Red 5s Tournament Report

The Netherlands kicked off the riichi mahjong year with a bang! The Red 5s tournament did not contribute to the EMA ranking. However, this doesn’t mean that it wasn’t noteworthy. Apart from the flawless organization by Cor and Ans Hoogland, the tournament also used a new time procedure for games plus a new player organization system, which is why you need to read on…

First of all I should review the tournament. Cor and Ans had secured a bridge clubhouse and that served as an excellent tournament area for mahjong as well. The organization was faultless. Results were delivered speedily and people at their games promptly. Of course, I also had a great time meeting old friends and making new friends.

On the other hand, the tournament was not my best performance. The day started well and my first two tables were fine but the third table… The third table can only be described as an experience. I was playing with Robert Rijnders, Harry Kal and Rick Moorman. And boy can Rick play mahjong. Robert, Harry and I didn’t even stand a chance. Rick walked away from that table with an impressive and well-deserved 57,000 points. With strong performances in his other games he easily won the day with a 30,000 plus difference over second place (Dicky Rep).

Of course, my tournament experience isn’t newsworthy (although Rick Moorman is a player to watch). However, I felt I should include it for completion. The real news and why I think all you riichi players should continue reading is the two changes to the standard tournament format.

The first format change – and one that I’m led to believe the EMA is considering adapting for future EMA tournaments (please correct me if I’m wrong. I may have misunderstood.) – was a new time procedure where at 1 hour and 15 minutes the gong is rung. The tables complete their current hand and one more hand. The game is then over no matter how far the game has proceeded and if there is still 5 or 10 minutes left. This is a rule that was adapted from Japanese tournament formats, and is designed to prevent a player who is winning to slow-play the final 10 or 15 minutes to avoid losing points and perhaps their place. With this tournament format there is no benefit to slow-play because they will have to play one final hand whatever. (I guess if a player gets a monster hand in the first few minutes they could slow-play a whole game but that would be impressive.)

It worked as intended and it reduced my frustration when I’m trying to win those extra few thousand points to push myself in front as there was a limit to the number of hands I would play when the gong rang. However, it cut into the time allocated for play. The speed of tournaments in Europe is still pretty slow and again on my final table I found myself missing my final dealership after two dealerships had several continuances (renchan). The dealership bonus is so strong that it can really swing results, so it can be very frustrating if you don’t get both. Perhaps the next step in this trial would be to see how the game mechanics would work without dealer continuances.

The second format change was an attempt to ensure that tables were not newbie or experienced heavy. The registered players were split into two groups – red and blue – based on their EMA ranking. The organizers had arranged it so there were two experienced and two new players on each table. This meant that those who knew the scoring could help those who didn’t etc. I’m not sure how much this potentially affected the results. Certainly the experienced players dominated the top-half of the final results. However, there were more than a few examples, including Rick who was allegedly a new player (a lot of talent though and he certainly knew his stuff). I’m sure someone who is far more statistically minded than myself is currently ripping apart the results to assess the impact this format had on player performance.

Anyway, it’s great to see some new formats being trialed. I only hope we get to see more of this flexibility and accommodation to player feedback in the future!

Finally, big thanks to the Dutch players as always! I get an amazing welcome when I go to the Netherlands and I can’t wait to get back there for Cherry Blossom in February!

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