Hello everyone! Another Seattle Riichi Open has concluded and we have a new champion! Of course, last year’s champion, Charles McDonnell was not able to attend, so of course it had to be a new one, but details…
We had a group of 24 people participating with members from University of British Columbia, the Pacific Mahjong League, LA Pride of Mahjong, and even from the Nine Gates/USPML from New York! All in all it was a great turnout.
The results after Day 1 seemed to indicate a very close spread, with the exception of Canada’s Lillian Hoenig who had put in a strong first place finish in Round 4 putting her over 10 points clear of 2nd place.
Instead, a triumvirate was able to get through the ruckus and join Lillian atop the peak led by PML’s Rachel Halperin who secured 2 first place finishes and jumped to the lead, 16 points clear of Lillian. Seattle’s Blaise Ritchie and Nine Gates’ alumnus Michael McLeod got a first for themselves, trailing Lillian by about the same margin.
For the final 4 spots, it was pretty much a bloodbath. Setbacks from Seattle’s Shane Rideout and William Gosewehr opened the door for others. LAPOM’s 2 representatives, Ruriko Duer and Terry Jane Kurobe both put in solid 2nd place finishes and methodically moved into 5th and 6th. Same went for Seattle’s Patrick Nguyen, who even after losing 1st place in the 5th round, put in 2 seconds and ended in 7th. The person he lost 1st to in that round, PML’s Daniel Moreno, did just enough in the 6th round to sneak into the playoffs.
Now unfortunately, I had changed the format of the tournament to have no adjustment of scores between qualifying and playoffs (more on that in the Tournament Director’s post-mortem). This meant that going into the semifinals, there would need to be a major stumble by the top 4 and a huge score posted by someone below to make up the deficit.
On Table 2, such a result was posted. In fact, Michael McLeod had run away at the table, posting a score for 32.7 moving him to a net score of 96.3. This came at the cost of Lillian Hoenig though, and with her -26 suddenly found herself with a score of 47.4. And while neither Ruriko or Patrick could take advantage, the focus shifted onto the feature table.
Things were looking pretty grim as Rachel continued her hot streak, jumping to over 40000 points early and making the task of catching up near impossible. However Blaise, who had been sitting in 3rd, was in danger of finishing last – a danger that became critical when Rachel hit him for a mangan hand, bringing his point total to 16500. If that score and placing held, that -28.5 score would have brought him down to 36.8, putting him in distance not only from Terry Jane (3.4 behind), but Daniel as well (17.2 behind). Daniel would need a haneman hand, while Terry Jane would need to just overtake Daniel to pass Blaise overall.
The first hand of S4 was nuts. Rachel was isshanten for kokushi musou (13 orphans) needing both the chun (red dragon) and the hatsu (green dragon). Daniel reached on a chiitoitsu (7 pairs) hand. Any uradora would make it a mangan, so he would either need to tsumo or have Blaise deal in to garner sufficient points. That was made relevant when Terry Jane closed kanned the 5 man, revealing 2 pin as the new dora, automatically giving Daniel the mangan hand he needed. Meanwhile, Terry Jane was tenpai waiting on the original dora, which hadn’t come out.
The hand would go to ryuukoku (draw), and Blaise and Terry Jane both were tenpai. That meant that Terry Jane was in 2nd and as long as Blaise did not win a hand, she would be in 4th overall.
Starting the next hand, Daniel’s hand seemed far away from mangan status, Rachel’s certainly wasn’t yakuman caliber but wasn’t terrible either. Terry Jane’s had all the trappings of a big hand, while Blaise’s hand was close to tenpai.
Terry Jane pushed calling pon on the North, then subsequently on the South. Rachel too had called twice into tenpai, looking to put and end to the game.
Instead, Blaise declares riichi, ippatsu tsumos (wins on his very next discard), and when he flips over the uradora, gets one more han for a mangan, effectively ending both Daniel and Terry Jane’s chances.
The standings after the semifinals were:
- Rachel Halperin +121.6
- Michael McLeod +96.3
- Blaise Ritchie +71.1
- Lillian Hoenig +47.4
- Patrick Nguyen +31
- Ruriko Duer +23.8
- Terry Jane Kurobe +21
- Daniel Moreno +4.6
So finals we would go, with Michael within striking distance, Blaise needed some help and Lillian needing a lot of help. But then disaster for everyone as Rachel hit Lillian for a mangan hand jumping out to a big lead.
Michael responded in kind with a riichi-ippatsu-tsumo-dora for a mangan of his own and it was game on between the two for first overall.
By the time all last came about, Michael led Rachel by 4000 points. That meant that he would claw back 14 points of that deficit leaving him behind by 11.3. A mangan direct hit off of Rachel or a haneman hand would be enough to overtake. He’d start the hand with 2 dora in hand and then having called twice, draws the third! Tanyao-dora 3 makes for an instant mangan!
But instead, he takes the win off of Lillian, meaning that by a margin of 3.3 points, Rachel Halperin wins the 2018 Seattle Riichi Open!
- Rachel Halperin +137.4
- Michael McLeod +134.1
- Blaise Ritchie +52.3
- Lillian Hoenig +12.6
- Patrick Nguyen +57.3
- Terry Jane Kurobe +22.8
- Daniel Moreno +18.6
- Ruriko Duer -18.3
- Matt Myers +85.2
- Kira Nebilak +83.1
- John Erickson +73.2
- Shane Rideout -2.9
- William Gosewehr -9.9
- Bichen Wang -20.2
- Anthony Hsieh – 23.5
- Kinyan Lui -36.3
- Ayako Shigamatsu -40.3
- Abby Hipolito -40.5
- Nels Johnson – 64
- Luke Powell -84.4
- David Li -89.5
- Jaben McCormack -123.9
- Richard Tai -128.6
- Zachary Francks W/D
Tournament Director Post-Mortem
As with my tournament last year I am providing a post-mortem about the tournament format.
The biggest glaring issue is the actions post cut. In looking at the 2017 results, there was just a 13 point gap between 1st and 7th. I perhaps thought it was because of the tournament format, so a division of scores was not necessary. However, this tournament shows that no format is immune to such a result, almost making the playoff rounds inconsequential.
So what to do then? Does the format then fail?
Perhaps the best answer is, it depends. First, the field was smaller this year than last (24 vs 36), making the pool of players smaller and possibly concentrating the differences in skill levels. In addition, the gaps became worse when the Top 16 were paired against each other, not better like in 2017.
In fact, it would have been fine if with 24 players we had a 4 person playoff instead.
So perhaps the first adjustment to be made is that with 24 players, playoffs include the top 4 only.
In addition the quartile pairing system used in the first 4 rounds somehow prevented people from pulling away outside of Lillian in the 4th round.
Maybe then, the correct thing to do is to play 9 rounds in all. 5 rounds of qualifying, then a double hanchan for the semifinals and finals.
In the end, I don’t think the pairing system failed, instead it just needs to be adapted better to the situation.
The other thing is with respect to wind assignments. I think until we find a way to automate the process to balance winds and reverse any seating position when players play each other a second time, it may be a variable that is too much to take into account at this stage while trying to keep a schedule.