Hey there! xGeo here with some exciting news!
If you haven’t heard already, Daina Chiba recently wrote a book in English about Riichi Mahjong. It is a book designed for beginners and intermediate players which is the first of its kind that I have seen. Also it’s free! You can download it here: http://riichi.dynaman.net/
I also recently finished reading it and had a chance to test out some things that were discussed in the book. The first main thing was tile efficiency. I asked xkime and Muller if they could review some of my gameplay, which you can read here and here. One of the things they pointed out was how I needed better tile efficiency. I had a basic understanding of tile efficiency due to intuition and reading Osamuko, but I think reading Chiba’s book really helped me grasp more concepts and solidify my understanding. I think this has really helped my gameplay as I can actually see the effects of reaching tenpai faster.
Correct me if I’m wrong but I think this book coined the term “insta-riichi” in the English speaking Riichi Mahjong community. (I had never heard the term before so I may be wrong.) (EDIT: Chiba told me that he was not the first to use the term.) Before I had usually been very strict with what hands I declared riichi on. I think I got this notion from watching JPML videos. I noticed that the pros went damaten very often even with no yaku. Only if it was a ryanmen wait would they then declare riichi. As such I almost never declared riichi on a bad wait and I would even scoff at players that did. Chiba’s book taught me that it’s ok to riichi on a bad wait, provided you are careful with what situations in which you choose to do so (e.g. JPML vs. Tenhou rulesets). Just last night, I was playing with some friends and they were surprised that I riichi’d with a kanchan. I feel like recently I’ve been going through a playstyle “crisis” because I’m not sure what to prioritize anymore: speed or points. I’ve always known that players face trade-offs between speed and points. For example if you always go for pure tile efficiency, your hand may end up as a yakuless hand that needs riichi and may have a bad wait. Chasing yaku is generally slow so my previous value of high scoring hands was in conflict with my newfound value of ruthless tile efficiency. I think balancing these two ideals is something that I need to refine more.
Another thing that I found helpful was the five-block method. It may seem obvious but you try to envision the final 5 components of your hand: the four sets and pair. When you advance your hand, you try to balance out the strength of each group. You can also use this to decide whether to chase certain yaku like honitsu. Simply evaluate whether you have the foundation for 5 blocks. If ye,s then good and if no, then try something else.
Overall I think Chiba’s book has provided intermediate players like me a bridge between the world of beginners and experts. The book is not for complete beginners but more more the beginner that knows all the yaku and the intermediate player looking for tips to improve. I think this is a good beginning to helping the Western mahjong community expand. As I stated when I started this blog, I want to help create and spread English mahjong resources since they are so lacking. I hope to do my part in the future and by spreading the word about Chiba’s book. If you haven’t already, give the book a read. I highly recommend you study it carefully and practice the tips included. As I said, it really helped me and I’m sure it will do the same for you!