Intermediate Lesson 5
Riichi mahjong events can take many different forms. When it comes to competition mahjong, there are three different formats of which you should be aware. These are: leagues, tournaments, and multiple-hanchan series. This article will cover the two of these formats in detail and also give some insight on how you should approach them.
Leagues are the simplest of these three formats. Leagues have players participate in a number of games over a specified period of time. Usually, final scores including placement bonuses are recorded and used to rank players within the league. The number of games in leagues is almost always relatively large, typically at least 20 games per player. Because of this, this is the format that allows for the most “normal” mahjong. Basically, you play to maximize your overall score and improve your ranking. That may seem obvious, but it can contrast significantly with the other two formats.
Next are tournaments. There are a few different ways in which tournaments are run, but the general idea is the same. Players usually play in anywhere from 4 to 8 games and are ranked by their final scores including placement bonuses. There may be a playoff for the top 4 or top 8 players after the preliminary rounds. Regardless, the number of games is much lower than a league.
Depending on the number of players in the tournament, you may have to achieve a very high overall score in order to place in the top 4. That means that you have to be more aggressive when you have the opportunity to gain points, even if you may currently be in the lead at the table. Racking up placement bonuses for being in 1st or 2nd place is also effective for gaining more points. You only have a few games to earn a lot of points, so you have to make every game count. However, that does not mean that you should throw caution to the wind and push every hand you get; keeping the points you have is also important.
Towards the end of the tournament, you should be able to figure out about how many points you need to make it into the top cut, though that target could move depending on what happens at the other tables. You should then play according to the prize structure. If only the top 4 players win anything, then the difference between 5th place and 105th place is nothing. Aim for the top, even if it seems hopeless; you really have nothing to lose at that point.
That being said, you may end up having to do the same type of thing in a league format. Depending on how the league is structured, such as if there are prizes or a playoff at the end for the top players, you could view a league as a long tournament. In this way, these two formats are quite similar. However, the difference in the number of games between a league and a tournament is often staggering.
The closer you are to the end of the event, the less control you have over its outcome. That is why your mindset has to change relative to the number of games remaining. Whether it is the last game in a league or in a tournament, you should adjust your play according to the prize structure of the event as well as your current situation. This is even more important in a multiple-hanchan series, which will be discussed in the next article.