Author Topic: Dave Bresnick Talks Up New York for its First Major Riichi Tournament  (Read 1907 times)

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NEW YORK 08 September 2015 - In the coming weekend on the 26th of September, New York will become the epicenter for what is turning out to be the first major international riichi tournament in North America, gathering players from as far away and as heavy-hitting as even the reigning World Riichi Champion Mr. Hiroshi Yamai of Japan. Mahjong News sits down with the event organizer, David Bresnick, to get the inside story behind this historic event.

Mahjong News: Let's begin with your introducing yourself to the Mahjong News audience. Tell us a little bit about who you are and where you come from.

Dave: Well let's see...My name is Dave, I was born and raised on Long Island - in the New York City metro area. I currently work in the tech industry as an Infrastructure Engineer and live in Queens. I started the USPML in 2010 and for the past 5 years I've been running a local meetup, traveling to tournaments and generally trying to promote riichi mahjong here in the US!

akagiMahjong News: How did you get introduced to the game of mahjong?

It's funny that this is such a common story but it really started for me when I came across Mahjong Legend: Akagi. I mean, growing up in a Jewish family I was aware of mahjong as a game, I knew it was something people played but I'd never tried it myself nor did I have any sort of knowledge of the rules. Obviously that would have been American mahjong anyways. But at some point I stumbled across Akagi and I didn't think it was serious, I very distinctly remember saying to myself "Really? They made a whole series about mahjong? Is there any way this could possibly be interesting?" Smash-cut to me watching the whole thing and being totally enthralled by the sort of pulpy, over-the-top melodrama of this fictional gambling world. And beneath the characters and the story, there was this game - and while Akagi wasn't entirely an educational program, they did put some effort into at least explaining some of how the game worked - that looked pretty interesting! So I bought some tiles and resolved to figure it out. I dragged several of my friends (and founding USPML members) into a room one night, sat everyone down at a table and we decided to see what we could do. Our first attempts at playing were...well...quite bad. The first game we played, due to our lack of rules info, we did all four rounds (East, South, West, North) and it took about 6 hours for us to get through it all. It was grueling, but at the same time it was fun and we wanted to play more. This evolved into years of playing fairly regularly, week over week.

ReachMahjong News: Were there any particular mentors that motivated you to continue your journey in mahjong?

Dave: At first, it was a real struggle to find English-language material and it was Jenn and Garthe at who really stood out in that respect. In addition to being a great resource for rules and "how to play"-type information, they were (and are!) professional players in a serious league, they had (and still have, of course!) a ton of experience and insight into not only the game but the personalities and happenings on the scene. Without their help it's unlikely we would have been able to find enough information to even get off the ground. Past that, when we first started the USPML as an organization in 2010, we were very warmly welcomed by the European Riichi community. I was fortunate to be invited to attend the 2010 ERC in Hannover where I met Gemma Collinge, Ben Boaz and Takunori Kajimoto, all of which were experienced and knowledgeable resources who encouraged us to keep going with both our play and our organization. Getting the help of so many people so quickly was a huge boost to our momentum and encouraged us all to keep the forward motion going.


Mahjong News: Tell us about the USPML, how it began and what it is now.

To be honest the USPML ended up being put together on a lark. Several friends and I had been playing riichi for quite a few years, we were competitive with each other but it was tough for us to find new people to play with. After learning more about the riichi scene in the rest of the world, we joked about becoming serious and forming our own league. But the idea kind of stuck in my head and I did some research, grabbed a domain name, put together a meetup we went! We started running a monthly meetup and five years later, here we are. In addition to continuing to hold regular (now biweekly!) play events, we maintain regular contact with other play groups around the country and have become a lot more involved in the worldwide riichi community. As the game has grown, we've stepped up to help sponsor and organize major events, and will be involved in preparing the 2017 World Riichi Championship. It's been a long journey but it's really exciting to be able to do so much for a game I love!

Mahjong News: The USPML is hosting the New York City International Riichi Open, tell us about this event.

Dave: Hosting a tournament is a dream that's been with us for years, and we're very proud to be able to finally open our doors and hold an event here in NYC! By a stroke of good fortune, we were able to get a really wonderful location in Hell's Kitchen, so players will be right in the heart of the city. The tournament will take place September 26th and 27th, running throughout the day. We're going to be using the WRC ruleset as 2014's World Riichi Championship proved that it was a well-written and comfortable ruleset for players from all over the world. At night, the venue will continue to be open to allow for people to hang out, play some mahjong and relax with friends - it's open until 11PM. In addition, for those who aren't able to make it, we're planning on having full coverage of the event online! There will be live updates and streaming from the event, expect more details as we approach the event. Finally, at this time we are also planning on featuring a strategy session given by our JPML guests during which they will share with us some of their knowledge and experience! If you'd like to register or to know more, visit our website at

WRCMahjong News: Are there any particular areas where you think the rules will shine?

Dave: I think that the WRC rules, in most ways, have already been proven. At the World Riichi Championship in 2014 we had a large international group, many of whom were meeting each other for the first time and many of whom did not speak each others' language. This was the first time that the WRC rules were used, and while there was a large and well-trained referee team on hand, potential rule disputes were obviously a source of concern. Fortunately, everything went quite well. I cannot imagine a better "stress test" than a hugely important tournament containing players from almost every major play group in the world. I should thank Sylvain and the entire organization team of the 2014 WRC for putting in so much work and coping so gracefully with the small situations that did arise - they've ensured a bright future for this ruleset.

Mahjong News: The current world champion Mr. Hiroshi Yamai of Japan and the president of the JPML Mr. Shigekazu Moriyama are expected to attend. Tell us about the evolution of this news?

Dave: I was able to meet with Mr. Moriyama during my trip to Japan in 2013, he was kind enough to take some time and sit down with me to discuss what we're doing here in North America and how we could grow riichi throughout the rest of the world. I was very struck by how passionate he was about the game and how much he wanted to bring it to a wider audience. At the World Riichi Championship, and through the founding of the WRC committee, he showed an unwavering dedication to making riichi a worldwide game. When I started planning this tournament I reached out to everyone I knew within the riichi community to see if it was the right time, if there was enough interest, and so on. Because of the very positive experiences I'd had working with Mr. Moriyama and the JPML, I worked with Gemma Collinge to contact them and received an outpouring of interest! Obviously any opportunity to involve such experienced players wasn't one I could pass up! The delegation that could be sent was limited, and there was a bit of back-and-forth in terms of making arrangements for travel, but at the end of the day we were able to make our schedule and format work for everybody and bring this amazing opportunity here to NYC!


Mahjong News: Is there anything else that you would like to share with Mahjong News that we haven’t yet touched on.

Dave: One of the things that I always try to tell people is how important it is to get tournament experience. Obviously this sounds a little self-serving, given that I'm running a tournament, but it doesn't matter which you attend - get out there and put yourself in a serious competitive situation as soon as possible. Playing in an environment where there's something on the line brings an edge to your game that you can't get from casual play. Bringing that level of focus and seriousness to the table will reward you with a clearer picture of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as a path to improvement. I was fortunate enough to get some fairly serious tournament experience early on in my "career" as a player by being invited to the 2010 European Riichi Championship. Not only was I given a unique opportunity to hone my skills, I was also able to meet a lot of wonderful people in the worldwide Riichi community that I've had the pleasure of interacting with many times over the years as fellow competitors and as friends. So it might be a trip or a hassle but I cannot understate the value of getting out there! Everyone's waiting to welcome you!

Mahjong News: Any closing remarks?

Dave: Erm, let's see - for people who are going to be in town but somehow aren't able to participate in the tournament, the venue will be open until 11PM both nights so feel free to come by and play a bit! There are also some plans we have for future events that are developing, I can't say anything definite at the moment but you can expect to hear more from us in the future. Other than that, thanks for reading!