Tina Christensen (extreme right) during the first meeting of the EMA, Nijmegen, 2005. Second from left Uwe Martens.

Tina Christensen has decided to resign as president of the European Mahjong Association because of her duties as a scientific advisor at the Danish Meteorological Institute. Mahjong News reflects upon the ‘Mahjong Lady’.

PÓVOA DE VARZIM, Portugal - Tina Christensen was number three in the row of presidents of the newly founded European Mahjong Association. But while her predecessors are almost forgotten, the Danish Lady has reached an important goal for the EMA, and as such for mahjong in Europe. Her successor, Luc Humbert from Switzerland, will face an impossible task if he would try to have us forget Tina – which he hopefully will not.

The EMA was founded in 2005, at the same moment the first Open European Mahjong Championship was held in the Netherlands. Mahjong players in Europe had just discovered the ‘International Rules’, later called ‘Mahjong Competition Rules’, which were used during the first world championship in Tokyo, 2002. Until then, mahjong players all over Europe had played their own local variant. But the newly, in China invented rules, made it possible to embrace an international standard for international competitions. Which, soon after the first OEMC, were being organized all over Europe.

‘International Rules’

Tina was present at Nijmegen, where the OEMC 2005 was held. She had recently become the president of Mahjong Denmark. It was she who had proposed Uwe Martens, president of the German Mahjong League, to be the first president of EMA. But while Tina had a great passion for mahjong, Uwe Martens never seemed to be captured very much by the game. Tina was a strong player, not only in MCR but also in riichi mahjong, which at the time had no official status in the EMA though. Uwe was good in keeping the new EMA together – which was difficult enough for the young organization – but, maybe because he did not want to brush off people, always took a long time before making decisions.

A flamboyant person

In 2009 Uwe Martens ‘left office’. His successor was Dutchman Robert Rijnders. He was a flamboyant person, quite different from Uwe Martens: he had much less patience and a much greater presence. While Uwe Martens did not even show up during the first European Riichi Championship in Hanover in 2008, not far from his own residence, Robert Rijnders easily stood in the spotlight, made friends with everyone and never had a problem to deliver a good speech. Yet, he left after just two years, since he decided to give priority to his cycling activities over mahjong.

Austria, 2013: Tina Christensen (third from right) with the initiators of the first riichi world championship.

In 2009, Tina Christensen had been ‘not ready’ for the position of president; in 2011, she was. At the time, the Danes had proved to be about the strongest mahjong players of Europe. The small Danish squadron in the EMA consisted of relatively young and relatively highly educated people, who were prepared to discuss each other mahjong tactics and learn from each other. Tina’s Danes analyzed their opponents’ strategies. Tina favored this scientific approach of the game.

Riichi Mahjong

After the inaugural World Riichi Championship in France 2014, a new committee met and was founded to ensure this new world competition survived on for future iterations, and Tina was present for that founding as well. Together with the newly formed World Riichi Championship Committee, the rules of the competition were refined, and the next iteration was planned, ensuring the legacy would live on with the second iteration already established to occur October 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Duplicate mahjong 

She also welcomed quite some new EMA members and was also very much interested in new developments. She visited China to make the acquaintance with a new tournament structure, meant to reduce the luck factor in the game, such as ‘duplicate mahjong’, where players at every table get the same starting tiles and all walls are built up in exactly the same way. From the spirit of this new tournament philosophy, the Mahjong International League (MIL) was founded, and Tina was present for that formation event as well. During it’s first congress meeting in Beijing, Tina was formally elected as one of its founding vice presidents, a role she maintains to this day. The MIL went on to petition the International Mind Sport Association (IMSA) to officially recognize mahjong as a mind-sport, and in April 2017, mahjong finally achieved this official recognition. Through representation of the IMSA and the MIL, mahjong will now be a part of the next World Mind Sport Games planned to coincide with the next Olympic Games in 2020.

Vision

But, most important: she appeared to have a real vision about mahjong, which is perhaps her true merit. She almost personally rewrote the EMA riichi mahjong rules – and generously accepted the changes which were made for making the first world championship riichi mahjong possible. During her administration, problems were solved with a giant new EMA-member Russia, where riichi was played on a large scale, only not with the EMA rules, and she managed to give the French a special position in the EMA. (In France, a lot of the strongest players live in the remote department of France: on the isle of Reunion, in the Indian Ocean).

Tina Christensen (2nd from left) in the Riichi World Championship in France, 2014. Left, Martin Rep of Mahjong News.

MERS tournaments

In the meantime, Tina managed to play in a lot of MCR and riichi tournaments all over the continent, and, although she never won a MERS tournament, most of the time she was amongst the best players. It will not be easy to get used to an EMA without Tina in the leading position.

Strangely enough, Uwe Martens and Robert Rijnders seem to have vanished from the international mahjong platform since they quit office. We would never forgive Tina for doing the same. Luckily, this seems very unlikely for the Mahjong Lady – the woman with a real passion for the Game of a Thousand Intelligences.

Mahjong Statistics of Tina Christensen

 

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  • Guest - Gemma

    Great article! She's made such a huge and unforgettable contribution to the community. You're right... we would never forgive Tina if she left us.

  • Guest - Tina Christensen

    Thanks for the nice words :)

    Indeed I have a real passion for mahjong and I will remain dedicated to promoting mahjong in Europe and worldwide.

    I am stepping down from President to Vice President because it makes a lot of sense for me to concentrate on other tasks in the Presidium. My day time job doesn’t really have anything to do with the decision. Actually, I always preferred the Vice Presidency, but when Robert Rijnders stepped down quite suddenly, noone else was ready to put forward their candidacy with such short notice.

    I had a great collaboration with Uwe Martens during the first 4 years of EMA (2005-2009), e.g. about developing tournament regulations and a standard for refereeing. Uwe’s initiatives and efforts in that period were vital for the success and expansion of EMA.

    I am very happy that Luc Humbert wanted to put forward his candidacy. Luc has travelled to many tournaments in Europe, both riichi and MCR, and knows players and organisers in many countries, and I am confident that he will be a very successful president for EMA! We have worked well together for the past two years in the Presidium, we have travelled together in China and we both have good relations to Mahjong International League, who has worked hard to ensure the recognition of mahjong as a mind sport, which was a huge mile stone achieved earlier this year.

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