Congratulations again to Hiroshi Yamai and the other finalists on a tournament well played and thanks again to the organizers. We all can’t wait to see where this historic event takes us.
OK, setting aside my performance, it was a great weekend of Mahjong. Remembering my performance, it was a somewhat disappointing weekend of mahjong.
Following the great start then lackluster finish of my first day of the tournament, my second day was an up and downness that saw me finish 4 points short of 32nd place, leaving me to wallow in the consolation bracket while the remaining 32 battled it out for 1st place. The top 32 was dominated by Japanese players, most of them members of the Japanese Pro Mahjong Association (JPML). The last remaining western player in the tournament, John Duckworth of the UK Mahjong Association, was knocked out of the semifinals by Hiroshi Yamai and Kazuhiko Nishijima of JPML. Jun Nishikawa also of JPML, and Noriyuki Kiriyama of Nihon Pro Mahjong won the other semifinal to make it an all Japanese final table.
Yamai won the first game of the final table by quite a large margin but hemorrhaged enough points in the second game to allow third place finisher Nishikawa to get back into the fight. By the last hand both were in a position to win the tournament by simply winning the final hand. However, Nishikawa had no interest in letting it end that simply. Despite his last place finish in the first game, this was his final turn as dealer and he made the most of it, winning 3 hands in a row to near himself to a shot at winning the trophy. It was an epic final hand battle, with the tension and excitement infecting player and spectator alike. However, it was Yamai who in the end drew his own winning tile to ensure his victory.
Congratulations to Hiroshi Yamai, winner of the first World Reach Championship! Word on the street is that before the final table began, he had already committed to changing his name should he manage to win the finals. We’re not sure what “Moosh” even means, but maybe we’ll get more explanation soon.
Next, congratulations and thanks must go to Valerian Thomas and his team for organizing the first successful WRC. With no history to guide them, it was a vast and historical undertaking which will serve as the foundation for the events to come in the future. Inspired by their success, a committee has already formed with Gemma Sakamoto (nee Collinge) at the helm to start working toward the formation of the next event. Gemma was an instrumental liaison between the French and the Japanese and certainly some of the credit for this event must also go to her.
As an uninteresting aside, how about the unhappy circumstances of my exit from the main competition on the second day? I lost my 6th game in a non-stop slew of hands with which I could do absolutely nothing but play defense. I won the seventh game to put myself back in a nice spot and needed only not to lose too many points in the 8th game to continue on to the top 32 on day 3. However I was up against Takeo Kojima, also known as Mr. Mahjong in Japan, and while he was already effectively out of the running, he wasn’t giving up the last game without a fight. While he put together several large hands to build up quite a large lead, I suffered a return to non-progressing hands. I couldn’t even tenpai. To finish me off on my turn as dealer, Panjing Song of China drew her winner on the final draw and found 3 hidden dora to turn it into baiman, or an 8000 point loss for me. That was to be my end, half self drawn hands and the rest drawn hands in which I again couldn’t get to ready. Sometimes it simply isn’t meant to be.
In a strange twist of tournament structure, we retained our scores from the first two days. This meant that those already at the top of those standings were likely to stay there. I won 3 straight games to drop one place and finish the tournament 2nd in the consolation bracket or 34th overall.
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