USPML Update: USPML members will attend EC Riichi

The USPML is sending two representatives to the European Riichi Championship 2010 in Hanover this July, to participate in the tournament and meet more of the Riichi mahjong community of Europe. The lucky two are David Bresnick, our President, and Thomas Riedel, in charge of Public Relations. They are both very excited to have the chance to play in the Championship, and looking forward as well to meeting European mahjong fans! Since the EC Riichi tournament will use the European Mahjong Association (EMA) Riichi Competition Rules (RCR), David and Thomas have been practicing using those rules in order to get accustomed to them. The biggest differences are that EMA RCR use three red fives and require All Simples (Tanyao) hands to be closed, whereas USPML Interim Rules use no red fives and Open All Simples (Open Tanyao) is allowed. Both of these differences significantly change the game; David and Thomas have found that they need to adjust the way they play.

The requirement that All Simples be closed especially changes the pacing of the game. If All Simples is permitted as an open hand, when an opponent goes into Riichi or otherwise appears threatening, other players usually choose one of two paths: a defensive path where the player discards safer tiles and tries not to deal in, or an offensive path where the player tries to win quickly, even if only a very small hand, to deny the opponent a potentially valuable win. By analogy, I think of the defensive path as a “dodge” and the offensive one as a “block”. To try to “block” an opponent by winning quickly, a player must call tiles. Open All Simples is often used in this situation since, out of all the hands, it is usually the easiest to win quickly.
Players might normally feel that winning a hand whose only yaku is Open All Simples wasn’t worth it, preferring instead to keep their hands closed and stack All Simples with other closed yaku like Pinfu or Riichi. But when an opponent appears threatening it can be worthwhile to sacrifice one’s chance at a big win and race to the finish to “block” what could be a game-changing hand for another player. Without the possibility of Open All Simples, it can feel like the “block” option is gone or is too difficult to be worthwhile. When switching between rulesets, players must adapt to this difference.

In other news, our first public Learn to Play Workshop is on Sunday May 23. Over fifteen students are slated to attend the workshop, including several American Mah Jongg players who are interested in learning other styles. We’re excited about getting more people playing Riichi Mahjong.

Please feel free to contact me any time, and also visit us online at www.uspml.com!

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