September, blech!

It’s been a rough month of mahjong. Starting with going absolutely nowhere in the WRC Online Festival (well, except into the commentating booth which was actually pretty fun), moved on to crash and burn in JPML’s 10 Steps tournament, and then despite great starts in both normal league and North Kanto, bombed in both of those too. What is the problem here? None of my tricks seem to be working.

A couple months ago I was happy about the format where I’m stuck at a table with the same 3 players for 4 games so I could get a chance to create a winning narrative. This last month wasn’t so different except that it just wasn’t me who got to create the narrative. In each situation, the winnings weren’t really spread out, there was mostly one person who just took control and couldn’t stop winning hands. Yeah yeah, nagare, I know. It does have that stink.

When I get into these slumps and I stop to think about why I’m there, it almost always comes down to overreach. Even in the best of times, reach in JPML’s competition rules has a very limited payoff. With no ippatsu or ura-dora, we know at the outset we’re only increasing the value by one hand point. In a situation where I really need those extra points to jump ahead of someone or push back into positive territory at the end of the game, the risk may be worth it. But in the middle of the game in accumulate points mode, it can often just have the effect of warning other players to be more careful toward me while they still continue to put together their hand. Reach is for winners, and if I’m not winning, I’m just giving away an extra 1000 points each time I reach unnecessarily.

Take my most recent league performance of minus 67.8 points. One 1000 point reach stick may not seem like much in that but actually it’s much more than just one of those 67.8 points. In the first game I finished with 29,100 so just below the starting 30,000 which means I was negative. Two hands before the end of the game, I had been tenpai with a cheap Chiitoi hand when the dealer and another player reached. My wait was 9s and we all had 6s in our discards and the dealer had also thrown one 9s, why not reach? Because, not only did it not really increase the value of the hand significantly, when the hand ended in a draw, the next hand the dealer was able to steal my reach stick. Had I had those 1000 points at the end of the game I’d have had 30,100. I’d still have been third place but it would have been positive so I’d have finished with 1.1 points there. Instead, with the negative finish I was minus 4.9. That 1 point reach stick was actually responsible for a 6 point swing. That’s nearly 10 percent of my loss just there!

So while I don’t think I could have changed my play much to change the big losses recently into wins, I could have played differently to keep the losses smaller. And that is a lesson I seem to have to learn over and over. League play, is often as much about not losing points as it is about getting them. I’m not 6th out of 9 moving up to D1 next season. I’m probably not gonna be able to win the whole league anymore, but if I can just minimize my losses, I should be able to advance.

Here I come, 6th place!

Actually, what I’m really looking forward to is the start of M-League next week. It will be nice to have someone else’s mahjong to focus on instead of my own. Earlier in the season I was doing a lot better with more distractions out there. It will be nice to have some other games to look at. Also gotta give a shout out to Daniel Moreno who just joined JPML this year and yet advanced to the 6th step of the 10 steps tournament. That is quite an accomplishment given that he’s had to advance all the way from step one. Looks like he had a tough game yesterday, Yoshida has been on a 2 year rampage which now includes ending Daniel’s streak up the 10 steps. Still, even if Yoshida manages to win the whole thing, he’ll probably only win as much as Daniel did to get to the 6th step. I’m calling that a win for Daniel, way to go!

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