As part of our quest to bring you closer to the best mahjong players in the world and get a little bit more inside their heads, Jenn and I have each chosen a couple players in particular whose performance we’ll follow a little more closely. I’m following Takizawa and Miyauchi Kozue. Who knows, maybe we’ll learn a little something from them too. By the way, Takizawa is mostly known endearingly throughout the league as “Takki”, which is what I’ll be referring to him as here too.
Name: Kazunori Takizawa
Titles: JPML 32nd and 33rd OUI, Second Mondo 21 OUZA, Nogutchi Kyouichirou Title
Favorite tile: East Wind
Favorite hand: I don’t like any hand in particular.
What got you started in Mahjong? I just wanted to learn the rules and took it all in at once. My faily doesn’t play.
Goal for this season: With only a few sessions less I’m in a difficult position, but of course I want to move up.
Long-term goal(s): I think it’s important to win titles and in the league, but my first priority is to improve my own skill. I am always practicing. I don’t think that results are that important.
Hobbies: Music. I pulled out my guitar and am playing it again. I like to play covers like metallica with my friends. I like a lot of bands, but my favorite is probably PANTERA
Name: Hisato Sasaki
Titles: Champion’s League
Hobbies: Number games. As you get older your brain gets slower, so almost everyday I battle with the digits 1-9 to prevent that.
Favorite tile: Red 5 of dots, you could literally say I was raised with it
Favorite hand: Half Flush (昆一)
What got you started in Mahjong? When I was in 11th grade my friend invited me to play. I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. This was the first time I ever had this feeling. I think that’s the reason that I was so inclined to play.
How long have you played? 15 years, but I’ve played pro for 3 years
Goal for this season: Of course I want to win and move up. A2 is a year long, so if I can’t move up in the 2nd season of the year then I might have to take half a year off.
Long-term goal(s): I want to let people know about me. The most important thing for a pro is to have your name remembered. I’ll do whatever I can to achieve that.
Name: Saki Kurosawa
Titles: JPML Pro Queen
Hobbies: Just mahjong. Although I do like to drink high quality alcohol (especially champagne and red wine)
Favorite hand: 4 Concealed Triples (四暗刻)
What got you started in Mahjong?: A friend in college taught me to play. I was a science major and all my classmates were guys, so whenever we had a break from class I followed them to the mahjong parlor and I learned how to play.
Titles: 2008 Pro Queen, 2008 Women’s League 2nd runner-up
Goal for this season: Advance to B-League and make it to the Women’s League finals
Long-term goal(s): Win the Phoenix Cup (JPML A1 league title)
Name: Kozue Miyauchi
Titles: Mondo 21 Queen Cup 4, 4th Women’s Mondo, Mondo 21 Queen Cup 5
Favorite tile: Red Dragon
Favorite hand: Three Colored Runs
What got you started in Mahjong? I first developed an interest with friends in Junior High School, then bought software some years later and taught myself.
How long have you played? Been playing about 9 years having taken the pro test 2 years after I started.
Goal for this season: Take first in league and move up to the next league.
Long-term goal(s): Win the Phoenix Cup
Hobbies: Watching Dramas, Human Analysis
So how did these 4 players fare in the first session of the fall season?
Kazunori Takizawa: (Garthe)
While most of us are played our first session of the season this month, Takki is in A2 which means that he’s now entering the second half of their league season. Theirs goes the whole year rather than just the half years that the rest of us play. His scores from the first half were pretty average leaving him in the middle of the field. However, with a positive 35.6 (3rd highest for A2 this month) he moves into 5th place with 46.9 and a little closer to the possibility of jumping up to A1. First place is a little out of reach, currently over 200, but one weak session from Ito and Sawazaki and he could be right in the running for the second spot to go to A1. Were he to make it there, he’d be the youngest player ever to play in JPML’s A1 league. At his table next month, is Yamada Hiro, formerly an A1 leaguer who dropped down last year and is having trouble again this year in A2. Could he be just the fodder Takki needs to move himself a little closer to 2nd place and A1…
Hisato Sasaki: (Jenn)
Hisato is used to moving up in leagues. He started in D2 in 2006 and moved up, taking 8th place for his inaugural season. He spent a whole year in D1, luckily avoiding dropping back down despite a negative score for the first half, but made it into C3 in the spring season of 2007. In the 2nd half of C3 he got 6th place and was on his way to C2, except that he also managed to win the special league and moved himself straight up to B2. Last season (Spring, 2008) he took 2nd place in B2 and is now playing in B1.
He finished the first session in 9th place with -1.5 for a modest but safe score. This season we will follow Hisato in his progress through the league and hopefully he’ll make it in the top 2 and join his friend Takki in A2.
“I was a little negative, but I’ve never won with a huge starting lead before, so it feels like it always does. At this point, I have to run up to the top quickly so I will think of that as my mission and keep fighting in the following league sessions.”
In November Hisato will face off against fellow special league winner Kenta Iwai, Masters champion, Sarukawa and WSOM Reach Event rules director, Shintaro Konno.
Saki Kurosawa: (Jenn)
Saki is one of the most popular female pro’s and known for her aggressive, “no fear” attitude on the table. She is always eager to learn new things about the game and her love of mahjong parlors.
She joined the league in 2005 and moved up to C2 league rather quickly. Last weekend she took down the JPML Pro Queen tournament and you can bet that her large blog following was cheering her on.
“I started out really good, but in the 3rd game I lost it. I did notice that my decision-making was better than normal. For now, I started out with a positive score so I’m ready to do my best in the coming sessions.”
Working a full-time job in addition to her busy professional schedule, it’s amazing that Saki can stay focused. This season we’ll root her on while she works her way up the ladder.
Kozue Miyauchi: (Garthe)
My other featured player, Kozue, is tearing it up in C2. She scored a plus 88 to jump straight up to 1st place after 1 session. Of course there’s still a long way to go, but it’s a great start on the way to moving herself up to C1. She only won 2 out of 4 of the games, but they were big wins and the other games she had positive scores too which is why she was able to finish with such a huge score. The reporter from her table commented that she became pretty unstoppable after winning the hand the two of them battled, he with a limit hand and she as dealer with a 6000 points from everybody win.
“It’s definitely off to a good start and I’ll be looking to continue playing my game so as not to let the run fade away. Though I’m great at running up my points while I’m running well, I’m not so good at turning it around when I’m running badly. I’m anticipating now how to react in my next bad run.”
She’s coming off a great season last year too where she also finished in the top 8 in Champion’s League. Definitely looking forward to following her progress throughout the season, in league and in the big tournaments coming up too.