European Riichi Championship Report

So I failed to get a report on Guildford written within a timely manner. I’m stuck in preparations to move country again so I just haven’t had a chance. I apologise! However, I’m currently sat on the train travelling to Frankfurt from Hannover and I thought it was the ideal time to get my thoughts down whilst they were still fresh in my mind. So I’m afraid you’ll have to get the reports in the wrong order.

If you want an objective report on the tournament, please head over to mahjongnews.com. Martin always prepares excellent reports. My report, in contrast, will be subjective.
The European Riichi Championship was held in Hannover in what can only be described as blistering heat. I used to be quite good with the heat while I was in Asia but being back in England has made me a wuss again.
I’d like to use the heat as my excuse for my score but it really wasn’t. I started well, really well. I was 75k up at the end of the second table. After that, the less said the better. That’s not to say I wasn’t pleased with my performance. In some respects, I did some very good things. For example, I felt I did well in the face of some awesome misfortune. The most notable was probably feeding the dealer, Chang Xue of Austria, a yakuman. I’d reached a few turns before with what could have been a 12,000 hand so there was nothing I could do. I ended up around -70k on that table for a while but I managed to claw it back to a fairly respectable -30k. That made me happy. I kept my cool in situations where I used to crumble.
What did I do badly? I’m starting to see that I’m slow at getting ready hands (tempai). I think I’m not discarding the right tiles to get to a hand quick enough when the situation requires it. I picked up a copy of Kaji-san’s book (translated by Ben and Juho) and started reading it as I waited for my train. I wish I had read it before the tournament! Some of the content I was familiar with and could answer the questions. Some of it I was rusty with. Some of it I had never even considered. I went through a streak of getting excellent results and I’ve started to slip. I’ve just got to work out where I’m going wrong. The tournament and Ben/Kaji’s seminar really made me think about my own play, which is really what this game is about. So gotta study more and get grinding on tenhou again. I feel like I’ve discovered that mouldy bit of cheese in the back of the fridge that was making it stink!
As for the all important top placers! Third place was the USPML representative, David. I suspect a trophy made his trans-atlantic flight worth it. I’m sorry I didn’t get to play on a table with David, but I’ve promised to make a trip to NY so I’m sure I’ll have my chance soon. Second place went to Joel Ratsimandresy, again a player that I unfortunately didn’t get to play against. First place, and very well deserved went to Maurice of the Netherlands. I played on a table against him and he is a formidable opponent. The difference between first and second place was a tiny 700 points!
Anyway, in regards to the tournament organization, it was fantastic. Ilka and her team had done a great job of getting the whole weekend moving with no hitches (not that I noticed anyway!). Ben proved himself to be a harsh but fair referee. His style of reffing was a little different to how we’ve done things in Europe before but I think it would be worth adopting some of its elements.

Skill-wise, I think the European players have come on in leaps and bounds. I was very much a beginner in ERC 2008 but even then I noticed there was very little defensive play and hands were generally cheap. This time I saw a lot more strategy going on, the tables were significantly faster and people weren’t needing to check score sheets constantly. We’ve really come on! Just look at the final scores to see how close things were. We had no ridiculously high scores either. Those winners really had to fight for those points, which is exactly how it should be!
Of course, as in every tournament of this size, the matter of the rules rears its ugly head again. Actually the kuitan (open tanyao) grumblings were absent this time. Most of the debates (heated or otherwise) seemed to be about the new 75 minute rule (after 75 mins, the gong is struck to indicate that upon completing the hand, you can only play one more) and other scoring issues, like using the Japanese scoring system of everyone starting at 25k.
These are all interesting and valid points worth discussion for possibly adoption in the future. However, I really don’t think we should be getting upset. Look how far European mahjong has come in such a short space of time. We hold excellent tournaments. We may be still bashing out the dents in the rules but it’s only time we need to fix them now. We’re already on the same boat, which is the important thing; we’re just arguing about whether we want to paint it off-white or cream.

Anyway, thank you to all my old friends for another fantastic weekend. I wish I could do it all again this weekend. To all my new friends, I can’t wait to get to know you better!

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