The 2017 LAPOM Riichi Championship was held on February 18-19th at the home of the Los Angeles Pride of Mahjong (LAPOM) location in Gardena, CA. A healthy field of 28 competitors did battle over 8 rounds in 2 days for 2 seats for the World Riichi Championships to be held in October 2017 in Las Vegas, NV.
The format of the tournament saw players playing 5 of the 6 qualifying rounds on the 1st day, meaning that there would be a wild scramble in the beginning of Sunday for those looking to finish in the top 8 for playoffs.
From the off, Teppei Noguchi warmed up as the rounds progressed, increasing his individual round scores over the first 4 rounds. With 2 second and 2 first place finishes, he was entering the last round of Day 1 with a score of 88.1 and a 25 point lead over 2nd place. But a heavy 3rd place finish saw him fall from 1st to 5th to end the day scoring 66.9.
Rising to replace him at the top was Bichen Wang, who had treaded water for the first couple of rounds, but closed the first day strong with 2 first place finishes which constituted almost all of his score of 85.9. Right behind him was Sylvain Royer whose consistent play and 3 first place finishes slotted him just 0.6 points behind.
The final qualifying spot heading into Round 6 was held by Kenyu Hayashi, who overcame a 3rd and 4th place finish early putting in 3 consecutive wins to finish Day 1 with a score of 49.2. But there were still 2 players within 10 points, and another 2 behind by 25 points, so there was still all to play for in the morning sprint.
And on moving day as it were, 1 player was able to overtake and cross over the line in the top 8. Aruto Kurosaki was able to put in a first place finish at his table and slide into the #8 spot. The casualty was Terry Kurobe, whose third place finish at his table unfortunately had him fall short of the playoffs.
With just one round for players outside the top 4 to work their way in, those on the outside looking in had to take some chances to improve their standing. Masahiro Tsuruta was able to make the jump going from 7th all the way to 2nd with a huge semifinal win of 46. He wound up replacing Sylvain in the top 4, who wound up as collateral damage on the same table.
The final table was set with 2 locals, the aforementioned Teppei Noguchi & Masahiro Tsuruta, PML's Bichen Wang, and visiting Aussie Anthony To. With about 30 points separating 1st and 4th, a reversal was certainly possible, and in fact it actually happened. The final table finished in reverse order of standing and Teppei Noguchi with a final round win of 34.8 put together the gyakuten sayonara victory to claim the 2017 LAPOM Championship! Congratulations!
Final results can be found here (link).
-Edwin Dizon (NARMA Tournament Operations Coordinator)