Organizers prepare the duplicate trays.

BEIJING, China - Mahjong International League - A new development on the world scene: a group dominated by young players from Beijing club Fangzhuang have been working on a plan to “sportify” mahjong with the intension of entering mahjong into the family of mind sports in the International Mind Sports Association (IMSA).

The group includes world famous players such as Xu Huaou (4th in the WMC 2010 in Utrecht), Zhang Zhangfei (3rd in the WMC in 2012 in Chongqing), Li Li (winner of the WMC in 2007 in Chengdu) and Gao Jun. The director of the Fangzhuang club is Mrs. Zhou Guijun, referee at WMC’s. She is also the mother-in-law of Li Wenlong, who is the main contact point for the initiative that works towards the establishment of the Mahjong International League, MIL, and the acceptance of MIL into the International Mind Sports Associations, IMSA. The initiative has a strong sponsor in the back, Frank Wu, CEO of Ourgame aka Lianzhong and the support of José Damiani, Honorary President of IMSA.

Representatives from mahjong organisations in Europe, Singapore, Japan and 8 Chinese provinses attended a preparatory workshop in Beijing for the establishment of MIL. The timeline aims for establishment on October 24-26, 2015, in Sanya, Hainan, China in connection with a tournament for some 400 players.
The attendents were also treated with two playing sessions of Duplicate Mahjong, a concept inspired by Contract Bridge with the purpose to remove the luck element of mahjong, which is an IMSA requirement. Duplicate Mahjong A session with 4 teams and one full game of 16 hands was played. (16 players, 4 teams, 4 tables). The wall set-up has been randomly determined. The wall set-up is manually duplicated for each table. The tiles are prepared so each player receives a box with three tile rows: 13, 11 and 10 tiles. The 13 tiles is the starting hand, the 10 and 11 is the player’s personal wall. No flower tiles are used. Each team has a team member at each of the four tables. Each team has one player in East posittion, one player in South etc. So all together the four team members experience all the four pre-set walls.

Shen Yangsheng, Zhou Guijun, Tina Christensen, Kimito Kugimiya trying their hand at Duplicate Mahjong.

After each hand the scores of the team members are added. The whole exercise means that the efforts of the player teams can be directly compared. Together the four team mates have played with exactly the same tiles as all the other teams. The game sessions were very convincing as a proof of concept. The game flow is quite different. In the beginning you really want to draw tiles from other players’ walls because you’re used to reaching for the place in the wall where the previous player drew a tile. But there are several advantages to having your personal wall. You can always reach it. For players who are not tall, this can be an issue at most mahjong tables. Also, when you claim a tile (call, discard and then claim) you are never colliding with the next player trying to draw a tile while you are trying to claim the last discard. And if you knock over tiles, it’ll be your own, so less awkwardness. I am certain some players willl find this game flow strange. If someone makes a pung, normally that means that you will now draw a different tile in the wall than you would have without the pung. With you personal wall that is not the case. Reruns were shown were the game play of the same hand at the four tables is viewed simultaneously.

Trays used for preparing predetermined identical walls to be played at each table.

This is evidently a wonderful analytical tool. While the Fangzhuang club can handle the logistics, I believe it will take a while before Europe is ready to try out the concept IRL. The number of special tile trays to prepare, the number of mahjong sets and human resources is staggering. However, an on online platform will be released late June for international online playing of Duplicate Mahjong, so everyone can try out the concept. The rules are MCR, though likely in a version closer to the original 1998 edition, rather than the current MCR rules.