BAD VÖSLAU, Austria – The real winner of the Third European Riichi Mahjong Championship was not the terrific Czech player Martin Diviz, but organizer Alexander Doppelhofer. When, last Sunday, he entered the hall of the estate ‘Castle Mountain’ for the award ceremony, he was welcomed by rhythmic applause. When he stood up to address the players, new applause. And when he could not help but speaking with great emotion, everybody clapped and cheered again.
And all this for a person who, before the tournament, was not taken quite seriously by all players. Who was this Alexander Doppelhofer, to think that he could organize this event on his own? Who sometimes walks around in Lederhosen, with a weird mascot called Tommy? Who can be a pain in the ass at a mahjong table when insisting on playing by the book, split hairs about almost anything and calling the referee for futilities?
Alexander is a single-minded person who likes to do things his way. He does not agree with the EMA way of calculating the rankings of mahjong players, so he developed a new method. His rankings are published, amongst others, in Mahjong News.
He was challenged by the idea of organizing the Third European Riichi Mahjong Championship, so he designed a program all by himself and presented it to the European Mahjong Organization. He was very proud when EMA decided to grant the organization to him, and not to his competitor, the Dutch Mahjong Association. EMA liked his idea of a Team European Riichi Championship, which was to take place before the individual championship.
It was exactly this team championship that almost made him fail in his mission. To his disappointment, mahjong players were reluctant to sign up for it. (His other great frustration was that no players from Japan subscribed to the ECR.) But he persisted, and finally ten teams of four players subscribed.
The Team Championship was not the greatest event of the ECR weekend at Bad Vöslau. Alexander, who likes to organize everything himself, had to participate in the competition since there was one open place in an Austrian team. Actually, he was too nervous for that, he was too tired and a couple of drinks did the rest. He had some meaty discussions at his table and called in the referee several times. Immediately after the closing of this part of the program, he deeply regretted and apologized to the other players and the referee. It was, in short, a false start for Alexander.
But then, the next day, the Grand Opening took place. This was a great success. There was music and dance by a local group, which contributed a lot to the atmosphere and did not last too long either. Same goes for the speeches of the local authorities. Just as he did during the opening of the Team Championship, Alexander could barely hold his tears during his speech.
From that moment on, all went well. You can agree or not about the tournament format – which was approved by EMA – but there never was any delay nor were there major problems during gameplay whatsoever. There was good food, a simple yet fine ‘gala dinner’, there was a beautiful giant mahjong cake; the results were presented right on time (Alexander did have some help from his friends of the Baden MCR club, amongst whom Otto Myslivec and Norbert Tschinkel, and interpreter Peter Hamilton). So, about the tournament, everybody was happy. No one laughed at Alexander anymore, even though he still walked around in a typical Austrian costume. And some players noted with respect that he had slimmed down.
No wonder that, during the closing ceremony, everybody cheered and clapped when Mr. Doppelhofer entered the hall. The tears he showed moments later when he addressed the players did the rest. British player Ian Fraser did not mind kissing him when he received his diploma.
It was quite obvious that he did that on behalf of all competitors in the European Riichi Mahjong Championship.