Wednesday 28 September 2016

A Warm Welcome to the UKMA


repNever before, in Mahjong News, a contribution evoked so many reactions as Ian Fraser's comment on the EC Riichi. Here's the last one.



There is an old story which tells that Noah, his wife and his family invented the game of mahjong when they had to stay in the Ark for so long after a shower which lasted for forty days and forty nights. But if Noah would have been an Englishman, he would not have made a big deal of the Flood which drowned the whole world in the first place. He would just have looked out of a window of the Ark, saying to his wife: “It looks like rain.”

So - when Ian Fraser comes home from the second European Riichi Mahjong Championship, grabs his slippers, fills his pipe, sits down in his easy chair before the open hearth in his Guildford cottage, and Mrs. Fraser - if any - asks him about his befall in far away Germany; and when Ian then answers that he just finds himself with a ‘niggling dissatisfaction’ - then you can be sure as hell that he had quite a hard time there.

And if he writes a letter to the organisers of the tournament and to the EMA, in which he calls the attitude of some players ‘unpleasant, mean spirited and perverse’ - then you know that it is more than likely that Ian and his fellow-golf players whom he meets regularly for a mahjong night at the club, will consider to stay home when the third EC Riichi will take place, hopefully somewhere in 2012.


Mahjong News, with the consent of Ian, published this letter. Never before, so many visitors of this website reacted on a contribution. Apparently, Ian touched a nerve there. I do not want to moderate this discussion, but I will shortly mention some remarks which struck me (without going into the discussion about the examples Ian gave in his contribution).

  • ‘Bunta’ (I do not know the real names behind most of the correspondents) thinks we should all have fun: ‘it is the European championship, okay, but it is just another tournament’.
  • Norbert Luchardt, one of the referees of the ECR, admits that he ‘never experienced a MCR tournament which was ruled as sternly’ as the EC Riichi.
  • Benjamin Boas, the head judge, who was responsible for a number of controversial decisions, says that the ‘draconian environment of many MCR tournaments is something that should be done away with’.
  • EMA vice-president Tina Christensen reminds that she is writing a chapter on etiquette. That’s more or less what Ian asked, i.e. a preamble to the EMA Riichi Rules which states that every player should create a pleasant play experience for fellow players. She warns, however: tournaments will become more regulated. ‘One day the majority of players will not know each other and playing like in the ‘early days’ will look strange.
  • Mark Chizhenok remarks that ‘fair play’ is not the same as ‘we are friends’.
  • ‘Palcsi’ warns: if you are ‘fair’ to an unexperienced players and helps him in counting, he may win the table after all (here he disregards that in riichi, and especially during the ECR, counting should be done together, by all players - as is also remarked by Tina Christensen.)
  • Edwin Phua thinks that the ECR is not aimed towards beginners. ‘The fun should come from competing against other highly-skilled players’.
  • ‘PB’ pleads to respect and enforce the rules and not to have punishing rules for the sake of it. An attitude of friendly play will encourage more people to join.
  • On the other hand, Aleksey Bolshakow admits that he is glad that he once was punished severely: ‘The mistake has remained in my memory forever’.
  • ‘Senechal’ claims that tournaments aren’t for coffee clubs or pub games.
  • Christopher Rowe is of the opinion that players should not be continually looking to have even the tiniest of potential rule violations. ‘It’s quite easy to become nervous or excited at tournaments’, so mistakes may happen.
  • ‘Anton’ says that ‘ignorance is no excuse not to apply a rule’. ‘If you make a mistake, accept the consequences and don’t blame the messenger’.
  • Bryan Belows thinks that ‘the real scandal is not the mean-spiritedness, but players so clueless that they do not realise they are missing tiles’. ‘Call it a rally or a rendezvous, not a tournament then.’
  • Johannes Scott-Weijers finally would like an addition to the score cards, where the penalties for wrong moves are clearly laid out.

Happy family

Well. Whatever way you look at it, it is not exactly a warm welcome for the UKMA, which, just a couple of months ago and for a great deal thanks to the efforts of Ian Fraser, joined the great and happy European mahjong family, i.e. EMA. The initial official UKMA event, the UK Riichi Open 2010, was one of the happiest tournaments I played in for a long, long time: a beautiful day on the English countryside indeed.

We just said ‘hello’ to Ian and his friends from the British Isles, where even the Royal Family seems to have played mahjong back in the nineteen-twenties. Let’s just hope our ‘hello’ will not turn into their ‘goodbye’.

Comments (4)Comments are closed
1Saturday, 07 August 2010 22:31
Thank you Martin, the 'happy family' you mentioned is an excellent metaphor.
Because, if in your family you do not communicate and observe consistently a few basic rules, you may end up being not such a happy family after all.
However you should always be able to explain why a specific rule exists.
In my view, Ian has put forward a few questions to the rules and the way they are used in practice. And I learned that Tina is -on behalf of EMA- busy as always to improve present-day practice.
So it looks like we are still on the 'happy family' track with British Isles, other isles and mainland. Thanks to an open discussion by the mahjong community here at
2Tuesday, 10 August 2010 11:03
I am very happy that Ian spoke up and precipitated this discussion. When people don't speak up, you are left with trying to guess their minds; a very difficult discipline.

A lot of the rules that some may find useless are actually well-motivated. That is the sort of stuff we teach on the referee seminars which I recommend to all players interested in rule details.

Regarding the request for penalty overviews, just download them from the rule section on the EMA web site:

For Riichi:

For MCR:
3Thursday, 12 August 2010 07:15
Benjamin Boas
I think just about everyone who read Ian's column appreciated its content and most people, including myself, expressed this. How is this not a "warm welcome?"
4Thursday, 21 April 2011 01:54
Alan Kwan
As the head judge for WSoM, I'd just say that, those rules are bad and I'd not write them that way. (And the rules for WSoM are not written that way.)

A long or short hand, especially an inadvertent one (which is usually the case), should be a dead hand, not a false win.

If the winning hand is still on the table, that constitutes material evidence to sustain any correction of the score. In the case in question, it's even more obvious than that, since the players all in a sense acknowledge what the correct score should be, so the score should be corrected.

Dead hand for attempting to change "pon" to win? Too stiff IMO.
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