Tetris is one of the world’s most recognizable games due to its simple rules and layout, age, and accessibility. We all know how to play Tetris; blocks drop in seven distinctive shapes. If you line the blocks up horizontally you clear a row, but if you let them fill up to the top of the matrix then it game over. Although the game may seem straight forward at first, you would quickly find that there is more than meets the eye.
In Albuquerque researchers from Mind Research Network used brain imaging and MRI to study whether playing Tetris improve cognitive skills because it may increases gray matter. For 30 minutes a day over a three-month period, the mind researchers had thirty adolescent boys and girls who played Tetris and thirty adolescents that played pong to see if there would be an increase in cognitive skills amongst all the children. The children completed MRI scans before and after the three-month period of playing Tetris, as did children in the control group who did not play Tetris. A structural scan was used to see if there were any cortical thickness increase, and a functional scan was used to see if there was an increase of efficient activity in the frontal lobe, which plays a part in helping us with decision making. The boys and girls who played Tetris showed greater brain efficiency in the frontal lobe and a thicker cortex, consistent with earlier studies, compared to the controlled boys and girls that played pong, who also showed a thicker cortex, but not in the same areas where cognitive efficiency occurred.
When I was younger, my father and I would sit at our 90’s desk top and compete against one another to see who could beat who’s score at Tetris. My father is an extremely intelligent man who possesses an above average ability of foresight and decision making skills, played a lot of Tetris in his youth. Although he beat me most of the time and stroked his own ego while doing so, he would make sure constructively let me know where I went wrong or what I could have done better to increases my chances of gaining a higher score. He frequently taught me various strategies and moves to help improve my game play. In a way when I play Tetris now, it’s a reminder of my slow days as a youth and give me a since of nostalgia.
Over the years many versions of the iconic game had been created, with that the popularity competitive play quickly grew amongst professional players and novice. One of the most popular adaptations of Tetris is the Grand Master Series. The reason the Grand Master Series is favored among the Tetris community is its variety of game modes while sticking to the traditional Tetris format and rules. Unlike Tetris Blitz, another competitive version of Tetris, the Grand Master Series competitive mode focuses on technique and score over line clears. Line clears still play a significant part, But Chaining combo’s matters more than the speed in which you can clear a line.
I am not the best player in the world by any means, but a few years ago I played avidly and had a burning desire to be the best at competitive Tetris. While on my campaign to become the best, I had climbed my way pretty high on the leaderboards. A few ways I took my skills to next level was playing single player spring/40L mode. Like everyone else I wasn’t that great in the beginning but I knew how to stack tetromino pieces which are the name of the blocks that fall. The first step is to know how to stack the blocks to form tetrises. Tetrises are worth eight hundred points and can be achieved when you clear four lines at once. At first this can be fairly difficult but will become easier over time with some practice. Knowing if certain positions can help or harm you will play a big factor in the way you play. The best way to know if you’re positioning your block in an efficient way is to divide the matrix mentally in your head into two planes. You should stack to preserve, that way maximum possible next pieces do not mess up your stack and you can achieve a tetris.
After learning to build tetrises, the next should be to learn to utilize the next piece in the queue. Gradually increment the pieces you look at. I still look three to four pieces ahead without any problem, but I used to be able to predict where I wanted my pieces five to six moves ahead. This take a considerable amount of skill since you only can see your next three tetromino’s, but after a while recognize board positions and knowing where to put things should come easily. The key to this process is visualization. Try to picture the given tetrominos as a unit, and how you can stack them on one side of the matrix. After doing this with the three pieces you can see, the visualization from what you have built one their placed should come naturally.
After mastering these things, move onto learning advanced tricks such as left rotate and finesse. This is where it gets interesting and where Tetris seems far more advanced than most people’s play. For example instead of moving the O piece 3 to the right, you are supposed to hold right until it reaches the right side of the field, then move it back 1. Left rotate brought me from 1 minute to sub-50. Guess how you learn these? Again, practice. Take it slow. The first time you use left rotate do not expect to come close to your regular times. I went from 1 minute to about 1:30 average on a good game the first day I tried this.
Surprisingly it is really easy to get good at competitive Tetris. The trick is to keep learning about the game, which not too many people do. Many people just play facebook tetris and which is basically playing replay bots. The issue with this is they pick up bad habits to deal with replay, waiting until they stack high and then kill them multiple times.
Better players learn to use combos. They leave 2-4 empty slots on the right instead of 1 for tetrises, and then build to the top and then clear as many rows as they can at once. This is known as 2-wide, 3-wide, or 4-wide based on how many spaces are left open. The higher the count, the more effective it is. There are tutorials about these on YouTube, so I won’t go into much detail but this is definitely worth looking into. In fact if you know these, then it might even be sufficient to get pretty far.
There’s another type of 4-wide called middle 4-wide, which instead of leaving 4 spaces on the right or left, you leave a 4 gap in the middle. Now the advantage of this is that you can’t lose by getting “topped out” since the only way you lose is if the next piece that is spawned goes above the top of the matrix. Leaving an empty gap in the middle means you won’t lose that way and you have free reign to stack up your 4 wide. The con to this is that it is much harder to do and takes a decent amount of practice.
The game does not stop at learning how to combo, or learning how to do tetrises though. People generally know about t-spins, which is like messing up the board and then fixing it with a T. A t-spin sends extra lines to the opponent. It is actually imperative for any player that is serious to learn t-spins for tournaments. A t-spin double beats tetrises in many ways. It takes 2 lines to send the same lines as a Tetris. You can make t-spins out of any piece in any location while a Tetris requires you to make a blank column somewhere. This is probably the most difficult part of learning Tetris. Learning when to use t-spins and how to set them up, is what makes this game more than just a basic game. Not only do you have to recognize t-spins from any gap position, you have to be able to set them up with efficiency and speed.
After being a master of all types of t-spins including minis, triples, and singles, you can confidently call yourself a pro and use your newly found decision making skills in the real world.