This is a well tested 1v1 drafting variant for Sushi Go (and Sushi Go Party) which creates meaningful interplay between the two players. I originally learned this method of drafting during my Magic the Gathering days though I am not sure where it originated.
Divide all of the Sushi Go cards into twelve piles of nine. This uses 108 cards, which is exactly every card in the game. Separate these piles into three sets of four. So you should have three groups of cards which all have four sets of nine cards. Each of these groups will be a single round of drafting, for a total of three rounds just like in standard rules.
Take the first pile of nine cards and deal them out into a 3×3 grid. This is the pool from which players will draft cards.
Sushi Go Party does not have exactly 81 cards so dealing out the same number of piles wont work. If you are playing with Party, simply shuffle all of your cards including only 5 of the desserts and make only 3 piles of 9. Then once you are done with that round, add another 5 desserts and deal out another 3 piles of 9. Repeat for the remaining two rounds.
How to Play:
During a players turn, a player will choose to take either a row or column of cards.
The next player gets to take another single row or column of the remaining cards. Sometimes this will mean that the second player will get only two cards instead of three, this is normal.
The remaining cards are discarded and a the next set of cards is dealt out into a 3×3 grid. Players alternate who picks first.
Scoring works the same as in base Sushi Go. Players record points every round and discard all cards from that round except desserts. Desserts are kept to the side and only scored at the end of the third round.
Item Specific Rules
Maki – In a 1v1 game Maki only score 6 points for most, and 0 points for second most.
Pudding – in 1v1 pudding only scores 6 points for most, but does not give negative points to the player with the least. (This 12 point swing is often much too strong for a 1v1 game.)
Wasabi – If wasabi is taken it cannot be combined with a nigiri until a future turn. For example if a player takes a row which includes both wasabi and a nigiri, they cannot be combined, the next nigiri drafted must be combined with the wasabi.
Chopsticks – Once chopsticks have been drafted, after a player has taken cards, that player may replace any remaining card in the pool with chopsticks. For example, Alex takes a row with chopsticks. Dan takes his turn, remaining cards are discarded and a new pool is dealt. Now Dan acts first and takes a row. Alex can now take a row, and replace any remaining card with chopsticks. Or Alex can just take a row and wait for the next deal.
Spoon – Spoon functions exactly like chopsticks.
Edamame – This doesn’t behave differently but I do not recommend it for 1v1 game because each card can be worth at most a single point making it an extremely weak pick almost all of the time. Not fun.
Miso soup – Because players do not simultaneously draw picks, Miso soup doesn’t functions correctly and is simply always worth 3 points with no interplay. I recommend not playing with it, but feel free. It’s basically like playing with more squid nigiri.
Bonus: Link to sleeves
Edit: I originally had the math wrong and stated that the original Sushi Go had 81 cards and instructed players to make nine piles of nine cards. I have corrected this. There are 108 cards and you should make twelve piles of nine cards, using four sets of cards per round.