Wow, things went a little quickly in that first episode! Things were so quick that we might not have gotten all that good an opportunity to know the girls, but here's a little run down of the line up for the Achiga all girl's High School Mahjong club:
The protagonist of this story, she was classmates with Nodoka Haramura in Achiga from elementary school up until Junior High before she transferred out due to family reasons. Fueled by her desire to reunite with Nodoka in the National Mahjong Tournament, Shizuno restarts the Achiga all-girl's High School Mahjong club together with her childhood friend, Ako. Contrary to her nickname "Shizu" (lit. "quiet"), she is somewhat rowdy and spontaneous, but maintains a positive, light-hearted attitude throughout.
Childhood friend of Shizu and confidant. She left Achiga after graduating elementary school to go to Ada Middle School in hopes of entering Bansei High - the current prefectural mahjong champion at the time. Due to Shizu's random desire to restart the Achiga all-girl's High School Mahjong club, Ako reconsiders entering Bansei High and reunites with Shizu to start the Achiga Mahjong Club. Somewhat straightforward in nature, Ako never fails to re-direct Shizu when her antics get the best of her.
Senior by one year to Shizu and Ako and the younger sister of Yû, Kuro maintained the Achiga Mahjong Club after it closed down a few years before she graduated junior high school. Although dazed at times, she has an uncanny ability to collect all the dora in the final match of a mahjong game.
Senior student at Achiga High and older sister of Kuro, she joins the club after being persuaded by her sister. Intolerant to the cold and crowded areas, she is likewise shy and soft-spoken.
A second year student at Achiga High and acquaintance of Kuro, she joins the club per suggestion of Kuro. She was a fan of Harue Akado during her time as the star player of the Achiga all-girl's High School Mahjong Club before she lost her will to play. Up until then, she stopped playing mahjong, only to regain her conviction after hearing the reinstated Achiga Mahjong Club's goal to win at the National Tournament. Serious and with a taciturn choice of words, she still shows a lingering affection and respect for Harue.
Former star player of the Achiga all-girl's High School Mahjong club during her high school years, she stopped playing mahjong after a traumatic defeat at the National Tournament. As a means to rehabilitate her broken spirit, she opted to teach elementary students how to play mahjong. After regaining the courage to play again in the professional league, her company team unexpectedly disbanded. After returning to Achiga, she finds the Mahjong Club reinstated, and decides to train the girls as the club's advisor.
I can't say much for the episode, other than it's somewhat overdramatized and fast-paced. Out of all of these characters, though, only Kuro seems to have some sort of weird super power going about her. She has the strange ability to gather up all the dora come the final round of a match. We'll take a more in-depth look at how significant this is in this week's Saki's Corner.
Follows is a list of terms used in this week's "Saki's Corner"
Dora Indicator - A tile located three tile away from the opposite end of the wall from which players draw tiles. The value of the tile AFTER it indicates the dora tile for that given match (e.g. 1-stick dora indicators means that the 2-stick is the dora for that round).
Han - Points awarded for specific combinations that are used as multipliers in computing one's score for a winning hand. The higher the han, the higher the score (or worth) of the hand.
Ippeiko - A hand containing one set of identical sequences (of the same suit). Worth 1 han point and for closed hands, only.
Mangan - A hand who's han points has reached 5, or a hand who's basic points have exceeded 2,000 after calculating. A different calculation for points is used at this point.
Menzen Tsumo - A tsumo called without having revealed any tiles from one's hand. Oftentimes abbreviated to simply tsumo. Worth 1 han for closed hands, only. If the tsumo is called with an opened hand, then no additional han point is added to the hand.
Pinfu - Also known as a "peace" hand, is a winning hand that has no additional basic points. This type of hand has no triples or quads, no honor tiles, and no wind tiles of either the current round or the seat of the player. The winning tile must also be the result of a multiple wait (more than a single tile to win) that completes a two-sided sequential meld. Worth 1 han point and for closed hands, only.
Riichi - A play that consists of a player depositing 1,000 points when they are one tile away from winning. The player who calls riichi must discard all tiles that don't complete their hand. If the player wins the round after declaring riichi, they re-claim the 1,000 points and have an additional Han point added to their hand.
San Ankou - A hand containing three concealed sets of triples. Worth 2 hand points, whether or not it is closed or opened.
Tanyao - A hand containing no terminal tiles (1's or 9's), being made up of all simple tiles and no honor/wind tiles. Worth 1 hand point and may be for open or closed hands, depending on the rules.
Tenpai - Being one tile away from winning. Any player who is tenpai may call out "riichi", but they don't have to if they don't want to.
Tsumo - Also called winning a game by drawing the winning tile from the wall.
Saki's Corner: 1st Tile
Nodoka's style of play is typical of her character: cool and calculated. She almost always goes out on a tsumo, which reflects a more tempered style of play that focuses less on chance and more on statistical probabilities.
Let's take a look at Nodoka's winning hand:
The total han she has here is four, and includes 1) pinfu, 2) tanyao, 3) ippeikou, and 4) menzen tsumo. Nodoka, however, says her score is 2000 - 4000. The first number here indicates what each non-dealer pays Nodoka - namely 2,000 points, while the latter indicates what the dealer pays - 4,000 points (totaling 8,000 points).
Now, if you took a look at the point scoring table here, you may be wondering where this is in the 4-han territory. The answer is that it isn't. Remember that once the basic points go beyond 2,000, the hand is already a mangan. In this case, we can assume that Nodoka actually has a 5-han hand. The extra han may either be the result of a previously declared riichi, or a dora tile (not shown).
Pop quiz time!
Analyzing her hand, Nodoka went out on a 4-stick tile. She actually could have gone out on a 1-stick, as well, and the tsumo would still be complete (2-2-3-3-4 + 1 becomes 1-2-3 and 2-3-4) - but if you were Nodoka, would you have done so?
Answer - Probably not. Though it's true that this will still be a winning hand, the total han would only be 3 (pinfu and menzen tsumo, plus the riichi/dora). The 1-stick will violate the conditions for getting a tanyao and ippeikou as previously scored, so the total score will drop down to only 1000 - 2000. This gives us a total of only 4,000 points - HALF of what we would have got if we went out on a 4-stick tile!
The lesson here is that you should take into account the total han you're actually gaining with a winning hand, and gun for the one that gives you the most. Of course, this means that you risk losing if you delay your win by forgoing a possible exit on a tile. However, each play should be considered on a case-to-case basis. Sometimes, you'd LIKE to go out quickly if you feel like your opponent is close to completing their own hand. All things being equal, though, Nodoka clearly thought things through to make sure she could maximize her points!
Nodoka makes a comment regarding the dora on the table. In Saki, the girls use a special Mahjong set that includes four "RED" dora that function as fixed dora tiles, in addition to the dora that are indicated at the start of a round with the dora indicator. In this sense, there can be at least EIGHT dora at any given point in time during a match.
Remember that the purpose of the dora is that it adds an additional han point to an existing hand. This is a good thing, but it doesn't mean you can't let go of them should the need arise. This is one of the reasons why Nodoka makes a comment about not seeing any doras thrown, despite their being in the middle of a round. Again, we're seeing Nodoka's tendency to be a little analytical, so it comes as no surprise when she is shocked by the unlikely odds.
Kuro's hand is interesting, as we see here:
She had all the dora! Even though she isn't tenpai yet, we can see that her hand is forming along the lines of a tanyao, and maybe even a san ankou. Even if she didn't win off of a tsumo or declare riichi, she could have at least scored 11-han. Given that she's the dealer, this would mean a total score of 36,000! Never underestimate what doras can do for you!
Pop quiz time!
So it's a shame that Kuro lost, but if she didn't drop that 9-character tile, what do you think she would have dropped? Take note of the current discards of the players at the time:
Looking at Kuro's hand, it's tempting to simply throw the 9-character away, given how useless it is. There IS a problem, however - Shizu's discards. Shizu's discard pile is seen on the left-hand side of the screen (she sits to the left of Nodoka), and by the looks of it she's collecting character tiles! Throwing away any character at this point in the game is risky, and unless you're playing defensively, you would think twice before discarding ANY character tile so thoughtlessly. So if you couldn't throw away the 9-character tile, which tile would you have discarded?
Answer - Let's see what would happen if we opted NOT to throw away any character tiles. This would mean that we forgo a tanyao, and we end up forcing ourselves to make the 9-character tile our pair meld. In effect, the two 5-ball and two 6-stick tiles MUST be triple melds. We can then break up the 2-stick quad and force an open-ended wait for a 1-stick or 4-stick tile (2-3 needs either 1 or 4 to complete a sequential meld). We'd most likely expect the latter because there are already three 1-stick tiles on the board (including the dora indicator). Breaking the quad has its benefits, too, because it secures us an extra 2 han points if we plan on completing a san ankou (from triple 5-ball, 6-stick, and 2-stick melds). For this reason, it would probably make the MOST sense to discard the red 5-stick dora. Little do we know, however, that we will NEVER win unless Shizu decides to change her tiles and ends up discarding her 9-character. We can only win on her discard if we are tenpai by the time that happens. If in any case we DO win in this manner, the total han points would only be 9 (7 dora + 2 han from the san ankou), giving us just 24,000 points.
The lesson here is understanding how to read other player's plays, and how it affects the hand you're forming. I actually don't like Kuro's hand at all, because we're very limited with regard to how to maximize the use of all of the dora. We can be easily tempted by all of those dora, but avoiding greed and compromising as necessary in a defensive manner may mean the difference between winning and losing.
post more please,,,this is some great stuff, and helped me alot in learning more. Hard to find Riichi Mahjong here, seems what few that do play are either Hong Kong, or American style
This is the first time i see am impressive explanation about riichi mahjong in CR. I would like to see on crunchyRoll Akagi or something like that...
Wow, thanks for the replies. I was worried about how I was going to continue this since things were getting a bit busy (I'm 4 weeks behind, after all), but yeah - I'll post the next updates when I can. Thanks for the feed back!