(left to right) Frédéric Gruel (2nd), Olivier Cao (1st), Nehuen Penaloz (3rd) (photo credit: Joël Ratsimandresy)

MULHOUSE, France - Olivier Cao demonstrates his superiority at "Reach The Dragon" (RERS1) in the Alsace, scoring 114,400 points. Second place goes to Frédéric Gruel, with 95,600 points, while Nehuen Penaloza claims the third position, scoring 75,600 points. 

For the first time in Alsace, took place, on the 9th of December a Riichi Tournament: “Reach the Dragon”, organized by the Mahjong Club 'Free Dragons' from Mulhouse.

First Alsatian Riichi tournament

Since its creation, in December 2012 (12/12/12) 'Free Dragons' is a club of MCR Players, who dared to organize in 2015 the first and very special MCR French Mahjong Championship in the “Palais des Festivals” with its unforgettable view of the bay of Cannes. But, during spring 2017, the 'Free Dragons' - a 30 member players club - have received the visit of a Japanese Riichi player: Kozo, with his very delightful Japanese Mahjong tradition. This very special guest made trigger out that some members decided to learn Riichi and to play Riichi as well, just to grasp a piece of this friendly and shiny Mahjong culture. The president, Sylvie [Valognes, ed], proposed that for the 5th Anniversary of the Club, (12 december 2017), 'Free Dragons' should organize the first Alsatian Riichi tournament. Done! In the afternoon of Friday the 8th of December, the snow has decided also to participate to the competition. So, as the players from Paris and Lyon arrive in Alsace to play a free play session planned on Friday night, on the eve of the tournament, they were surprised by the cold and the snow! For this free session, the Alsatian players had prepared their very famous “bredele” (alsatian special Christmas cookies) and their famous “vin chaud” (mulled wine). A real winter ambiance – until 2 o’clock in the morning!

Fair-play atmosphere

On Saturday, the 9th, at 6 am, the last but not the least important person arrives before the begin of the competition: settled of expenses and designated by the FFMJ (the French Federation has installed a Mutual Refereeing System), coming directly from CANNES, the official federal referee, Bryan Manchez (playing himself at Chuuren Potos, Marseilles), discovers the rude climate of Mulhouse!

Finally, the 20 French players were ready to start the first four 90 min Hanchan to be played in round-robbing scheme and the 5th and last hanchan, where the players have been placed according to their ranking. During the sessions, the well-known dog “Gypsie” gathered at the snow playing with the sun outside, and a very fair-play atmosphere was prevailing inside the playing room. And not at least it was the remarkable refereeing (literally omni-present, extremely kind and helpful) he kept a close watch on the every table, on the correct “live”-registration of the results with MMC (My Mahjong Company by Eric Desbenoit, MCR de Lyon) and on respect of the tournament schedule. And keeping the schedule was somehow tricky: For the first time, a pause of only 15 minutes between two hanchan was planned, in order to finish 5 Hanchan and to permit to the players from Paris and Lyon, to catch the last train back! It turns out that tables with new-comers finish their hanchan largely inside the pause! Once again it was the adaptability of Bryan who won the challenge, and the tournament finished delayed with only 13 min.

Experience and know-how

At the end, the experience and the know-how of the old-“Riichi”-hands: The captivating Nehuen PENALOZA (TNT, Puteaux) who won the table 1 but finished on the third place because of his previous unsteady results, the “unbeatable” Frédéric GRUEL (TIIN AZUR Club, Lyon), with his very sober but efficient playing style (He succeeded in climbing one rank each hanchan, to end at the 1st place after the 4th hanchan) and the mighty Olivier CAO (TNT, Puteaux), who made a bad start but then won largely the three next tables, sufficient to finish 2nd on table 1 but WINNER of the tournament. And who’s next? Clearly we should keep an eye on the new Riichi-Player Bruno MANZO (FDO, Villejuif), who four times in row was under the top three!

Overview venue, in the background referee Bryan Manchez (photo credit: Sven-Henrik Gutsche)

Final Results of Reach The Dragon 2017 (RCR, RERS1), Mulhouse

Place Name Nat. Points
1 Olivier Cao FRA 114400
2 Frédéric Gruel FRA 95600
3 Nehuen Penaloza FRA 75600
4 Sandra Berthommier FRA 54300
5 Bruno Manzo FRA 38900
6 Annie Manzo FRA 36100
7 Annabel Di Domenico FRA 33100
8 Sven-Henrik Gutsche FRA 8200
9 Anthony Ea FRA 6600
10 Joël Ratsimandresy FRA -3500
11 Kevin Chau FRA -7900
12 Halim Bousbia FRA -17500
13 Sérgio Matos Lima FRA -22200
14 Manuel Santos FRA -25800
15 Sylvie Valognes FRA -35100
16 Frédéric Petit FRA -43600
17 Romain Herdier FRA -53900
18 Frédéric Lay FRA -58600
19 Evelyne Nasr FRA -107400
20 Claire Mathern FRA -167300