Interview with Patrick Nguyen

I had a chance to interview Patrick, one of our Seattle Riichi Mahjong Club members, who flew to Japan to participate in the Japanese Professional Mahjong League (JPML) Crash Course this fall. The Crash course was broken into three segments: Lessons and critiques, a filmed and commentated match (the write-up for Patrick’s match can be found here), and a tournament. Here’s what Patrick had to say about the event.

Author’s note: I didn’t realize there was a tournament to finish off the Crash Course, so the interview is primarily focused on the filmed match.

Playing in the JPML studio, I’m sure, was already nerve-racking, but did the game disruptions (chombo, point correction, and reversing the game state) add to that at all?

Since i knew the games were timed, i felt a bigger sense of urgency as the game went on. As the one catching up, i was the most impatient to get the game going so I’d have more rounds to work with. They did give us one more round after the time was up to make up for the disruptions, but i didn’t know that until the very end. This led to a lot of more desperate plays where I’d try to score the one big hand i needed instead of going slow and steady
I will say that the disruptions in and of themselves didn’t affect me much cause it made it more ok to mess up, cause everyone else did too

I definitely noticed all of the monster hands that were coming together. It looked like the other players were generally going for the same strategy. Do you feel like your play style improved between the start of the Crash Course and the final match?

Less “improved” and more “stabilized”. I figured out where i was stronger and weaker and how to maximize the former and minimize the latter. I know best how to play steady and fast and less how to make big game changing gambles. Ideally I’d improve on the latter, and that’s what I’m working on long term, but the big realization was how to work around it in a tournament setting with all the stress and nerves invalidating your practice

Between the instruction session and the filmed match, are you better prepared for tournaments?

I’d say so. The instruction sessions gave tangible gameplay aspects to work on, while the filmed match is more experience in stressful situations and a lesson on how to prepare myself out of game

How was your experience with the Crash Course? Did the JPML pros and staff critique your matches or was there course material to study?

Both. We had a couple of structured lessons, then we’d gather in groups to play a hand with people watching us and recording our hands, discussing them afterward. Tbh they gave me more praise than criticism so i may have let that go to my head haha. There was also optional homework to give us something to mull over… That i forgot to do.

Any other comments about the Crash Course or the recorded match you’d like to make?

Jetlag sucks πŸ˜• but it was fun and i made up for the filmed match by winning the tournament the next day πŸ˜›. Also the Japanese are unbelievably strong at mahjong wow.

I didn’t realize there was a tournament after the filmed match. Can you tell me a bit about that? How many rounds were there?

It was 4 rounds in total. The participants were us 12 students and 4 pros, each table set up to have 1 pro and 3 students each game. The 2 student winners got a jpml amateur 2 dan/1 dan scroll and the others got varying prizes. Me and one other student managed to get 1st and 2nd even over the pros, who got 3-6

Wow, so are you officially ranked in the JPML now, or is it honorific?

It’s probably honorific, but i don’t know how it works to be honest

Fair enough. Thanks for your time, it’s been fun.

Yep no problem


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