Reach Mahjong in Europe

Active ImageThe staff had a much-needed reunion in Hannover, Germany this weekend for the first-ever Riichi Mahjong European Championship. We had an amazing time talking to everyone that came to play and we missed those of you that couldn’t make it. We just wanted to say a few words about the trip and say thanks to everyone for the great time.

Active ImageGemma Collinge ( columnist)

So… first Mahjong tournament. How did I do?

Yeah, not great… This was my final score card:

Session 1 -3100
Session 2 -5200
Session 3 +20000
Session 4 -21500
Session 5 -39100
Session 6 -24800
Session 7 -5800
Session 8 -13900

A grand total of -93,400. This won me 71st place! Hurrah! The full list of final classifications is here if anyone is interested:

However, I’m still a very happy bunny for going. I actually had much more fun that I anticipated I would. This was my first tournament (I’d like to point out before someone else does, that I know this isn’t strictly a ‘tournament’). I also hadn’t played with real people for almost a year now – I’m so used to having Ron2 check my scores etc, it was a bit of culture shock again! Those are my excuses for playing so badly and I’m sticking to them!

Seriously though, the real fun was playing with so many new people. I met a lot of people that had, up until now, been faceless handles on the internet. I also met a lot of new people that I had never come into contact with. Regardless of final scores, I think everyone there had an amazing time. The atmosphere was fantastic – everyone was so friendly and from a very wide-range of backgrounds. I learnt a lot from the different playing styles and from talking to the other players.

Overall: A+ – Definitely doing that again!

BIG THANK YOU to the organizers. Without their amazing organization skills and smiling faces the weekend wouldn’t have been complete.

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Garthe “California Kid” Nelson (Japan Professional Mahjong League, columnist)

Well it wasn’t quite the fear and domination result I was looking for but all in all, last weekend’s European Open Reach Championship was a success and good fun for all. 7th place wasn’t nearly as high as I would like to have placed, and wasn’t even good enough to be best American, Benjamin Boas’ title, having placed 2nd overall. Think I’ll talk about my usual favorite subject myself. I’m pretty much the only thing I pay attention to so I’m pretty much the only thing I’m qualified to write about.

Certainly by most measures, I played a pretty good solid tournament. My record in 8 games was 3rd 3rd 1st 1st 1st 2nd 2nd 1st for an average placing of 1.75. I finished with a total of 101,800 points which means I averaged a positive nearly 13,000 points per game. And I took 7th out of 80 players, placing above even my mentor from Japan and Vice President of the Japan Professional Mahjong League, Shigekazu Moriyama. But maybe that result merits a little more investigation. Mr. Moriyama maintained a strong second place in the tournament rankings throughout the first 6 games finishing that game with more than 100,000 with the tournament leader off somewhere around 160,000. He definitely could have played the final games conservatively to save his points and maintain his 2nd place ranking. What did he do instead? When his hand got to ready for another 8000 he went for it, reaching and ending up throwing a double winner to 2 players who reached after him, effectively knocking him out of the race for first and even the race for the top 10. But really, what did I gain by playing safe and taking the 7th spot?

Not much.

The difference between 7th and 20th may be a lot numerically but it’s pretty meaningless as a result. Nobody remembers either of us at this point and pretty much everyone forgets 2nd place after a week or so too. (Sorry Ben) The difference between 1st and 2nd is all the difference in the world, and kudos go to Moriyama and Benjamin for going for 1st down to the bitter end. By contrast, I played good tight Mahjong, the kind I play when I play in the Mahjong parlors in Japan. When I got the lead in a game, I tightened up to be sure I didn’t throw any winners and lose my hold on first FOR THAT GAME. That’s generally good strategy when I want to make sure I bank my winnings playing for money but in a tournament setting where I need to be taking advantage of every opportunity I can to accumulate points, it’s all wrong. After winning an 18,000 point hand as dealer, 2 hands later I had a chance to go for a 16,000 pointer or maybe even Limit hand. Instead, after two people Reached, I played safe and then watched in despair as the the two tiles I needed to get to ready came soon after and then the dealer threw my winner. In fact there were at least 3 other instances where if I had reached instead of waiting quietly I’d have won much larger hands for a total of at least 30,000 in missed point opportunities. Once again, I must relearn the lesson, just go for it.

Anyway, congratulations must go to Ping Song of China in 3rd place, Benjamin Boas in 2nd, Thomas Kragh winner of the whole tournament and the best in Europe


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Jenn “West Coast Angel” Barr (Japan Professional Mahjong League, columnist)

My second trip to Europe started off great. I left my car at the airport in Tokyo and took a flight to Shanghai before hopping over to Milan, Italy. I met with some family friends and while they were great and amazing and wonderful, the trip itself started to go sour. I managed to lose 50euro right off the bat when I only had 60 to begin with. This just walked out of my wallet somehow. Thursday morning my friend Tommy and I went to get the rental car and they screwed up his reservation, so this process took some time and we got a late start, so no time for sightseeing on the way. We did, however, get to enjoy the amazing landscape of northern Italy and Austria on our 10-hour drive up to Hannover. Tommy and I had a great drive and there’s nothing better than a long car ride to solidify a friendship. Too bad we didn’t realize until the drive back you could save the bathroom pit-stop vouchers (yes, you have to pay for toilets on German roads) and use them for purchases. Once arriving at the hotel I realized that in addition to the 50euro, I also lost not one but TWO iPods. I had my shuffle, my old nano and my new nano and was somehow left with just my old nano. So instead of corny American reality shows, I got to spend my weekend listening to corny American poker podcasts. Still enough to put me to sleep.

Friday was set-up day and Tommy and I headed over to the venue to help Sjef, Martin and the German Mahjong League set things up. Then, thanks to Garthe delaying his trip (yes Garthe, I AM going to milk this), starting at 9:00 I got to rush around picking up people, t-shirts, taping and delivering. We met up with our mentor, Shigekazu Moriyama for dinner and it was finally time for me to relax and get ready to play. (Benjamin Boas and Takunori Kajimoto also helped us out a lot by bringing some t-shirts over from Tokyo for us. THANK YOU!!)

Oh right, I didn’t mention that my computer broke in Shanghai, and so besides getting behind on my PokerStars blog, I also missed out on the weekends Review session on Ron2. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!!! We will have a meet-up this week, so be SURE to sign-up!!!

The tournament itself was uneventful for me. I started out with Ma Yongliang to my left and he proceeded to win continuously while I dutifully counted up all his points. And that is how I spend most of my time at the tables, calculating other players’ wins. My hands were mediocre and I ended with a neutral score of just over 4,000 and 43rd place for the 8 games. Most of my games I got 2nd place. I had one big win, which unfortunately knocked Masato Chiba out of the race, but my final game was quick and painful, leaving me in 3rd. Disappointing, but I just had to keep reminding myself of the bigger picture.

This, the first open tournament in Europe for Reach (Riichi) Mahjong was huge! 80 people from countries all over the world joined together, some playing these rules for the first time, and the result was amazing. The best part was definitely the feedback on the website. So many great players came up to me and mentioned how much they enjoy RM and the podcasts and columns and What Would You Discard questions and everything and that made the entire trip worth it. RM provided T-shirts for all the players to celebrate this momentous event and seeing players wearing these T-shirts on Sunday was so amazing. We’re really accomplishing something with this website and our projects and seeing this first hand, hearing feedback in person from readers, and then showing people in our industry that we respect and admire this setting, and getting their support because of it (meaning Mr. Moriyama and Mr. Kajimoto), is the most rewarding experience I’ve had since starting RM with Garthe and Gem a year and a half ago.

Congratulations to the winner, Thomas Kragh, and all the other players, for making history this weekend. There are going to be many more public Reach tournaments in the near future and you can bet that will be on the scene or in support the whole way. Also, a big thanks and congratulations to Martin Rep and Sjef Strik for a very successful event. Although, after paying out 8,000 points for Sjef’s self-drawn 4 Concealed Triples hand, I’m not sure I’ll want to subject myself to playing in one of his expertly executed events again. (~.^)v

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