Now it’s time for Mai to enter the stage!
1. How did you start playing Riichi?
In Hong Kong, Mahjong is a popular activity that commonly takes place during family visits and friend gatherings. Thus it is not unusual for people like me to be exposed to Mahjong at a relatively young age. That said, it was not until my freshman year at university that I hear about Riichi for the first time. I recall having a conversation with a friend in math class which he introduced me to Pairon – an online Riichi Mahjong platform hosted on NicoNico. I decided to give Pairon a try, and it ended up becoming one of my favorite hobbies.
2. What do you like the most about it?
I often compare Riichi against other styles of Mahjong, such as Hong Kong, Guang Dong and Taiwan style. Among the different styles, Riichi is no doubt the most strategically oriented and challenging one by far. There’s a lot more variance in game play due to the many different types of yaku and obscure rulings (like furiten for example). Skill plays a very significant role in Riichi since you have to think a lot about your discards and often forced to make uneasy judgments. While in other styles of Mahjong you may get away by mindlessly discarding the tile that leads you to the fastest way to tenpai, in Riichi you could get punished heavily if you play recklessly and deal into their hands.
3. How often do you play?
I play one to two hours every day on average, usually on my phone or 7447. I also occasionally play with real tiles at a co-worker’s place during a weekend gathering or something.
4. Online or live Mahjong – which one do you prefer and why?
I mostly play online because it is a lot easier to find people to play with. I don’t really have a preference to either one of them, I guess if I really have to choose I’ll pick online.
5. How do you practice/learn strategy & theory?
I learned a lot from reading articles and by watching plenty of replays. Watching my own replays helped me a lot because I can pick out the mistakes that I made and avoid making them in the future. And of course, like with everything else, practice makes perfect.
6. Favorite Yakuman?
7. Any tournament achievements?
Never participated in an actual tournament, though there was one that took place in a University nearby and I went as a spectator because I was late for sign ups.
8. Biggest Mahjong related dream?
I want to develop an AI that can do well against human players. In fact I am considering to make that my thesis if I decide to enroll in a master’s degree. Also I’d love to see Riichi continues to gain popularity outside of Japan.
9. Quick tip for Mahjong beginners?
1. Don’t get discouraged when you lose. Losing sucks but on the other hand you often learn a lot more from the games you lost than the ones you won. Go back and watch the replay and try to identify the mistakes that you made.
2. Step outside your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different kind of strategies and try making the plays that you normally wouldn’t, You may end up discovering new tactics that you weren’t aware of.
3. WWYD (What Would You Discard) puzzles is a great way to improve your decision making skills at Mahjong.
Thanks for your answers, Mai!
May Yakuman be with you!