Tournament Experience Report: Oranda Saikou 2011 in Utrecht - Partie #1

Good evening everyone, this is s25k speaking!

It’s been ages since the tournament and I’m finally going to give you some of my impressions of this weekend.

The Oranda Saikou in Utrecht (17.-18.9.2011) was probably one of the tournament highlights in Riichi-Europe this year: 2 days, 9 rounds, 68 Participants from 10 different countries – and 4 #osamuko users.

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The venue: the "NDC Den Hommel"

Chapter 01: How to mobilize your Luck ~the TV~

Things began to move on Thursday evening with the arrival of ron5. Seeing him exiting the train, I wasn’t quite sure if that would be him or not. He looked different from what I’ve expected after seeing some pictures. Handshake. No mistake now, it had to be him, if not, why would he talk to me? Returning home and hungry, we ordered some pizza from the infamous “meganekko” pizza shack, where all staff surrounding the only male – the cook – would be bespectacled young girls. Delicious pizza for a very good price. Following that, we played a few rounds of our favorite game with a girl from my local mahjong group and jslade, who was also coming along to Utrecht. Good opportunity to get used to each other.

At midnight, ron5 and I got into the car to pick up another #osamuko member. Just arrived from Sweden, fso was waiting at the Hanover main bus station. He looked like aimlessly looking around for some guys from the internet to pick him up. I decided to give him a call on his mobile phone and there he noticed us as being those internet guys. Handshake. Back in the car, he told us that he forgot all the food he had packed for his 17 hours bus ride and I decided to give him a little midnight snack upon arrival at home.

It felt quite strange to have these guys over at my place. We were all tired and being tired knowingly doesn’t help at all when it comes to provide socializing chatter. 2 AM, we decided to stop pushing it and to go to bed.

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fso and ron5 sitting there at 1:30AM, enjoying Marmite toast just before going to bed.
The next day, just a few hours before departure, I was finally packing my suitcase and getting a mahjong set ready for possible evenings of game and fun in the hostel.

We were waiting for jslade to arrive playing 3 player 17-steps mahjong.

I won. I won around 95% of the time. Lucky! Could it be that this is my lucky weekend?

It was around 3PM when we departed. A roughly 300km trip was lying in front of us.

4 guys, 2 cars and one German Autobahn.

We arrived in Utrecht at around 6PM, already noticing the difficulty to get used to the Dutch traffic. Bikes everywhere. Hundreds of them – even at night. They cross the street without watching, ride their bikes without lights at night. But we still managed to get to the hostel without killing one of them.

The hostel was located in a park of an old castle and old fortess complexes. Too bad that we had no time to check out the area , it looked quite interesting. Inside the hostel, we found yet another #osamuko user: Senechal from Canada.  The team was finally together.

After checking out our room, which was acceptable, we decided to figure out how to get to the venue and to eat something afterwards.

The plan sounded easy, especially because we had an automotive navigation system with us.

The second car, depending on my navigation system, followed me and ron5 in my car. Pressure arisen. – “Don’t lose them! Don’t drive too fast! They need my guidance!”, I thought. We managed at the beginning. Getting used to them, even the bikers were not a big problem anymore. It surprisingly went very well.

We nearly arrived, one last roundabout and then.. we came across impassable street construction sites. “In 500m, turn left” – but there were no 500m. We noticed quite fast that those construction sites made it impossible to rely on the navigation system anymore. “Turn left” – but there was no left. Great. The guys in the second car, which was a 23 year old Volkswagen Polo,  sure had their problems to keep up with the very sloppy and tensed up driving style I had, since I never was sure if I’d be able to turn left or not next time. We lost their / They lost our sight several times. The result was a >25km detour.

It took about an hour to find the venue, but at least we figured out how to get there without taking the detour now and we decided to go downtown to grab something to eat. Easy plan… not.

Another detour – and in the end, we couldn’t even find anything else than an overpriced KFC. I spare you with all the idiotic details, but a broken handbrake, KFC house rules that tell you to leave the house after 13 minutes, more and bigger street construction sites, “Turn right” without being allowed to and hundreds of bikes riding without light say enough.

For the way back, I gave the navigation system to the driver in the second car, jslade. He was stressed out from receiving all the anger from surprised road users when he had to switch lanes again, because I was told to turn left when there actually was no left. Relieve!

Surprisingly, the way back had no construction sites at all. But jslade still fell for the navigation system’s announcements: “In 500m, stay on the left lane” – so he switched lanes and was now driving against traffic. He noticed that there was something wrong fast enough and they survived. Back at the hostel, we went straight back to our room. 4 hours of driving through Utrecht was enough for the day.

A horrifying trip. Wasting so much energy, I thought I could at least get a good sleep.

For me – with my height of ~2meters something – nights in hostels are usually bad because of the small beds. Small beds with foot ends. I can’t stand beds with foot ends. Luckily,  I found an extra mattress rack on the floor which had no foot ends. So everything should’ve been good.

It was around midnight when I went under the shower to be prepared for the next day. I had to be extra quiet for the people already sleeping in our room. Being ready for bed, I noticed the upcoming hell. Mosquitoes, a bloodcurdling air condition and snoring people. The night was awful.

Barely slept at all, hearing the alarm felt like being released from torture. What could possibly go wrong today?

At least I had no stress getting ready in the morning. After having a shower before going to bed, I was already “on” when we went to the breakfast hall.

Breakfast was quite good. I had the feeling that the order of the breakfast buffet was a bit confusing, but it worked out. I didn’t like the fact that they already prepared the small bowls for cornflakes with joghurt, leaving me with less choices for breakfast. Either bread or a kind of dutch rusk which was a bit flat in the taste. But one of the breads available was quite delicious and since we were in the Netherlands, the basic thing to do is to put chocolate sprinkles on your bread instead of e.g. chocolate spread. ron5 and the others were very suspicious about that. I loved it.

Breakfast done! Ready to go! Sh…

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Thanks for that...
****That – at least – summarizes all the hours spent inside the car in Utrecht. With that kind of luck, how could I even do good during the tournament? What tournament, you ask? Ah, you forgot about it while reading?

I see.

Chapter 02: How to be fully awake, when you actually aren’t

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Clear directions.
There we are. The first day of the tournament.

We found a good spot to park our cars on the evening before, so there was no confusion about “how to?!” and “where to?!”.

Getting out of the cars, I put on my suit jacket and off we went.

Entering the stage, I already noticed familiar faces. I didn’t know their names, but I’ve seen those faces on the internet! Nevertheless, it was time for registration. I told them my name, they found my name on their list, I picked a number, they gave me a name tag with spelling errors and a sheet where I could see which tables I’m going to play during the tournament. It came with a plastic wrap on a orange coloured strap .. very cute..

First Round, Table 14. I sat down at table 14. It was still early. People were walking around getting coffee from the tea station. Talking, lots of that. Socializing. I was getting ready for the game. I took four tiles from the stack to get used to the size. They were unexpectedly light. What else was there? One riichi stick for each player, some chips to be used as honba / counters, a calculator, a laminated paper wind marker, a yaku / point sheet and a sheet of paper to keep track of the points lost / received.

It began to rain.

Still around ten minutes left until the beginning of the first round.

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Left to right: jslade, ron5, fso
I was not nervous at that time. Instead, I somehow was getting very indifferent about the upcoming first round. Maybe it was because of the bad sleep I had during the night. I wanted to go to bed again.

But too late! The match was about to begin. 3 other players sat down at my table. One was an Asian-looking Frenchman, one Dutch and a Dutch substitute player, who had just a basic idea of the Japanese / EMA riichi rules.

Everybody in the room sat down and the referee for the tournament held an introductory speech. I couldn’t understand anything and eventually stopped caring. Afterwards, the sitting order was decided and the game began.

Around that moment, I got nervous. My hand was shaking. I occasionally pushed over some of my tiles with my sleeve which didn’t help to calm down at all. I cannot even remember what was happening. The only thing I remember was that the guy who kept track of the points messed up big time once: Counting 5 han instead of 6 and then – after I told him that it would be a 6 fan Oya-Haneman – subtracting 12000 instead of 18000 from his points. And there I didn’t care anymore. Round over. A fucked up round. I could not even concentrate on the discarded tiles. The only thing I noticed was that I ended up being 3rd. I somehow managed to get at least some lucky points with a jigoku ikkitsuukan haitei tsumo for example.

15 minute break. Time to wake up. Where was my Dr. Pepper when I needed it the most? Next match: Table 17.

I sat down. Barely spoke to the others about the match, I just wanted to continue. At this point, even though the first round was fucked up, I wanted to play more. I was happy that I was able to compete with others.

Round 2 was about to begin. Who would be my opponents?

2 elderly Dutch women sat down. They seemed nice. It was difficult to talk to them, since one was unable to speak English at all. After a while, the third player arrived. A French woman. The game is on.

This round seemed more easy and laid-back than the first. The nice talking to the women during the game helped me a lot to calm down from the first match. But still, many mistakes. I was still not able to concentrate on the game. I dealt into a very french and very obvious Chun Toitoi Dora 3 Haneman. My attention was too limited on my own hand – probably a result of the lack of sleep. I was surprised when I noticed that the French woman knew how to count and knew the scores, especially after I remembered Osamu’s talking about French players. She was very eager in ‘er own French way. A good opponent.

The round went on. Despite the laid-back atmosphere, I didn’t back off , was able to get real points and ended up first. How did I do that? No time to think about that, it was already time to move on to the next round.

At least, I managed to be in “the plus”. The first round was a devastating -16000. Second ended up +25500. I wondered, what is going to happen next round? But first…

Lunch time. Already. Time has passed very quickly.

Chapter 03: Recreation and devastation

I wasn’t very hungry at that point, but I still wanted to check out the lunch buffet.

The buffet was full of fresh and warm stuff. I got myself a bun and a schnitzel sandwich. It was tasty and stuffing. I wasn’t sure if that was the right food to eat before having 3 more matches and I decided to look out for available fruit.

Apples and oranges. Damn, and there I looked forward to a good banana. They had milk available, but no bananas.

Slightly disappointed, I went back to the table, where all the other #osamuko members had already assembled at.

We talked quite a bit about the experiences from the first two rounds. The others also had their ups and downs, but they seemed to be in a good mood at least.

After we were done with the food, we immediately went back to the top floor to get ready for the next rounds.

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The ground-floor lobby
Back on the top floor, I sat down at table 3. A dutch man was already sitting there. Handshake. He told me that he is novice player and not very experienced. After we talked a bit, I got up again to grab myself a glas of water from the tea station. I really needed that.

Beginning of the third round. The Dutch man, a French and an elderly Dutch woman.

The Dutch woman was right there from the beginning.

Chi! Chi! Pon! – “Outside Hand.”

This was going to be interesting, I thought. But during the game, I got the feeling that Outside Hand was the only hand she knew. She had a very serious look on her face, so maybe she is just trying to make us think that she only knows the “Outside Hand”?

By the time I heard that the French woman I played against got a Shousangen, I was also Shousangen tenpai but had no use for that: one of the players left two of the remaining Chun in his hand after the French guy in front of me declared riichi.

To the end, it was getting very uneventful. Nothing big happened. For me, this round was not bad, but also not very good. A small plus of +4500.

I needed another glass of water.

Round 4 was about to begin. Table 6. It got way too hot inside the small room. The air condition was getting really bad. In addition to that, my head began to ache. Not a good sign. I was exhausted.

The beginning of round 4. Another Dutch woman, IF and another Frenchman were my opponents this time.

It was a rollercoaster ride, receiving big points upon losing big points.  Unnecessary deal-ins.

From what I remember, I always dealt into big hands in the beginning of each round. Mostly once and never again. Still, this has stopped me from gaining more points during the day.

This round, I dealt at least into something big twice. I kind of didn’t care. My head was aching. Aching too much. I wanted to stop playing, lay down and sleep. At least I managed to lose not too many points: -4500. I was glad that this round has ended without more point loss – it also could’ve been a monster plus round, but I was just too blocked because of my headaches so that I couldn’t do anything at all.

Drink. Maybe that would help. I needed more water. My aim from that point onwards was to at least finish all 9 Rounds and be above zero points.

No time for recreation and relaxation!  Round 5, the last of the first day awaited. I didn’t look forward to it –  I felt like shit.

This time, I was going against jslade. He played at table 9 for the whole day already and he will continue to play at table 9 for the rest of the tournament. Playing against him put me into a kind of bad position of playing against someone I regularly play against. The other players were a German woman and yet another Frenchman, but he was able to speak German. A very German round – and for starters, I dealt into an oya-mangan right of the bat.

Great. I backed off, no use of dealing into more big hands. I was still pretty fucked up and couldn’t keep up my attention, so why should I push it and eventually deal in again? I cannot remember how things went during that round and where I ended up. -5300 Points sound like a third place. I still was in the plus zone.

This was the end of the tournament’s first day and it was already getting late again.

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The bridge next to the venue
The team met outside. We kind of decided that we should look out for a supermarket to buy ourselves some drinks and snacks for the second day. Knowing that there was a small Aldi right behind the next corner, we were able to drive there without any help from the navigation system.

There we were now – Aldi. A closed Aldi. It was quite a surprise to us that an Aldi in the middle of a big city is closing at 6 PM. It couldn’t be helped now. We went back to our cars.

I remembered Senechal’s talking about a supermarket near the hostel which is supposed to sell Dr. Pepper. Everyone was a bit against going back to the hostel already, but I was the one in charge of the navigation system so they kind of had to follow us there against their will. It turned out to be a very good decision.

The little town near the hostel turned out to have a small alley where you could find everything you need: Supermarket(s), small restaurants and bars. So we went to the supermarket first.

I checked my money. It was not much, but enough to get some bottles of water ready. Right after entering, I came across the fruit section and remembered the situation from today’s lunch and I grabbed myself 3 bananas. Then I went directly to the milk corner and decided to have some juice pack sized soy milk. There I remembered the Dr. Pepper.

I ran to the soft drink corner and there it… should’ve been. It was out. They were out of Dr. Pepper. Sen mentioned that they had Dr. Pepper yesterday, but now they were out. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I strolled around, came back and it still wasn’t there. I did that several times. It was just too tough to accept the fact that it was out. I gave up.

We went outside, packed everything in our cars and looked out for something to eat. We eventually found a little not very inviting pizza shack. Even from the inside, it didn’t really look inviting but we decided to enjoy our dinner there anyways.

A bad idea. The pizza was expensive, but that wasn’t the real problem: The pizza was expensive and disgusting – that was the real problem. I barely managed to eat half of it. I could not even imagine that anyone of us could enjoy this as much I could not imagine that there were real salami slices on my pizza – they tasted like plastic.

We were still eating when the pizzarian’s son, who was helping out taking orders, came up and began chatting with us asking where we were coming from, what we were up to and how we liked it in Holland so far. He was probably around 15-17 years old. Not ill-minded, but premature. I wonder what kind of impression we left on him, since he was so interested. He also wanted to hang around with us during the rest of the weekend, but that was going too far – and he did not notice. It was difficult to explain him that we were not here to just have a nice vacation but for a reason and that our time was very limited. He didn’t quite get what was going on and still wanted to meet up. Very persistent. After another try in explaining the situation, he let go.  That was close. He was disappointed and I felt a bit bad about rejecting his offer to meet up, but still – we nearly got into something very strange there. We payed our drinks and pizza and agreed on going back to the hostel to play some mahjong in the bar next to the hostel’s reception.

Back in our room at the hostel, I went under the shower in order to be prepared for the next day, while the others went ahead to the bar for a drink.

A good and refreshing shower, I needed that one. It surprised me when I noticed that I had no bad thoughts about messing up during the tournament, I was still having fun and was really looking forward to the upcoming day.

After the shower, I went over to the bar hoping they would already be playing mahjong, but they were still drinking some dutch beer. When they were done, I grabbed the table-cloth I brought from home and put it on the small bar table. Perfect fit! We got the tiles out of the case and began playing.

I was not quite in the mood to play myself and was more interested in seeing the others play, but fso insited that I at least show him the true way of occult playing in telling him what to discard. I made an attempt. fso could not quite follow my discards, but it turned out to be haneman in the end –  That’s were I stopped giving him hints. I was happy with my 100% success rate.

We played a couple of rounds and then it already was past midnight. Time to go back to the room.

A fun day. I think we all had fun – at least, that was the impression I had, when I went to bed.

…and I was still in the plus zone.