This Season’s Featured Players Part 3

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.

Active Image Kazunori Takizawa

“Not only was I against the Yuko Ito, who is ahead of me in the league, if I wanted to have any chance at advancing this season I needed a positive score this time.

I was thinking ‘If things go well I can even make Ito-pro have a negative score,’ but after the first 2 games I was already in the red 40 points. Yuko was certainly keeping his total score in mind during the games and didn’t slip up at all.

After that I dropped to a position where I had to start worrying about moving down to B1.

In the 3rd game I finally got some good wins and made up for my loss in the first and second games.

In the last hand of the 4th game I had 24,000 points and was in 3rd place.

I was waiting for the White Dragon with a 7 Pairs hand and drew the winner without reaching for 800-1600.

Garthe was watching me and he said, ‘Why don’t you reach there and try to get above 30,000?’

The biggest reason is that Honor tiles looked dangerous on the board and I thought it would be tough to draw the winner. Also, I was naturally planning to fold if one of my opponents were to try and counter-attack.

In the end I did draw my winning tile, but in this situation I think keeping my Ready hand quiet leaves me less vulnerable.

It’s pretty much impossible for me to move up this season at this point, but in order to qualify for the Grand Prix in March I plan to move as high up in the rankings as I can.

Takki had a bit of a see saw session, but the end result fits the pattern for most of his season (and indeed the last several, he laments) so far. His first game seemed to be setting a tone like the big loss he had last session; everyone else kept winning big hands, including a Mangan drawn on his turn as Dealer, to put him down 20 after just one game. He came roaring back in the 3rd game when he drew a Simple-7 Pairs hand on his second turn as dealer turn for 3200 from each player. That was followed by another self draw where he started with a concealed triple of the lucky dragon, 7 of bamboos, ponned the Red Dragon to speed up his chances and then drew his winner for 2000/3900. The 2nd and 4th games were minor minuses to put him at -7 for the day, -2 for the season, and firmly in the middle of the pack without much possibility of moving in either direction out of A2, as has been the case for several seasons now, much to his chagrin.

Active Image Hisato Sasaki

“Today felt as though I could dominate the game but after we were done I realized that I ended quite small. I played to not lose big hands but in the end I threw the winner of an early closed hand. I ended with a positive score but it should have been 65 points.”

Hisato continues his slow and steady climb toward the top. And like a pro in any sport, he makes it look easy and effortless. In the first 3 games meandered down and then nearly back to 0 for the final game where he suddenly decided to turn it on. In the 4th hand he ignored threats from the dealer and went straight for a Half Flush-House Wind hand in bamboos; the dealer threw the 4 for him, fortunately also giving him a Full Straight and 7700 points. On his last turn as dealer, he ignored an early reach from the same poor guy to complete another Half Flush, concealed this time, which the reacher threw for him for another 9600 points. He finished the day with a positive 15 putting him in 4th place and within striking distance of Kuroki, the current 2nd place player and the other spot which gets to move up to A2 at the end of the season.

Active Image
Saki Kurosawa

“In the first game I made a mistake and after that my mahjong went to crap. My small negative scores stacked up and I ended with a negative 30 point score. In Mahjong it’s important to make fewer mistakes than your opponent. I felt the sting of that all day.

There are 2 sessions left so I plan to return to a positive score and then hope for a huge win in the last session.”

Two months in a row now, Saki happened to be at a table against the wall, playing most of her games in a seat against the wall, making it impossible to see what sort of moves she’s making. Of course, if the few hands I’ve been able to see are any indication, I haven’t missed much. Examples: nice starting hand but early Red and Green Dragon pons leave her nowhere to go after she draws one of the White Dragons with none on the board; she reaches early with Simples-Peace-Double Run already in the hand but it ends in a draw; on her turn as dealer, starting tiles are 2 away from ready with 2 Lucky Dragons already in the hand but all her draws are totally useless. She finished -27 for the day, but given the crap she had, that was actually quite an accomplishment.

Active Image Kozue Miyauchi

“In the 3rd session my goal was to increase my lead in the league. I had a lot of points saved up so I didn’t feel much pressure going in. I went in feeling like I could play great Mahjong.
But that lack of pressure was like a trapdoor. Since I didn’t feel like I had to push my hands hard to win, I missed things , like an opportunity to win an 8000 point hand. There were no big regrets or mistakes in that hand but I hurt mysele with my own naivety. With all that said I was still able to finish the day with a positive score and move one step closer to winning C2 league.
I plan to keep this momentum going in the next session!”

Kozue made it look easy, but with luck like that, who wouldn’t. Not to take away from her accomplishments as she continues to dominate the field in C2, but her day also included at least one big miss which would have left her dominating even more.
Early in the first game she woke up with 3 Green Dragons in her hand, reached and drew her winner for 3000/6000, or 12,000 total. With a hand point already guaranteed there are certainly some players who would wait quietly here and be satisfied with just the 8000 points. That would however, go against many pros theories that when you’re running good, you’ve got to ride it out.
Why then in the second game was she so anxious to give up her hand when the Dealer reached, despite the fact that she already had 3 Lucky Dragons in her hand? True, the East wind looked dangerous when she drew it so from 11355 in characters she threw the 1 which was in the dealer’s discards. However, the next draw, her Upper House discarded East so she could have thrown it safely there. Instead she had already made up her mind to give up and threw her other 1 of characters only to draw the 2 on her next draw. In fact 2 draws later she would have become ready, and the Dealer would have thrown her winner the next draw, had she continued to go for it and 8000 point miss. But wait, there’s more. As the hand ended in a draw (-1000 more from her) and the dealer was ready, he continued as dealer and the next hand drew a Half Flush-Triples-White Dragon-Prevailing Wind hand for 6000 points from each player for a -15,000 point swing for Kozue.
Despite that miss, she still finished the day +25 and it highlights something that I continue to forget about League: in the end, defense may be even more important than offense.

All 4 of our featured players can be found as featured pro’s on Ron2 and Mahjong Fight Club.

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