It’s with a heavy heart that we deliver the terrible news that Jonas has passed away from a sudden medical emergency.
He was the absolute best. We are devastated, overwhelmed with grief, and we already miss him dearly.
In a statement to Shacknews, Vince Clemente of the Classic Tetris World Championship team said that Neubauer was “an absolute pillar of positivity and humility… He was kind, genuine, hilarious, incredibly talented, and a brilliant ambassador for the game.”
Many are sharing their condolences:
This is a tremendous loss in so many ways. Jonas Neubauer was one of the greatest classic Tetris players of all time in skill, spirit, and kindness.
Our hearts go out to his family and friends, and to the entire classic Tetris community, as we all mourn his passing. https://t.co/iOJWFdBuv0
— Tetris (@Tetris_Official) January 9, 2021
We are heartbroken to share that Jonas Neubauer, 7-time CTWC champion, passed away suddenly on Jan 4.
We could have never asked for a greater champ, role model, and friend. Jonas, we miss you, we love you, and we thank you for inspiring us to always be our best. Rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/CaaGgd4ZY3
— Tetris Championship (@ClassicTetris) January 9, 2021
Saddened to learn of the passing of Jonas Neubauer, the world class Tetris champion. Always enjoyed my chats with him… a class act human being that made people smile. @Tetris_Official pic.twitter.com/SHeJUbSg24
— Patrick Scott Patterson (@OriginalPSP) January 9, 2021
Jonas Neubauer was the seven-time world champion of the Classic Tetris World Championship. He was a loyal son, great husband, staunch friend, and an ambassador for the only sport I care about. I can't believe he's gone. https://t.co/Auxih39e7z
— Chris Higgins (@chrishiggins) January 9, 2021
I’m extremely sad to hear of Jonas Neubauer’s passing. He is the reason I and so many people love to play Tetris. The greatest champion this community could have ever dreamed. My sincerest condolences to his wife and to all his loved ones. I’m so sorry. He will be dearly missed.
— Zak Ebrahim (@ZakEbrahim) January 9, 2021
Here’s everything you need to know.
1. Neubauer Holds Seven Championships from the Classic Tetris World Championship
— Reverend Tack Angel ⚪️ (@tackangel) October 22, 2017
Neubauer was a seven time champion of the Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC). He won in 2010 (during the very first year of the competition), 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The championship contacted Neubauer after he posted a video of himself playing Tetris on YouTube where he earned a “max out” score of 999,999, according to an interview with Shacknews in 2019.
Neubauer would often stream the game on his Twitch channel and post clips of gameplay on his YouTube channel, sharing his tips with other players along the way. He told Shacknews that the pressure to win has increased over the years because a bad performance could lead to him losing followers.
When asked what he does to recoup after a tough loss, this is what he said:
You got to remember that it’s a game. And the people that you’re playing against are great competitors. There’s not a lot of bitter rivalry, so if anybody beats me, I root for them immediately. I just want to see everybody shine bright. It’s ultimately been a very wonderful experience for me to play Tetris in this type of high-profile environment, so just knowing what one win meant for me, I just want that feeling for everybody else.
2. He’s Been Playing Tetris Since He Was Nine Years Old
Deeply saddened to hear about the sudden passing of @neubsauce. I only had the opportunity to meet him once, but he was a very kind person who had a great enthusiasm for all games from tetris to chess and beyond. RIP Jonas pic.twitter.com/GGdgZUanwV
— Hikaru Nakamura (@GMHikaru) January 9, 2021
Neubauer has been playing Tetris since he was nine years old, he told Shacknews.
Neubauer bought the game with his own allowance money. He said his first competitive experience with Tetris was when he played against his father.
He told Vice that he entered the world championship of 2010 after his father died earlier that year.
“It was this new adventure that I could embark on and try to make a positive trajectory out of a bummer situation,” he told Vice. “Maybe I needed that first [win]. The ones that came afterwards were icing on the cake. You can’t control what happens to the people in your life, but you can control what comes after.”
He told Rolling Stone that he first played the game on his uncle Bill’s ’85 Macintosh computer.
“It was the first computer game I ever played and it just did something to my brain where it was like, ‘Alright, now I understand what you need to survive. So now we’re going to take this entire side of your brain and dedicate it to the most awesome thing that’s happening right now,’ Neubauer said.
He remembered getting a score of 176,000, which for a 9-year-old was really good. He got stuck at the 19th level and so started playing nothing but that level until high school.
“It was so overwhelming that I’d cry and get frustrated,” he said. “The controller I used in the 2010 tournament had my little 12-year-old bite marks on it because you get to this point where you’re biting your controller. It was this weird masochistic drive.”
Then in the early 2000s, he posted a photo of a 980K score in Tetris on an internet message board, though people accused him of cheating. Then he posted a picture of him maxing out the score.
Neubauer was known for his chaotic approach to Tetris, according to Vice. He stacked blocks from left to right and quickly spun pieces into just the right position at the last second. He told the publication that his approach to Tetris is similar to that of a jazz pianist: unpredictable and improvisational.
“What makes Jonas so scary and dominant is that he is somehow the most solid, fundamentally sound player, and the most light on his feet and creative at the same time,” said Adam Cornelius, the organizer of CTWC and director of the documentary Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters. “He’s like Tim Duncan one minute and then Steph Curry the next.”
He told Rolling Stone that he practices every day for half an hour. He also said the best thing about being the Tetris world champion is losing weight after winning.
“I lost a bunch of weight since I first won,” he said. “Anytime you win a championship, you lose about 40 pounds. It’s something fun to tell at parties and stuff.”
3. He Accidentally Got the World Record for the 300K Points Speedrun in Tetris
Neubauer also held the world record for the fastest time to get 300,000 points in Tetris on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) with a time of one minute and 50 seconds. Apparently, he was trying to achieve the world record for the fastest time to clear 100 lines in the game but accidentally got the record for 300K points instead.
Currently his record for the 300K points speedrun sits at sixth overall in the world according to speedrun.com. He is tied with Korean player Koryan.
As for his record for the 100 lines speedrun, he sits in second place overall in the world with a time of three minutes and nine seconds and is tied with user JdMfX_.
He along with his wife, Heather Ito, hold the second place spot for the 2-player glitchless speedrun of Streets of Rage on the Sega Genesis for the Easy, Normal and Hard difficulties.
Ito is a world champion in her own right, winning the Dr. Mario World Championship in 2019.
— HPT | Luxsy ➡️ Comms Open 😀 (@Luxsy4U) January 9, 2021
A user on Neubauer’s Discord server shared a screenshot of a message from Ito talking about what happened when Naubauer passed away Tuesday night.
On their second day in Hawaii, the two were reading on the couch when Neubauer got up to get something before collapsing and ever regaining consciousness.
“Streaming on Twitch over the years brought us both so much joy and led to amazing new friendships and countless adventures,” Ito said.
She said that more information about the cause of death will be available soon.
5. He Was Also a Bartender
According to an interview with Vice, Neubauer worked as a taproom manager and also helped run a recreational marijuana startup.
He told the publication that it took years before his coworkers found out that he was the world champion of Tetris. He remembers having someone say “You bastard! I saw a video of you playing. Why didn’t you tell me?” when he walked into the taproom one day.
If patrons bring up his fame, Neubauer would take pictures, sign autographs and even accept challenges to the game at the bar.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that Neubauer was 60 when he died when he was actually 40. A previous version also said that Tetris released on the NES when Neubauer was nine years old putting the release date at 1990 when the game actually released on the NES in 1989.