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Competition Mindset
By Nima
Intermediate Lesson 3

Riichi Mahjong five basic elements

Mahjong is a game that can be enjoyed in many ways. It is common to play a fun game of mahjong with friends; chat, socialize, and do not worry about the outcome of the game. However, if you want to play in any sort of competitive environment, then you have to take on a different mindset. You have to show respect for the other players at the table and the game itself. The result of the game becomes important, and you should play with the intent to win. That is the essence of competition mahjong.

If you want to play competitively, you must first look at the big picture. For example, the winner of a hanchan is the player who has the most points at the end of the hanchan. That may seem obvious, but players often make the mistake of only worrying about winning their current hand. Rather than trying to win the most hands, the goal is to have the most points; winning hands is just one way of gaining points.


If you are playing in a tournament or league, then the goal is even larger than one hanchan. This goal differs based on the format of the tournament or league, and you have to keep this overall goal in mind while you play each hand. To provide a basic example, if only the winner of the tournament gets a prize, then you have to play to win the entire tournament. If the difference between 2nd place and 102nd place is effectively nothing, then there is no reason not to aim for 1st place. We will cover how to approach different formats in a later article.


Additionally, mahjong is a game that you play with three other players. If every other player is also trying to win, then the odds are not in your favor. Sometimes things will not go your way, and there are games where you will lose, no matter how good you are or how hard you try. Accepting that fact and keeping your composure during a game is another part of competition mahjong. However, you have more control over the outcome than you think. Consider the choices you made while playing and look back with the intent to learn. If possible, you should consider recording your games so that you may review them in detail afterwards.


Lastly, if you want to have any hope of playing competition mahjong, you must memorize the scoring tables and know how to score hands. Calculating the hand value you need to overtake another player (or the hand value another player needs to overtake you) is absolutely necessary for competitive play. To this end, knowing how to score your own hand becomes mandatory. It may be difficult at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will be.


Riichi mahjong is an amazingly complex game, and casual games just scratch the surface. Competition mahjong is so much deeper, and it can completely change how you view the game. If you approach mahjong with a competitive mindset and work on improving your skills step by step, you can experience the depth of this incredible game.

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