Zeyu Sun and Hong Li Claim TNT7 Wildcards
Five years ago, Club TNT made history by holding the first World Riichi Championship. It seemed only fitting that the first “wildcard” WRC qualifier for Europe would also be hosted by the same brave club.
Scheduled over three days with eight preliminary hanchan, two semi-final hanchan, and a final table of another two hanchan, it boasted being one of the biggest events for Europe outside of the European Championship. It also had the added attraction of two featured guest pros — Chifumi Yamawaki and Hiroe Sugawara (JPML B-league) — along with two ex-patriot pros, Gemma (who you may all be sick of by now) and Daniel (who was curiously debuting at the event).
56 players came to fight it out from as far away as North America for the two possible qualifications for WRC 2020, and the competition was fierce. Everyone was hungry for it and there was even some tears of frustration before the top cut was made.
Michael Donaghy (UK), Zeyu Sun (France), Hong Li (UK), Daniel Moreno (US) managed to make it to the final table, seeing off both of the Japanese professionals.
Having self drawn a Four Concealed Triplets in the semi finals, Michael looked strong going in, but perhaps needed to have saved some luck for the final! The scores were reset and Zeyu dominated both of the final hanchan with calm defensive play. The real battle was played out between Hong and Daniel with only a thousand points between them at the final orasu. Zeyu shut the game down with a quick 1000 point hand before the two players had a chance to skirmish for the second place.
The game was eagerly watched by a good number of players who had been knocked out; even Japanese professionals were taking notes. Ostensibly these were for a report on the JPML website, but I secretly think they’re going to use that information to work out how to beat us at the Worlds when they get back to Japan.
No report on this tournament would be complete without a gushing review of the excellent hosting of the French. Everyone agreed that it was some of the best food ever offered at an event (so take THAT Mama Jong) and champagne flowed freely at the end of each day as players shared their triumphs and bad beats.
The JPML pros almost didn’t know what hit them when they were handed a glass of bubbly when they first entered the venue but they very quickly relaxed and enjoyed socializing over this magnificent game that brought us all together — riichi.