Jenn’s Corner #9: Tournaments

A few too many days have passed since the last column and I have to apologize. I was planning on having this up on March 3rd and here it is, already early morning on the 6th. Last week was extremely busy with Gemma visiting Tokyo (that means lots of real-mahjong sessions), Garthe playing in Champion’s League, add in another mini-tournament on Sunday and finally preparations for Garthe and my trip to Las Vegas!!

Jenn at the TournamentGarthe and I are here to watch one of Amercan Mahjong’s biggest tournaments run by Mahjong Madness at the Riviera every year. While neither of us know how to play American Mahjong (yet), we are going to experiment a bit while we’re here and hopefully get to know some of the people on this side of the ocean that love this game. People seem really friendly so far and we’ll let you know how everything works out.

With the tournament season in full swing, I want to take a few minutes to talk about tournaments. Even within Reach Mahjong, there are so many variations that I think it is worth an entire column. Our other goals this week are to provide a full report of the first ever Japan Professional Mahjong League Women’s League Finals and also get the scoring system up on the website (I know people have been waiting). That combined with playing poker everyday and we will have our hands full for the week!

Garthe in 2ndNow, tournament time. Let’s start with the fun ones! Small, just for fun tournaments in Reach Mahjong usually finish in one day. One (not so small) popular one is SNPM’s Pair Match, held every January. Each participant chooses someone to be paired up with and the couple’s score is combined to decide placement and prizes. The tournament only lasts 1 day and each player plays 4 games. This is a fun type of tournament because it only takes a day and the atmosphere is usually very friendly and attracts players of all skill level and background. Many Mahjong Parlors also choose to host similar tournaments for singles. Garthe and I spent this past Sunday, March 6th participating in a tournament like this that attracted about 25 players.

Garthe was good enough to get 2nd place and a prize too!

The fellow handing Garthe the prize is the assistant manager of this particular Mahjong Parlor and also a fellow JPML member, Shintarou Kamimura.
Garthe in 2ndWhen the tournaments start to get more serious, the time period is much longer. Most Professional tournaments will hold a 1-2 day qualifying match, followed by the main tournament, preliminaries, semi-finals and then the final table, taking anywhere from 3 to 8 days for just one tournament. Regular leagues usually hold 5 days of 4 games each before final tournaments spread out over a few months.

There are a few ways to cut people out before the final table to get your final 4 (or 5 if one player will rotate out). The simplest way is by total points. Everyone plays at a different table for 4 games and at the end, the top 50% or so pass the qualifier. At the main tournament, everyone starts over at zero (and in many tournaments in Tokyo, certain players are seeded in). The top 16 or so move on to the semi-finals. At the semi-finals, everyone starts at zero again and the top 4 move to the final table. Often times the defending champion will join the top 16 players in the semi-finals by default.

The other option is to keep each person at the same table for 4 games and advance the top 2 players from each table according to the total score of the 4 games.
Both ways require endurance, high skill, a strong understanding of the game and a bit of luck as well.

The other options are rules. JPML offers 2 types of rules for tournaments. A-Rules are considered to be one of the purest forms of the game, only offering one Drag (Lucky Dragon) and no bonuses for luck-hands like Hidden Drags, Quad Drags, First-Round Wins after Reaching or Red 5’s. The B-Rules add a bit of spice by adding Hidden Drags, Quad Drags and First-Round Wins after Reaching, but still leave out the red 5’s.

The tournament we played on Sunday had an extra twist by using a Tournament-Hand. The Tournament-Hand this day was 7-Pairs with 2 Drags. Anyone winning on this hand gets an extra 10 points to their total score. I won on it twice!

Tournaments only really need 5-8 people, so if you can get some friends together, give it a try! Garthe and I have a dream of hosting a Reach Mahjong tournament for all to join someday… We’ll keep working hard, so everyone keep reading!!

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