Sunday 13 November 2022

Thoughts on CTWC2022 finals

Best moment of CTWC22': (1) The unimaginable 2mil+ score and (2) 80k lead is like nothing... Source

This is the first live event held in reality since covid in 2020. Everything was done in 3 days so you don't get the week by week excitement so it's kind of a different experience. I only watched the final feed when they uploaded that today though, so here is my thought.

When aGameScout talked about top 6 players around, it's quite clear that the top 4 players as top 4 seeds are better than the rest. Among the four the top 2, Eric and fractal are also above the other two by a significant amount. It is almost expected that they would meet in the grand final.

I thought they put the lv49 level cap in effect but apparently they don't, and it's nice that they didn't cause otherwise we won't have the wonderful match extended to level 70 and beyond. The tactic of the two is clear: Eric relies on his consistency throughout and Fractal tried to be aggressive early on (which is why he made the record of Tetris streak in the semifinal). That would give him an advantage of 100-150k before level 29. This seems to be quite a lot in early post-29 levels but early reversible at very late stages (lv 50 and beyond) even with single and doubles. With that Eric withstood the headwind, patiently waited for Fractal's mistake and eventually caught up and took the 3 victories he needed.

The performance of the two had been very close from start to end. They performed almost the same not only in terms of score and efficiency. It may not be clear during online events, but when they share the same piece sequence it became apparent that they would meet difficulty at the same time other than a few scattered individual mistakes. That is true even when the two board looked different. Number of samples may not be enough but to me this is the result of a similar placement logic that it's just weak to similar piece sequence. That was mentioned in the last entry and now partially verified, although we won't have more live events in a short period time for now.

Like the past two years my roadmaps had been beaten over and over, but I shall not stop making predictions. For games like this it is always the trade between efficiency and consistency. There is a trade between the two, but there is no stopping you from improving yourself to raise the possible sum of the two. 

Last year when the rolling technique was still immature there were inconsistencies at even level 18 speed. But this year not only that they solved the problem, they even have excess consistency that can be converted into extreme efficiency at the same speed as demonstrated by Fractal. This is possibly a shock to other participants because if you are 100k or more behind it will be extremely hard for you to hold and catch up (lest you are Eric). This will probably become the meta in foreseeable months. It may not be as extreme as Fractal's strategy but there is a marginal return for consistency so it does not hurt to be a bit more aggressive when you are so proficient. 

Top rollers can deal with level 19 speed considerably steady as seen in the tournament. Fractal's aggressiveness does not apply here -- he try to be a bit more aggressive at game 4, took the pill, didn't work out and lost the game. In terms of input density it's more or less the same across strategies, but it's all about mindset and muscle memory. At level 18 speed top players are very relaxing and can very easily spare their time react to commentators or lifting their glasses. This is much harder at level 19 where they start to focus a bit more into the game. Decisions are made with instincts at this point so everyone is using a balanced strategy just like what they did in the past, including times when rolling wasn't a thing. Perhaps there will be players trying to play level 19 just like under level 18 speed, but this is not happening now.

And for post level 29 gameplay? Survival. You may be able to get Tetrises occasionally but there is nothing you can do if you topped out even if you lead by 200k points. It's just a matter of maybe 50 lines or even less, and as long as the opponent survives they will eventually overcome the deficit and takes the victory. 

Well, another possibility is if players managed to score triples and Tetrises much more frequently than they do now so that efficiency overwhelms survivability, but that would raise the average stack height by a lot more making that very risky for now. But who knows?

The grand final match was around 58 minutes long, a lot longer than the last year's average at about 38 minutes. Even with the excitement of level 29 gameplays that just too long. There had been voices to apply measures to shorten the games. Funnily, level 18 and 19 actually distinguished themselves in this year's final where level 18 is where you may take things to the extreme while you can't in level 19. I would take 'starting from level 19' as a solution in the past, but probably not now. How about shortening both level 18 and 19, say cutting 30 lines each? Admittedly they did not have the level 49 cap in effect which means that they are still playing the authentic game in full, but any further changes to the rules would likely deviate from the original game that we should not worry too much about that.

Some said that it is still far too early to talk about fatigue and the end of the techniques. Yes that is true. Players still evolved hugely this year and we still have considerable room for improvements. But the end is not that far away. Taking the learning curve of players into consideration I won't be surprised if anything I randomly baselessly claimed above actually happen in 2023/2024 CTWC or earlier. It would be the time for organizers to very seriously rethink about the tournament format. Some experimental changes may also be tested in smaller or online events as well. Just make some preparation before changes must be made.

At the end there is one thing for sure though. I enjoyed the tournament this year a lot just as usual, and I anticipate the one next year too. If you have no experience in classic Tetris you should really have a look at the clips and admire how people adopt and play games to the extreme. ;)

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