Teenage Tetris World Champion Wins The Throne Two Years Running

Gif: Kotaku (Twitch)

The 2019 Classic Tetris World Championship took place yesterday at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo at the Oregon Convention Center. Viewers got to see a dazzling display of turbo-tapping and t-spins as Joseph Saelee cemented his place among the Tetris greats with a second first-place victory.

Joseph Saelee, who was 16 years old when he defeated then seven-time winner Jonas Neubauer last year, came back this year to claim the title once again for the 30-year-old NES game. His opponent, Koryan, was making his first finals appearance and put up an admirable fight. As he scrambled to stay alive, he even managed a risky Tetris late in the game, but ultimately he ended his play shortly after an unfortunate I-bar cut off the entire right side of his matrix. That allowed Saelee to play it safe and secure the victory with double and triple-line clears.

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Joseph Saelee not only got a new shiny Tetris trophy, he also took home $3,000, delivered by Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov, who told him, “I hope you spend it well!” Not a bad change from last year’s $1,000 prize.

After being asked how it feels to take the title home again, Saelee was moved to tears, saying “I’m glad I could do this again. Seeing the competition this year was heart-warming. Seeing the young competition out here...”

It’s always amazing to see Tetris played at a level like this, and it’s clear the Tetris competitive scene is continuing to grow and catch the eyes and hands of younger competitors. Saelee’s dynasty seems to be well on its way.

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Correction 10/21/19 - 3:30 p.m. ET: A previous version of this article stated that Saelee took home $10,000. He actually took home $3,000 from a total prize pool of $10,000.

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Paul Tamayo

Video Producer, Kotaku. Hip-hop connoisseur. Fluent in Spanglish. Host of The Optional Podcast.