The first World Series of Mahjong (WSoM) competition was held at the Wynn Macau, a resort in Macau. This is promised to be an annual event, similar to the World Series of Poker which is hugely popular in the U.S. While there have already been some international mahjong competitions held, this new event is different that it offers a total cash prize of US$1,000,000!
However, to participate in the WSoM, one has to pay a registration fee of $5000! For most international tournaments, the entry fees are much lower. The prizes are, of course, much less attractive at such tournaments. The high entry fee has appeared to keep some European players away from participating. This has apparently not deterred Asian players from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Japan and elsewhere though.
The ruleset of this WSoM is not based on any of the usual variants, but it is a tournament version of Zung Jung (romanised Cantonese for 中庸, Zhōng Yōng, meaning "Middle Way"). Zung Jung was designed by Alan Kwan for international tournament play, like Mahjong Competition Rules (MCR). However, Zung Jung in general has fewer 'patterns' (44 in total) compared to MCR (81 fan). Zung Jung emphasises logical patterns and thus contain much fewer irregular patterns that arose from regional variants. In contrast, MCR has more irregular hands than Zung Jung while having the same logically-consistent patterns as Zung Jung. There are also many differences in point values. One significant difference about Zung Jung is that there is no reward for self-drawing a winning tile.
So, yet another mahjong ruleset. I was really curious about the results of this tournament, but it is really difficult to find any news of this, on the Internet or in the mainstream media of Singapore. Lianhe Zaobao and the Straits Times did carry some news articles on this, but I am not able to get my hands on a copy of the Chinese newspaper yet, while the ST article focused only the Taiwanese finalist, Yu Hsiao-Ping, who is the daughter of two entertainers. Alan Kwan (who designed the Zung Jung system and also officiated at WSoM as the head judge) wrote some reports on this at BoardGameGeek (Mah-Jongg » Forum Index » Sessions).
Anyway, Alan Kwan's reports are comprehensive (although the names of the two of the four finalists differed in the ST article). There were apparently many players unfamiliar with the system participating in the WSoM tournament. Despite this, the tournament was rather successful. After eight rounds (of which seven were elimination rounds) and two full days of mahjong-playing, Hui Chung Lai of Hong Kong won this inaugural event (and $500,000) and was crowned the first world champion of the WSOM.
As there was television coverage of this tournament, hopefully the TV show will be broadcasted in Singapore when it is ready, so that we can see what a mahjong tournament is like! Reading and writing about this mahjong tournament has made me even more eager to participate in an international tournament, although the $5000 registration fee will definitely put me off WSoM.