Thursday, March 12, 2015

Getting into Club Play

For years now, I have been advocating competitive mahjong. Competitive mahjong is mahjong played for a goal (of winning a competition or tournament), and not for money stakes in the sense of casual gambling games.

Competitive mahjong is a sport like any other mind sport (such as chess, weiqi, contract bridge) even though the nature of the rules of mahjong involve a rather big dose of chance. Regardless, to do well and win consistently in mahjong requires a lot of skill. We are lucky that mahjong has developed to give us more skill-skewed rulesets suitable for serious competition, such as the Chinese Official Mahjong Competition Rules (MCR) and a Japanese riichi maajan one in the form of World Riichi Rules (WRR, as used in the inaugural World Riichi Championship in 2014).

Naturally, before players can compete in tournaments, such players must have the opportunity to train in organised environments that promote competitive mahjong. Clubs provide this crucial link between players and tournaments. Clubs are arbiters of mahjong rules and organisers of competitive mahjong at the local level, and these clubs also take up the burden of organising and hosting higher-level (national, regional, global) tournaments.

There is a big difference between playing casually amongst friends and playing in a strict, regulation-heavy environment of a world tournament. Without training in a club that simulates formal tournament environments, how would the competitive mahjong enthusiast learn to deal with the stress and pressure of high-level tournaments? Clubs are very useful in providing such a long-term function: they allow large number of games to be played against a large variety of opponents in an environment where rules and regulations are more strictly observed.

Because clubs usually function at a lower, local level, they correspondingly cannot be at the highest level of play; instead, they provide the platform for players to start their journey in competitive mahjong. Clubs have to attract and retain new players, to introduce the wonderful game of mahjong to curious outsiders, and to nurture beginners into experts. Compared to casual gatherings for mahjong, clubs concentrate knowledge and experience, especially in terms of rules for rule-heavy variants like MCR and WRR. The way fouls and penalties are handled, or even just the recognition and achievement of winning patterns and scoring elements, would be more consistent and in line with wider practice than the often blind-leading-the-leading approach taken by ill-informed casual players.

That is not to say casual play has no value. Casual play prioritises fun/enjoyment and flexibility over rules. MCR played casually is still MCR. But MCR played casually is a different kind of MCR from that played in a club. For the serious competitive mahjong player, is casual play enough, is it appropriate for the wider goal of competing in tournaments and of doing well at such tournaments? The individual player has to decide for himself what he wants out of mahjong.

Is it the ruleset (MCR? WRR? a more fun version of riichi maajan? a local mahjong variant with gambling gimmicks?)?

Is it the environment (play at home casually with friends? with any kind of strangers for gambling? at a club?)?

Is it the goal of playing mahjong (to win money? to assert superiority over family and friends? to praise the deities for good luck and winnings at the table? to win a tournament? to meet and make friends at overseas tournaments? to go on mahjong tours?)?

But to the serious competitive mahjong player, who wants to prove to himself and to others that his skill at mahjong is genuine and not merely good fortune (bestowed by his god(s), if any), it would be hard to improve without steady access to a mahjong club filled with other skilled and serious players that provide challenge and shared learning. (Well, there are online alternatives, but it would not be quite the same...)

So, the point I am making is: for all serious players of mahjong out there, go join a club and play as much competitive mahjong with the members of such a club!

Clubs for competitive mahjong in Singapore
As far as I know, there are only two clubs for competitive mahjong here in Singapore at the moment, details below. However, I would like to add to this list, so if any of you readers out there are involved in or run a club for competitive mahjong, do contact me so that I can expand the choices for serious competitive mahjong players in Singapore.

  • Nee Soon South CC Sport Mahjong Club MCR (MCR league)
  • Thomson CC MCR Club (MCR league, learning section)

For MCR leagues, sign up for updates via mailing lists.
For learning section at Thomson CC MCR Club, join the Meetup group for more information and announcements.

For riichi maajan
  • Nee Soon South CC Sport Mahjong Club RM (WRR league)

To sign up, please go to Playing Riichi Mahjong in Singapore, and use the 'Follow Blog via Email' option on the lower right side of the page.

1 comment:

EP said...

I received what seems to be an incomplete comment from Andre, which also looks like spam, unfortunately. This makes me a little hesitant to follow up via email.

Andre, if you are reading this, please clarify your comment and request. Thanks!