The West coast best team tournament

Seattle Riichi Mahjong Club

Seattle may be the home of Grunge, but it is also home to one of the biggest riichi mahjong clubs in the US. I'm pleased to introduce the illustrious Seattle Riichi Mahjong Club (SRMC)! They are sending a total of 3 teams to the first Best in the West tournament. Seattle is definitely a mahjong powerhouse on the West Coast, having existing a number of years before Los Angeles Pride of Mahjong and the Pacific Mahjong League, the other two clubs battling it out in the tournament.  It will be amazing to see if the Seattle Riichi Mahjong Club's members can reproduce their individual championship results in this team format and bring home not only the trophy, the Aotomo automatic mahjong table, but also reach Mahjong Nirvana! Edwin Dizon was so kind to write a short history about the club and collect these interview answers.

Club history by Edwin Dizon and Zach Francks: The Seattle Riichi Mahjong Club had its humble beginnings as the Microsoft Monday Mahjong Mailing List, where employees and friends would get together to teach, learn, and play Japanese mahjong. Records from current members go back as far as 2011, but it’s more than likely that it started before then however almost all of the original members have moved on. At around the same time Zach Francks had met with Hiro Alexander, and they started recruiting people through a Facebook group (originally called Seattle Mahjong Group, and which would become our current Facebook page) at the beginning of 2011. They would generally hold meetings at or around Crossroads Mall in Bellevue, eventually building a regular following. Eventually the two groups would merge, and we would move our main facing page from the Microsoft Mailing List to Meetup. In addition to gaining members from the Seattle Mahjong Group, we have gained quite a few members from Sakura-con. Informally, Zach had brought a mahjong set to the convention in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the group officially obtained a room and was put on the schedule at the con. Since then, the Mahjong Room at Sakura-con has grown in popularity every year, and now is considered one of the highest draws in the gaming group as a whole. Some of Seattle’s notable players are Zach Francks, the only US player to make both the World Riichi Championships top 32, and Charlie McDonnell, champion of both the 2016 Pacific Mahjong League Riichi Open and 2017 Seattle Riichi Open.

Seattle Players Profiles

 

Questions

1 Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

2 Why do you like mahjong?

3 What is your favorite yaku?

4 Why do you think Seattle team will win the tournament?

Patrick Nguyen

1 Started playing mahjong in university because of Saki

2 Making big hands is satisfying

3 Sanankou, one step away from suuankou but actually feasible

4 The anime plotline says we'll win.

Travis Stern

1 Just your normal mahjong player with a large collection of mahjong video games.

2 The social interaction.

3 Kokushi Musou

4 Since I'm part of the group, it's only natural to irrationally think that we will win.

John Erickson

1 I'm a 33 year old multidisciplinary nerd. I took interest in Mahjong because of various anime, and started playing in 2010, with some self teaching online before joining the Chicago Mahjong Group for a few years. After I left Chicago I was stuck playing the game in Tenhou off and on for several years before making it up to Seattle.

2 I like Mahjong because it’s more strategic than Poker and more random than Chess. I also like the people that play it and the thrill of throwing out a reach stick.

3 Toss up between Pinfu, Sanshoku and Chanta

4 Seattle will win because we will win. (I am bad at trash talk.)

Heather Blood

1 I'm 34, married, originally from Seoul, Korea, now live in Bellevue. Graduated with a degree in specialty desserts & breads, currently employed as a full-time nanny.

2 It's a fun blend of skill and luck. I like that there are a lot of different hands, the chance of uradora, plus various other interesting components..

3 I hate to say it but honestly...Toitoi

4 I think we have a decent number of strong players with varied skills although I'm uncertain of how things will work with team play.

Shane Zamora

1 My name is Shane! I've been playing mahjong since 2009. I've been to a number of mahjong events such as both WRC events in Paris and Las Vegas and am looking forward to being in many more in the future like this team tournament, the first of it's kind in the US!

2 I like mahjong because of how rewarding it is to navigate the complexity that emerges from the simplicity of the gameplay. The details of yaku and scoring rules all positively impact the way a game can unfold and make it more interesting. One could debate a single discard for hours, and introduce all manner of scenarios that could change one's approach, and the more you learn about the game and ways to think about it, the more meaningful every hand and decision becomes.

3 Sanshoku Doujyun

4 You win at mahjong by #1 not losing when luck is not in your favor and #2 taking full advantage of luck when it is in your favor, and our Seattle players are excellent at those basics.

Zach Francks

I'm a game designer and perennial fan of otaku culture. I currently work at Wizards of the Coast, in addition to self-publishing my own card game based on Touhou Project.

I taught myself how to play mahjong after seeing it referenced frequently in anime and manga. In an attempt to find players to play with in person I helped establish the Facebook group that would become the Seattle Riichi Mahjong Club. I love playing mahjong, but I also love spreading the joy of mahjong to new players. To that end I established the mahjong room at Sakura-Con, which has become a permanent and popular fixture, having taught hundreds of new players over the last five years.

2 Mahjong is a game of uncertainty, while not devolving into a mere roll of the dice. The strategies and considerations of mahjong bloom like the petals of a rose. While you can only see a few things at first, as they open up, more and more are revealed within. In the end, what is left is a beautifully complex pattern that is not apparent at first blush.

3 Chankan. It's hilarious and punishes calling kan.

4 We have a strong stable of players who constantly strive to improve their game. This is evidenced by our numbers and performance at the recent WRC.

Anthony Hsieh

1 I am 23 years old, started playing mahjong a year ago, and enjoy playing all types of board games

2 So many different aspects to get good at (tile efficiency, push/pull, etc.), which makes it more complicated than it seems. The community is also really nice!

3 Riichi

4 A team has two time top 16 WRC player, 3 time tournament winner, and a USA representive for 2017 IORMC Team competition. B and C team have strong players in their own right, many players placing top in our league before. Many of us also just came from a 2 day bootcamp/retreat, so we're prepared to take the top spot!

Charles McDonell

1 Seattle born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days

2 It's so intense, even when playing casually. There's few games where I feel that kind of fun pressure of dodging two riichis. Also there's tons of great manga about mahjong.

3 Sanshoku Doujun

4 We have three teams going and as far as I know that's the largest amount of teams representing one city. So odds are one of our teams will win.

Edwin Dizon

1 Accountant by trade, former league bowler, curler and chess player. Interests are basically a splattering of non-congruous items. For instance, I likes watching sports - especially international sports (Japanese baseball both pro and HS, Aussie Rules Football, Cricket), while recently resumed watching anime again.

2 I was originally interested in the game due to the anime series Saki though started playing knowing the series wasn't realistic. Since then the relationship has been similar to the stereotypical love/hate people have of golf - I like playing it, but it can certainly be frustrating at times. Even still, I try to find ways to improve my game whenever possible.

3 Any that I can complete?

4 "Will win" is a bit much. I tend to take a more balanced approach to our club and its players. Currently, I hope our players who wish to be competitive are strong enough to play against other clubs across the country. In the longer term I hope our players who wish to, and are able to, compete internationally can hold their own.

Kevin Shi

1 I'm a long time weeb who just recently joined the Seattle club a year ago. I've been playing general mahjong since I was a kid, but only about 5 years ago started playing Riichi more seriously.

2 Winning is fun.

3 Chitoiitsu

4 Because we'll have luck on our side.

Kinyan Lui

1 I am from Seattle WA and have been a member of the Seattle mahjong club for four years now.

2 Because it is fun.

3 Any yaku in a winning hand

4 Because we can!

Paige Allen

1 I'm a social 28 year old who enjoys strategy games and gambling. I got into Mahjong through a friend but have yet to watch any mahjong anime. I also enjoy cooking and art.

2 I like mahjong because I like games, and I like gambling. Mahjong is kinda that sweet spot between the two. I’ve also become very invested in our club and the community.

3 I don’t particularly like Chanta but it sure likes me. Ittsu because it feels so good when you get it.

4 We’ll win because of our teamwork… and because we brought three teams so statistically the odds are decent.

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