Lakeman's Revenge: Copeland Defeated In Kong Off 5's Final Round!

Lakeman and Copeland vie for the win while Dean Saglio calls the action
Photos: Jeff Harrist
Photo: TJ Jones

August 3rd, 2016 - This past weekend, classic gaming fans watched as the second Kong Off in a row culminated in the perfect grudge match.

Once again, a world record holder and the champion he ousted into second place were pitted against one other for the Kong Off final. And as before, #2 in the record books walked away #1 for the day.

Last year it was Robbie Lakeman versus Hank Chien, with Chien taking the Kong Off title, but Lakeman still above him in the all-time standings.

This time around, it's Lakeman who will wear the Kong Off belt, while Wes Copeland's high score remains the one to beat.

It couldn't have been scripted better.

Day 2 high score attempts
Photo: William McEvoy

More than a dozen players fought for supremacy over the course of the first two days, but only the eight with the highest scores could move on to the third day's bracketed head-to-head semi-finals.

Billy Mitchell, who competed in the event but declined to submit any scores, emceed the Day 3 matches for the ReplayFX crowd and the camera crews gathering footage for upcoming documentaries.

A surprise appearance from the Dark Lord of the Sith
(joined by another of cinema history's greatest villains!)
Photo: William McEvoy
Lakeman embraces Jeff Wolfe after their semi-final match
Photo: William McEvoy

Fatigue from a grueling, sleep-deprived weekend was a major factor on the last day, but one by one Copeland and Lakeman worked through their brackets (shown here) until the stage was set for the ultimate showdown.

Dean Saglio and Hank Chien, now relieved of their competitive duties, took to the mic to provide expert commentary for the fans watching on stream, illuminating the finer points of Donkey Kong strategy and inviting viewers inside the thought processes of high-level play.

While a new world record will never be the goal in a single coin head-to-head, Lakeman and Copeland forced each other to play hard. Deep in the game, Copeland was well ahead of Lakeman in pace, but behind him in spare men. Eventually fatigue got the best of Copeland and he succumbed to the Level 19 rivet board with a score of 975,900. This instantly gave the victory to Lakeman (since his score was already past Copeland's), but Lakeman opted to play out the remainder, cashing in all of his spare men on the last barrel board and treating the crowd to a kill screen with a score of 1,096,100.

Photo: William McEvoy

Hundreds of viewers were on hand to witness the finish, both live at the ReplayFX event, and on Twitch (thanks in no small part to a story on Polygon, which helped "boost the signal" for us.

#5 was, by far, the best-streamed Kong Off of them all, with almost total coverage of every minute of gameplay and three full days of commentary from top players, fans, and guests. Special appreciation must go to Jeff Harrist, creator of Donkey Kong Forum, and competitor Daniel Desjardins, who both went the extra mile to set up the live streams, which will remain archived at

Photo: Ethan Daniels

The Kong Off 6 is still in the earliest planning stages. Certainty at this point is limited only to the understanding that it will not be held again in Pittsburgh at ReplayFX (which was always a strict two-year engagement for Kong Offs 4 and 5), nor at the 1up in Denver (Kong Offs 2 and 3). The most likely scenario will be a return to where it all began at the inaugural Kong Off: Richie Knucklez arcade in New Jersey.

As for Lakeman, while the "retirement" talk comes and goes (and comes again), he's still got a world record to reclaim, and has stated that as long as he believes it to be within his reach, he'll keep trying for it.

Kong on!

Kong Off 5 Final Match: Copeland vs. Lakeman

July 31st, 2016, 2:30 PM EDT - The preliminary matches are complete, and it's come down to none other than Wes Copeland, the current world record holder, versus Robbie Lakeman, the man he took the record from!

Tune in NOW to the final round at!

UPDATE 5:00 PM EDT: It's over! Lakeman defeated Copeland 1,096,100 to 975,900 for the Kong Off 5 title in an incredibly suspenseful head-to-head. You can watch the end here.

Wrap-up coming soon.

Day 2 Recap: Saglio Takes First (By 300 Points!) On Last Quarter; Chien Will Not Repeat As Kong Off Champion

Dean Saglio and Hank Chien

July 30th, 2016 - Kong Offs 1 through 4 have been a Hank Chien and Jeff Willms dynasty - with Chien winning the first and fourth, and Willms going back-to-back in the second and third.

We can't be sure whether or not Willms will emerge with another victory tomorrow, but he is still in contention.

Chien, though, is not, having finished the high score portion of the tournament outside of the top 8, and thus eliminated from Sunday's head-to-head finals.

Copeland In! Lemay Survives!

Early in the day, current world record holder Wes Copeland finally found his bearings and pushed his way from the bottom of the leaderboard into 4th place, ensuring himself a place on Sunday.

Then, as Day 2 drew toward "last quarter", all eyes turned to the low-hanging fruit.

The players in the top 7 spots were secure with scores well over a million points. But Vincent Lemay's 993,500 from Day 1 (over 50,000 points below the 7th place score) was still clinging to 8th... with a bright red target on its back.

Players still outside of the bubble (namely Chien, Ethan Daniels, and Daniel Desjardins) all set out on a last-quarter hunt for their tournament lives, with Lemay himself alongside them mounting a defense, trying to increase the score they were trying to beat.

One by one they fell (Daniels coming closest about 60,000 points short), but Kong managed to stave them all off, leaving Vincent alive to fight the final day, surprised but happy.

Earlier, Lemay had a little Facebook fun with the situation:

Nobody, including Lemay, expected his score to hold, but "Lemay math" prevailed. Let us never doubt it again.

That left just one last piece of business to be decided.

Saglio Snatches First Place From Lakeman

It's almost a rule in Donkey Kong tournaments that last-quarter will bring drama, and often a stunning upset. Dean Saglio did the honors this time. Having already secured a top 8 spot earlier in the tournament, Saglio was free to spend Day 2 playing at a higher pace in pursuit of Lakeman's Day 1 best.

He did it by a hair, a single barrel smash on the kill screen bridging the gap.

Saglio, who has experienced much disappointment in tournaments - Kong Offs in particular - was thrilled.

"Fifth time's the charm for being at the top of the high score competition. It took until Kong Off 5 to get to the top of the leaderboard. So, psyched about that. It took every barrel to get there."

In one fell swoop, Saglio earned tournament vindication, the high score first place prize money, and extracted a little payback from Lakeman, who just last month eclipsed 1.2 million and beat Saglio's personal best, pushing Saglio into third on the all-time scoreboard.

Tonight must have felt good.

Lakeman and Copeland at the announcer table

Here are the full standings as of the end of Day 2:

RankPlayerBest Score
1Dean Saglio 1,135,600
2Robbie Lakeman 1,135,300
3Jeff Willms 1,071,200
4Wes Copeland 1,061,200
5Steve Wiltshire 1,054,400
6Jeff Wolfe 1,049,700
7Jason Wade 1,046,900
8Vincent Lemay 993,500
9Ethan Daniels 933,900
10Hank Chien 885,000
11Tanner Fokkens 884,100
12Mick Winzeler 778,600
13Daniel Desjardins 727,300
14Eric Tessler 581,200

Meanwhile this very day, in an adjacent section of the (massive) David L. Lawrence Convention Center removed from the ReplayFX/Kong Off event, a rally was held for and presided over by none other than candidate Hillary Clinton herself!

Did they stop by to check out the action at the Kong Off? We will never know, but the ReplayFX staff commented on the situation by offering up a candidate of their own:

Whether you're planning to vote for Trump, Clinton, or Kong, be sure to watch the Kong Off 5 live stream starting at 9 AM Eastern for the final head-to-head matchups!

Day 1 Recap: Lakeman In Control

July 30th, 2016 - The phenomenal Robbie Lakeman wasted no time on the first day of Kong Off competition in securing his place in Sunday's bracketed finals.

On the very first quarter-drop of the tournament, Lakeman scored 1,135,300, not merely guaranteeing that he would make the cut (while putting heavy pressure on his world-record rival Wes Copeland), but in doing so, managed to pull off the highest score ever achieved at a Kong Off.

Mirroring the Day 1 results from last year's Kong Off 4, 2nd and 3rd place were held by the always-reliable Dean Saglio and Jeff Willms, followed by strong showings from Jason Wade and a focused Steve Wiltshire, who came determined not to repeat history. He ended up on the wrong side of the bubble in 9th place at the very end of Day 2 of the Kong Off 4. His 1,043,600 is not a lock, but is likely to hold up.

The million mark has yet to be breached by anyone else in the field, but rest assured, it will be. Vincent Lemay came the closest with 993,500.

Billy "USA" Mitchell honoring his long-running tradition - taunting Canadians - while Jeff Willms (right) works to cover the exchange rate

Tanner Fokkens who became the youngest Donkey Kong kill-screener in the game's history last year at the tender age of 16, holds 7th position.

Ending the day in 8th place, defending Kong Off champion Hank Chien managed 851,000, but will have his work cut out for him if he wants to survive to Sunday.

Here are the full standings as of the end of Day 1:

RankPlayerBest Score
1Robbie Lakeman 1,135,300
2Dean Saglio 1,084,100
3Jeff Willms 1,071,200
4Jason Wade 1,046,900
5Steve Wiltshire 1,043,600
6Vincent Lemay 993,500
7Tanner Fokkens 884,100
8Hank Chien 851,000
9Ethan Daniels 824,800
10Wes Copeland 815,100
11Mick Winzeler 778,600
12Eric Tessler 581,200

Sadly, Steve Wiebe, whose role in The King of Kong is one of the reasons we're all here in the first place, encountered a last-minute family emergency and was unable to attend this year's event. His presence is missed, but the show must go on.

Will Copeland pull ahead of Lakeman? Will Chien have the opportunity to defend his title? Might the great Saglio finally get a chance to walk away from a Kong Off with the belt?

Stay tuned to Kong Off 5 live stream and the official scoreboard to find out, and thanks to Polygon for sending viewers our way!

Countdown to Kong Off 5

July 27th, 2016 - This weekend, the Donkey Kong elite will converge to do battle once again live and in person at the fifth installment of the Kong Off!

For the second year in a row, The ReplayFX Arcade & Gaming Festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA will be hosting the tournament.

Play won't begin for another 48 hours, but participants are already arriving, and Kong Off Row is set.

The format will be identical to The Kong Off 4, with two days of high score competition, culminating in a head-to-head bracketed elimination tournament between the 8 highest-scoring players.

Friday: Start - 12 PM; Last Quarter - 7 PM
Saturday: Start - 10 AM; Last Quarter - 9 PM
Sunday: Head to Head Finals - 10 AM

Live Streams: - Main Stream - Cabinets - Cabinets - Cabinets - Cabinets - Cabinets - Cabinets

Stop by to watch, chat, and learn!

Highlights from each day's action will be posted here during the event. The Day 1 recap should appear sometime Saturday afternoon. Until then, good luck to all competitors, and cheers to our first five years!

Undisputed: Wes Copeland Sails Past Donkey Kong's Finish Line With A Score Worthy Of The Ages

May 7th, 2016 - This is the one we were waiting for.

The end of the Donkey Kong world record chase has been promised, prophesied, argued about, and speculated over for years.

We knew that the run to do it would have to mate flawless play with exceedingly good fortune in order to birth a score that could never occur with just one of the two. A score about which we could confidently say, even if not definitively, "this will never be beaten."

On Thursday night, Wes Copeland gave us that score.

Copeland not only finally surpassed the 1.2 million threshold on an original 1981 arcade machine (a feat considered by many to be impossible until only a couple of years ago), he stormed through Donkey Kong's defensive artillery in truly spectacular fasion: without the involuntary loss of a single life.

To be exact, Copeland collected 1,173,800 points, blowing past 24 of the preceding 28 world records... before losing even one of his four men.

This meant that, after over three hours of maximum point pressing, and upon reaching the penultimate board on his first man, Copeland was in position to execute the ultimate "cash-in" scenario—a tactic where the player intentionally sacrifices his spares (since they are unnecessary at that point) in order to replay the final round of barrels and milk them for every last drop.

It's rare enough to get there with one spare. Copeland had all three. After exchanging his lives for points and completing the final touches, Jumpman number four died as he always must, to the kill screen bug that strikes seven seconds into the first board of Level 22.

Those of us on hand for the stream had witnessed a just-about-perfect game of Donkey Kong.

The performance, in particular the final few levels, was like seeing a poker master, already crushing the table with what he's being dealt, start to catch straights and flushes hand after consecutive hand. Or like repeatedly re-reading the happy denouement of a fairy tale. Copeland cheerfully breezed though, with everything going his way, and then some.

And while their back-and-forth rivalry over the record is now over, former champ Robbie Lakeman may never let Copeland hear the end of it.

Following the game, Copeland announced that he was finished with Donkey Kong outside of tournaments. He also settled a bet between himself and a forum poster who had put $1,000 on the proposition that Copeland would not crack 1.2 million by the end of the year. Copeland asked that the money be donated to a charity of the bettor's choice, suggesting specifically Doctors Without Borders.

Resolving The Dispute

On July 8th 2009, Dean Saglio, playing on the MAME emulator, surpassed Billy Mitchell's then-standing record score. But since he did so on a PC, he could not be declared the "official" world champion. That business was transacted between Hank Chien, Lakeman, and Copeland, who would go back and forth besting each other for the highest score on their arcade machines. Saglio, though, remained untouched on MAME, consistently putting himself far beyond the competition.

The "true" world record was an awkward situation for nearly seven years, leaving to spirited debate (and public confusion) the matter of who really held it—was it the guys on the cabinets, or the guy on the keyboard?

With this performance, Copeland made the question moot. His 1,218,000 surpassed Saglio's 1,206,800 best from 2013, and by a rather wide margin. Copeland is now at the absolute top, and unless Saglio beats this score, the "arcade vs. MAME" issue can be put to rest... at least for the time being.

A practical joke dropped on Dean's cabinet at Kong Off 3

Never Say Never

In 2013, right after Saglio got his 1.2, I wrote: "All that remains now is to bring this 30-year war full circle by matching Saglio's score (or getting as close as possible) on the original arcade hardware... Can it be? And who is willing?"

At the time, we barely knew Wes, who was only just beginning to emerge. He has now completed that final task.

Will his score eventually meet the same fate?

Saglio has the best shot, at least on MAME. In fact, he seems to have been rekindled. I am listening to live audio from his Twitch channel even at the moment of this writing. "1.22" is the newly-posted target.

But Saglio may be the only player with the means and the motive, and unless he starts playing regularly on a cabinet, there is no other heir apparent. No player in the current competition pool has expressed any intention or expectation of beating Copeland with a joystick in the foreseeable future. Many of those, like Lakeman, who were not quite ready to surrender their world record aspirations before Thursday, are now conceding.

Having said that, if the score can be achieved once, it can, necessarily, be achieved again, and with a cherry on top. The question is, does it need to be? Copeland's run is, for all intents and purposes, a practical maxout. That's what we wanted to see, and it exceeded expectations. This is a world record that leaves nothing to complain about, and so much to praise. The theoretical possibility of better is one thing; summoning the insane and blazing fire of motivation it will take to realize it is another.

If someone, someday, surpasses his score, Copeland himself will not be the one to do it, and he has stated he will not attempt a reclamation. In his words, "this is the last personal best I will ever get." Copeland will continue to play in tournaments, but his record-hunting days are over.

The Monkey Will Keep Climbing

The apparent end of the world record chase does not spell the end of competitive Donkey Kong. This event alone will not cause a wholesale decline in interest. Most players have no aspirations of breaking the record and never did, so an "unbeatable" score is no threat to the viability of continued competition. There's a lot more to play for than taking down the all-time best.

Nonetheless, now that the long-awaited 1.2 has been achieved on an arcade cabinet, it can never again be achieved for the first time. In that sense, Donkey Kong is dead.

Long live Donkey Kong!

Selected Coverage

Here is a sampling of some of the media coverage about this score. The list is far from complete, and will continue to grow. Thanks to all for heping the story spread, and especially to the outlets citing Donkey Blog as a source.

Twin Galaxies: Wes Copeland Submits The Greatest Donkey Kong Performance of All Time! (First published report)
Polygon: Donkey Kong's All-Time Record Broken Again, With a 'Perfect' Game (First press report, and most highly-cited)
Ars Technica: Is This The World’s First “Perfect” Game of Donkey Kong? (Recommended reading, the community's top pick)
IGN: Donkey Kong World Champ Achieves Perfect Score
Slashdot: New "Perfect Game" Donkey Kong Record May Be Unbeatable
Wired: Donkey Kong Player Sets 'Perfect Score' on Classic Game
Huffington Post: Don’t Even Bother Trying To Beat This Guy At ‘Donkey Kong’
Digital Trends: Donkey Kong Crown Reclaimed: World Record Score Breaks 1.2 Million
Uproxx: Wes Copeland Reclaims His ‘Donkey Kong’ World Record With A Near-Perfect Game
Slashfilm: Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell Will Never Be ‘The King of Kong’ Again
Bad Gamer: Donkey Kong Player Reckons He's Posted the Perfect World Record High Score
Den of Geek: Donkey Kong Player Posts "Perfect" World Record Score
GoNintendo: Donkey Kong - New World Record Score Achieved By Wes Copeland
Attack of the Fanboy: Donkey Kong Record Regained by Wes Copeland
Destructoid: All Hail the New, Possibly Last King of Kong

Lakeman And Copeland Hit New World Records In The Race To Donkey Kong's Maximum Score

April 23rd, 2016 -The month of April will (probably) end as it began, with Wes Copeland the reigning Donkey Kong world record holder, but not without a surprise reappearance from former champ Robbie Lakeman, who reclaimed the title and held it for just over a week before an unstoppable Copeland seized it right back.

In the dead of night on Monday April 11th, Lakeman's channel sprang to life with a streamed replay of a game he had just finished. The live audience for the broadcast was sparse, due to the late hour for Stateside classic arcaders, and the replay had no sound, but it served its purpose.

A single 300-point barrel smash on the first board of Level 22, less than two seconds before the game's famous kill screen bug ended the run, allowed Lakeman to inch past Copeland's 1,190,000 score by a mere 200 points. It was the narrowest margin of victory in the history of record-breaking Donkey Kong games, and not a sure thing until the final point-award. One time out of four, the game's random number generator would have rolled the decisive barrel right past the ladder that Lakeman needed it to come down, leaving his hammer dry just 100 points short, but the odds were on his side, and the outcome fell in his favor.

Copeland awoke the next day to find himself out of a title. But being at the top of his game, and still playing nearly every day, he did not waste a moment in mounting a comeback, announcing his intentions in a Twitch chat:

True to his word, Copeland spent the next week in a ferocious spree of attempts, playing an average of nearly eight hours a day before teh urn that pushed the Donkey Kong high score up another 4,900 points to 1,195,100.

And so, after not even eight days had passed, Lakeman was playing from behind again. The retaliation had been swift and pitiless; Copeland's way of making Lakeman answer for beating his first world record so quickly last September.

The joke was made on Donkey Kong Forum that the higher the record goes, the more often it seems to get broken. Indeed, while Hank Chien had the top spot to himself for nearly four years, the high score has been topped by either Lakeman or Copeland an unprecedented nine times since September of 2014.

The situation is counterintuitive, given that each new record requires increasingly favorable randomness, but also understandable, given the current circumstances.

While Dean Saglio scored 1.2 million points on the MAME emulator almost three years ago—a virtual maxout—Copeland and Lakeman both want to be the first to achieve it on original arcade hardware. And while each may do it for himself eventually, only one can be the first to do it.

Lakeman has been less-than-transparent, evidently having changed his mind about his self-reported "retirement," and preferring to make attempts off-stream from what he calls "Secret Private DK Island." His approach is more low-key, almost reclusive. Lakeman is haunted with a fear of the jinx, and is convinced that bad fortune will befall him if a live audience is watching, talking about, linking to, or even thinking about a game in progress (particularly if that audience happens to include "Mr. Awestralia" Allen Staal).

Copeland, in contrast, is public and highly vocal, live-streaming every moment of his 1.2 attempts... but keenly aware that, behind closed doors on the Island, the cagey Lakeman could be up to anything.

Motivation for these two players is higher than it could ever otherwise be if they weren't pushing one another. The very next record-breaking game stands a good chance of being the last record-breaking game, and both of them know it.

This Time It Will Last: Wes Copeland Retakes The Donkey Kong World Record From Robbie Lakeman!

January 4th 2016 - Wes Copeland has come forward in a commanding fashion to reclaim what he first held last September for only a few short hours. Once again, Copeland has taken the Donkey Kong world record from Robbie Lakeman... but unlike last time, he'll still have it when the sun rises.

The score to beat now is a neat and tidy 1,190,000. Lakeman plans to gun for it in due time, and in fact, jumped onto his Twitch livestream within minutes of Copeland's achievement to try for a repeat of his previous lightning-quick takeback. No such luck was forthcoming, but Lakeman showed the community that while he may be down, he's not necessarily out.

King For Not Even A Day

Donkey Kong's new champion Wes Copeland (right),
with his predecessor Robbie Lakeman

"Copie" didn't get where he did tonight without some serious pain. Nobody can say that the 25 year old software engineer didn't earn what he just pulled off.

Consulting The Guinness Book of World Records to learn of history's shortest reigning monarch, one will find that distinction belonging to a King Luis II of Portugal, who, in 1908, was head of his state for just 20 minutes before dying from an assassin's wound.

Last September, Copeland found himself in the company of that unfortunate early 20th century ruler, by beating Lakeman's record high score and becoming the new King of Kong... only to lose the title right back to Lakeman less than six hours later.

The gut-punch hit Copeland hard, knocking off the last of the effects of the celebratory bottle of Dom Perignon that he'd cracked open so soon prior. The new champ didn't even get to sleep on his title. The almost unimaginable turn of events left Copeland, in his words, "emotionally scarred" to this day.

Unfazed, Copeland immediately took to Donkey Kong Forum with a declaration of intent:

"When I first announced that I wanted to go for my first kill screen, while many were supportive, I did receive a fair share of cynicism and skepticism. I did it in a little over two months and proved the doubters wrong. When I mentioned I wanted 1 million I heard a similar chorus -- a wave of support from many and strong skepticism from a handful. I proved those folks wrong too. The exact same thing happened when I said I wanted 1.1m... and again when I said I wanted the world record. I intend to take the record back, regardless of who is holding it before I do, and at this point, I hope I've proven at the very least to those cynics and skeptics that I'm difficult to bet against.

That bottle of Dom Perignon was the first I'd ever had, and it was quite good. I am looking forward to opening another one."

Copeland in competition at the Kong Off 4 last July
Photo: William McEvoy

Some indeed called Copeland's September game "lucky," with even Wes himself surprised to have defeated Lakeman somewhat sooner than he'd expected. The two performances were subjected to deep comparative analysis on the forum. Merits were debated. Graphs were produced. Top competitor Ethan Daniels presented a tour de force argument making the case that "luck" was not a useful metric by which to contrast the two players' abilities.

It was obvious, at any rate, that this brief taste of championhood only left Copeland hungrier to regain it.

The Comeback

For the past four months, Copeland has thrown himself at Donkey Kong with as much furious determination as Lakeman, who spent much of 2014 trying to defeat Hank Chien.

Tonight's game came near the end of another Donkey Kong Online Open tournament. With a $2,000 world record bounty up for grabs through midnight, it was clearly the best of times.

There was no second bottle of Dom Perignon at the ready. In fact, Copeland's reaction the moment he zoomed past Lakeman's score was, to put it mildly, understated. Almost as if he hadn't even noticed. Copeland was more than ready to achieve the score, and he knew it, so any thrill may have been tempered by a heavy shadow of inevitability.

"I kinda feel like I've done everything I need to now." Copeland (now $2,000 richer) said after the game. "I just hope Robbie at least lets me sleep on it."

As before, Lakeman attempted a retaliation, but it came to an early end, at which point he congratulated Wes, and spoke for a few minutes to his viewers:

"I'm not gonna play anymore, at least for a while. I can finally focus on things that should really matter to me at this point... Wes, definitely enjoy it, you'll have it for a while. I had the record longer than I thought I would... I just turned 29, I'm working on getting my life more in order. This was an outlet for a while, but I've gotten where I want to be with it. The torch has now been passed."

Three world champions: (from left) Robbie Lakeman, Billy Mitchell, and Wes Copeland
receiving a voicemail from the one and only Allen Staal (second link extremely NSFW)

Is It (Finally) Over?

This past August, several top players were interviewed for The Last Kings of Kong, a feature that ran on ESPN's They explained that as long as the world record remains below "1.2," there are still points left to wrestle out of the giant ape. After Copeland's performance tonight, we're only 10,000 away. When talking about a seven-digit score, that amount seems like such a tiny fraction of the total, and indeed it is. But topping it is still possible.

In fact, 1,200,000 is actually a tad "conservative" (relatively speaking), but as the aforementioned Ethan Daniels put it on Donkey Kong Forum:

"...the ceiling number in my eyes is 1.24ish with current strats, but hot diggity the work load is astronomical at this point, fighting the limits of human perseverance as well as the RNG Lotto; hypothetical-math and reality are two different beasts."

It would seem that Copeland and Lakeman are both stepping back for a long break. That leaves the door open for competitors like Daniels, and of course Dean Saglio, who still holds the world record on the MAME arcade game emulator, and who many consider to be the true champion, if not for the firm and long-standing tradition that the record can only be set on original 1981 arcade hardware.

Those final maxout points are still sitting there.

Someone will come for them.


- Stream of Copeland's world record game
- Stream of Lakeman's reclamation attempt (link jumps directly to post-game comments)
- Official Twin Galaxies score submission and adjudication (still in process)
- Donkey Kong Forum congratulations thread
- Donkey Blog post: Robbie Lakeman breaks Hank Chien's record (September 2014)
- Donkey Blog post: Copeland beats Lakeman, Lakeman beats Copeland (September 2015)

For Reference

Thanks to stats hero and Donkey Kong Forum score submission referee Jeremy Young for getting immediately to work on the breakdown of this game.

Copeland's performance, while falling short of the point total of Dean Saglio's record on the MAME emulator, was nonetheless the highest level average ever achieved (Copeland's lower final score is due to a lower start score and fewer "death points"—see Understanding Pace for background).

The board-by-board numbers and pace graph (click to enlarge):

TO BE UPDATED: World Record Broken Twice (and Lakeman Is Still Champ)

September 21st, 2015 - Last Thursday night, during the latest Donkey Kong Online Open, Wes Copeland beat Robbie Lakeman's world record... and six hours later, Robbie snatched it right back!

So where in the name of Jumpman is the post about "the story of the year?"

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to get to it in a timely manner, but rest assured, a report is pending.

Thankfully Twin Galaxies was able to be there when I couldn't and got the news wires stirring!

Next thing we knew, Wes and Robbie were hitting the front pages of (among many others) Wired, The International Business Times, and even MTV.

I couldn't be happier to have been "scooped" by TG, and am pleased to see their name back in the news again in the midst of their long period of re-emergence.

What matters, ultimately, is that Wes and Robbie's story got out there. TG doing the deed is another great sign that they've picked up the torch for the gaming community and are running with it again.

As for this blog, I'll let the event marinate for a bit. Though Donkey Blog has proudly broken "world record" news in the past, it's not always a priority (and that's going to be even truer going forward). Better to think of this site more like a magazine than a newspaper.

More soon!

Hammering Hank Chien Wins The Kong Off 4! Lakeman Defeated In Final Round Grudge Match

Photo: Jeff Harrist

August 3rd, 2015 - Hank Chien tasted sweet revenge on Sunday when the deposed world record holder defeated his usurper, the current King of Kong Robbie Lakeman, in an ultimate final round grudge match at the Kong Off 4.

Chien may no longer be on top of the all-time high score standings, but another Kong Off win (his second after the the inaugural installment in 2011) is a comeback to be proud of.

The always amazing Jeff Willms submitted the event's highest overall score, and if not for the new head-to-head finals, would have successfully defended his Kong Off title once again for an unprecedented three in a row.

The Bracket Tourney

Sunday's single-elimination bracket tournament—consisting of eight players in seven matches and seeded by Friday and Saturday's high score competition—initially met with wide skepticism. Players and observers were unsure whether or not the format could succeed, being so radical a departure from the traditional model.

Scores for this "one-and-done" style were indeed relatively low compared to those attained in isolated, individual sessions, where players can enjoy the luxury of multiple attempts and easily-aborted weak games, with only their very best game ultimately mattering.

But when limited to one game, against a specific player, entirely new dynamics are introduced, and the community at large came away very pleasantly surprised with the excitement, pressure, and novelty of this much more direct form of competition.

Commentary At Last!

Several weeks ago, during Steve Wiebe's appearance at the Mall of America, Mitchell Elliott was a guest on the live stream, and offered superb running commentary on the action, helping viewers to better comprehend what they were watching. It was a taste of what was to come this past weekend.

Donkey Kong live-streamed games and tournaments have always struggled with the problem of a game that is notoriously spectator-unfriendly. For the uninitiated, it's slow, hard to understand, and tactically arcane.

As Jesse Hicks of the Verge described it in his 2013 piece on the Kong Off 3: "To the casual eye it's something less than poetry in motion."

On Sunday, expert players including Wes Copeland, Ethan Daniels, Dean Saglio, as well as Wiebe, Elliot, and others, sat down in the ReplayFX broadcast booth to do their part making Donkey Kong more accessible. For the first time ever, Kong Off matches were streamed with play-by-play announcers, and the results were very well-received.

I've wanted commentary for a long time and it was wonderful to see how strong and professional it turned out to be.

Here is the final Lakeman versus Chien match. If you've ever wanted to understand just what goes into playing this game at a high level, I recommend giving it a listen:

On To Next Year

The Kong Off 5 has already been scheduled for next year, where Hank Chien will defend his title at the same location and on the same weekend at ReplayFX in Pittsburgh.

Thanks to Richie Knucklez for his hard work in making the Kong Offs happen, and to many others who help in so many ways behind the scenes. Photographer William McEvoy deserves special mention for his talents, covering the last three Kong Offs, as well as other classic gaming events around the country. Needless to say, McEvoy's work has been indispensable to my blog posts.

I'd also like to thank renowned gaming journalist and Gamasutra publisher Simon Carless, who over the weekend Tweeted a link to the coverage here and sent some curious traffic in this direction. The gaming and tech press has always been kind to Donkey Blog and it is always appreciated.

And on the subject of traffic...

It's pure serendipity that it would happen within a fortnight or so of a Kong Off coming to a close, but it would seem that my pageview counter's rollover to 1 million is imminent! When I started this blog four years ago, it was a pet project that I never would have foreseen hitting that milestone. My "score" here is higher than my personal best at the game. Much gratitude goes out to the many thousands who have linked, reddited, Tweeted, shared, read, commented, and encouraged.

Congratulations to Hank, Jeff, and all the other competitors for another well-played Kong Off!

Hard at work on Kong Off Row
Ethan Daniels' understated reaction to a Steve Wiebe autograph
Richie Knucklez and Alan Radue with the champion's barstool Radue created for the event
The Kong Off 4 lineup (left to right): Walter Day, Jason Wade, Ethan Daniels, Dean Saglio, Jeff Wolfe, Steve Wiltshire, Wes Copeland, Mike Groesbeck, Daniel Desjardins, Steve Wiebe, Vincent Lemay, Jeff Willms, Hank Chien, Eric Tessler, Jeff Harrist, Robbie Lakeman, Billy Mitchell
All photos: William McEvoy