2019 JPML Crash Course – Table A

Back in August of this year, the Japanese Professional Mahjong League (JPML) hosted their first Crash Course, offering foreigners and locals the chance to play and be critiqued by Japanese professionals and staff members. Among the staff members were Seattle native Jenn Barr and Garthe Nelson, who provided English-language lessons and translations between the other teachers and the students.

After the lessons and critiques, students played in the studio that many of the professional matches are hosted and filmed in, with commentary from JPML staff. The first match, Table A, featured Seattle Riichi Mahjong Club member Patrick (white and blue checkered shirt), along with Wei from New Work (dark blue shirt with stripes), Matt from Australia (white shirt with rolled-up sleeves), and Vinnie from Philadelphia (salmon pink shirt). Their names are written in Roman characters during the initial interviews, but in phonetic kanji during the match, so it’s good to know what the players are wearing so you can tell who the players are by their sleeves.

Below I’ve embedded the video, but I’ll also have a brief overview, as well as an exhaustive play-by-play rundown of the match below that. I’ll be focusing primarily on fellow club member Patrick, who I had a short interview with, and will be available in the next few days.

Overview

Nerves were high for everyone going into the match, and that expressed itself in a number of ways. First, there was a chombo in East 2 Bonus 1 when Vinnie, sitting in the North seat, called ron on the 1 souzu after missing another 1 souzu discarded after the riichi. According to the WRC rules, a chombo is a 20 point penalty, but it sounded like the commentators were talking about a 30 point penalty.

Later, in South 2, judges would notice that the points from the previous hand had been exchanged incorrectly and would have the match paused while this was resolved. Once the match had resumed, Matt would mistakenly draw a second tile, and the hand had to be played backward momentarily in order to have the game reset back to the correct state before resuming.

Between these delays and multiple bonus rounds, the match timer ended in South 2, with two additional hands being granted due to the delays. Because of continued dealer wins, the game would not progress beyond South 2, meaning Patrick would not get his second dealership, resulting in a third place finish.

That’s not to say it wasn’t an exciting match, though. We saw several hands were multiple players were simultaneously tenpai for mangan and larger hands, and could have made big changes in the final placement. This was especially true in South 1 Bonus 1 when Wei, as dealer, declared riichi with junchan (while Matt has 3 of the 4 tiles Wei needs), Matt declares riichi with yakuhai on a side wait, then Patrick declares riichi with tanyao pinfu with a side wait. If three riichis all fighting each other weren’t enough, Vinnie immediately afterward draws into tenpai as well with a yakuhai, yakuhai, dora 3 in hand on a double pair wait. That hand would end with Wei dealing into Matt’s hand for riichi, ippatsu (yes, all of this happened that quickly), yakuhai for 6,400 points plus 300 bonus points.

Despite Patrick’s best efforts to pull of a big comeback hand, they were never able to materialize. The final results are as follows:

1st: Wei – 39,700 (+24.7)
2nd: Matt – 30,800 (+5.8)
3rd: Patrick – 22,900 (▲12.1)
4th: Vinnie – 26,600 (▲48.4)

Full Rundown

East 1

East: Wei – 30,000
South: Matt – 30,000
West: Patrick – 30,000
North: Vinnie – 30,000
Dora: 4 Pinzu

Patrick’s opening hand showed a lot of potential.

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After the fourth discard he’s already 1-shanten for pinfu, tanyao, and 2 dora, easy striking distance for a game-opening mangan.

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On the 16th discard, Wei makes a late game riichi with a tanyao on a double shanpon wait for the 5-sou and 5-pin, and manages a iipatsu tsumo for a dealer mangan and 12,000 points.

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East 1 – Bonus 1

East: Wei – 42,000
South: Matt – 26,000
West: Patrick – 26,000
North: Vinnie – 26,000
Dora: 1 Pinzu

Starting out without many shapes and a lot of floating honor tiles, Patrick was able to start forming a hand by calling his opponents discards, eventually getting 1-shanten for honitsu, yakuhai. Here we see riichi, this time from Matt, followed by a riichi from Vinnie three discards later, but would unfortunately call ron on a 1 souzu discard by Matt after Matt had already discarded a 1 souzu following Vinnie’s riichi, resulting in a chombo.

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My Japanese isn’t great, but from what I was picking up, it sounded like he was facing a 30-point penalty after final scores are tallied, which is the equivalent of a 30,000 point penalty. Ouch! After this, the hand was re-dealt and East 1 Bonus 1 would be played again.

East 1 – Bonus 1 (Re-deal)

East: Wei – 42,000
South: Matt – 26,000
West: Patrick – 26,000
North: Vinnie – 26,000
Dora: 4 Pinzu

Here we see Patrick’s opening hand in a very good position, only 2-shanten after the first draw.

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After drawing his 6th tile he’s tenpai for tanyao and declares riichi on a 5-8 souzu wait.

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Meanwhile, Matt was both dodging Patrick’s riichi while also building up a sanankou with the three concealed triplets already in-hand.

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The hand ended in a draw with Patrick and Vinnie tenpai. Finally, we’re heading into East 2.

East 2 – Bonus 2

East: Matt – 24,500
South: Patrick – 26,500
West: Vinnie – 27,500
North: Wei – 40,500
Dora: 5 Souzu

Similar to the last opening hand, Patrick’s hand initially consists of only 2 blocks, a complete 456 manzu and an edge-wait 89 souzu, with the entire rest of the hand consisting of floating tiles. The first draw is a 5 souzu, the dora, but it’s yet another floating tile.

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Things get off to a quick start, though, after drawing a 7 souzu to complete the awkward edge-wait, and a 5 pinzu creates a side-wait 56 pinzu on the 3rd discard. Meanwhile, the dealer, Matt, is setting up for a potential 123 sanshoku yakuhai.

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By the eighth discard, Patrick’s hand has become 1-shanten for a 456 sanshoku with potential for a pinfu as well, if he’s able to complete his pair before waiting on the 4-7 pinzu.

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At the same time, points-leader Wei is now 1-shanten for a potential iipeikou pinfu hand.

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For his 13th draw, Patrick finds a 7 pinzu and declares riichi with a 5 manzu for a potential riichi, pinfu, dora with a side-wait of 4-7 manzu.

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Wei draws the 7 manzu tile, which does not fit into his 1-shanten hand whatsoever (it is now the only manzu tile he has), but senses the danger and dodges by discarding the South wind tile. Matt is taking a similar but opposite approach by dodging while also maintaining his 1-shanten hand. Again, this hand would end in a draw with Patrick being the only player in tenpai.

East 3 – Bonus 3

East: Patrick – 28,500
South: Vinnie – 26,500
West: Wei – 39,500
North: Matt – 23,500
Dora: East wind

This round is Patrick’s first dealership, and as a bonus, the dora is also the East wind, so a triplet of Easts could net him an automatic 12,000 points.

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While his opening hand doesn’t contain any Easts, it does contain four blocks that are either completed or very strong, though at this point there aren’t any obvious yaku in wait.
Wei, on the other hand, is setup quite nicely for a honitsu, yakuhai (green), yakuhai (white), and potentially dora 2 after his second discard.

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After the first row of discards, Patrick has found all five blocks putting him 2-shanten for pinfu after discarding the East wind, with the potential for tanyao.

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And, like clockwork, the very next tile is the 6 pinzu, putting his hand 2-shanten from tanyao pinfu. In the same round of discards, Wei calls pon on a discarded 2 souzu, adding to his pon of white dragons, and discards a West wind, putting him 1-shanten.

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Seemingly out of nowhere, Vinnie declares riichi on his 8th discard for a riichi-only hand on a 3-6 pinzu wait.

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While all that is going on, Wei manages to pull another East wind, making his hand

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He decides to discard the 5 souzu, putting him 1-shanten for, potentially, honitsu, yakuhai (green), yakuhai (white), yakuhai (East), toi toi, and 3 dora, adding up to 10 han, or a baiman, for 16,000 points. Scary! Patrick is tenpai for closed tanyao-only hand, waiting just on the 7 souzu before drawing a third 3 pinzu and changing his wait to a pair-wait on the 6-souzu before Vinnie manages to get the tsumo for 2,000 points, plus another 2,000 points in riichi sticks, and 900 points in bonus points, totaling 4,900 points. Not too bad for an otherwise yaku-less hand.

East 4

East: Vinnie – 31,400
South: Wei – 38,700
West: Matt – 22,700
North: Patrick – 27,200
Dora: 1 pinzu

Skipping ahead to the third draw, Vinnie’s hand is looking like a classic honitsu trap, where the hand appears to “want” to become honitsu, but is actually too far away to be an efficient use of the tiles. Hopefully he sees the junchan potential in this hand and runs with it.

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And just as I say that, he discards the 3 manzu! It looks like he’s going to push hard to make up those chombo points. You can even hear the commentary saying “Sugoi! Sugoi! (Awesome! Awesome!)”. Just a few draws later, he find a 9 souzu and discards, not the 2 manzu, but one of his two West wind tiles. He’s going for kokushi! What a madman.
While that is going on, Patrick finds his way to 2-shanten with possible iipeikou, pinfu, and tanyao, but will have to fight through an inside wait and a double-inside wait in order to get there.

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Wei has managed to become 1-shanten for a 123 sanshoku, which has been a surprisingly common hand during this match, waiting on the 2 pinzu and 2 manzu to become tenpai. Unfortunately for Vinnie, during the match he prioritized throwing the duplicates of his terminals and honors, rather than discarding his simples (2-8), and in the process, thrown away his opportunity to transition his failing kokushi into a chitoisu, toi toi, or honroutou. Soon after, Wei draws the 2 pinzu and declares riichi by discarding the 1 manzu, for riichi, sanshoku on a closed wait on the 2 manzu, and with a pair of value tiles.

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While dodging the riichi, Patrick got out of his furiten 1-shanten and became tenpai on a side wait, and immediately called ron against Matt for tanyao for 1,300 points, plus the riichi stick, for 2,300 points total.

With the East round completed, the current standings are:
1st: Wei – 37,700
2nd: Vinnie – 31,400
3rd: Patrick: 29,500
4th: Matt: 21,400

The timers on the stage show 25 minutes left, and we still have the whole of South round to play. Hopefully we’ll get to see everyone get a second dealership by the end of the hanchan.

South 1

East: Wei – 37,700
South: Matt – 21,400
West: Patrick – 29,500
North: Vinnie – 31,400
Dora: 4 pinzu

The first hand in the South round got off to a slow start; most hands were flooded with inside and double-inside waits with no obvious yaku aside from Patrick’s pair of South wind tiles. Vinnie, although 3-shanten, was setup for a 123 sanshoku, junchan, and even a possible pinfu, for a 12,000 point haneman before riichi, tsumo, or dora.

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After the 7th draw he finds an 8 manzu and discards the 2 souzu, prioritizing tile efficiency and throwing away the sanshoku opportunity, and likely both the junechan and pinfu as well. Garthe mentioned that Patrick is setup for a sanshoku, having a 78 souzu, 79 pinzu, and 79 manzu after choosing to discard the 6 manzu. At this point, Vinnie is now 1-shanten a yaku-less hand, but with 1 or 2 dora, and likely waiting on a single tile.

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As soon as Vinnie is 1-shanten, Wei declares riichi for an otherwise yaku-less hand with no dora with a double pair wait. With one of the tiles he needs already discarded, that brings the total number of winning tiles down to three.

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Matt would eventually become 1-shanten for a pretty good-looking tanyao, iipeiko hand, but those hopes would be crushed by Wei drawing his winning tile, a 6 pinzu, with riichi, tsumo, and 1 ura dora for 7,800 as dealer.

South 1 – Bonus 1

East: Wei – 45,500
South: Matt – 18,800
West: Patrick – 26,900
North: Vinnie – 28,800
Dora: 9 pinzu

Patrick’s opening hand contains five or six blocks, depending on how you look at it, including a pair of West wind tiles, so he’s in prime shape to throw down a quick hand and retake second place before his final dealership.

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While I had the video video paused to transcribe the hand, I was looking at the various shapes and noting that all of them except for the 4,6 manzu were a side-wait, so I was hoping to see those tiles go first, and after unpausing the video I saw the 4 manzu get discarded, and after drawing a 2 souzu to complete his first set he dropped the 6 manzu. Yay!
Vinnie’s hand is starting to take shape, too, starting out with four pairs in his opening hand, now upgraded to three pairs and one triplet, which happens to be dora, as well as a side wait.

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Calling to complete the South and North Winds would put him tenpai for mangan with a side-wait.
On his fourth draw, Matt becomes 2-shanten with a set of white dragon tiles in-hand and all of his incomplete shapes are side-waits, but unfortunately does not have any dedicated pairs to complete his hand, which could put him in a difficult situation later.
Two draws later, Patrick finds himself tenpai, but has to decide on using his pair of West wind tiles as his pair, leaving himself with a side wait to complete his hand, or holding out to add another han to his hand. To my surprise, he does neither, and discards one of his East wind tiles to put himself 1-shanten for a possible tanyao, pinfu, with 1 dora.
Wei, again, pulls out the dealer riichi, this time on an inside wait on the 2 manzu for junchan.

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Immediately, Matt drops the South wind tile, which is called by Vinnie, putting him 1-shanten, waiting on the 2-5, 8 souzu or North wind tile to get into tenpai. Soon after, Matt gets into tenpai and declares riichi with a 3-6 manzu side-wait.

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(Author’s note: I’m genuinely, like, freaking out right now because it feels like this is probably the pinnacle of the whole match and everyone is fighting so hard right now!)
With the very next draw, Patrick also becomes tenpai, and also declares riichi with a 5-8 pinzu side wait.

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(Hi, Author here again. Remember when I said I was freaking out earlier? (°ロ°) ! )
Then, on the very next draw, Vinni draws a 2 souzu that puts him into tenpai, too! Vinnie’s advantage here, of course, is that all three other players have to discard any non-winning tile, meaning they can not avoid his ready mangan.

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Unfortunately for Wei, his very next discard would play directly into Matt’s riichi, iipatsu, yakuhai (White) for 6,400, plus 300 for the bonus round, and three riichi sticks, for a total of 9,600 points.
I’m gonna need a breather after that one.

South 2

East: Matt – 27,500
South: Patrick – 25,900
West: Vinnie – 28,800
North: Wei – 37,800
Dora: West wind

Patrick’s opening hand this round looks a bit like a What Would You Discard? puzzle. The commentary was talking about daisangen but we’ll see how things play out.

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As Matt was drawing his third tile the match was stopped by Gemma, one of the English-language JPML staff members, because points has been incorrectly exchanged after the previous round, likely because points had been calculated wrong. Once the points had been resolved, Matt resumed play and drew the next tile. Unfortunately, he had already drawn his tile, so his hand now had 15 total tiles. After accidentally instructing the players how to resolve the situation in Japanese, then telling them again in English, the game was again underway.
After his sixth draw, Patrick’s hand was looking remarkable, being setup for a potential shousangen, honitsu, multiple yakuhai, and maybe even a junchan for good measure.

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Patrick then calls pon to claim Matt’s discarded 9 manzu, discards the 8 manzu, then later draws another 5 manzu, discarding the 8 manzu, leaving himself open for a potential shousangen, toi toi, honitsu.
While that’s going on, Vinnie’s hand is now 1-shanten, and needs to decide if he wants to stay on course for his junchan, or breaking it up for the sake of keeping his three concealed dora.

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He picks up the 7 pinzu, hand shaking, hesitating, before putting it back and discarding a 1 souzu, maintaining his junchan, before calling Vinnie’s 9 pinzu, discarding the 3 pinzu, and becoming tenpai for junchan with three dora. Wei would then switch out his 1 pinzu wait, of which there was only one tile left, with a East wind wait.
On the very next draw, Matt would become tenpai and declare riichi with a tanyao, pinfu in-hand, waiting on the 1-4 manzu. Wei would draw the 1 manzu, decide it was worth the risk to maintain his possible mangan, and discard immediately into Matt’s hand for riichi, iipatsu, pinfu for 5,800 points, pushing Matt into first place and Wei into second.

South 2 – Bonus 1

East: Matt – 33,300
South: Patrick – 25,900
West: Vinnie – 28,800
North: Wei – 32,000
Dora: 6 Souzu

Oddly enough, this is the first round where the dora has been a suited tile that isn’t a pinzu; every other round was a wind or pinzu tile. Maybe it’s a sign that things are going to change this round? During this round we would hear Darthe announce that time has ended for this round, but two additional hands would be played after the current hand has ended because of the chombo at the beginning of the match.
Patrick’s opening hand shows strong potential for a 567 sanshoku tanyao, which would also include one dora.

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Unfortunately, Patrick would discard into Matt’s open yakuhai (red) hand for 1,500 plus 300.

South 2 – Bonus 2

East: Matt – 35,100
South: Patrick – 24,100
West: Vinnie – 28,800
North: Wei – 32,000
Dora: 2 pinzu

Starting off the second to last hand of the match, Matt opens with a 1-shanten hand with no yaku. He’s currently in first place, so he’s going to need to decide if he wants to get a quick riichi with a side wait, or if he wants to hold off to get a yaku so he can attack from the shadows.

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By the end of the first row of discards, Matt was tenpai with no yaku and did not declare riichi, presumably because it would be on an inside wait, but also because he draws a 4 pinzu he can upgrade to a 456 sanshoku, while keeping tsumo an option in the meantime. At least, this is true for several discards, until he draws another 6 manzu, and declares riichi with the 6 manzu already in-hand, with an inside wait on the 5 souzu.

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At the beginning of the third row, Vinnie also draws into tenpai with tanyao and decides to riichi on an inside wait on the 5 pinzu, but Matt would tsumo on the second to last tile for 3,000 plus 600, ending Patrick’s chance for a second dealership.

South 2 – Bonus 3, Last Stand

East: Matt – 39,700
South: Patrick – 22,900
West: Vinnie – 26,600
North: Wei – 30,800
Dora: 2 pinzu

The last hand starts off with the commentators noting what each player needs in order to move into first place, and they mention Patrick needs a haneman tsumo. After his sixth discard he’s finding his way to ittsu and pinfu, but even with riichi and tsumo it would still be mangan; he would need ippatsu or ura dora in order to complete his ascent to first place.

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Matt can win on anything to end the game and secure first place, but if Wei can put together a miracle hand and hit Matt with a baiman (yakuhai [white], yakuhai [North wind], closed honitsu, and 3 dora), including the 900 points in bonuses, that would push Matt into 3rd and Patrick into 2nd by 100 points.

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Instead, he drops the 3 sou, becoming tenpai with an inside wait on the 3 pinzu for a guaranteed mangan before changing it to a double pair wait on the 4 souzu and 4 pinzu. Interestingly, Wei is in second place by 8,900 points, and if he hits Patrick or Vinnie, will become tied for first.
On the very next discard, Matt would drop the 4 souzu, handing the win to Wei.

Final Standings

1st: Wei – 39,700 (+24.7)
2nd: Matt – 30,800 (+5.8)
3rd: Patrick – 22,900 (▲12.1)
4th: Vinnie – 26,600 (▲48.4)


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