MahjongNews talks with Norbert Tschinkel (left) and Otto Myslivec (center).

BADEN - They did not suffer a financial loss; yet, they could not find a head-sponsor and only half of the Chinese players showed up. They are very satisfied with the organization of the European mahjong championship 2009, yet they never want to do this a second time. They did not instruct anybody to play more friendly, yet the way of playing at the tables was very kind and relaxed. It has been a wonderful OEMC at Baden, near Vienna. Say Otto Myslivec and Norbert Tschinkel of the OEMC 2009 Organizing Committee.

MahjongNews talks with them one week after the successful championship, during the after-party of the Hungarian Championship. Their results, here in Dunaújváros, are rather modest. Otto ended on position 34, Norbert on the 54th place. But they both look very happy. Almost all the work for the OEMC was done by Otto Myslivec and - he is not here in Hungary - Martin ‘Lupo’ Hoffman. They just left some crumbs for the other members of the committee, such as Norbert Tschinkel.
Tired but satisfied?
Otto Myslivec: “Very satisfied. All the people who participated at Baden, have enjoyed it very much. It has been a tournament people will still talk about for years. We received only positive feedback. We have done something for our state, our country. And we have shown the mahjong world that the Austrians are not playing by the rule book alone. We want to spread mahjong.”

You really mean that: something for your country?
Norbert Tschinkel: “Yes. We also wanted to promote Baden. Just think of the trotting race we have organized. That is a typical regional activity. Before the race, some people were not so happy with this part of the program. Yet, it was a great success.”
Otto: “24 mahjong players could take a seat in the carts, and they absolutely loved it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them.
“Then there was the Spanferkel: a sucking pig, grilled on an open fire. Also very Austrian!”
Norbert: “Music from the region Styria [Steiermark]. It was played during the opening ceremony, and it came back at the closing party.”

What about the money? You did get only some local sponsors, and half of the Chinese team did not show up.
No problem, says Otto Myslivec. “We calculated with a ‘black zero’. The Chinese did pay, also for those who did not show up. That means that the subscription fee of the substitute players we had to ask to take their places, was paid by the Chinese.” They were very glad with the financial outcome. If the OEMC 2009 would have suffered a loss, the organizers would have had to pay it from their own pockets.

‘Austrian way’

Before the tournament, many players were afraid of the strict Austrian way of playing by the regulations book. Yet, after the OEMC, no dissonance was heard. Were special instructions given in order to get a more friendly way of playing?
Norbert Tschinkel shakes his head. “The referees came from many countries”, he says. “The way they are applied, was the responsibility of head referee Tina Christensen and her team.”

Otto confirms: “We did not give any instructions.” He suspects that it is the other way around: the players tend to play less throat-cutting, and they now accept rules which were considered controversial some time ago. Norbert gives an example he witnessed during the tournament in Hungary. “Yesterday, a player forgot to pick up the winning tile after a ‘hu’. It was no problem, he could take it after all.” Otto: “Someone else took a tile from the wrong end of the wall. No problem either.”
Norbert and Otto remain distant of the ‘old Austrian’ way: “The players are responsible for what happens at the tables. But of course, they can call the referee as they want to.”

Heat wave

The OEMC 2009 was confronted with a heat wave, which turned the hall into a Turkish bath, and one hysterical Italian player who sweeped all the tiles off the table. Incidents the organizers could not do anything about.
The same goes for the major problem, which casted a shadow over the tournament: the fact that about half of the Chinese players did not show up. Otto Myslivec and Norbert Tschinkel still do not know what happened exactly. Still, an attempt to a reconstruction.
Otto and Norbert both were present at the World Mahjong Championship 2007 in Chengdu, China, as well as Martin Hoffmann and some other Austrians. During the award ceremony, they invited the new world champion, Li Li from Beijing, to come and play at Baden. A free airline ticket, paid by the burgomaster of Baden, was handed over symbolically to him.
China would get sixteen places at the OEMC, just as other major countries like Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, etcetera. When it became clear that the two players for ‘Chinese Taipei’ (Taiwan) would not come, China claimed, and eventually got, these two extra sets. Eighteen players from the motherland of mahjong - that seemed all right.
Otto Myslivec: “The deadline for subscription was January 31st, 2009. At the time, we had heard nothing from the WMO, the World Mahjong Organisation in Beijing, for months. Only a Christmas card in December. The deadline passed without any word from the Chinese. We mailed them, we wrote letters to them, we tried to phone them. To no avail.”
At Otto’s request, MahjongNews tried to establish contact with Beijing. This seemed to work. The OEMC 2009 committee got in contact with Mr. Zheng Zhang of the Organizing Committee of the China Majiang Championship. Someone they did not know until then.
Otto en Martin Hoffmann also called in a Chinese who lived in Austria. She had a phone call which lasted over four hours (‘incredible’, says Otto) with the WMO bureau.


Yet, at the end of May, the OEMC 2009 Committee still had no list with the names of the Chinese players. Then they received a letter with the names of eighteen players and six officials.
Two weeks later, another letter came in, with the names of seven players and four officials. Two days before the tournament, a new letter arrived; with again the names of seven players and four officials. “They claimed there were problems because of the Mexican flu”, says Otto. “And they said that maybe extra players would come from Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.” The latter did not happen.
The day before the tournament, eight players arrived. Since the organizers had counted on eighteen Chinese, they had to make new playing schedules. Thanks to the Danes, esp. Jesper Willemoes Hansen, this turned out very well. In order to get an appropriate number of players possible (the number of participants must always be a factor of four), two substitute players were called up: Daniela Natali from Italy and Ernest Glaser from Austria.
China had paid for the subscription of seventeen players. So since, eventually, only thirteen arrived (eight players, one interpreter and four officials), they paid the fee of the two substitute players.
But the Chinese who did come, were not exactly the stars of the OEMC the organizers had hoped for. Norbert: “I played against a Chinese. Well, he knew the rules, but that’s about all I can say. He did not make one single ‘hu’.”
Otto and Norbert claim that the European Mahjong Organization ought to talk with the WMO to find a new basis for cooperation. On equal terms. A meeting should be arranged to find a way to get out the problems.
And, as Norbert says: “There is the green booklet with the rules, and another booklet with the regulations. We think there should be only one book. In which the EMA regulations should be used. For us, the ‘green booklet’ is not the bible.”

Any advice for the Dutch, who are organizing the World Mahjong Championship 2010, or the Italians, who will organize the next OEMC, in 2011?
Norbert: “They should not try to do it better than we did. Just try to do it as good as possible. This is not a competition.”