TGM Guide

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This document is intended both as a newbie guide to TGM and as a repository of useful tricks and strategies related to Tetris: The Grand Master, a series created by Arika.

It was originally written in French by PetitPrince, but adapted to Tetriswiki by the same one, and edited/corrected by the wiki's population.

There are many technical terms throughout this guide, and newcomers might be confused by sentences such as "In order to beat the torikan in TAP Death, proper usage of DAS, wallkicks, and a good knowledge of TGM Rotation is required". I encourage them to consult Tetriswiki's glossary and TGM legend.

I use The_Tool for all those fancy gifs. Thanks, jago!

Please also note that English is not my primary language. Feel free to correct any typo, bizarre construction or undecipherable sentences. (Partially done)

I'd also like to thanks everyone who's posting on the forum. I learn something everyday. :)

Tetris the Grand Master - Tetris the... what ?

Tetris: The Grand Master (abbreviated as TGM) is an arcade game series developed by Arika, which was built around the very popular game created by Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris. This is a hardcore game for passionate gamers. Good games last from 7 to 15 minutes. I've written an article on it. For those more interested in Tetris history, I heavily recommend it. Trivia: the (in ?)famous "Tetris Japan Finals" and "TGM 3 Tetris Arika !!! Invisible Tetris" are respectively from TGM2+ (Death Mode) and TGM3 (Master Mode).

Sounds fun... how can I play it ?

TGM is an arcade game. It comes as a circuit board designed to plug into an arcade cabinet with a JAMMA slot. If you do not have an arcade cabinet, you can build one out of a TV and a SuperGun, which is essentially a video game console that takes JAMMA boards instead of game cartridges.

But because TGM boards are as rare as hen's teeth in most English-speaking countries, one can seek an emulation solution: TGM1 is perfectly playable with MAME or ZiNc (I would recommend ZiNc, because it doesn't have that annoying [but fixable] sound bug]). TGM2 is perfectly playable, but for a few years between 0.99 and some time in the 0.12x series, the MAME developers took TGM2 out on Arika's request, and the only way to play TGM2 was to find 0.99u4 in the thick abyss of the Chinese Internet. Now it's back on the official MAME release, so it's not that much a pain to find the relevant files.

Another route is to go the clone way: because TGM is a quite popular game in Japan (otherwise it wouldn't had *2* sequels), it was bound to have someone making a clone, especially when you have 2ch, one the most populous discussion board on the planet.

I'd like to mention four: Texmaster, Heboris, NullpoMino, and Shiromino. If you have trouble using your joystick with those programs, try Joy2key


Texmaster would be my weapon of choice when it comes to clones. Easy to use (select your game type and play), cross platform (Win/OSX/Linux) and yet filled with handy features such as auto game recording, statistics and video export. My only gripe is that it has by default a weird Counter-Strike: Source theme (customizable). Default keys are: zsxv for movement, M,. for rotations (CCW, CW and CCW) and menu operation (confirmation/cancel) and spacebar for hold. F-key are for various functions, Esc is for quitting the program. The game modes, named Novice, Normal, Special, Advance, Sudden, Doubles, Special Ti, and Sudden Ti are TAP Normal, TGM1, TAP Master, TAP TGM+, T.A. Death, TAP Double, Ti Master, and Ti Shirase respectively.


Heboris is a huge mastodont, filled with more feature that you can dream of: multiple rotations system (ARS (both TGM2+ and TGM3 flavor), SRS (both Tetris DS and TGM3 flavor), DRS and so on...) or even customized one, special training mode, tea, coffee, bretzels and pancakes. Its development is now stopped due to some meddling TTC (or Arika, or even TTC via Arika) executive. I still the files on my personal space (original binaries and expansion). Unzip one in a folder, then overwrite the content of the other zip into that same folder.

Default key are: zsxv for movement, bn for rotations (CCW, CW) and menu operation (confirmation/cancel) and m for hold.
Game mode: You must first select your correct rotation system (any ARS-based rotation system), then try one of the "Master" modes.



J.Oのテトリス講座  : A old but still very good TGM guide. A translated version can be found here.

Youtube: Surprised to see youtube in the link section ? There're not just a ton, but *tons* of good players' performances recorded in it. Try with these following keywords: "TGM", "Tetris", "Death Mode", "TAP".

Tetrisconcept: The forums.

Random Rant

Input method

For an optimal game experience, play with an arcade stick, preferably with a 4-way restriction plate. TGM is an arcade game, after all.

Don't choose a cheap stick, because they generally have inferior grade parts. Aim for a stick with Sanwa or Seimitsu parts in it. Most of the time, these are the same parts used in the public arcade cabinets. They can withstand years of abuse by frenetic gamers; so they *should* last long enough for you. Also, cheap sticks are made from cheap plastic.

I play with Sega's Virtua Stick High Grade (VSHG). It has been built for PS3, but since consoles nowadays use the convenient USB standard, I was able to plug it into my WinXP PC. It works flawlessly. This stick uses Sanwa's JLF-TP-8Y stick. What is cool with JLF-TP-8Y is that it can be easily modified from an 8-way stick into a 4-way stick, needing nothing else other than the right screwdrivers. So in the end, you can enjoy both Street Fighter *and* TGM. The stick is big (~35x22x5 cm) and heavy (I'd say around 3 kg, thanks to the metal plate at the back). It's black coat, dark-gray and yellow buttons, and big round screws make me feel like I'm in front of a luxury object. The only drawback is that the rebound of the stick is sometimes too strong, and thus activates the opposing switch. This can be a problem, but a more gentle playstyle should alleviate it.


I was able to try the Real Arcade Pro (RAP) for PS2 from Hori. While it also has a JLF-TP-8Y, I felt that it was less stiff than my VSHG. Whether it is a good or bad thing is up to the player. colour_thief likes it, I don't. It's a *huge* stick, even bigger than the VSHG, and the front shiny aluminium plate makes it look like a juggernaut. I sometimes get confused by the button layout (2x4 for the RAP vs. 2x3 for the VSHG), but that's not a big issue. And its buttons are not as beautiful as my VSHG (seriously, green ?)

Rap ps2.jpg

I was also able to try the Tekken 4 Stick for PS2, also from Hori. While the RAP is less stiff than the VSHG, this one is a lot stiffer. That results in a more nervous playstyle. Again, how stiff you want your stick is up to you.

Tekken4 ps2.jpg

Those who dont have enough money to buy a real stick... can play with whatever they want. After all, chances are that you won't be *that* hooked by TGM, fighting or arcade games. I can handle pretty well with a keyboard or a gamepad. I made it up to S3 in TGM1 with the analog stick of a Saitek P990 gamepad. I even know a Gm grade player who regularly plays with a pad. The only requirement of those alternative input methods is to be able to be very responsive. An analog stick is not a good choice. And if you are a crazy genius (or a biotechnology engineer) and know how to plug the brain directly on USB, I'm interested.


Whoa, that's hard! Do you have some tips for me?

Sure! Please note that while I use words like "should," "must" and the imperative tense, ultimately it's up to you to decide whether or not to use these techniques. I'm not an uber-l33t Gm player, but I think I give good advice.

Know your enemy (so you can kick his butt later)


The level counter as displayed in TAP.

Each time a tetromino locks, the level counter is incremented by one, and there's a bonus given when clearing lines. A line must be cleared in order to go over hundreds (99->100, 199->200, 299->300 etc..)


Each game typically has four directions and three or four buttons (A, B, C, and D)

  • ← and → are for moving the piece horizontally. By holding a direction, DAS is activated.
  • ↑ is for the sonic drop: the piece instantly falls, without locking. You can use it starting in TA.
  • ↓ is for the fast drop: the piece falls quicker than usual. It also used to manually lock the piece into the stack.

Lock and game speed

Right after you land a piece, you get a few frames where you can still move it. The number of frames available depends on the level, but you usually get enough time to act, assuming that you don't panic.

TGM Legend Lock Delay 1.gif Lock delay
You can still move a piece after it has landed.

The "speed" of the game is set by several factors:

  1. Gravity (how fast a tetromino falls)
  2. Lock delay
  3. ARE
  4. Sometimes the line clear animation.

In Master mode, gravity increases up to level 200, where it suddenly drops. Then it almost continually increases until it reaches level 500, where the maximum speed (20G) is reached. In TAP and Ti, there's yet another speed increment at level 700, 800 and 900 (ARE time decreases along with lock delay at level 900). I won't talk about Death mode for now, I'm not good enough °^_^ (but you can search on tetriswiki or on the forum).

TGM and TAP Master speed curve, sub-20G (graph by Edo)


Although it isn't as predictable as the bag randomizer, it's good to know how the TGM randomizer works.

  1. The randomizer maintains a history of the 4 most recent given pieces.
  2. Every time it needs to generate a piece, it will impartially choose one of the 7 pieces.
  3. The randomizer checks if this chosen piece is found in the history. If it isn't, the piece is given. If it is, it randomly picks one of the 7 pieces again. If after a certain number of attempts (4 for TGM1, 6 for TAP/Ti), it still does not succeed at finding a piece outside the history, it settles for this recently given piece.

Now, it's good to know all that fancy theory, but as far as you should be concerned, it's simple: don't expect a given piece to be distributed for at least 4 other pieces.


Because it wouldn't be a fun game without something to strut about, Arika set up a grade system. Like many Japanese martial arts, you begin at grade (kyu) 9, followed incrementally by grades 8, 7 , 6, 5 etc... up to grade 1. Then there are S1-9, and finally Gm. There are some conditions to get Gm grade, though.

The grade recognition system differs depending on the game.

In TGM1, your grade increases simply by gaining enough points. To get the Grand Master grade, you must finish the game under a certain time limit.

In TGM2 Death mode, it's based on survival combined with a time attack aspect - If you can go over level 500 in under 3:25.00, you'll be awarded with an M grade. The moment you reach level 999, you'll instantly get GM.

In TGM2 Master mode, it's a little more complicated. In a nutshell, for each grade the player must score 100 internal points. The subtlety is that there's a point decay. If you want more details, well...

août 23 23:56:05 <PtitPrince> is there a chart that summarize how grade points are gained in TAP master mode ?
août 23 23:56:37 <colour_thief> it's so complicated it would need a 4 dimensional chart or something
août 23 23:57:02 <colour_thief> play fast and get tetrises is the simple answer though

... but c_t is exaggerating a little bit here ;), there is a chart here. But his idea is right: don't try to optimize your game with this chart, just try to play faster and to make more tetrises.


Some medals from TAP.

In TAP, medals are awarded for particular actions. They don't count toward the final score.

  • AC (All clear): Bronze for one bravo, silver for two, gold for three.
  • RO (Rotation): At Lv. 300, 700, or 999, the number of rotations per tetromino was at least 6/5.
  • ST (Section time): Bronze or silver for approaching the machine's section time record; gold for beating it.
  • SK (Skill): Quadruple line clears. Master: 10 awards bronze, 20 awards silver, 35 awards gold. T.A. Death: 5 awards bronze, 10 awards silver, 17 awards gold.
  • RE (Recovery): Have 150 or more blocks in the playfield, then clear enough lines that 70 or fewer blocks remain.
  • CO (Combo): Clear lines with consecutive tetrominoes (double or higher needed). 4 awards bronze, 5 awards silver and 7 awards gold. Single line clears keep the current combo active, but do not add to it.

General and sub-20G trips and tricks (0-300)

The perfect game does not exist

Holes and mistakes are bound to happen. Even an A.I. will make hole. The art of Tetris is to minimize its damage and its rate of appearance.

Rosti s7 detail 589.gif Details of a TAP S7 game from Rosti LFC
Notice how he managed to keep his game really clean despite an unfavorable stack.

Maximize your luck/chance

You should stack flat, but not to much. A rule of thumb is to determine which position gives the most opportunity to the other pieces. Getting the right feeling takes time.

Corollary: if there's a place when only one tetromino could fit cleanly, put it in as soon as it appears. That sounds logical - it is -, but in the heat of the game, even I make this mistake.

Zangief to the rescue !

There's a little trick that one can do with a stick in order to save some time: zangi-moves (this name comes from Zangief). There's nothing very special about it, but it is just a very convenient manipulation to use.

TGM_Legend_Sonic_Drop_2.gif Zangi-move
A 270° motion is needed in order to quickly accomplish this move.

Keep your right

You must have a right oriented game. That means:

  1. Tetris well on the right.
    Because the I piece has asymmetrical rotations, it is easier to place it in a well on the right than on the left. It is less a problem in TGM3 due to floorkicks, but it's a little easier to place them at the right. Note that I know a ninja who get a GM grade score with a left well. But it's a ninja.
  2. Keep the left clean, put the garbage at the right
    Some more experienced player than me urges me to say that it's a lot easier to clean a stack when the garbage are at the right.

Finish him !

Always finish your game, even if you started it badly. By cleaning up messy lines at low gravity, you are learning how to clean really ugly playfields in 20G (when you just don't have the time to think).

Keep the center clean

Holes in the middle column are really, really, shitty to repair. Avoid them at all costs.

Tips and tricks nearing 20G

Don't panic !

You don't have to be the Kwisatz Haderach to play TGM. Still, it helps.

The speed is becoming significantly greater than your Gameboy experience. Keep cool, stay zen and focused ! To panic means to put piece in position that hinders you even more. I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration...

Know what you can and can't

While nearing 20G, the movement palette is constantly shrinking. You must know what movement is sustainable and what movement is not an option.

Das DAS ist sehr wichtig

The DAS is very useful to send a tetromino at the edge of the playfield. Repeatedly tapping is far less efficient, so you must optimize your movement by pressing the least buttons possible. Time saved on piece manipulation is the time available to think about the piece position.

Pyramiding your way, part I

It's a good idea to start piling the tetromino at the center of the playfield, because your pieces will naturally fall on the border of the playfield, enabling you to get a few additional microseconds to think. It is also much more easier for the I piece to fall in the well.

Uses and misuses of the I piece, part I: rotations

The I piece is at the same time your worst friend and your best enemy. Or the opposite, I don't remember. Anyway, what I want you to know is that while making Tetris is always a good thing, placing the I in a correct fashion is more tricky, especially in an high speed environment. You *must* know how the I behaves, and where you can rotate it and where you can't. Far too many times I stupidly covered my well because I haven't though of how it rotates.

Fortunately, it's not that hard to remember its rotations.

You see, unlike other tetrominos, the I piece has only two states. Flat and upright. That makes the reflexion much more easy to do.


Because its rotation is asymmetrical, the "center" of the piece is in the third bloc. So, in order to determine whetever a rotation is possible of not, you only have to check if the third column is free or not.

Case Study - I rotations
Let's say we got a well at the right of the playfield, and that we have a flat I for some reason. Is it possible to put it at the bottom of the well ? Well, if you made a funnel, yes. Let's study that case with images.
Iusage1a.gifIusage1b.gif Here, it doesn't work.
Iusage2a.gifIusage2b.gif But, if there's two free cells in the third column, it works.
Iusage3a.gifIusage3b.gif Note that I rotations are asymmetrical

Uses and misuses of the I piece, parti II: "I am not a joker"

The I is not a joker, and getting one won't magically solve all your problem. That's not any other game; as TGM have a very restrictive regarding the pieces movements. I pieces in TGM can doom you.

Case Study - Non-optimal I placement


In case of difficult distribution, where you are forced to create a hole or a semi-hole, mastering overhangs comes in handy. Overhangs are not so bad places that can easily be filled with other pieces. Even if you played an old Tetris game a lot, you probably don't have this skill, because it extensively uses lock delay.

Case Study - Some overhangs
Overhangex1.png Here's a stack with a problematic distribution
Wherever you place that S, you end up with a (semi-)hole. Now, there's several way to correct it.
Overhangex2.gif I like that one. It's a convenient place to put that piece, and that can be filled with a T, a L or a J. But if you want to pyramidize a little more, placing it on the central masta is also viable (mastaba, pyramid.... ok, that was a terrible one, sorry).
Overhangex3.gif Overhangex4.gif Overhangex5.gifOverhangex6.gif Of course, choosing the right place depends on several factors: the speed and height of the game, the style of playing and the mood of the player, the next pieces, the zodiac sign of the player, a Jupiter-Mars-Venus alignement...


T-spins aren't as important as in guideline games, but they are nonetheless quite useful. What is a T-spin ? That's a T rotation that fills normally unfillable semi-holes.

Tspin1.png Tspin2.gif Most of the time you'll want to use a T-spin in this situation

Advanced and 20G (500+) Tips and tricks

Pyramiding your way, part II

The movement palette in 20G is very, very reduced. And that makes pyramiding harder, because you can get stuck because of a hole.

Be extra-careful not making any, for it can be quite incapacitating


A good 20G stack should leave the player a possibility to place his pieces wherever he wants.

Note that in this case, IRS the L to the right is possible.



Wallkicks are gameplay elements that really open the game. The theory is as it follows: if a rotation is normally impossible, the game tries to nudge the piece one cell to the right, and then to the left if it fails to the right, and then fails if it fails to the left.


Now, the theory may seems dead simple, but some applications are really counter-intuitive. Take this L kick, which works in ARS and TOD rotations:


Where to place
this L piece?


Rotate right
and DAS left


Rotate left:
test 1 fails


Gets kicked
to here

Of course, not all useful wallkicks are as counter-intuitive as this one. Some are pretty vicious though. Here's some wallkicks examples:

Synchro, auto-synchro : fuuuu~sion, HA !

This is where Tetris looks more like a fighting game than a puzzle game.

Case Study - I jumping
You need a good understanding of the game internals to do it.

Each frame, it reads the players input, then process it accordingly, then draw the frame. The trick is that rotation and horizontal movement is processed at the same time. So in order to jump that hole, you need to press joystick (movement) and the button (rotation) at the same time.

Let's review that particular move more in details:

Synchro tech b.png

Frame 1: Initial situation
Frame 2: Time to do some synchros...
Frame 3, 4 and 5: The movement and rotation are pressed at the same time (these frame are not rendered)
Frame 6: omg, it jumped !
Frame 7, 8: that happens when you don't have the good timing.

Now, while these kind of move are possible, they are seldom used. Why ? Because you need a 1 frame precision, or in others words, a precision of a 1/60th of a second ! Even the most elite Guilty Gear player got more time than that to react !

Now it still possible to use synchro in a normal game. You just need to use it in conjunction with DAS. Because DAS (when charged) sends a movement input every frame, what you need to do is to just press the rotation button.


So, you want to be a Tetris Gm? That's a long and difficult process. TGM is a little bit more than reflexes and mastering the rotations. Here's some tips about the "meta" aspect of TGM.

Play regularly

Play regularly. Tetris: The Grand Master is definitively not a casual game we boot from time to time. Like any sport or martial art, in order to be good at it, you must play and train regularly, pushing your limit a little bit further each time.

Methods of training

Motivation motivation motivation

Achievement list


  • Get an S1 grade in TGM.
  • Reach level 300 in TGM
  • Finish TAP Normal mode (including credit roll).
  • Regularly reach level 300 in TGM
  • Reach level 500 in TGM
  • Reach level 150 in TAP T.A. Death
  • Get an S1 grade in TAP Master Mode
  • Reach level 200 in TAP T.A. Death
  • Reach level 700 in TGM
  • Get an S7 grade in TGM
  • Reach level 300 in TAP T.A. Death
  • Reach level 999 in TGM
  • Comnplete the game with the GM grade in TGM
  • Get an S7 grade in TAP Master Mode
  • Reach level 400 in TAP T.A. Death
  • Reach level 999 in TAP Master Mode
  • Clear the semi-invisible credit roll on TAP Master Mode
  • Get an S9 grade in TAP Master Mode
  • Reach level 500 in TAP T.A. Death
  • Get the M grade in TAP T.A. Death (level 500 at 3:25:00 or faster)
  • Reach level 700 in TAP T.A. Death
  • Reach level 999 in TAP Master Mode
  • Get GM in TAP T.A. Death (obtained by getting to level 999)
  • Survive the credit roll and get GM in TAP Master Mode