Philly Takes on Doragon no Taikai!
Philadelphia’s PRMC has another tournament report, this time from Doragon no Taikai 2! The club traveled to Lockport, N.Y. last weekend to compete, and test their training efforts against East Coast players.
By Taylor Heffernan, Mike Lee, Nick Rhoades, Mark Teseny, and Vinnie Emilianowicz.
When the Philly Riichi Mahjong Club heard about Doragon no Taikai 2 at the Nine Gates tournament in March, we instantly knew we’d be attending. The team is excited to make its mark on the North American riichi scene, and we thought Lockport, NY would be a great place to do it. Most of us had been studying hard after Rochester, and were ready to finally put it to the test. We had visions of playing our June 10th league game with a shiny new Nintendo Yakuman set.
We were delighted to see the home turf of the Western Dragon Mahjong Club. Casual Dragon Games is laid out in about a dozen small rooms, each populated by players playing tabletop games of some kind. One of them contained an autotable and an impressive array of mahjong paraphernalia, some of which was to be raffled off. We were very pleased to take the autotable for a spin when we arrived in town Friday night. We also got to see the autographed JPML signboard that Western Dragon won at Hammergirl’s charity event.
As this was my first tournament I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was nervous and excited for sure. I was also overly confident, not that I would win, but that I would be keeping up with the front middle of the pack and expected for myself that I would be somewhere in the top half of the standings. In my head, I’ve got this.Mark
I was fairly comfortable going in, as this was my 5th tournament now. That being said, I was not so confident to do well, and pegged myself as finishing middle of the road. I had learned from a Japanese NYC tournament that I have fairly good defense, but the best defense is a good offense some might say.Mike
After Rochester, I realized that I had to work on a few things related to tournament play, namely playing with uma in mind, and the strength of the competition. In addition, I wanted to work on reading discards so that I would have an idea of what an opponent was going for, even without calls. I went in feeling more confident and a lot less nervous.Nick
After getting smacked around in Rochester, I’d been working on defensive play and tile efficiency. In the three months since then, I’ve pored over Chiba-san’s Riichi Book 1 and gone to sleep watching M-League and M-Focus every night. I set some very modest goals for myself going in—cheer my teammates on, don’t deal into any ippatsu, and don’t tilt-off if things go wrong.Taylor
After the tournament in Rochester, I was determined to improve my play. I had identified a few problems that I knew were holes in my foundation. The first, my very high deal in rate and complete unwillingness to fold. The second, chasing big hands by sacrificing small ones. In the months between, I played tons of games and focused on those two items. I went into the tournament feeling determined and focused. My goal was to keep my deal-in rate low and to finish in the top half of the list.Vinnie
On Saturday morning, 24 attendees assembled in the tournament room for an opening speech by Western Dragon president Justin Dilgard. He discussed the tournament structure, including the very interesting sliding-scale uma, where the values change depending on how many players finish above 30000 points. Players also spent raffle tickets on various door prizes, like Saki figurines and mahjong sets.
Play began at roughly 11:30 AM. The round timer was 90 minutes + the current hand, so players had adequate time to think when they needed to. The quality of play was high, and the first round saw several Rochester players put up good numbers. By the end of round 2, Lockport’s Stacy Schwarzott had assembled a score of +50.4, putting her at the top of the leader board. After lunch, some good results from Rochester’s Ty Kennedy and Philly’s Nick Rhoades gave them a close first and second. In the final round of day 1, Philly’s Taylor Heffernan and Vinnie Emilianowicz rallied alongside Rochester’s Noah Bock to round out the top 4 with Ty.
Day 1 started off with a bang for me. I won my first hanchan which placed me 4th overall. I was even more proud of myself because I had to fight to defend my table lead in the last hand. I had to play super defensive against the 2nd place David Mann who was well within striking range on the last hand. There was also Derek Purpura who was sitting 4th at the table who was gunning for me to pull himself out of the negative. Hanchan 2 and 3 weren’t as good, and everything flipped over in hanchan 4. I couldn’t form a hand, I dealt in, and a chombo. I finished 4th, plummeting me to 15th overall with a total score of -18.60.Mark
Day 1 was fairly steady, as I watched my personal score slowly climb from some (small) good finishes, with a first place finish in my final hanchan of the night. I had a sizable lead in my first game (45k~ points) that I saw whittle away from 4 consecutive tsumos, 3 of which came at the hands of Stacy Schwarzott as dealer. I finished the day around 10th place, with a sizable gap (~40 points) with the first place player.Mike
During day 1, I felt like I succeeded with my goals. I had only a couple deal-ins, and in my third match, I was able to play with the shifting uma rule by winning with a cheap pinfu in all-last to keep Mark from getting above 30k and guaranteeing myself +12. I also tied for 1st in my second hanchan. I opened with a suuankou tenpai but took a sanankou ron for a mangan, and kept my lead until the last hand, where I was up by 1000 points. Noah then swiftly and skillfully made a 1 han hand to tie me and split the 1st place uma. Still, I was sitting happily in 2nd place overall. The last match didn’t go in my favor, as Gabe and our own Mike went on a streak and sent me down to 7th overall with a 4th place finish.Nick
Day 1 started with a whimper and ended with a roar. I came in 3rd in round 1 after Gabriel’s toitoi dora 3 pulled him 1000 points ahead of me. My subsequent rounds went better. All-last in round 2 was very intense. All three other players pushed, and I managed to dance my way through the bullets and retain second. In round 3, Vinnie and I both renchan several times to get neck-and-neck for first place. I was dama for pinfu dora, but he won first with an open iitsu from Pittsburgh’s TJ. The nagare was with me in round 4—a dealer haneman tsumo and an ippatsu mangan let me scoop the entire +12 uma and put me in second place overall with +41.0.Taylor
At the end of the first day I was really pleased with my performance. In 4 hanchan I only dealt in 3 times; all except one were risks that I decided to take that didn’t pan out. The 3rd deal in against Steve Smith was a very hard to read sanshoku haneman with a very well crafted pond. Steve is a tight player and it was so well done I couldn’t feel bad about it. I was very happy that a few players commented on my defensive play. I finished the day feeling really good in 3rd place at +37.40. I set a goal to continue to be defensive and hold my position.Vinnie
When day 2 began, only two hanchan stood between the top four players and some very fancy prizes. Round 5 began with a scoring upset, with Ty slipping by -9.9 and Lockport’s Mike Gabrielli surging by a whopping +44.4. Anyone in the top half of the tournament standings plausibly stood a chance of walking away with a prize, so we all knew round 6 was going to brutal.
We didn’t realize how brutal it would be, though, until we saw the round 6 seating chart placed players almost exclusively with members of their own club! The tension of round 6 got even higher with this fratricidal spin on a final round. Whoever wanted those prizes would need to beat up on their own club-mates to get them. When the dust settled on the battlefield, Ty Kennedy, Mike Lee, Nick Rhoades, and Leo Zhang were standing atop the heap. Philly Mahjong had taken second and third place!
Day 2 was a disaster for me. Hanchan 5 was a 3rd place finish with a small negative. Hanchan 6 was one of the worst I’ve ever had. Playing Vinnie, Derek and TJ, I finished out 4th, and as the only one at the table who was negative, and therefore taking all the bad uma, I ended the hand with a -30.3. My final score was -55.8 for the day and an overall placement of 22nd.Mark
The 5th hanchan was fairly uneventful for myself, but I did deal into a double ron; thankfully it was to 2 cheap 2k point hands. I managed to finish 2nd with a small positive score, but looking into the final game I would have needed to have a big game in order to touch the top 4. The last game, I managed to play a balanced game of good defense and a strong offense. I had enough luck to get a few cheap tsumos, and it was topped with a dealer mangan that helped bolster my points. I managed to finish the last game with a +36.2 final score, propelling my total to +58 and into 2nd place overall.Mike
Day 2 started off with a very tough match including the eventual winner Ty and Steve Smith. I was able to stave them off and walk away with another 2nd place. The final hanchan was great as a defensive match, as the only big deal-ins were a sneaky West/Chun wait by Mike and my own double riichi. Knowing there was no way to pass Mike on the final hand, I built a dama hand that might close the gap by up to 8000 points if he dealt in, but had to accept a weaker tsumo to cement my own placement.Nick
Ending day 1 in second place energized me going into day 2. With some moderate luck and the same solid play I brought to day 1, I stood a real chance of taking it down. I made modest gains in round 5, finishing +10.5 to remain in second place. The all-club final round snuffed my hope of making a final surge. Some incredibly strong play by my clubmates left me third after all-last, putting me at 6th place with +44.8.Taylor
Mahjong is a fickle master, he giveth and he taketh away. In my 5th hanchan, David Mann tore it up with tons of quick and large tsumo calls. You couldn’t get out of his way. By South round, whenever he drew a tile it made me think of Kaiji — ざわ～ざわ～ — he couldn’t be stopped. I was proud of myself for folding a lot and minimizing my losses, small consolation as I dropped to -0.2 with no hope of a final standing. With my overall goal in mind I set in my mind to play a solid final hanchan and was happy to finish 10th with +12.7. Goal accomplished!Vinnie
After the final hanchan, prizes were awarded to the top 4 players. Ty chose the transparent Washizu set (blood transfusion machine not included). Mike took the Nintendo set, no doubt planning to use it at Philly Mahjong’s league meeting the following night. Nick took the Orchid set, a professional take set on steroids. Leo left with a gorgeous antique bone and bamboo set. After the door prizes were raffled off and some group photos were taken. Some serious, some silly, and you can find them on Western Dragon Mahjong Club’s Facebook page.
The tournament was great. It was well organized, and I liked that the rules made the strategies different. I felt less rigid than the WRC rules I am used to playing, and that fluidity was quite fun. I was, however, completely appalled at myself. I ended up where I didn’t want to be; I wanted to be in the middle of the pack, and I ended up 3rd from last place. I was massively unhappy with my performance. But Mahjong is a harsh mistress, and it is by being beaten down that one can grow. The next few months will be spent figuring out what I did wrong and how to fix it.Mark
The tournament was a lot of fun. Being able to see old friends from RIT while meeting a bunch of new players from Lockport and beyond was great. I’m happy with how things turned out, of course, but I’m looking forward to seeing these same players continue to grow. There was a lot of chatter about starting to grow a greater initiative with clubs in the east coast, so I would love to see that happen and continue to participate in events that come.Mike
I was very satisfied with my play in this tournament, but I still see many things I could work on for next time. Meeting some of the players I faced at Rochester was great, and seeing new people, and how the Lockport club is so accepting of new players, was even better.Nick
I’m overjoyed with my performance at Doragon no Taikai 2. I made solid, demonstrable gains in the areas I sought to work on after Rochester. If the cards came up slightly differently, I could have been on stage winning the big prize. Our whole team fought hard and smart all weekend. Listening to a club-mate at the next table call ron and rattle off a list of yaku is a very invigorating feeling. We’re going to keep making a splash in the North American riichi mahjong scene. You haven’t seen the last of us!Taylor
This was a great tournament, I loved that the rules had a little more “edge” to them because it meant that anything could happen. Shifting Uma definitely alter the strategy a lot. All in all, I’m happy with my performance and have a new set of things to work on. In the coming months my focus will be on the balance between aggressive and defensive play. Being able to build big hands without running across a busy highway. I might also try praying for some luck…Vinnie
The Philly Riichi Mahjong Club is already counting down the days until Doragon no Taikai 3, when we will be back on the scene bigger and better than we were before. We intend to throw our club’s enthusiasm and ingenuity behind growing the still-nascent North American riichi mahjong scene. We’d like to give a special shout-out to Justin Dilgard, whose weeks of tireless effort allowed us to play in such a wonderful tournament. Another shout-out in absentia to Hammergirl’s Luke Morgan, to whom the Philly Riichi Mahjong Club dedicated a toast on Saturday night. We’re overjoyed to be a part of such a kind and welcoming community. See you at the next tournament!