UK Mahjong Association

UK Mahjong Association

Mahjong in Europe and the UK

Many forms of mahjong are played throughout the world and also in the UK. Attempts to modify and improve (??) the game have been attempted by custom and practice in many Far Eastern nations, and even the British and the Americans thought they could do a better job than the game’s oriental originators.

However, while most versions bear a resemblance to the classic game, many of the derived variants typically lack the coherence of the well-established formats. In Europe, there are two rule sets that prevail as far as organised events are concerned, thanks to the work of the World Mahjong Organisation (WMO) and the European Mahjong Association (EMA):

Modern Competition Rules (MCR) and Riichi Mahjong (RCR).

The origins of MCR are interesting in their own right. In order to facilitate mutual participation by the many thousands (even millions) of players worldwide, the WMO consulted extensively among foremost experts of the game to achieve a harmonised rule set that would be used in the first World Championship. No less than 400 potential scoring patterns were boiled down to the more manageable 81 that form the basis of the game now widely adopted throughout the world.

The success of that enterprise stimulated a similar effort, led this time by the European Association to harmonise the rules of Riich Mahjong where many regional differences had previously existed. In Riichi Mahjong, scoring options are fewer than in MCR but the key differentiator of this fast paced, (and some say, more exciting) game is the delicate balance that must be struck between attack (attempting to win the hand) and defence (avoiding being the player who allows an opponent to complete his hand). This leads to a game of fine judgement and tactical play that vary dramatically from hand to hand, and from situation to situation. This is the game most widely played in organised events in the UK. Groups of enthusiasts have sprung up in a variety of locations around the country, notable among them being Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Birmingham, Chiswick, Guildford, Glasgow, Leamington, Leeds, Soho, Warwick. Spare a thought, though, for the Outer Hebrides player, whose enthusiasm for the game means that much of her experience of it is necessarily conducted on-line, on one of the several internet sites where the game is played. Contact us to find a group near you, or to publicise your own group.

The growth in organised events in Europe in the past decade has been spectacular. Inspection of the EMA website (mahjong-europe.org) reveals that as recently as 2006, there were just half a dozen officially recognised competitions for MCR, and none for Riichi. In 2015 no less than 66 tournaments took place (31 MCR, 25 Riichi) and Europe is already planning for the sixth MCR, and fourth RCR European Championship.