I have made many mahjong friends all over the world. But few were as kind, as humorous and as courteous as Wolfgang Franke from Hanover, Germany. He passed away last Friday. This news, which I read on the Facebook page Mahjong Buddies, really made me sad.
Wolfgang Franke was not the strongest player, to say the least. When you leaf through old reports of tournaments in Mahjong News or the tournament pages of the European Mahjong Association, most of the time you will find him in the lower regions of the results. But he enjoyed playing mahjong a lot – and I think that is the very best, if not the only way to play it. Whether it was riichi mahjong or MCR, he liked it a lot and, if possible, he subscribed to tournaments. Not only in his own country, but also in The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and England.
Franke was the heart and soul of the Hanover mahjong scene. He helped organising lots of tournaments, which often took place in his own Gaststätte (pub) ‘Kaiser’. And he made this pub the home of the local mah-jong scene.
In 2008, my friend Sjef Strik and I initiated the first European riichi mahjong championship, but the actual organisation was done by the Hanover club, which was run by Wolfgang Franke. (Wolfgang, by the way, ended in last position during that tournament, but he did not seem to care much.)
I cherish my memories of the tournaments which took place in the Kaiser Gaststätte. The tables were a bit small, but the atmosphere always was great. After each session, Wolfgang helped waiting tables – although he did not own the pub anymore, he helped there a lot and he took care that the waiters did not forget serving food to the hungry mahjong players.
I am still very proud of the first prize I won in that pub in March 2013. Wolfgang apparently had found a sponsor, the Hanover manufacturer of the famous Leibniz keks. He told a long story about the stolen icon of the factory and handed out boxes with biscuits to the winners. And after that story, he drove home in his funny vehicle, which was well known all over Hanover.
I will miss him for all these moments.
Wolfgang Franke Tournaments
One of Wolfgang greatest moments occurred during the (MERS1, MCR) Verden Open 2014 in Germany, when he ended in second position. His last official tournament also took place at Verden: he was there last June and ended on 20th position out of 36 participants.
His last riichi tournament took place in his residence Hanover (January 31~February 1, 2015).
His last position in the EMA MCR ranking is 350 (out of 563), while in the EMA Riichi ranking he is on position 242 (out of 391).