STRASBOURG - I played my first tournament back in 2008 and since that time I have played sixteen more tournaments in Russia, none of them abroad. The opportunity to play a high-ranked event like the OEMC was very motivating. So when the quota of fifteen players for Russia was announced, my decision to go was made without any hesitation.
To get onto the list was not a problem for me since it was based on internal MCR Russian ranking (accounting not only MERS-tournaments but also Russian non-MERS ones), within which I was somewhere near the top.
Here comes key difference between “typical” European and Russian players in terms of tournament participation. EMA regulations are strict: there are no more than 3 MERS-tournaments per 1 year for a country. The only exception is made for the French Reunion due to its large geographical size and the associated high cost of travelling such long distances for such a great number of MCR players. But despite having only only three annual events per country alotted, it is quite possible for players to visit “neighboring” countries to increase a player's tournament-count to as high as ten (based on real statistics).
Unfortunately, in Russia this is not the case. The distance between the two Russian capital cities where the main tournaments take place – Moscow and Saint-Petersburg – is 637 km (please, compare it to European standards). To go abroad one needs to pay for: air-travel, extended housing, visa etc. That’s why the bulk of players never play in tournaments abroad. Typical attendance of ordinary tournaments abroad is zero, one, or two players from Russia; for big championships like the WMC or OEMC – maybe four to six.
Something defining occurred in Russia this year: sixteen players decided to go. Sixteen means three times as many as a normal year. For six players, the OEMC-2014 was their first tournament abroad! Perhaps the explanation for the large Russian turnout is the current “boom” in Russia, or perhaps it is in the willingness of our players to test their skills against the strong European community.
Anyway, sixteen Russian players have formed four teams. The best Russian team “Nine-tailed Fox”’s result was 5th place out of 51 teams. Two top Russian individual results were inside this team: Vladimir Stepanov came in 7th and Alla Danilevskaya was 13th. Please note that Alla has already participated in 9 tournaments abroad, including three times at the WMC/ OEMC level, while this was Vladimir's first ever. Well done! For the author of these lines, the OEMC was also his first attempt for testing his skills outside of Russia. My twenty-third place means the bottom line of top 1/8 of all players, and the 3rd best individual Russian result. The rest of the Russians ranged from 52nd to 171st place out of the 204 players from 19 countries. Well done, Russia!
This event (if speak beside it was a tournament) for 200+ people was very well organized, everything was done in order and on time. My guess is it took the efforts of many organizers so I would like to express many thanks and best wishes to them.
Now, let’s take a look at the tournament in terms of the game of mahjong. First of all, the seating scheme of such big event is strongly dictated by the need to control the tournament flow. That’s why the pre-printed schedule makes more sense rather than any other sophisticated schemes like Swiss/ Dutch single-meeting (though in my dreams I see one day a tournament with 200 players under the Swiss system) which requires after-session calculations for each following session's seating. Although such “pre-arranged” seating schemes have one obvious drawback – “uneven” tables in terms of the average level of the players. The other thing for such big event is a player meets several players from the same team. Could it be avoided? Yes, and here comes a formula for that possibility:
Number_of_players_total/4 -1 >= 3* number_of_sessions, or, in other words:
Number_of_opponents_teams_total >= number_of_opponents_played
What is this formula about? Let me explain based on OEMC-2014 data:
204/4 -1 = 50 >= 3*11=33
This means that we can find such a seating scheme where each player of any single team out of the other 50 teams may meet on the basis “one player out of each team being an opponent” during eleven sessions with thirty-three different opponents, hence, teams.
Such kind of approach seems to be much more balanced and fair.
The most vivid impression is storks’ nests built right in top of Pavillon Joséphine!