PARIS - World Riichi Championship mahjong rules have been tested on the world stage once already, and have shown to be a great success at the inaugeral World Riichi Championship in Paris, 2014. After some revision for its second world stage at the upcoming World Riichi Championship in October, Mahjong News sits down with Sylvain Malbec to learn more.
Mahjong News: How did you come to be playing mahjong?
Sylvain: A long long time ago, I've discovered mahjong from a video game by Berrie Bloem, featuring Chinese Classical rules. I had found it my mere luck in a shareware compilation's CD. Later, I bought "Shanghai Second Dynasty" by Tom Sloper, and discovered the Japanese rules!
Mahjong News: Did you have any mentors to look up to and guide you, and did you have any inspirations to help move you forward.
Sylvain: Not really. I've been into mahjong before the FFMJ was created, so I was pretty much isolated, although you can count Tom. I've learned riichi rules from him (indirectly), and had a glimpse of so many other rules thanks to his website! Not to undermine other people who did a great job to promote mahjong into the west, but I was already hooked up when I got a chance to know about them.
Mahjong News: You are in charge of compiling the official rules for the WRC. Tell us a bit about how you came into this responsibility, and how that selection process has worked out.
Sylvain: I was one of the firsts promoting riichi among the FFMJ, and posted a lot on its forum about it (on MCR too). So, by the time the WRC project came to fruition, I was already well known as the riichi specialist in France. On top of that, I'm in the same club as Valérian & Quentin Thomas, the head organizers of the first WRC, so the choice was quite obvious.
Mahjong News: The WRC now has its own formalized rules. Would you like to explain the process of forming those rules, and how they came to be? Were there any specific resources or inspirations that contributed to the current rules as they are written?
Sylvain: The WRC rule's creation started in 2013, one year before the first WRC. The very first step was to collect riichi rules used by major organizations around the world. I've limited the list to competition rules, and the choice of organizations was arguable, but if I had to start over with today's knowledge, the end result would be pretty much the same. The second step was to extract the core rule-points from this survey, and avoid exotic variations, to design a rule anyone could agree on. And finally, the hardest part was to make sure everything worked together.
Speaking about starting over, there are still revisions going on. Mostly to clarify some points, so don't expect any actual rule changes.
By the way, my rules survey is online for everyone to see: https://ooyamaneko.net/mahjong/rratw/
Many rules and rule-points have been added since then, and it's kept up to date.
Mahjong News: Do you think there were any lessons learned in Paris 2014 that may carry over into the rules for Vegas to help improve the competition?
Sylvain: There are certainly lessons learned, from and for other tournaments too, but not that much will be set in the rules. I think in particular about a tournament format (round-robin, elimination, Swiss, ...), and I don't see any consensus coming soon, especially since not every tourney has the same objective. I mean, e.g. an elimination format might be suited for a 3-day championship, but unfit for an 1-day local event. A more achievable improvement would be to have a standard scoring sheet layout; of course, this goes outside the scope of WRC and has to be set up by EMA, NARMA and the like.
Of the rules changes from Paris 2014, they are already in the WRC 2015 rulebook. The two major points being to get rid of the 3-second rule and reforming the penalties.
Mahjong News: In the process, are there any pitfalls the WRC rules need to avoid, or are there any particular challenges that the WRC needs to overcome to make this event succeed and endure into the future?
Sylvain: Of course, the big challenge is in the organization, so I'll let David answer.
Mahjong News: How do you see the future of the WRC and the WRC rules?
Sylvain: Pretty bright! I'm very happy to see people using it outside WRC.
Mahjong News: What comes next for Sylvain, in life, and in mahjong?
Sylvain: Not much. I should play more. People have started thinking that I've moved to another country.
Mahjong News: Any other words you’d like to share with the readers?
Sylvain: May the tiles be with you!