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 Game drawing great interest in Europe

Henrik Leth, a Danish delegate to the World Mahjong Organization, plays mahjong at the Fifth China Mahjong Championship in Yichang, Central China's Hubei province, on Sunday. Wang Huazhong / China Daily

CHONGQING - Mahjong tournaments and championships in Europe are now drawing participation from 500 players as more and more people in that region find enjoyment in the ancient Chinese game.

That's what Tina Christensen, president of the European Mahjong Association, said in Chongqing on Wednesday.

"Players travel to different places in Europe for the game," Christensen said. "It's very interesting to hear players of different nationalities suddenly speaking Chinese: 'chow', 'pung', 'kong' and 'hu'."

She said the 500 players' names appear on the ranking lists of four European tournaments and of the national championships the organization holds every year.

The events include two competitions at which Japanese rules are observed and two at which Chinese rules, or international competition rules, are observed.

European countries also hold national games, such as the Danish Open and Danish Championships, Christensen said.

She said some people dislike mahjong because of its complicated rules or because they do not enjoy sitting at a table for hours. Many others, though, find the game exciting and interesting.

Martin Faartoft, a software engineer and amateur player from Denmark, said the charm of mahjong lies in its variety.

"It's about combination and probability - getting your mind to optimize (the use of) your hands," he said. "It's not a simple game that easily gets boring. It's unlike playing in a formula. You have to try new things all the time.

"If you got one bad hand, you can have a new one very soon It's nice to have four people to make it more social than two players."

Henrik Leth, treasurer for Mahjong Denmark, said playing Mahjong requires a person to think analytically. At some point in a game, a player has to adopt a certain strategy and yet be willing later on to change it in response to an opponents' moves.

"I envy (that the) Chinese can do this by heart, by intuition," he said.

Christensen said it is too bad that most Europeans learn Mahjong from Japanese comics or by playing video games.

"Our mission is to bring healthy, friendly and scientific mahjong to as many people as possible," she said.

Leth said tournament organizers believe competitions help to make people better mahjong players.

The European Mahjong Association has been using marketing in its attempts at drawing more interest to the game.

To that end, it has taken part in the Viking Convention - a game expo - organized weekly seminars to teach and discuss mahjong and handed out flyers advertising the premiere of Lust and Caution, a Chinese movie that contains scenes of people playing mahjong.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/24/2011 page3)

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