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 TGM. Sorry SRS lover, your princess is in another castle ! 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 Torikan in TAP Death, proper usage of DAS, wallkicks and a good knowledge of ARS is requiered". I encourage them to consult Tetriswiki's glossary and TGM legend.

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

If you want to contribute, or have a remark, please don't hesitate to edit or discuss this page !

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

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

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

Tetris the Grand Master (TGM) is an arcade game series developed by Arika and built around the very popular game created by Alexei Pajitnov, Tetris. This is a hardcore game for passionate gamer. 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 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 ?

Being arcade games, TGM is not easily playable by legal means.

One can seek an emulation solution: TGM1 is perfectly playable with MAME or ZinC (I would recommend ZinC, because it hasn't that annoying [but fixable] sound bug]).. TGM2 is perfectly playable, but Arika asked the MAME team to withdraw TGM2 support from MAME. Essentially, to find that old version of mame (0.99u4) is to dig into the thick abyss of the Chinese Internet. Please don't ask me where to get roms or emulators: I'm sure your google-fu is not that bad.


Another solution is to look for unofficial clones. Heboris U.E. is one of them, and arguably one of the best (if not THE best). "U.E." stands for "Unofficial Expansion". It is a mod from the original Heboris, which was already a decent TGM2 clone. It brings more rotations rules and simulations, prettier graphics and a puzzle mode (ripped from TGM3). You can easily simulate TGM1, 2 or 3, and the only thing you'll miss is an authentic score system (TGM3 score system have not yet been fully described).

Because of an obscure affair relating to the withdrawal of Heboris videos on Youtube and Nicovideo by Arika, Heboris and its Expansion are no longer available. I still host the relevant files (original binaries and expansion).

About Hebris U.E. legal status: it's in the gray line. I'll keep hosting it until someone tel me not to do so. After all, there's no better introduction to a game, especially Tetris, than to play them.


If you downloaded the file from me, you just have to unzip the file on the same folder ( first, then - overwrite all), then run it (HEBORIS.EXE). That's a windows program, and it can runs on Wine if you're a Linux user. There was once an SDL version for Mac lovers, but can't find it :s .

Default key

zsxc movement (???? respectively) and cursor movement (in the menu)
b counter-clockwise rotation (confirmation in the menu)
n clockwise rotation (cancel in the menu)
m hold
space bar alt counter-clockwise rotation
escape quit

Vital Configuration FAQ

How can I change the default resolution ?
Go to Settings. Note that it is known to causes some instability (it works flawlessly at 1024x768 (windowed) with my gaming rig but crashes with my older PC). How can I change the default controls ?
Go to Settings > Input. Joystick/gamepad buttons can also be mapped. Sadly, the default keys for movement are bound to X/Y-axis and cannot be mapped. If your stick or gamepad don't have such things (such as my VSHG), or if you want digital button to be mapped for movement, this problem can be circumvented by using Joy2Key

Options and settings description

(in construction)


Rotation systems

When you first select "Solo mode", you'll be prompted to select your rotation system.

HEBORIS is the original TGM/TAP rotation system.

TI-ARS correspond to the "Classic" mode from TGM3. It is very close to and easier than Heboris, due to permissive floorkicks.
TI-WORLD correspond the "World" mode from TGM3. It is an implementation of SRS.

ACE-SRS correspond to the original default rotation system from TGM-ACE.
ACE-ARS and ACE-ARS2 correspond to ARS and ARS2 mode from TGM-ACE. Both of them are frankensteinen mixes of SRS rotation and TGM rotation.

DS-WORLD correspond to the SRS compliant rules of Tetris DS. Except you don't have this annoying Mario music.

D.R.S is an experimental rotation system from another Tetris clone (DTET). I don't know its specification.

SRS-X is an experimental rotation system made from fans of SRS. Features zangi-moves and no Infinity behaviour.

You'll want to stick with HEBORIS and TI-ARS for now.

Game mode

Then you'll have a whole bunch of game mode to choose. Note that you can tune them with the left and right movement button.

Beginner SC/TA
The "Normal" and "Easy" mode from TAP and TGM3 respectively.

Master #G1/#G2/#G3/#G4
The default and Master mode from TGM, TAP and TGM3. #G1 clones TGM, #G3 clones TAP, so does #G2 but with a different ranking system. I think they #G2 show the internal grade (see below), whereas #G3 don't. #G4 tries to clone TGM3.

20G #G1/#G2/#G3/#G4
The same Master game mode but with 20G cheat activated.

Devil Doom/Minus
The "Shirase" and "T.A. Death" mode from TGM3 and TAP respectively. No for the faint of heart nor for the beginners.

Tomoyo FP/TI/EH/TGT/Edit/
The puzzle (or Sakura††) mode from Flashpoint, TGM3, Tetris with Card Captor Sakura, TGM ACE, and an edit mode, respectively.

There's also others mode from TGM ACE and others game, but I don't know/don't want to know what they are.

TGM3 ranking system is not completely described. You only have an approximation.
†† lolzor, pun.

What game mode/rotation system/misc setting should I use ?

For a TGM experience, deactivate Sonic Drop (Setting > Sonic Drop set to "X") and Hold (Option > Hold set to "Disable" )and set the number of preview to 1 (Setting > Next Display set to "1") then use HEBORIS, and Master #G1.

For a TAP Master experience, activate Sonic Drop (Setting > Sonic Drop set to "O"), desactivate Hold (Option > Hold set to "Disable" )and set the number of preview to 1 (Setting > Next Display set to "1") then use HEBORIS, and Master-#G3.
For a TAP Death experience, activate Sonic Drop (Setting > Sonic Drop set to "O"), desactivate Hold (Option > Hold set to "Disable" )and set the number of preview to 1 (Setting > Next Display set to "1") then use HEBORIS, and Devil-Minus.

For a TGM3 Master experience, use the default option, then use TI-ARS, and Master-#G4.
For a TGM3 Shirase experience, use the default option, then use TI-ARS, and Devil-Doom.



J.Oのテトリス講座  : A old but still very good TGM guide. Sadly, it's in japanese. But the image and animation are very instructive.

Youtube: Surprised to see youtube in the link section ? There's ton, *tons* of good player's performance recorded in it. Try with these following keywords: "TGM", "Tetris", "Death Mode", "TAP".

Random Rant

Input method

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

Don't choose a cheap stick, because they generally got inferior grade part. Aim for a stick with Sanwa or Seimitsu parts in it. Most of the time, it is the very same stick that is used in the arcade cabinets. They can withstand years of abuse by frenetic gamers, they *should* last long enough for you, except if you're called Hulk. Also, cheap sticks usually means cheap plastic.

I play with Sega's Virtua Stick High Grade (VSHG). It has been built for PS3, but since nowadays consoles use the convenient USB standard, I was able to plug it into my WinXP PC. And it worked flawlessly Smile . This stick use Sanwa's JLF-TP-8Y stick. What is cool with JLF-TP-8Y is that it can be easily modified from a 8-way stick into a 4-way one, without anything else than the right screwdrivers. So in the end, you can both enjoy Street Fighter *and* TGM. It is a big (~35x22x5 cm) and heavy (I'd say around 3 kg, thanks to the metal plate at the back). Its black coat, dark-gray and yellow buttons and those 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 sometime too strong, and thus activates the opposing switch. That can be a problem, but a more calm playstyle should correct it.


I was able to try the Real Arcade Pro (RAP) for PS2 from Hori. While it also have a JLF-TP-8Y, I felt that it was less stiff than my VSHG. Wheter it is a good or bad thing is up to the player. colour_thief like 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 sometime got confused by the button layout (2x4 for the RAP vs. 2x3 for the VSHG), but that's not a big issue. And its button 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 was less stiff than my stick, this one is a lot more. That results in a more nervous playstyle. Again, how stiff you want your stick is up to you.

Tekken4 ps2.jpg

Those who doesn't 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, the fighting or arcade games. I can handle pretty well with a keyboard or a gamepad. I made up to S3 in TGM1 with the analog stick of a Saitek P990 gamepad. I even know a Gm grade player who regularly play with a pad. The only requirement of those alternative input method is to be able to be very responsive. An analog stick is not a good choice. And if you are a crazy genius (or an 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 imperative tense, ultimately it's up to use these techniques or not. I'm not an uber l33t Gm player, but I think I give good advices.

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


The level counter as displayed in TAP.

Each time a tetramino 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..)


There's four directions and three (four in TGM3) buttons. The latter are called A, B, C and D (or H)

  • ← 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. Note that sonic drop isn't available in TGM1.
  • ↓ 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 the landing of a piece, you got few frames where you can still move the piece. The amount of frame available depends on the level, but you usually got enough time to act, if 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 tetramino 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 TGM2 and 3, 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)


Even though it isn't as predictable as TDS randomizer, it's good to know how 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, this piece is given. If it is, it picks one of the 7 pieces randomly again. If after a certain number of attempts (4 for TGM, 6 for its sequels), 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 how should we use them ? 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 art, you begin at grade (kyu) 9, then you got grade 8, 7 , 6, 5 etc... up to grade 1. Then there's S1, S2, S3... S9, then Gm. There's some conditions to get Gm grade though.

The grade recognition system differs depending on the game.

On TGM1, you grade simply by gaining enough points. To get a Gm, you must finish the game under a certain time.

On TGM2, Death mode, it's survival+time attack: if you can go over level 500 under 3:25, you are M. If you can finish it, you are Gm.

In TGM2 Master mode, that's a little bit 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 TGM2, medals are awarded for particular actions. That doesn't count toward the final score.

  • AC (All clear): Bronze for one bravo, silver for two, gold for three.
  • RO (Rotation): At level 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): Lots of 4-line clears. In Master: 10 awards bronze, 20 awards silver, 35 awards gold. In 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. Note: 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 times..

Corollary: if there's a place when only one tetramino 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 (the name really come 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 makes 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 got an awful start. By cleaning really ugly playfields at low gravity, you are learning how to clean really ugly playfield in 20G (when your 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 than 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 is sehr wichtig

The DAS is very useful to send a tetramino at the edge of the playfield. Tap-tap-tap are far less efficient. You must optimize your mouvement, by pressing the least buttons possible. Time saved on piece manipulation is time available to think about the piece position.

Pyramiding your way, part I

It's a good idea to start piling the tetramino 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. I t is also much more easier let the I falls in the well.

Uses and misuses of the I piece, parti 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 behave, 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 remembers it rotations.

You see, unlike others tetraminos, the I piece got 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 asymmetrixal

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

The I is not a joker, and its distribution won't magically solve all your problem. That's not Tetris DS: unlike it, TGM have a very restrictive regarding the pieces movements. While in TDS a star bonus is a blessing (providing you didn't made too much holes), 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 Tetris Game Boy 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 TDS, 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.

Case Study - That tricky L-kick

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

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


  • Reach rank S1 in TGM.
  • Finish TAP Normal mode.
  • Reach level 300 in TGM
  • Regularly reach level 300 in TGM
  • Reach level 500 in TGM
  • Reach TAP T.A. Death level 150
  • ...