Tuesday 27 September 2016

The Last Ju of Chengdu 2007

Before the gong-stroke which started the last ju, the ranking at the top in the general classification was as follows:

Table points
1. Minuri Imaeda
2. Zhang Bingcheng
3. Li Li
4. Jiao Linghua


Counting the scores at Table One

At the first table in the final, it was a tight fight between the numbers one to four: one Japanese and three Chinese. All players at this table had a chance to be the next world champion. To be sure of his title, Imaeda-san had to win. If he became second (and thus would get 2 table points), either Zhang Bingcheng or Li Li could pass him, if they would win that table (4 table points).
Li Li seemed to be the best player, but his Japanese opponent did not give up easily. The public - mostly the eliminated participants to the WMC - watched in silence. The jury had informed the public that onlookers were welcome, but that they were not allowed to speak loudly and they were also asked not to use flash when taking pictures. But, of course, the bystanders could see, more or less, the hands and the moves of the sixteen players. Close to the ‘first table’, there were lots of Chinese students.

Just as the previous sessions, the final ju lasted for two hours. After two rounds (East and South), Li Li and the two other Chinese players of Table One stood up and walked away for a sanitary stop. Immediately Li Li was surrounded by Chinese. There was a lot of talking. Did they give him information about the tactics of his opponents?
Minuri Imaeda was not too happy with the situation. The Japanese also stood up, he raised his arms and shook his head. Obviously he did not agree. He did not only look surprised, he also called a judge, although no interpreter showed up. American student Benjamin Boas, who participated in the WMC and watched the final, remembers this quite well. Ben, who speaks Japanese, since he studies Japanese mahjong culture in Kyoto, claims that this is corroborated by other Japanese players.

Imaeda-san about twice Li Li’s age, did not go to the toilet. He waited until, some minutes later, Li Li returned from the bathroom. Li Li won that table, Imaeda became third. At the final gong, it was pandemonium. The Chinese celebrated their new world champion.

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