Mahjong masters


There’s something embarrassing about losing a game on your home ground. So it must have been particularly humbling when the world’s first Sichuan-style Mahjong Championship, held in Sichuan, was won by a woman from Beijing.

The event was organised by the Mahjong International League (which was, surprisingly, founded in Switzerland) and brought together almost 10,000 players from over 30 countries.

After two months of qualifying rounds conducted online the competitors were whittled down to 200 finalists, who battled it out in person over a three-day event in Chengdu.

Sichuanese mahjong is played in a more simplified style, although the cash prizes were still substantial. The winner, Wen Yao, took home Rmb200,000 ($29,000) and even the players who finished in some of the minor places made some money. Gambling on the outcome of mahjong games is illegal in China, of course. And as the Mahjong International League has been keen to point out, the best players at the tournament in Sichuan triumphed as a result of their skill rather than their good fortune.

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