March saw the East Coast holding it's first tournament of the year with Rochester Institute of Technology's Nine Gates Mahjong Club holding their 2017 open. 28 players would do battle in the first weekend in March to claim the title.
By the end of the first day there was a breakaway group of 6 who separated themselves by about 30 points from the rest of the field. Leading the charge was Nine Gates member Stanley Louie. 4 solid first place finishes put him clear by 14 points over alumnus Steven Smith. 5 points behind Steven was Montreal's Alexandre Boily, whose 3 second place finishes were consistent enough for 3rd. Rounding out the lead group were Christopher Omahen, Ty Kennedy and Jaben McCormack. Barring a collapse in the final 2 rounds, all 6 seemed pretty safe to make the playoffs.
Behind them however was Patrick Garrity and Jeffrey O'Connell, who while they occupied the final 2 qualifying spots at the end of Day 1, were far from safe as a chase group of 7 people were still within striking distance.
The road would not be easy however, as both would sit down to an opponent in the top 6 for the 5th round. While Jeffrey would cruise to an easy victory and a +37 round score all but securing his place in the finals, Patrick would not be as fortunate. The aforementioned Alexandre did not rest on his laurels and continued to press at the expense of Patrick. A -24.1 score in the 5th round would open up a spot for the chase group.
Filling that spot was Garrett Sandifer. Despite spinning his wheels on the first day, he put together 2 first place finishes in the last 2 rounds from 14th to 4th.
Those not in the top 3 would be relieved to have the scores halved after qualifying as the gap between 3rd and 4th was a touch over 40 points. With the distance cut to 20, there was a chance that those behind could rally to the top 4. And in fact not 1, but 2 players would crack the top 4.
8th place Ty Kennedy would take full advantage of facing 1st place Stanley Louie, not only taking first, but sending Stanley into last in their semifinal match. That swing of 56.5 points was enough to send Ty into the top 4. The other player to make it would be Steven Smith, who also took advantage of his matchup with 4th place Garrett Sandifer. While finishing ahead of Garrett would be enough to pass him, he would have to worry about the other table and if not one, but 2 people could pass him up. But with a semifinal score of 48.6, completely routing the table, he easily secured himself a spot in the finals. Not only that, but he had a 34 point lead going into the final. Barring a 4th place finish, and no breakaway winner, he would secure the title.
Things aren't that easy though as Christopher Omahen would make one final push. But while he would win the finals with a score of 29.4, he fell just 1.3 points short of Steven missing out by the narrowest of margins.
And so congratulations go out to Steven Smith for winning the 2017 Rochester Riichi Open!
Final results can be found here (link).
-Edwin Dizon (NARMA Tournament Operations Coordinator)