Saki: Interhigh Finals Predictions

From the very start, the finals for the 71st Inter High School Mahjong Team Championship has meant a lot to many characters. As such, everyone has been anticipating the results for a long time. Just look at how long Saki has been serialized. It was back in February 2006. That’s twelve years! And it’s been nine years since Saki received its first anime adaptation.

So seeing the finals for the interhigh team tournament finally take place is exciting for long-time Saki fans. But we all know this. I’ll cut the crap and jump into predictions for most of the rounds.

Vanguard Round

We’re actually already three chapters into this intense round!!!

I’ll try to not spoil too much here. But since a friend requested some specific knowledge / pics pertaining to Yuuki, I’ll be a bit more relaxed when talking about our favourite taco lover.

Kataoka Yuuki

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After witnessing her middle school senpai, Hanada Kirame, play very well during the match for fifth place, Yuuki has opted to change her hairstyle to look like that of Kirame’s as a way to pray for good luck.

It’s been hinted that Hisa, who has always been observant when it comes to unnatural trends, has been controlling how Yuuki plays in order to adjust the latter’s tempo. Perhaps we’ll find out the results of Hisa’s directions and input as we watch how the god of the east round holds up against the interhigh champion, the dragon lord, and a yankee we definitely do, maybe, sorta.

Miyanaga Teru

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Speaking of which, the interhigh champion is slow to start since her special move that lets her analyze your playstyle, mindset, etc, only activates after the first round. If Yuuki gets to start as first dealer again and goes on a rampage like she had promised in the semifinals, Teru might be in trouble.

I’m personally not convinced Teru is guaranteed to do as well as she did in the seminfinals with Kuro hogging all of the dora, Yuuki going as fast as she can, and Satoha disrupting hands. As a result, Teru will likely be forced to do drastic things to increase the value of her hand, but then Yuuki’s quick play and Satoha’s meddling comes into play.

It’s very exciting to think that some players might be giving the strongest a challenge! Let’s just hope she’s not last dealer!

Matsumi Kuro

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I had originally thought that she would just hoard the dora and be quite prone to dealing in or being very passive like she was back in the semifinals. The fans have been really hard on Kuro for her performance for many years. But I had also assumed she’ll start taking action towards the end of the round by discarding a dora, just like in the seminfinal.

However, the most recent developments have shown that I’m wrong. Wow! I won’t go into further detail here.

It’s very refreshing, however, to hear the others praise Achiga’s Dragon Lord. Just because the readers and the viewers are too mean towards Kuro doesn’t mean the other players ignore how hard she tries!

Tsujigaito Satohsa

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Sorry, sorry, here’s an actual picture of Satoha.

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But to me, that’s her style in a nutshell. She disrupts riichi hands by calling to prevent ippatsu, she goes damaten to guarantee hits, she calls to allow others to land big hands on others. She’s a wild card, that one. And a normal player at that!

Sergeant Round

Someya Mako

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With several lukewarm / mediocre performances in a row, I hope Mako can really make an impact this time. Then again, this is the infamous sergeant round where not much ever happens…

With that being said, it’s possible that Mako might complete her favourite hand, which happens to be a yakuman: ryuuiisou or all-green. She mentioned this hand during the training camp when she tried to take her revenge on Senoo Kaori who completed a ryuuiisou due to her almighty beginner’s luck.

I’m saying this is possible because there’s a certain heat magnet playing at this table. And heat magnets aren’t interested in green tiles…

Hirose Sumire

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Her performance really depends on whether or not the other schools know about her tell and whether or not she has become aware of and fixed the aforementioned tell. Matsumi Yuu will probably play around her if Sumire still has her tell. I imagine Hisa has already noticed and informed Mako, too. Personally, I think Sumire is going to destroy Hao.

But I guess we’ll see.

Matsumi Yuu

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The older Matsumi sibling outplayed Sumire several times in the semifinals and was able to soundly win against the jobber known as Izumi back in the quarterfinals, which shows that Yuu is quite adaptive against players with unique styles and players who try to abuse her own style against her (in my opinion).

I personally think Yuu will stomp all over Sumire if Sumire keeps the tell. But there’s also the possibility that Sumire might trick Yuu with a fake tell. Mahjong and mind games? It’s a more likely combination than you might think.

Finally Yuu potentially might let Mako flex a little. Again, we’ll have to wait.

Huiyu Hao

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I really think Hao is overhyped and I personally think she’ll get destroyed by Yuu and Sumire. Mako might struggle a bit, admittedly, but she was starting to get the hang of Hao’s style in the semifinals by the end.

Hao bu hao?

Lieutenant Round

Takei Hisa

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I think Hisa might be slightly disadvantaged or go even against Myeong-hwa Choe since she’s played out some of her tricks against the French/Korean beauty in the semifinals, but Hisa should still keep it competitive. Then again, I’m so shaky on guessing at what Choe can do…

If Hisa controls her impulses and doesn’t go for dealer repeats, then Takami should be controlled, too. Maybe.

For someone who is supposed to be sly, Ako’s playstyle is very straightforward. I imagine she’ll be dominated, as shown below, by the very sneaky Hisa. Maybe Ako coached Ako on how to avoid dealing into hell waits, but I’m not convinced.

hisa.jpgShibuya Takami

garden

She’s a punching bag… but if the games drag on for too long, then she might be able to deal some major damage. If Takami is last dealer, then the others better end her turn quickly or else she’ll just spam daisangen all day long (might even be a tenhou+daisangen???)

Atarashi Ako

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Ako’s quick hands are a good counter against Takami, but she might let her greed win…

Hopefully she doesn’t get dominated by Hisa.

Myeong-hwa Choe

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I’m really not sure on how Choe will fare. She’s good, but how good is she? Rinkai is so mysterious…

Vice-Captain Round

Haramara Nodoka

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I think she’s way overrated and will get blasted by Megan again. Arata will probably do well against Nodoka, too, since she has two different styles and can switch things up. Seiko is probably going to get whooped by Nodoka, though.

All bets are off if Hisa manages to convince Nodoka to use her left hand, however. After all, Nodoka is left-handed but she draws and discards with her right due to how the people who taught her mahjong claimed it was improper. Ah, well, maybe I’m overthinking things, but Hisa really did look pensive after hearing that from Nodoka.

Matano Seiko

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Would be cool if she redeemed herself, but I think Seiko is just too much of a joke…

Sagimori Arata

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She keeps playing better and better in each round. I have high hopes for the bowling bowl queen. I’m just worried she won’t play as well now that they reached the finals, which is where Harue failed to reach. Then again, hearing Harue announce that she’ll become a pro after seeing the girls win at the interhigh got Arata really excited, so perhaps I’m overthinking things.

Megan Davin

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I like how her abilities have drawbacks and limitations. Since nothing about Megan’s skillset is absolute, however, it’s harder to predict results.

Captain Round

Hmmmm…I have very strong feelings about the Captain round, but I’ll save that for another blog post. Sorry!

 

9 thoughts on “Saki: Interhigh Finals Predictions

  1. Ah, here’s the post I’ve been waiting for! Thanks, this was awesome to read. And Yuki looks so adorbs, thanks for putting in the pic!

    Here are my initial thoughts on this matchup.

    The opening round seems like kind of a wildcard. Teru’s going to win her share of hands before this round is over just because she’s Teru, but I don’t see any of the four having a clear advantage. Kuro seems like the most disadvantaged just because she’s the least flexible in what she can do, but it sounds from your writeup like she’s not going down without a fight, which is awesome. She deserves a good round after all the crap she’s taken.

    Second round, I see Mako as the most disadvantaged player. She’s facing three very unorthodox opponents, two of whom will be totally new to her, and Kiyosumi didn’t get a day off after their semis match like the A-block teams did, so she’ll have almost no time to prepare for two styles she’s never faced before. I suppose she could luck into a yakuman like you said, but beyond that it’s hard for me to see her doing much. I’m betting on Sumire here – she’s due for a bounce-back, and I’m guessing some payback on Yuu. I’m with you on Hao potentially struggling, though – if any of Rinkai’s players are going to have a bad round in these finals, she seems the likeliest candidate for it.

    Third round I’m anticipating a speed duel – Ako normally plays fast, Hisa can play fast when she wants to, and Choe with her seat wind magnet can also play the speed game since she’s starting every hand with at least one yaku. Shibuya’s a one-trick pony, but that trick also discourages anyone from going on a long renchan streak, which we’ve seen Hisa in particular pull off a few times, so this could end up being a close and relatively low-scoring round.

    Fourth round is really hard to call because of all the variables in play, many of which you pointed out. I am interested to see how Megan’s duels fare head-to-head against Seiko’s fishing, though, since both abilities are of the, “once it’s active, x normally wins within a certain number of hands” type (3 for Megan, 5 for Seiko). So whose win priority will trump the other’s?

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    1. Sorry! I’ve been trying to make time to give your reply the thoughtful response you deserve, but work has been slaying me this week, haha…

      Not going to comment much on the vanguard match since we’re already a few chapters in and I don’t want to lead you astray OR spoil you, but I will admit that it makes me happy to see Kuro is going to be more active than what we all had initially assumed. Wait, am I assuming we were assuming that? Oops.

      Good point on Mako’s fragile playstyle and her lack of a break. I really really am hoping for the yakuman, but I admit it’s a bit of a stretch. Yeah, I can see Sumire doing well, too, but I’m personally rooting for Yuu. Hmm I might have been a bit too harsh on Hao (I sort of rushed through this post, unfortunately, and am a bit too dismissive and simple-minded in some sections), but she does seem like the one in Rinkai to struggle if there had to be a jobber.

      Good point with all three girls playing fast games aside from Shibuya. I just wonder if they’re all willing to let go of their dealership to make the game a fast one in order to guarantee that Shibuya gets shut down. I mean, it’s hard to not get drawn in as Ako demonstrated in the semifinals…

      Hmmm, maybe I’m being too hard on Seiko again. I would say that this match is probably the most uncertain considering the extent of variables present. Will Megan make more use of her limited reserves of blind play to enhance her draws? Will Seiko’s predictable discards (she defaults to throwing away terminals and honor tiles when she’s on the defensive) be taken advantage of by Arata, Nodoka, or Megan?

      On a more general level, is it possible that Harue failed to predict that Kiyosumi would make it to the finals and she was unable to give some more off-screen advice regarding the so-called dark horse of the tournament (which isn’t too accurate considering how their team consists entirely of experienced veterans)? Kuro, if I recall correctly, reacted in shock when Teru did a kan, which sort of makes it seem like she was expecting Teru to do a rinshan kaihou like another Miyanaga. So maybe the other teams already have a suspicion regarding their relation…or maybe I’m overthinking things.

      I’ll try to get the post on Captains’ (Captains?) match out soon. Thank you for the lovely Saki chitchat as always.

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      1. Few things make me happier than Saki talk. And with volume 16 getting its English release tomorrow, it’s the perfect time for it.

        I was thinking more about the third match, and I wonder, if it actually turns into a speed game, whether we might see Shibuya pull a Hatsumi and try to deliberately feed the dealer a few times to stretch out the hanchan, especially if it looks like they aren’t going for big hands.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if Harue and Arata picked up on the way FunaQ was targeting Seiko – actually, Harue’s such a film study fanatic I’d be more surprised if they didn’t. We don’t really have a good feel for how much prematch prep Rinkai puts in, but with Nodoka, unfortunately, it seems like the next time she seriously studies her opponents will be the first time. You’d think someone who insists on playing so logically would see the logic in learning her opponents’ habits and adding those data points to her calculations, but she never seems to do that. It’s too bad, because it feels like she’s missing out on half the fun of the game.

        I can’t imagine Harue not scouting Kiyosumi. I mean, even if they were underdogs, she knew that was the one matchup her team was dreaming about, and it would’ve been a disservice to them not to at least have done the prep work for it. Besides, she already knew how good Ryuumonbuchi was even before Achiga scrimmaged with them, so it’s hard to see her underestimating a team that was good enough to beat them.

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        1. Ah, sorry, been pretty inactive these days. Did you manage to read volume 16 yet?

          I could actually see Shibuya trying to emulate Hasumi’s stunt, you’re right. I guess she’ll be okay with letting Ako remaining dealer for an extended period of time. Hisa and Chloe can make pretty big hands if given the chance is why. It really comes down to how greedy the other players (excluding Shibuya) are, I feel. Will they consciously allow the game to end as quick as possible? Given that Hisa didn’t take it easy on Yuan even when Kiyosumi was in third place and Usuzan was close to busting, I wonder if that’s even an option she’ll consider. Not every player is as cooperative as Kirame and Toki, after all!

          Mmm, things are looking bad for Seiko for sure. Will she be able to back up her meek declaration right after Awai was showed up by Shizu? I’m personally doubtful but I guess we’ll have to see…

          Agreed. I’ve always like that part in mahjong. It’s like doing the reads or mind games against your opponent. Nodoka prioritizes efficiency which makes her style quick, but she never seems to pay attention to her opponents. It’s almost as if she’s playing a single-player game, really. With that being said, Ako did point out to Yuu that the way she plays during individual tournament games is different compared to how she plays during team tournament games, so perhaps I’m being a bit too dismissive here…

          Definitely right. Harue probably looked a bit into Saki, too, considering that she knew about how strong Ryuumonchi is as a team.

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          1. Yeah, just like most of these volumes I burned through v16 (AKA the “Kirame is made of win” collection – she was definitely my favorite thing in this volume) within a day or two of getting it. It ended right when Saki and Teru were about to cross paths in the hallway. I’m a little sad that there’s only one more volume before we’re caught up with the JP books – it’s too bad Ritz can’t seem to work very fast these days.

            It seemed to me like Ako was mainly talking about whether Nodoka chose to play safe or aggressive, more than anything else, but either way she’s still taking the logical/efficient route 100% of the time as far as I can tell. We’ve never seen her radically change her style to counter or confuse opponents, like Hisa playing straight zones against Saki, or Arata suddenly going mini-Harue during the A-side semis. I do wonder how the “left-handed” thing is going to factor in, though.

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