This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of World Gaming magazine.
Continuing our international mahjong series, this issue WGM looks at how the Netherlands has been instrumental in the increasing popularity of European mahjong tournaments.
The ancient tile game of mahjong has been commonplace in Europe for many years. Perhaps commonplace is saying a bit much, but certainly a good portion of the world’s mahjong tournaments take place in the region and the Netherlands have made a large contribution to this cause.Mahjong was first introduced to the Netherlands on a large scale in the 1920s and back then, just as they did in the US, everyone played the Babcock rules. The Dutch Mahjong Association was founded in 2004 and today comprises around 400 members. Around 100 of them compete regularly in both domestic and international tournaments, mainly using the European Mahjong Association’s (EMA) Mahjong Competition Rules (MCR), which are based on the official Chinese rules. Both MCR and Riichi Competition Rules (RCR) are prevalent but at this time MCR remains the firm favorite of most Dutch players.
However, increasingly those MCR players are adding RCR to their games or even making the switch entirely to Riichi. Estimates of casual players are in the thousands, many of whom play Chinese Classical or local rules. However, you won’t see these Chinese Classical rules in tournaments.
It would be remiss of me to leave one of the most widely known Dutch players unmentioned. Martin Rep is founder of mahjongnews.com, the ever-popular international mahjong news site based in the Netherlands. Martin is a great evangelist for the mahjong cause at home and abroad. He actually provided the background information and images for this very article.The Netherlands holds two major RCR tournaments each year: the Cherry Blossom and the Oranda Saikou. However, several smaller tournaments have been springing up from local groups such as the Red Fives Tournament. While it is easy for a country to boast domestic tournaments, the Netherlands has also been at the root of organizing groundbreaking international tournaments such as the first Open European Mahjong Championship, the first Riichi Mahjong European Championship, the 2010 World Mahjong Championship and rumor has it they are working on more innovative events to come. According to Rep, “Dutch players have an international focus. They travel all over the continent and, if necessary, the whole world, to play mahjong!”
Players from the Netherlands are wellknown for their friendliness and their excellent hospitality. If you’re a beginner or an advanced player, the Netherlands will welcome you to the mahjong fold and these players are united by the Nederlandse Mahjong Bond. You can visit their website at www.mahjongbond.org. Their excellent attitude and passion for the game certainly shows. Yet another place in the world where you can play your favorite game and make some new friends.