‘The Legend of Uncle Mike’: Anna Duricy ’19 makes Tetris world championships
Growing up, going to Nana and Papa’s house for Christmas in Niles, Ohio, had a particular appeal for computer science graduate Anna Duricy ’19 and her brother, Brian: Uncle Mike — Mike Duricy ’94, academic coordinator at the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton — came to town, and they spent hours watching him play the tile-stacking video game Tetris on his original Nintendo game console from 1989.
In time, Anna got pretty good at the game herself, and in October, she casually signed up for her first Tetris competition: the qualifying round of the 2020 Classic Tetris World Championships.
As “Anna D” streamed her qualifying session to the online live streaming platform Twitch from Mike’s living room in Kettering, Ohio, her 0-0 lifetime win-loss record drew a following that warranted an entertaining and informative feature by the popular YouTube gaming commentator David Macdonald, aka “aGameScout.”
“noone really expected this random Anna to get almost 900k qual score.”
“noone really expected this random Anna to get almost 900k qual score,” one viewer wrote in the comments, where capitalization and punctuation are not required. Posting the 77th-best score (850,832), she landed a spot in the championship’s silver bracket — and set a record.
“The judges told me that I scored the highest female qualifying score ever, in all the years of the tournaments,” said Anna, who became interested in computer coding in middle school when her brother brought home a 500-page book on Javadoc. “He said, ‘Here, read this,’ and I did,” she said. She’ll finish up her master’s in computer science at UD in May.
A day after Anna’s Tetris competition debut, Mike made his. Though he didn’t advance to the championship bracket, he gathered an impressive following during his livestream, too, and, like Anna, revealed a startling proficiency at carrying on cogent conversations with others while lighting up the board. And, like Anna, he set a record: At 59, he is believed to be the competition’s oldest player.
After the qualifying round, Anna started experimenting with a strategy commenters recommended — directing falling tiles to the far-right column of the board, known in Tetris parlance as the “right well” — to more effectively clear rows and get her closer to a “maxout” — the highest possible number on the game’s six-digit scoreboard (999,999). She typically uses the left well, which requires a player to make much faster decisions because the tiles have one more column to traverse on their way down. While Anna said it will take time to master the change, the feedback on Twitch was positive the first time she practiced it:
Bracket play for the championships began Oct. 31 and continues throughout November, leading to the main event — the final eight — Dec. 6. Anna’s bracket starts Nov. 22. Want to watch? See the CTWC website for the schedule.
If you’d like to follow Anna and Mike on Twitch, Anna’s handle is “VinesandWillows,” and Mike’s is “Infotechfellow.”
— Maureen Schlangen is e-scholarship and communications manager in the University Libraries.
Brian, who Anna said is “bad at Tetris,” has other gifts. He’s earning a master’s in logic, computation and methodology at Carnegie Mellon University, where he’s a teaching assistant for a course on invented languages.
Mike found himself in the limelight after his respectable showing at the 2020 Classic Tetris World Championship qualifying rounds. On Oct. 28, he helped kick off the championship rounds as part of a celebrity match-up. Mike, believed to be the oldest player in the competition, battled against Andrew "Jaws" Homoki, a professional skateboarder who showed off doing kickflips while maneuvering the geometric shapes into place.
Anna recounted Mike's valiant effort.
“Tetris gave Uncle Mike terrible pieces in the last game,” Anna said. “Many people in chat said that it was the longest they had ever seen someone go without getting a long piece to make a Tetris! It was a lot of fun though!”