Joseph Saelee wasn’t even born when the first version of Tetris came out, but he’s now the best in the world at the game
1984 was a very important year in human history.
Dizzee Rascal and Andrés Iniesta were born, Bruce Springsteen released Born in the USA, and – most importantly – the first ever version of Tetris was unveiled.
Tetris is the most important video game ever released, that much we know, but the game – like all the most important creations – is always evolving.
The latest example of this comes from the Classic Tetris World Championships, which have produced a new champ who wasn’t even alive when the first few versions of the game were released.
If you know anything about competitive Tetris, you’ll know Jonas Neubauer is the man to beat.
The bar manager from Los Angeles has been a constant fixture in the final of the world championships since the first edition in 2010, winning seven of the first eight titles and coming second on the other occasion.
However, the 37-year-old has now met his match, in the form of a man less than half his age: 16-year-old Joseph Saelee.
Saelee, the fifth seed, also beat 2014 world champ Harry Hong en route to a comprehensive 3-0 win over Neubauer in the final, and he did it all with a high-risk technique not normally deployed by top Tetris players.
Saelee’s ‘hyper-tap’ approach is riskier than the strategy deployed by Neubauer and other top players, but when it works it’s clearly very effective.
“Saelee’s strategy… requires more than 10 button presses a second to be effective” explains Kotaku’s Ethan Gach.
“It’s a riskier and more demanding style of play, but one that ended up paying off.”
The teenager won the first two games in the best-of-five final but it looked like his opponent was set to close the gap, racking up a score of 915,800 and a 100,000 lead, but Saelee came back to upset the odds and clinch victory
Anyone who has played Tetris at an arcade or even at home on an old console will know the basics – move and rotate different coloured and shaped blocks to complete lines and earn points: easy, right?
Everyone will also have been left frustrated as the blocks speed up, eventually giving up after a few levels, but Saelee’s YouTube channel shows you’re like a little baby compared to what he’s capable of.
A recent video posted to Saelee’s YouTube channel saw him reach level 31 of the game for the first ever time, which requires him to react ridiculously quickly. By the time most people even register a new block, he’s already put it into position and completed a line.
“The kid played with pure heart, the most clutch Tetris that we’ve seen from anyone,” Neubauer said after his 3-0 defeat.
Saelee’s prize for winning the tournament was just $1,000, but it was never really about the money - just the glory of being a true Tetris king.