[2013.09.24] Player Quality

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[2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by Senechal » Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:58 am

Gemma wrote:I’m sure the more observant of you have seen the discussion on MahjongNews.com. If not, go there immediately and read and maybe even venture your own comment. The quality (or lack of) was certainly something I considered as I was playing through the tournament.

Here comes my unsolicited opinion… I think without a doubt, the level of play has increased in Europe. However, here’s the catch; so has the disparity between the poor and the good players. The good have gotten better, and the poor have stayed the same. That’s why some people are leaving the weekend cursing all European players for being lucktards, and some of us are leaving thinking “wow, those players are strong”. It really depends on who you were sat with. (This may not have been helped by the country-dependant seating system meaning that you encountered some country’s players more than others.)

What’s to be done? We could start restricting which players can participate in the more prestigious tournaments. That creates a new problem. Do we really have enough riichi players who attend tournaments in Europe to start creating a two tier system? We would also be in danger of ostracising our novice players, when really we need to be doing everything we can to increase our player base.

And herein lies the heart of the matter. The EMA needs to perform a delicate balancing act to satisfy the needs of its top players, its intermediate players and its new players. Obviously, from current discussions the players at the higher levels don’t feel there’s an opportunity to demonstrate and challenge their skill. This is something that should be addressed, but let’s be careful that we don’t do it in such a way that we stop gaining players, or worse lose players. We don’t want the game to die a death here.
I'm all for welcoming any person to any starter-level event. But for events of that scale (EC/WC level), it would be fair to assume that people should be able to play. This implies the following:
  • Knowing the rules
  • Knowing the yaku (both in your and the game's language!!!)
  • Knowing how to score han and fu
  • Knowing at least the lines of the point tables for 20, 25, 30 and 40 fu, oya and ko scores
  • Knowing what you will throw before drawing (plan your draws before drawing)
  • Knowing what you wait on (check your waits before seeing a potential discard)
  • Knowing the words "pon, kan, chii, ron, tsumo, riichi"
I've heard some reasons and excuses, some that I agree with, some that I do not. While the MCR-derived playstyle of "riichi, 0/1 yaku, dora-bomb" may annoy some, it is a legitimate tactic... but it must be accompanied by knowledge of the game.I do not believe there is a "philosophy" or "magic" to the game, but knowledge is a prerequisite. I think it is fair to say, considering that people are corroborating the existence of around 10 players at that event (I was not there, so I accept the criticism that what I am saying is hearsay) who were not up to the knowledge level required to compete. Some people do have the knowledge to back it up, I have no problem with that at all: losing to good players is displeasing, but logical, and an expected potential outcome. Someone else is going to complete the hand 72% of the time.

I also understand that some people refuse obstinately to join or even visit a club once before showing up at a tournament, when there is one in proximity (proximity is 200 km in my opinion for something you can do at least once every 6 months)... clubs will bend over backwards to welcome you heartily to play, learn and have fun. In 2011, I ended up playing against some people who have never touched tiles before (and admitted only to having played on a game server related to clocks, for less than 5 games). It was the most displeasing experience of that event (and of all my mahjong experience) to have a player play nothing buy 7 pairs all game, irrespective of their session or total score.

I also don't want to be asked to count someone's yaku and hand for them, and then be genuinely told "I don't know what you said but I like the total!". In fact, people who know me know that the position I advocate now is that if you have to ask what your hand is worth, to me, it's worth nothing. I'm willing to give 1000 pts to buy the peace (1500 oya), but no more.

The only thing I am worried about is that if EMA is doing everything they can to welcome Japanese participation to a tournament in 2014, it has to be understood that while a language barrier is comprehensible, a player that cannot understand the rules will never be able to communicate "Can you count my hand for me?", and the feelings would not be received well by them. Or many of us, to be quite honest. I wish the 2014 Paris team to have the clairvoyance required to pull off a successful event, how many referees and interpreters will they need, what will be the accepted languages at the tournament, and will there be a universal way to convey scores and payments? To me, the answer seems obvious, but has it made it to the responsible people and will they take responsibility in that regard?

Quelque chose me dit que ce sera ni l'anglais, ni le français...

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by gemma » Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:04 am

First of all, thanks for commenting on my article!

The situation you describe is indeed insanely frustrating. I think we need to made a distinction between two types of the 'annoying' inexperienced players:

1) Those who are true learners and don't know the rules well enough to play without significant help.

2) Those who can play well but only online and without the automatic prompts, quickly fall down.

Both can have an impact on the enjoyment of others in a game.

Perhaps as you suggest, (1) players don't have any place in the ERC. However, I don't think we can blame any of them for turning up. It should be up to the EMA to disseminate that this tournament is for those who know the game well. It is also for the organization of the member countries to filter them out when entering the qualifying participants. It doesn't seem that it was stressed enough that this was a tournament for strong players. (While local tournaments are where (1) players should be cutting their teeth.)

(2) players are a more difficult topic. Some of these are strong players, but with terrible table manners. They can count their yaku, but they do plenty of other things disruptive to the game experience. I'm not sure quite how we can handle these players but, again, I suspect the answer lies in disseminating information and making it very clear that EMA and their member country organization expect players to have educated themselves.

For 2014, I don't think you'll have to worry too much. TNT are being quite proactive in finding ways to discourage and block participation of those without the prerequisite experience. I will venture a VERY UNPOPULAR opinion when it comes to the language barriers... I think we should be encouraging European players to use the Japanese calls and yaku. There are several sets of English translations knocking around out there to muddy the waters when we use English, while there is only one set of Japanese. And when I say "Japanese" I use the term loosely. Most of the words are nonsense in Japanese too, there just strange Japanizations of the Chinese, so it isn't as if Japanese native speakers would have an advantage if they didn't already know the game terminology. But they could unite us when we're playing with players from all over the world. I also don't think they take that long to learn if you're serious about the game, and most games have special terminology anyway. However, my opinion seems to be grossly unpopular so I should probably keep quiet... :D

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by Moah » Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:55 pm

Hello,

I'm on the opinion we should allow both strong and weaker players, but use a better tournament and ranking system. I find it surprising EMA hasn't looked into adapting the Swiss Pairing algorithm to four players, so that players with similar score play together (therefore, letting strong players play strong players, and beginner play beginners).
I believe this was tested in Oxford? For those who were there, how was it?

In the same vein, i don't get that the EMA ranking system isn't a derivation of ELO rather than a placement system. I did a good showing at the ERC, but honestly, I didn't fight most of the truly scary player, and almost none that finished above me. Why do I get boosted so much?

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by gemma » Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:54 pm

Anyone else interested in this topic should definitely read this:

http://www.osamuko.com/berries-and-boss ... #more-4244

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by shinkiii » Fri Sep 27, 2013 2:15 am

I don't know the strength/weakness of tournament players in general, let alone European or MCR players, BUT I think that those complaints are absolutely valid. Lack of knowledge means that they should not be in the tournament, period. There should definitely be ways to make newer players feel welcome and that they should be available at tournaments in addition to local events in each member country. The provision of extra non-tournament tables and mahjong sets, perhaps manned by a designated teacher-volunteer at tournaments would be a perfect way to get new players starting to play and learning how to play better while also keeping them out of the tournament. Perhaps also an "amateur bracket" whose entry is restricted only to players not playing in the pro league tournament would be a great way to let amateur players go play serious mahjong. :)
Things like what exist in the Japanese pro circuit could be geared towards basic players (game discussions/seminars and how-to-play panels), and those would be a great way to draw interest at improving their mahjong game so they can compete in the higher tournaments if they'd like. Outreach is key, and those players who do not know the game or the etiquette of the game need a place to learn it, but they should not be doing it in a tournament. Speed mahjong players shouldn't be frowned upon, but lack of knowledge should be.

Also, it's not related, but the EMA's removal of kuitan is a bad thing in general. Europe's player strength will suffer in the 2014 world championship in Paris if they don't master the combined offensive and defensive changes that kuitan provides to the game. It doesn't affect fanpai, and it restricts players from making a tactical decision to speed the game along by aiming for kuitan. This makes the game more luck-based since it would only allow your hand to be opened with fanpai or the rare occasion of something like open sanshoku, which means fewer opportunities to win quickly; this in turn allows more draws to the other players because the hands last longer, meaning the potential for more players to win big hands is there and the game balance shifts to require luck on the big hands. Fast wins protect leads, therefore would give more skilled players a chance to play preventative offense against players who haphazardly discard live fanpai and dora tiles, and kuitan is the #1 tool for a fast win to try and protect a lead.

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by Kyuu » Fri Sep 27, 2013 3:06 am

gemma wrote:I will venture a VERY UNPOPULAR opinion when it comes to the language barriers... I think we should be encouraging European players to use the Japanese calls and yaku. There are several sets of English translations knocking around out there to muddy the waters when we use English, while there is only one set of Japanese. And when I say "Japanese" I use the term loosely.
Even if the yaku names are in Japanese, they can be treated as "names". For example, the Russian name Sergei does not need an English translation. It's a name, and a person named Sergei is referred as Sergei. While the yaku do have English translations, they are not necessary when treated as names. Names have one primary function of labeling things as efficiently as possible.

Knowing the yaku by name is minimal... compared to the rest of the game's terminology:
http://www.osamuko.com/big-list-of-japa ... rminology/

Selected terms rearranged here:
http://arcturus.su/wiki/List_of_termino ... e_category

As for Chi, Pon, and Kan, I'm willing to survive with Chow, Pung, and Kung - if certain others have transitioned from Chinese styles.

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by Senechal » Fri Sep 27, 2013 3:51 am

Kyuu wrote: As for Chi, Pon, and Kan, I'm willing to survive with Chow, Pung, and Kung - if certain others have transitioned from Chinese styles.
The problem with that is that Europeans cannot even control their version of localized chinese that gets remangled and is incomprehensible among each other. Mentioning this or trying to palliate this multilingual flaw would target vulnerable people who would take offense on how to call a run properly.
German Tschau, the French "chaud", I heard "tsiao", "chow", the modern retroflex "chi"... different things from people of the same country.
Another problem that I have noticed is that there are a fair amount of people who call for tiles saying "ung" for "pung", "kung" and "rung", partially because they have problems pronouncing hard consonants (our French expat here also shares this flaw), and partially because they don't care to be heard: by profiting of the confusion, they can claim they called for anything, and no one can say "i heard a consonant for sure and it was this", all you hear is the vowel sound.

Yet we wanted to penalize people with dead hands if they let their actions speak for themselves... I had a Danish player hate me for saying ron within the half-second before dropping the tiles because he couldn't distinguish one sound from the other. It's like we're trying to make rules for cases that have no bearing on the result of the game while ignoring some of the more gaping holes of the rules, to which I am grateful that it is being seriously undertaken by a sub-committee of the EMA, even if it will take time.

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by Shirluban » Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:17 am

I must say I'm not that shocked to see low-level players at an European championship.
Organizers/EMA want to have a big lot of players, while there are not that much good players willing/able to come, letting "free" seats for not-that-good players (including myself).

But I've seen a player:
- who doesn't know the yaku list
- who hasn't a clue how scoring works
- ... but argues about other people's scoring
- unable to read the scoring tables
Seriously, what was he doing in an Riichi European championship? or in a Riichi championship? or in a whatever-the-rule championship ?

(The worst: I've already seen him on a previous riichi championship, so we can't say he's a beginner.)
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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by Senechal » Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:25 am

As a partial sidenote, shouldn't there be some kind of credit for people like you who have actually participated in tournaments as a referee? It's hard to get a ranking above 800 europoints when you have one or two or less tournaments "on your record" because of the organization conundrum...

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by gemma » Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:32 am

Yeah... I relied on going to a LOT of tournaments to raise my ranking (and not by being good). I'm not doing so well since I can't go to any right now. It's even worse for the refs, especially when they're missing out on a 5 MERS tournament that only come around once every two or three years...

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by Shirluban » Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:58 am

Well, I've refereed four tournaments, and so far I'd got:
- (paper) Badges with "referee" written on it.
- A (plastic) dragon sculpture.
- A sheet of paper saying I'm qualified for refereeing in MERS competitions. (Actually, it's from the referee seminar last week and cost me 40€.)
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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by gemma » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:05 pm

:( You're making me sad. You should at least get a free tab at the bar...

I guess it's another item for EMA to fix... They have some busy days ahead!

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by Moah » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:25 pm

Maybe we should give a minimum EMA rating for big tournaments like MERS 5, with qualifier tournaments?
How do other disciplines/areas deal with it?

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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by Shirluban » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:42 pm

@Gemma: Yes, I'd also get free catering (like players).
And the time I'd refereed outside France, I'd also get free accommodations (but not plane :P).
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Re: [2013.09.24] Player Quality

Post by gemma » Fri Sep 27, 2013 1:21 pm

You should get more than catering and accommodation. I mean this is like actual days from your life or even maybe your vacation days from work, where you have to sit and listen to people winge about if it was 3 seconds or 4 seconds, and I don't know where the missing 1000 is on my calculations. It's a lot of stress and not much love!

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