Pro Interview: Shigekazu Moriyama (part 2)

Active ImageLast time we started an interview with the Vice President of the Japan Professional Mahjong League. This time, we finish up the interview and get some great insight on Reach and the world.

Check out the first part of this interview here! (link)

RM: When did Pro organizations start to appear?
SM: About the same time I got that title. OUI wasn’t a JPML tournament at that time, it was a public national tournament. JPML started about 20 years ago.

RM: Why did you decide to join a pro association?
SM: I didn’t really join, I made it. It was people like Takeo Kojima, Asataro Nada, Masayoshi Ara and I that made it. We got together and made this organization.

RM: What was your goal in forming the Japan Professional Mahjong League?
SM: There was no league like JPML before we made it. We had the image of a professional sports league when we made it. Our goal was to increase the Mahjong playing population and also make an environment where pro’s could be respected and get work. Before that everyone was promoting themselves and working independently.

RM: How has Mahjong changed since you started playing?
SM: Mahjong itself hasn’t really changed, but the people are different. A long time ago, the people who played Mahjong were originally gamblers and got their names from winning. Now that’s not the case. The new players don’t have the same experiences. They haven’t play for the same stakes we did and so the experience level is different.

Active ImageRM: You speak a lot about luck. Any good stories to illustrate the point?
SM: For example, before JPML started, when I was about 27 or so, I was playing once and was really winning a lot and getting lucky. One guy at the table got a Ready hand and didn’t Reach. If he drew the winner it would be Four Concealed Sets. His winning tile came out and he didn’t win on it. He Reached and I even discarded his winner but he still didn’t win on the discard. Then he drew it himself and got the Limit Hand. He noticed how lucky I was getting and decided that even if he won with the Three Concealed Sets that it wouldn’t be enough to change the course of the game and take my luck away. After that he kept winning and I dropped way down. That made me believe that he was a real Pro. He was real good.

RM: Are there any mahjong players whose game you really respect?
SM: That guy from the story was really good. But other than that it’s hard for me to find someone to look up to. There are a lot of people that play well and have different styles than me, but I don’t feel like anyone knows the game better than me. There are a lot of ways to play and each player needs to play in a way that matches them.

RM: How do you change the way to play between tournaments and live games?
SM: The play is really different. In tournaments, you’re going to win or lose, that’s it, so it doesn’t matter how much you lose. The goal is just to be 1st place. But in live games there is money on the line so you can’t afford to lose as much. In the JPML League Tournament there is a lot of time, so you have to try not to lose, but normal tournaments it doesn’t matter how much you lose. The way you play really depends on the system. This last time in Europe it was 1st or nothing. There were a lot of people that didn’t read the board, so Reaching was almost always the right move.

RM: Why did you decide to go to Germany?
SM: Because it was the first big international Reach tournament. I only went because it is Reach. I really want to spread Reach and I think I need to play an active role in and support these kinds of activities. I’m thinking about going to Europe again, maybe next year. I want people to understand how Reach is fun and it’s completely different than how CO rules are fun. Mahjong isn’t just about discarding tiles you don’t need, you need to be able to control the game and make your opponents play the way you want them to and give you the tiles you need.

RM: What did you think of the tournament?
SM: It was great. I could tell that the organizers put in a lot of work and there were a lot of things that were way better than most of the tournaments we have here in Japan. We never get food or anything at our tournaments, except for the occasional lunch box, but there’s never a hall or anything where we can set up a buffet. That would cost so much more here. I can’t believe how much we got for the price we paid at the tournament in Germany.

The people were also so accommodating. They would wait to make the first discard until everyone was ready, and let everyone make decisions in their own time. I thought it was great that everyone had such a comradery during the event.

Active ImageRM: Where do you think mahjong is headed in the future?
SM: I feel like we need to improve the level of Mahjong all over the world. I want to visit Europe again with a group and play with the people in an atmosphere where we can discuss play and everyone has a chance to interact and improve. Reach will become as popular as we put effort into it. I hope we can invite some European players to come play in our tournaments as well. My goal is to let everyone understand how fun Mahjong really is.

Thank you Mr. Moriyama! Next time you see him in Japan, Europe, or anywhere else, be sure to say hi!

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