The Riichi Mahjong Challenge
- Published on Monday, 19 September 2011 13:22
- Written by Martin Rep
An open letter to all EMA member-countries: take your responsibility toward the young and enthusiastic riichi society in Europe. Let’s have that next EC Riichi organized!
At the same moment that 68 riichi mahjong lovers were playing their second hanchan in the Open Dutch Riichi Mahjong Championship, Tina Christensen, president of the European Mahjong Association, sent a concerned e-mail to the member-countries of the EMA. It was about the next European riichi mahjong championship.
At a fast pace, riichimahjong is growing popular in Europe. The last French championship in Paris was a real party. Lots of mahjong players who were new to the international scene, gathered there and had a great time. Moreover: they were very good. And, perhaps the best news: most of them were quite young. (Russian Sergey Dedikov won the event, Nicolas Poilleux was a very strong runner-up.)
Just some weeks later, the better part of these French players spent a weekend in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, for the Cherry Blossom Tournament. Also in Nijmegen, the French were the trendsetters in the competition. (Quentin Porcherot hit the honorary stage with his third place.) Again, some weeks later, at Guildford in the United Kingdom, the British organizers were pleasantly surprised by the massive French delegation. (Nicolas Poilleux this time made it to third position.) Last weekend, in the Dutch town of Utrecht, another massive French representation. (And Poilleux again in position number three.)
But it is not only the French who make out the new generation of riichi players. There are also players from Russia, from Slovakia, from Austria, from Finland; from Denmark of course, with all young and bright riichi players. And, last but not least, from Germany also, where a, yet small, riichi society is developing.
Japanese mahjong (i.e. riichi mahjong) is hot, just as Japanese design, Japanese culture and Japanese manga is hot. Why then was Mrs. Christensen so concerned? She had just gotten word from the Austrian ‘Kasu’ riichi mahjong club, that they are not willing to organize the next European riichi mahjong championship. So now, Tina has to make a new effort to have one of the other EMA member-countries organized the ECR 2013.
World wide, riichi is by far the largest mahjong variant with common clearly defined rules; even though there are some slight differences between the rules that are used by the various mahjong leagues in Japan. But in Europe, MCR (Mahjong Competition Rules) is the most popular variant. The new riichi players have just begun to join EMA or their national organizations. But for most of these national organizations, until now, riichi is just an appendage.
Yet, here is the great challenge for these organisations: to take care that this enthusiastic new crowd will not be left out, standing in the cold.They have a responsibility toward this fascinating way of playing mahjong.
Excuse me for stepping forward now. Back in 2008, my friend Sjef Strik and I, both fanatic riichi players, initialized the first European Mahjong Championship. We took all the financial risks ourselves, since we had some savings, earned by our Nijmegen Golden Dragon Tournament. Because we thought it would be a good idea to choose a venue somewhere between Amsterdam and Copenhagen (Holland and Denmark are the largest riichi communities), we decided to choose for Hanover in Germany as the venue. We were greatly helped by the enthusiastic Hanover mahjong club, concentrated in the ‘Kaiser’ club., Thanks to a generous sponsor (Mahjong Time), subscribers had a great EC Riichi for just 30 euros - in a time that subscription for the European MCR championships already was close to two hundred euros.
The Hanover club had a great time, so the Germans decided to organize the next ECR (2010) themselves. But, after that second ECR, which was just a great success as the first one, no country has stepped forward to organize the ECR 2013. ‘Kasu’ only wanted to do it if the EMA would be willing to change its riichi rules - which of course EMA did not want to do.
So now, EMA is giving every country a second chance to make the third ECR possible. The Dutch (Sjef and I, helped by many others) and the Germans have set good examples. Who’s next? The Danes, who have the strongest riichi competition? The French? The English, who have such a lovely venue? Finland perhaps, Slovakia, or, why not, Russia?
It would be a great, yet not too heavy challenge. Organizing a ECR is an easy piece, compared to organizing an OEMC. I know what I am talking about, I was involved in both.
Tina Christensen is just waiting for you to stand up. Just as many, many young riichi players all over Europe are.