Krabman interviews…. Episode 29

Hey! My guest today is Muller from Mahjong Discord channel!

1.  How did you start playing Riichi?
After watching the Akagi anime I started learning the rules by playing the Gamedesign Flash game towards the end of 2009 and a few times throughout 2010. Judging by the screenshots I have, I started playing on Tenhou some time in 2011, and started playing seriously maybe a year later. I’ve been playing fairly regularly since then.

2. What do you like the most about it?
I love that, no matter how much you improve, there’s always more to learn. At my level, it still feels like I’m only scratching the surface of what’s possible in this game. On reaching tenhoui for the second time, ASAPIN also talked about how he’s still go so much room for improvement, despite being unquestionably one of the strongest players in the world. Hirasawa Genki, a Tenhou 10d and member of the Nihon Pro Mahjong association, also wrote about how the high amount of variance in style between top players demonstrates how the mahjong community is still so far off from developing an optimal play style. As an example, he cited the 爆打 bot and how strong it is, even though it makes so many bizarre decisions that no human would make.

3. How often do you play?
I used to average at least two or three hanchan a day, or more if I was especially bored. I pretty much exclusively play tonpuusen on my sub accounts though, and since it’s a lot easier to grind out continuously I’d probably play around ten games in a day. Unfortunately I recently started a new job so I’ve had very little free time for mahjong outside of weekends.

4. Online or live Mahjong – which one do you prefer and why?
I’m an online guy. It’s mostly because the vast majority of my experience in mahjong has been online, but I also think that online play provides a “purer” focus on the game without having to worry about meta-gaming aspects like player tells, accidentally knocking stuff over, miscounting point sticks, or edge cases in the rules. I understand why some people might find these things enjoyable though. I also feel that the availability of strong opponents on Tenhou makes for a more interesting challenge, and that the ranking system provides a way to set goals and measure improvement. In comparison, I see live play as more of a social thing than a competitive thing, though that might just be because we don’t have any riichi mahjong tournaments down here in Australia.

5. How do you practice/learn strategy & theory?
I started out by reading the articles on Osamuko and elsewhere, but eventually I ran out of material. Lately I’ve begun buying and reading Japanese strategy books, and I’ve learnt a lot from them. I hope to be able to provide translations and excerpts to help western players continue to develop their skills past the limits of existing English materials.

6. Favorite Yakuman?
Chuuren Poutou, I guess. Chinroutou and Ryuuiisou are also contenders. Never had any of them, though.

7. Any tournament achievements?
Nothing in live tournaments, but I’ve played in quite a handful of online tournaments with varying results. In last year’s IORMC I placed sixth out of, what, 64 people? Australia placed fifth overall out of sixteen countries. Pretty good for our first time in the competition.

8. Biggest Mahjong related dream?
For starters, I’d like to become the strongest player outside of Asia, and then eventually the strongest player in the world. Who wouldn’t dream of that? Other than that I’d love to see Riichi Mahjong take off as a competitive sport in the west in the same way that poker has. As I mentioned earlier, I’d also like to provide resources for English-speaking players to step up their game.

9. Quick tip for Mahjong beginners
1. The best way to learn how to get good is just to play. Play play play. Play, then play some more. Playing is the only way you can internalize knowledge. There’s no substitute for experience.
2. Study. Read strategy articles and books and review your replays. I don’t really recommend watching higher level games or pro games, because the context and reasoning behind them is so different and when you don’t understand that you risk picking up bad habits.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Ask stronger players to review your replays, point out your mistakes, and teach you how to evaluate situations. Once you start reaching upper Joukyuu level or Tokujou level, try finding a strong player that you can trust and ask them to become your Mahjong mentor. You can question their advice and have them explain it to you, but don’t second guess them, because they should know better than you.

Thanks for your answers, Muller!

Check out Muller’s Mahjong Guide:

May Yakuman be with you!

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