

Now I think I'm number two

now, but not for long.

Did Alex...

All right!

So, no one's done it.

No one's done the perfect.

Nope, not yet.

Door's still open.

Eventually, I think people

are going to get perfect ones.

I think the highest right

now is 147.

Then it comes down

to the pushing it down.

It comes down to the push



How does it feel? Good?

After all those really bad

games, I just got one

where everything was clean,

I didn't push it too hard.

And I just, like,

went for the tetrises,

and they all just came together.

So, that was good.

There was a move at the end

where I saw...

I had to make a hole,

but I saw it was

above the fourth row.

It was at the sixth row,

and I was on my last Tetris.

So, I was like,

"thank goodness."

Because I could, like,

you know, make that hole,

not worry about it,

complete the rows that I

needed to go for the Tetris.

And I just, like, went for it.

Just a few minutes ago,

I finally got it.

I got the seven in a row.

So, I should be able

to make it through with that.

There's about four

or five people

who could probably match that.

And then it's all about

how many times you pushed down

to get a few extra points.

I don't think it's gonna be

like where two or three people

are just gonna, like,

come in and get perfect games

and, like, push me out.

I think I have a spot.


How are you feeling, Trey?

Uh, well,

my heart's pounding now.

But during the game, I was just

like, I'll either get the pieces

or I won't get the pieces.

I figured, if I just keep

playing, eventually,

I'll get seven in a row.

So, I did.

Trey's now in first

with 167,911,

making it all level 18,

seven tetrises, uh,

and pretty much pushing down

on the d-pad to get extra points

is separating the top three

scores at this point.

Dana's still in there.

I'm not doing as well

as I can do.

So, it's a little bit


But hopefully, I can,

you know, pull it together.

She's usually really

even-keeled, for the most part.

And so, it kind of surprises me

that she's having

such a hard time right now.

Dana is one of the most

kick-ass people I know.

She is a gamer at heart.

She and Brooke are just,

like, meant for each other.

I don't know.

I think... I think...

I think girls in gaming

adds a really, really valuable

perspective for, you know,

a male-dominated nerd-fest,

you know?

I think that's she's under

the most pressure of anybody

here, because the cameras

are following her.

She keeps getting

interviewed by newspapers.

And I kind of feel bad for her,

because it's, like,

a lot of added pressure

that's obviously affecting her.

Ah! What happened?

Oh, man.

Starting to get pissed.

God, it's giving me heart

palpitations just to watch this.

Dana is forced

to burn off her last line,

just as she receives

the necessary long bar.

Fuck me!

Oh, man!

Holy fuck!

Yeah, like,

it would have been better

if it didn't even...

Yeah, if it didn't show up.

Yeah, if it didn't even show.

It was really close to seven


I can't get seven.

Fuck, yeah!

How do you feel?

Fuckin' awesome!

Dana just edged out

her friend Alex for the last


I think

I'm in fourth right now.

Might just be

that I got knocked out.

He's so cute.

He's the little baby

grand master.

No more tickets?

Hey, guys.

Hey. Congratulations.

Thank you, Alex.

You did great.

Top three.

It's official.

And we have our top eight

for the finals.

So, when I first met Alexey

in 1989, it was February of

1989, he said to me, "Hank, you

know, you're going to go back,

and you're going to make this


And I really want to find out,

uh, who is the best player

in the world."

And, uh, you know,

we really haven't found out

in all these years.

And the very interesting thing

about all this is that, well,

Robin's the guy

who's been putting

this tournament together.

And we really need to give

him a hand

in making this Tetris world

championships possible.

It comes from his passion

and from his life experiences,

how Tetris and the Nintendo

world championships

changed his life,

that now, we're having

this wonderful Tetris classic

world championship.

All right!

It is now time

for our semifinals.

Eight players will compete

in three rounds.

Round one will be an attempt

for the most lines.

And round two and three will be

attempts for the most points.

And the top two players will

advance to our Tetris finals.

All right.

Let's start in 10, nine, eight,

seven, six, five, four,

three, two, one.

Let's play some Tetris!

All right, we start off here.

Harry gets a triple line score,

followed by another, I believe.


It looks like Jesse is out.


Thor setting up.

He's got his well saved,

just needs a long block.

And, wow, as we switch to Thor.

Oh, Thor, it looks like...


Thor is out with 89 lines.

Thor has topped out.

The audience is shocked

by Thor's early top-out.

He'll have to dominate the score

rounds to have any chance

to make the finals.

Now, remember, at level 29,

the speed increases again,

believe it or not,

what's known as the kill screen

or death level.

We're getting close to that

kill screen, here at level 28.

Jonas is at 278.

Look at that speed.

Harry at 290.

Harry is out.

290 for Harry.

That's the leader right now.

Jonas at 281.

Can he hit 290?

Dana was out.

I don't know where Dana was out,

but Dana's out.


Let's go back to the other


Let's switch the video

back to... there we go.

All right, Jonas, 29.


294 for Jonas!

That's our leader!

Jonas scores 294 lines,

the second most

in recorded history.

Ben... two players left.

Ben at 280.

But this is a good score,

as well.

He'll be in the top,

looks like three, for sure.

Oh, single line.

Oh, here we go.

Ben, 290 as well.

Great job, guys!

Jonas, Ben and Harry

all succeed at reaching

the level 29 kill screen.

Matt and Dana post

decent scores,

while the rest lag behind.

Second, looks like, tied

for second, is Harry and Ben.

Four, three, two, one, go.

Let's play some Tetris.

Now, we will be looking

for lots of tetrises here.

Dana's... Dana's trying to

work out.

She's working it.

She's doing good to survive


Awesome burning, Dana.

She's back there.

She burned it off.

She's waiting for the long...

There it is.


That's good for a Tetris.

Triple-line score

for Thor right there.

134 for Jonas.

122, Harry.

Thor at 99,000.

Ben setting up for a Tetris!

Boom, Tetris for Harry.

And Thor!

Thor with a Tetris!

Thor burns a double line right


He's waiting for the long piece.

Here it comes, Tetris!

207 for Thor.

Double line, Jonas.

Tetris for Harry.

343 for Harry, wow.

The leader looks

like it could be... Jonas might

be the leader on this one.

Ben is out with 249,919.

Thor with a Tetris.

Dana needs a long piece.

Dana gets it!

Triple-line score for Dana.

Dana in trouble.

She slides it out.

Dana's out.

Dana with 363,824.

Double line for Jonas.

Harry's at 19.

The end is near.

But he's going

to come away with it.

Harry with 451,615.

That's the current leader,

but not for long.

Level 19.

348 for Thor.

He just slides a long block.

Jonas is out, 453,378.

Jonas is now the top score,

followed by Harry.

We're down to just two

players, Matt and Thor.

Matt is staying alive here.

Matt is...

Matt is out, 421,146.

Down to Thor.

Thor is remaining here.

I believe Thor has the lead

for the round.

His vibrating thumbs

are the only thing

that can keep you alive here.

And Thor is out.


Great round, guys.

Thor narrowly wins round two,

but it's not quite enough

to put him back in the race

for the finals.

Did a lot better this round.

You went from next to last

to first, I believe.

I'm surrounded by greatness.

Greatness makes you great.

451, not bad.

You were the leader for a while.

I'll do better.

He'll do better.

Jonas, 453.

Think you could have done

a little bit better, or...

Uh, I feel inside that I have

the Tetris monster within me.

Unleash it!

Unleash that monster, Jonas!

I'm just going

to let it out next game.

I'm just going to open the cage

door and see what happens.

The leaders right now...

Wow, it's close.

In first is Jonas Neubauer

with 196.6 points.

The top five scores

are close.

A weak game from Harry or Jonas

in round three

could give Dana or Matt

a chance to make the finals.

It would take

a near Max-out score

for Ben or Thor to sneak in.

Three, two, one.

Tetris time!

Again, points matter,

so we're looking

for lots of strategy

to try to get those tetrises.

Ben burns off a double

and follows up with a Tetris.


And another Tetris for Ben, 221.

Matt and Dana

are keeping a good pace

to challenge Harry and Jonas.

Dana's living

a little dangerously now.

Another Tetris for Dana, 191.

But midway

through round three,

Harry and Jonas are showing

no signs of letting up.

Setting up for another


Here it comes for Ben.

Ben breaches 300,000.

He's at 331,000.

I believe that's the lead.

Ben is on pace for a Max-out.

A score in that range

would be his only chance

to make the finals.

And another Tetris, 345.

Three forty-five for Ben.

Jonas, 302.

Thor, 229.

Harry, 283.

Remember, the speed

will stay about consistent,

until it hits level 19,

where the speed level jumps up.

Thor is waiting for a long

block, as is Jonas, as is Ben.

Thor knocks down another one.

Ben's in over... Ben

burns off a triple line score.

That was key.

Uh oh, Ben... Ben's

in a little bit of trouble.

Come on, Ben.


Ben is out.

Ben succumbs to a 36-piece

long-bar drought.

Good job, Ben.

Jonas is now our current


Dana at 314.

Harry at 495,431.


Dana's out, 484,073 for Dana.

Jonas setting up for a Tetris

on the right side.

Jonas slips a little bit.

He gets it back a little bit.

Jonas is out.

Jonas, 550,841!

Jonas tops out

with a 550,000,

leaving the door open

for Matt and Thor.

Oh, Matt's in a little bit

of trouble here.

Gets back a single.

Trey with a single.

Matt is out.

Good job, Matt.

Matt, with 454,781.

Thor is out!

Thor, with 506,084, 506,084.

Harry's gunning

to take the lead from Jonas.

He's doing a great job keeping

it low and burning it off.

Oh, he's almost

at the death screen here.

He's almost at level 29.


Harry, 582,373.

Harry finishes off round

three by achieving the top score

of the day of 583,000 points.

I just felt so great

that third game,

and just tanked on level 13,

I think, or something.

Well, where'd you lose, 13?


Oh, man.

I know how you feel right now.

You can do.

You can do it.

Hopefully, hopefully.

Jonas is tough.

Jonas is tough, so...

Oh, I know.

We'll see

what happens with that.

Top two, Harry Hong

and Jonas Neubauer.

The finals are a best

two-out-of-three head-to-head

match for the highest score.

Harry and Jonas made it here by

playing consistent, mistake-free

Tetris in the semifinals.

Harry executes a death-defying

vertical long bar slide,

but it turns out

not to be enough to save him.

Harry has his first bad game

of the night

with a paltry 302,000 points.

Jonas wins round one,

making round two

a must-win situation for Harry.

Harry, come on!

Harry has taken

control of round two

with a 50,000-point lead.

Harry tops out with a score

of 517,000.

It's Jonas' game to lose now.

Jonas prevails,

surpassing Harry's score

of 517,000 with a Tetris

on level 23.

Jonas Neubauer!


I've got to take this time

to thanks my uncle bill for

bringing me into Tetris when I

was the tender age of 10,

sending me down the path of


...for $1,000!

I'm a little disappointed

that, uh,

Thor wasn't able to really show

what he's capable of,

but he just had an off day.

It was fantastic

being up there.

It was nerve-racking,

and it was very loud.

And it was very hot.

Oh, it was an amazing


Um, of course, I wanted to win.

But Jonas, you know,

he's phenomenal.

So, hopefully,

I'll try it again next year.

I really wish I'd have won



It's Tetris, man.


Anything can happen.

Turns out, it's pretty random.


Who knew?

Tetris, of all things,

is random.

Kind of rolled the decide a

little bit and tried to set up

the... set up the Tetris for the


And I'm... and I'm glad

that that kind of...

I'm glad that that played out.

That was ballsy.

Look who it is.

I... I saw you do that.

That was ballsy.

I would not have done it.

I'm just saying

that Thor Aackerlund,

of all people, to die at...

I don't know

how many lines he died at,

but it... that's odd, to me.

I think he wanted to be able

to do well in score,

without having

to be afraid of winning,

because he didn't want to win.


He really has seemed like he

doesn't want to win this


The next day,

Thor attempted to reach level 30

for the cameras.

His thumbs could not vibrate

as quickly as they had

in his world championship days.

After dozens of attempts,

he gave up.

That first round,

when I totally

glitched on the lines game, uh,

I was having trouble

with my controller, which,

that wasn't why I stacked up.

I stacked up because I was

taking too many risks.

But the controller

was distracting me.

And I mentioned this to,

uh, to Harry

after he was done with his game.

And he had brought

his own controller.

He still had his original

that was there,

provided for his station.

And he was like,

"here, you can use this one."

And I plugged in.

And sure enough,

it worked great.

And that's... the very next

round, I got the top score.

So, you know, he

was really classy and friendly.

When I watched Jonas,

I was really worried,

because I... I kept

for pulling for the person I was


I was going back and forth,

you know, just stressing out,

on the edge of my seat,

watching the finals.

Uh, like, at one point,

Jonas had this crazy, uh,

you know, like, double-well,

crazy canyon-looking thing

with all these weird gaps.

And I was, like,

about to pull my hair out.

I was, like, "oh, no!"

I could see it,

the way I was looking,

I was, like, "you need, like,

these seven or eight pieces

to come in a sequences

to make this work."

And nes Tetris

is infamously malicious.

But those pieces that he needed,

all came in a sequence,

and he locked them all together.

It's one thing

for the pieces to come,

but only a very select

few people in the world

can take those pieces and put

them where they need to go,

all in a line, at a high speed.

So, it was really impressive.

It's just been an absolute honor

and blast to meet all of y'all

and be involved in this.

And it's gonna be a memory

that I'll cherish, you know,

for decades.

Upon returning to Texas,

Thor vowed to officially break

or match all records

on nes Tetris in a year's time.

Thor starts on level 19.

Jonas is the only person

known to have maxed out

starting on this level.

Thor's renewed ability

to vibrate his left thumb

is evidenced in the rapid

side-to-side movement

of the pieces.

Thor is on pace to Max out.

Thor prepares a center

well in an attempt to survive

the level 29 kill screen.

Thor reaches every milestone

achievement in nes Tetris:

Max out starting on level 19,

level 30...

All in the same game.