Together with his wife Dicky, Martin Rep, editor of Mahjong News, participated in the World Mahjong Championship in Emei Shan, Chengdu, China, in November 2007. He kept an on line diary of his Chinese adventure.
Mahjong in Chengdu
CHENGDU, October 31, 2007 - Opposite the Mingham Hotel four people have put a little table on the sidewalk. They put a cloth on it and start to play. Mahjong time! Dicky and I watch the game, and of course we comment on it, to show the players that we may be from Europe, but still we do know mahjong. To the astonishment of most Chinese, by the way.
They are playing more or less next to the fancy shop of the Minghang Hotel. In the shop, there is the set I have put my eyes on. It's made of stone-like stuff, beautifully engraved, and its colour is light green. Yesterday we wanted to enter the shop to buy it, but it was closed.
Now it seems to be open. We leave the mahjong players and we enter the little shop. There's the box. It cannot be expensive. After all, we had a taxi drive all the way from Chengdu Airport to the city center for just 50 yuan - which is five euro. And every evening we have a delicious meal for prices, varying from 2,50 to 18 euros (25 to 180 yuan).
The shop keeper approaches us. Very beautiful set, he says. We agree. Majiang, he says, We agree fully.
He writes his price on the display of his calculating machine. That's cheap, I think. But Dicky sees my mistake. It's not 680 yuan, no: 6800 yuan. That's 680 euros. 750 yankee dollars.
"It's jade", the shop keeper explains. I believe him - a set that beautiful must be gold, diamond or jade.
The prize difference is to large. I am willing to pay 50, 70, 90 or 100 euros. But I just don't want a set that costs around 500 euros.
The shop keeper points at the label on the box, which says 14800 yuan. He means to say: I am practically giving way this beautiful set.
But I shake my head. "I am sorry."
We leave the shop without the pretty set.
...Today, it's our last Chengdu-day. We have strolled the broad avenues and the little streets for the last time. (We have not been invited to play Chengdu mahjong in one of the tea houses.) Now comes Phase Number Two of our trip: the World Championship in Emei. We are ready for it.
Welcome in Emei
EMEI SHAN, November 3, 2007 - First of all: it is an absolutely incredibly venue the Chinese hosts of the World Mahjong Championship have organised the tournament in. When you walk through the corridors and the halls of the Hong Zhu Shan Hotel in Emei, some 100 kilometers from Chengdu, it feels as though you are walking through the palace of Versailles in France.
It's all very impressive. E.g., yesterday's meeting of the General Assembly of the World Mahjong Organization, which took place in a large conference room, with the flags of all participating countries. It looks like a meeting of the United Nations, someone whispered.
The meeting was presided by Mr. Jiang, Secretary-General of the WMO, and the two vice-presidents of the European Mahjong Association were invited to sit next to him. So there we were: Ms. Tina Christensen from Denmark, and Martin Rep of the Netherlands.
Most important topics of the meeting were the WMO-statutes, and the question: when and where will the next world championship take place? WMO (in other words: the Chinese) is willing to organize the next event, and they propose this should take place in 2010. After that, it could be held any other year.
A great challenge for the EMA, I could say to Mr. Jiang, on behalf of the European countries. After all, we have proven that we can organize great tournaments: Nijmegen 2005 and Copenhagen 2007 were magnificent competitions. But a world championship, that's just not the same as a European championship. So we asked the Chinese if we can have three months to do more investigation - which was approved by the Assembly.
And after some more questions, "meeting is closed", said Mr. Jiang, and we all clapped our hands and went back to Building Number Three, where there is a nice mahjong parlour.
Let the games begin!
EMEI SHAN, November 3, 2007 - After the Second Open European Championship, last summer in Copenhagen, some optimistic mahjong scientists said that it were no longer the Chinese and the Japanese who had dominated the tournament, like they had done in Nijmegen, two years earlier. So the prospects for the World Mahjong Championship in Chengdu looked pretty good.
Well - er... now it is the evening of the first tournament day. Three sessions ('ju') have been played. And who top the individual ranking of 120 players? Right - it's the Chinese and the Japanese again.
There are nine players with a score of 100 percent: six Chinese and three Japanese. Then there are a number of players with 10 points, and way after them, with 9 points, there is the first European player. She's Erika Mago from Hungary. Four European players have 8 points: Jerome Bonifas from France, Désirée Heemskerk from the Netherlands, Nusretha Mauthner from Bosnia-H and Alexander Doppelhofer from Austria. (Also the Japanese/American player John O'Connor, number 2 in Tokyo 2002, has 8 points.)
So far for the news of the day (scroll down for the results of the Dutch). What's most important, is the atmosphere during this tournament in the 'healthy and scientific mahjong'. Well, it is very friendly indeed. It's greet to see back all those mahjong players from all over the world. Many friendships are renewed, e.g. with Masato Chiba, winner of the first OEMC; with Benjamin Boas (the American who is studying mahjong culture in Japan and who is envied by everyone); with 'Andy', the optimistic Chinese organizer/interpreter, with Mai… - no, where in the world is Mai Hatsune? Why is she not defending her world title she won in Tokyo in 2002?
Different stories are told. Some say she has not practised Mahjong Competition Rules for a long time. Others say she could not find a sponsor. It's hard to find the real truth. Anyway - we surely miss her.
Okay, finally the results of the Dutch players:
Jade Team: Yvonne vd Heide - 2 points; Jeroen Meijer 6 pts; Wil Meijer 6 points; Harry Kal 2 pts.
Golden Dragon Team: Martin Rep 5 pts; Dicky Rep 1 point; Anton Kösters 7 points; Rudi Wong-Chung 2 pts;
Rotterdam Team: Marianne Croeze 5 pts; Jaap Croeze 4 pts; Désirée Heemskerk 8 pts; Adrie v Geffen 6 pts. Frans Roquas: 6 points.
A heavy day
EMEI SHAN, November 4, 2007 - For the most players in the Hong Zhu Shan hotel in Emei, this second day of the World Mahjong Championship was a real heavy one, Just imagine: 120 players in one room, together with 40 beautiful and smoothly running automatic mahjong tables, during four sessions of two hours each. That means it is getting hotter and hotter by the hour, and the later it gets, the more tired the players are.
It was a day of disappointment and a day of pleasure. I spent the first two hours of the day, sitting at a table with two kind Chinese and a Japanese. Unfortunately they did not give me one single 'hu'. But after the second session I felt a lot better already, since I almost won that table. Almost...
Although there are also a lot of elderly Chinese who are very strong, the young students make the greatest impression. They seem to 'hu' without any effort.
Is there also good news for the Europeans? Absolutely: Désirée Heemskerk of the Netherlands will probably play in the final tomorrow. The best sixteen players after 8 sessions ('ju') will fight for the prizes in the final 'ju'. Ms. Heemskerk, with her 22 points after 7 ju, can have her revenge then for the bad OEMC she played last summer in Copenhagen. But also Alexander Doppelhofer from Austria, who has 18 points, has a chance to play in the final.
After seven ju, there is one player with a 100 percent score: Minora Imaeda from Japan. He is followed by a Chinese with 26 points, and two other Chinese, with 24 points, followed by another player from Japan. A number of players have 22 points.
And what about the bright young Danes? Well, their results are not quite what we hoped they would be -- to say the least. Martin Wedel Jacobsen, the European champion, has 15 points right now. He's the best Dane.
Li Li's the Champion; Dutch Dees in the top ten
EMEI SHAN, November 5, 2007 - It looked like the final of a soccer match, when the public applauded and yelled and screamed, when the video camera's zoomed in and the flashes of the photocamera's flashed continuously. But this was the final of the World Mahjong Championship 2007. Sixteen players, sitting around four automatic mahjong tables, had been playing for two hours in absolute (well, nearly ;-) silence. But when the final gong was heard, it was a pandemonium.
He was the best, absolutely: Li Li from Tsinghua University. His team mates embraced him, everyone congratulated him, everyone wanted his autograph and everyone wanted on a picture with him. It was the happy end of the World Mahjong Championship 2007.
Actually, watching the final of a mahjong competition is quite boring. But, as one of the players said (I can just as well say this was Tom Sloper): 'I just could not stop watching.' The best sixteen players in the general classification were admitted to this final round. Public was allowed to watch, but only in silence, 'no talking, in any language', pictures could be made, 'but no flash'.
Then you sit and watch. Every now and then you hear 'chi', 'pong' or 'hu'.
For the Dutch, the final round was attractive, though, because the Dutch favorite Désirée Heemskerk had managed to qualify herself (and not Austrian Alexander Doppelhofer, who eventually ranked 28). A number of her fans were sitting quite close to her. And so they witnessed that 'Dees' could not win this table, even though she was quite happy with the 2 table points she won, which brought her to the 10th position in the final classification. That was even better than Masato Chiba, the winner of the first European Championship in 2005 (the Netherlands).
Li Li was really unbeatable, so he fully deserved his title, which he takes over from Mai Hatsune from Japan, who did not compete in this world championship. Runner-up was (Chinese) Zhang Zhangfei, and number three Minori Imaeda from Japan.
Some more figures, before we join the party here: Laurent Mahé from France just did not make it to the final round; he ended on position #17. Martin Wedel Jacobsen from Denmark, the current European champion, ranked to position 27, Alexander Doppelhofer - as told before - landed on position #28.
The best non-Asian team was the Dutch 'Rotterdam' team (Dees's team, of course), on the 11th position.
Okay, finally the Dutch again:
62 Adrie v Geffen, 15 points;
73 Jaap Croeze, 14 pts;
88 Anton Kösters, 13 points;
100 Frans Roquas,
101 Martin Rep,
103 Marianne Croeze,
104 Dicky Rep, all 11 pts;
113 Harry Kal,
116 Wil Meijer,
118 Yvonne van der Heide, all 9 pts;
125 Jeroen Meijer and
126 Rudy Wong Chung, 7 pts.