When I was asked to write about the WRC 2014 rules, I knew someone would be in for it. I don’t envy the people in charge of setting largely arbitrary rules. A lot of the time it’s a choice between A and B, each with their own pros and cons, if you choose A, some people will want to know why you didn’t like B, choose B and you will find out A has some kind of previously nonexistent fan-club. It’s not easy to walk the fine line between wanting to give a good impression to the visiting Japanese pros, having a fair tournament and wanting players from all over Europe to enjoy playing in a major international event.
To me the ruleset looks fair and forgiving enough, if a little unfamiliar, and it’s not hard to detect the element of international compromise mixed in there. What I’m more concerned about is the fact that even in the highest-profile competitions so far, the brackets and pairings are entirely random. It’s been so many years now since the idea of Swiss pairings has been brought up. Even a local board game tournament at your nearest friendly game shop will have some measures in place to make sure the better-performing players are matched up against stronger challengers. If there is one policy change that will make European players shape up and become more competitive, I would definitely put my money on this one being it. It makes a difference knowing the winner (and all future winners) was someone who played the highest scorers and came out on top, rather than someone who randomly coasted through a bunch of newbies that he drew.
While the EMA has tried to set out the rules and penalties in a way that prioritizes clarity, there is always still quite a bit of grey area. It is up to the players whether the tournament maintains an air of class or turns into a pressure-cooker full of nervous paranoia. So I thought I’d try making a request to all the players out there: don’t be a dick.
I remember Osamu recounting his experiences at one of the mahjong tournaments he attended in the past: to ensure timely play for the smooth running of the tournament, players were advised to discard within a certain number of seconds after drawing their tile. Imagine his reaction when he heard one of the players at his table counting down the seconds audibly while he was considering which tile to discard. Fortunately, Sir Osamu is a battle-hardened mahjong veteran and has played more hanchans online than most of the EMA leaderboard combined. It is said he grinds MMOs while playing on Tenhou because devoting his attention to a single activity is a waste of his APM. However one can easily imagine how a less-experienced player would feel under similar circumstances. By all means, play to win, but please play the game instead of playing the rules.
But let’s not waste this opportunity for self-reflection only on the best players in Europe. I have heard more than my fair share of That Guy stories. Who is That Guy? He’s the one in a mahjong group who calls out other players’ possible waits to note their reaction, fudges his score against beginners, switches tiles with the dead wall when he thinks no one is looking, or mixes a drawn tile into his hand deliberately to confuse others. He thinks all this is forgivable because it gives him an edge, or because cheating is fine until you are caught, or perhaps what he’s doing is not technically unacceptable. There’s always a That Guy. Don’t be That Guy.
It’s a new year. A chance to begin anew. There are also more ways than ever to spend your leisure time. Why some people choose to waste it on mahjong, the game of a thousand sufferings, I will never understand. Even if we have never played against each other, we share a bond of self-inflicted misery in tile form. It was a Frenchman who first put forward the notion that hell is other people – lets not prove him right in Paris of all places.
By the way, I have actually had the privilege of watching some of Europe’s most prominent and respected players play online. There is no hope. You know that, right?
There are quite a few people from the channel and community who have their WRC seats all but confirmed. If you end up going, say hi to them!