NAO: Organizer Nerves…?

Gemma here!

I’ve been in this scene for over a decade. I’m not sure what is scarier, how old I am or how much of my youth was wasted on mahjong. Actually, both. Definitely both.

Anyway, I’m also no stranger to tournament organization. Several international and national events over three continents etc. I know what organizer nerves feel like. I even helped a lot with the New York Open in 2015, bringing with me my boss (Mr. Moriyama) and the current world champion (Mr. Yamai). I flatter myself to think I contributed to the success of that event. It was also exciting to see NARMA’s tentative first step at that event. But you should read more about that here.

I haven’t been involved in the organization of this North American Open (NAO). At first I felt that they would want this aging riichi Yoda to convey words of frustrating wisdom. However, I fast learned that the preferred brand of frustration for Americans is to build from the very beginning without help. I guess that’s how you roll in the new world!

David Bresnick

Anyway, I digress and mostly about myself. This article is about the NAO host – USPML and David Bresnick. Dave and I are still thick as thieves after Vegas so I abused my privileged position with him to grab a very brief Q&A session.

Just days to go before NAO. Are you ready?

As ready as I’m going to be – it’s been a long time preparing for this event but I think we have things pretty locked down. Fingers crossed!

You hosted WRC 2017 in Las Vegas. I was there. It was stressful. What possessed you to agree to arrange another major event just 12 months later?

Momentum! Leading up to WRC 2017, North America was able to put together the busiest tournament season it had ever seen, with monthly events leading up to Vegas. I think that’s amazing and I want to encourage people to keep going! The best way to do that is to keep going myself!

That is a trait I massively admire. I mostly want to curl up and berate myself for all of my errors. But we do learn from experience and the only way to apply that experience is to do it again.

So…what was the biggest lesson you learned from hosting the WRC? Do you think it will help you in running the NAO?

There were a lot of small lessons that came out of WRC, specifics about how to better host an event, what to have on-hand and what to prepare for.  Also stay far away from Megadeth. But I think the biggest lesson is to build a strong organization team. For the past months I’ve been having weekly meetings with the NARMA NAO team to prepare for this event and being able to work with a team I can trust has made all the difference. That kind of teamwork and shared vision makes running any event easier!

It’s great to hear that there are weekly meetings and a team atmosphere! What is your end goal or hope for NAO?

My real hope, aside from the event being a good time for the players, is that we really do manage to build a tradition that will catch on.  I want this to be just the first NAO, and I want other groups throughout North America to take pride in hosting their own instantiations of this new tradition!  I’d like this event to really kindle the competitive spirit here in North America and become a proving ground for our best and brightest players.

I wanted to ask about NA player skill. Obviously, I can’t expect you to give an answer for all of America. This is the first national open after all. I hope you can give me a better overview of NA player skill. But for the time being, I want to ask you about your NYC-based United States Professional Mahjong League (USPML). Any USPML players you think NAO participants should be on the eye out for?

Wei Bin Wang won our league this past season and is a very strong player.  Allon Scheyer is also a longtime player who’s demonstrated his skill time and time again.  It’s difficult to answer this because I have a huge amount of respect for all our players here in NYC!

USPML were the host org for WRC 2017 and we’ve heard a lot from them. However, less is known about NARMA, the group behind NAO. Will we find out more at NAO?

I think that NAO is a great opportunity for NARMA to be more clear about who we are and what it is we represent.  There’s definitely been a lot of confusion as to what the organization is meant to do and what “membership” entails and I think that we’ll be able to talk a lot more about our long-term plans at NAO.

Did you read the Riichi Reporter article about NAO? Any comment? Did you hate it?

In my opinion, the article was a pretty fair evaluation of our history here in North America when it comes to large tournaments.  I would disagree that WRC2017 was a “premature” accomplishment, but then again as the host I am obligated to feel as such!

Haha! I blame an editor for that. I’m glad you felt it wasn’t an entire hatchet job.

Question from saidsame editor: What’s your favorite tile?

It’s always been chun (red dragon), I have to admit.  For some reason I just have good luck with that one.

Yes… I remember chun being kind to you in many previous games. 

Anything you would like to tell the Riichi Reporter readers?

Keep reading!

Thank you, Dave, for speaking to us at such a busy time before the event. As a team we’re looking forward to being there!