What is mahjong?
Mahjong is a four-player game reminiscent of certain card games. The goal is to collect a winning combination while keeping an eye on the opponents and how close to winning they seem to be. As in poker it is important to know when to play aggressively and when to resort to defensive play. Contrary to other classic games like chess and go, there is no common ruleset for mahjong. Actually there are countless different variations of the rules.
Mahjong is often played with a set of beautiful, engraved tiles, but can also be found as a cardgame. Maybe you have seen the tiles before in the popular computer game, mahjongg. This computer game actually doesn't have more in common with mahjong than heptagon with bridge.
A short history of mahjong
The game of mahjong originates from China, but the details are shrouded in myths and it is not clear how far back the origins of the game can be traced. In its modern form the game emerged around the middle of the 19th century, but simpler versions have certainly existed long before that.
In the early 20th century a few games were brought to the west and was played in private circles, e.g. at Harvard University. While living in China Joseph Park Babcock in 1920 wrote the booklet Rules for Mah-Jongg based on classical Chines rules, and he included it in mahjong games which he started to export to the USA. He had arabic numerals engraved on the tiles so they were easier for westerners to play with, and he was strongly contributing to the popularity of mahjong in the USA and Europe in the 1920's. Mahjong fell out of fashion again, but the game had been introduced in many western homes.
Numerous rules for the game of mahjong exist: classical Chines, official international rules (the Chinese competition rules from 1998), classical Japanse, modern Japanse (riichi), Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, American, Wright-Patterson, Western Vanilla and surely many more. The rules vary in complexity and the degree to which they favour skill and luck.
Mahjong in Denmark
The association Mahjong Danmark, founded in 2000, organizes weekly mahjong evenings (at present in Aarhus and Copenhagen) and several annual tournaments, both in riichi and official Chinese mahjong. At the Open European Mahjong Championship in the Netherlands, 2005, where the prominent guests from Japan and China dominated, Denmarks Sune Korreman took home the prize for Best European for his fifth place, while the whole Danish team of twelve players received the prize for third best nation (after Japan and China).
The next Open European Mahjong Championship (only the second ever) will take place in Copenhagen in 2007.