Victory is sweet for this Candy Crush All-Stars 2023 champion
The guy who took home the $100,000 grand prize talks strategy, surprises, and splurges.
For many, Candy Crush is a colorful distraction. It’s a way to survive a long commute. It’s a lifesaver when you’re stuck in a doctor’s office with nothing but yellowed copies of Us Weekly magazine for entertainment.
But earlier this year, the popular tile-matching game went next level.
The Candy Crush All-Stars Tournament saw roughly 20 million people worldwide put their candy-matching skills to the ultimate test, from which a mere 10 finalists emerged. That select group—which included New Yorker Jay Simunovich—were invited to the London offices of King, which makes the game, to vie for a share of a $250,000 prize pool and limited-edition Icebox-designed rings worth $70,000.
When all was said and done, Jay found himself $100,000 richer, and the undisputed Candy Crush champion. Not bad for a guy who had quit Candy Crush “cold turkey” a few years ago. “When I got the email saying, ‘Congratulations, you made the Final 10, it just blew my mind,” he said. “It really did.”
We spoke with Jay about what it was like to win it all.
So what do you do when you’re not beating 20 million other people around the world at Candy Crush?
I work for a little company called Verizon.
Heard of it.
I do fiber optic work. I build the backbones of the system. I work the manholes all over New York City. I’ve been doing this for 25 years—I carry hundreds of pounds of cables up six floor walk-ups. But it’s a lot of fun. I love it. It’s the greatest job in the world.
How did you get hooked on Candy Crush?
I was there at the beginning when it first game out like 10 years ago. It's an amazing game. It really is. It is just a beautiful, well-designed game. It's very enjoyable. Simple as that. Plus, I take the Long Island Railroad every day. Forty-five minutes in, 45 minutes out. And I can play it without Wifi. So I played for a good six, seven years, got to level 5000, but then I quit, cold turkey.
Was that tough to do?
Nah. You delete it off your phone. You don’t see it again. It’s not that hard. It’s a lot easier than quitting smoking, I’ll tell you that. So then I picked it up again and I heard about the tournament and just kept flying through the levels. When I got to the later stages of the competition where you’re dedicating 24 hours to the craziness---those were some of the craziest and most fun times of my life.
Do you have a strategy when you play?
I can see about two or three moves ahead. Sometimes I can drop this here and I know eventually that will happen. I have that little foresight—I’m no chess master genius where I can see twenty-four moves ahead, but I got two or three. I always been a math guy. It's simple math. I mean, everything is math.
Have you always been a gamer?
I play everything. I'm 51. My parents got me Pong when I was like 5 or 6, and I played it little on a black and white TV. I've been playing these games all my life. Atari, Nintendo, Sony, Sega. I can go on and on and on and on. Now I'm playing the new Zelda game, Tears of the Kingdom on Nintendo.
Of course, the big question is: What are you doing with the prize money?
I bought a ticket for Power Trip. It’s a three-day festival in California. AC/DC, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, and Tool. I bought that the day I won. Bought the plane ticket, and I’m renting a Chevy Suburban to camp out in. That was my only splurge.
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