A bit of luck and a lot of strategy had more than 100 mahjong players competing in Bundaberg at the Chinese New Year Mahjong Tournament.
The Bundaberg Civic Centre was packed with straight-faced mahjong players concentrating on the tiles as their minds pondered the next strategic move to take out the winning hand.
Mahjong is a popular Chinese game, commonly played with four players, that uses 144 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols in a game of skill and chance.
Bargara Breakers organised the Chinese New Year Mahjong Tournament, which has been held during Chinese New Year for the past three years in the Bundaberg Region.
Bargara Breakers member Claire Capstick said mahjong players had travelled from as far as Rockhampton, Tweed Heads and Toowoomba to play at the annual competition.
“We actually have a lot of mahjong groups here in Bundaberg, it’s very popular here,” Claire said.
“We have some very good ladies in the region who have won some big competitions.”
Claire herself started playing mahjong in 2015 and won an Australasian mahjong tournament just a few years after her first game.
Playing by the Australasian rules Claire said mahjong was a game that was easy enough to learn as you played.
“Mahjong is easy to pick up, it’s a game that you learn as you go,” she said.
“The first year I played I went to the Australasian champs at Ballina, not so much because I thought I was good enough to go, but because Ballina is a nice place and they rang at the last minute and asked if I wanted to play, so I said yes.
“I ended up coming eleventh out of 140 and that really got me into mahjong, as I thought yes, I can do this.”
Chinese New Year Mahjong boosts economy
Claire said hosting the Chinese New Year Mahjong Tournament in the Bundaberg Region was a bonus for economy as the tournament was dominated by females who travelled with their partners doubling the visitor numbers to the area.
“It’s great for Bundaberg, as they all stay in the motels along Bourbong Street and a couple of them are booked out,” she said.
“They come on Friday and leave on Sunday, they are spending money, they are shopping, they are having meals and doing things like going to the rum distillery and ginger beer place.”
As the only male in the Chinese New Year Mahjong Tournament Rob Hughes from Rockhampton said he would not be intimidated by the women in the competition.
“In China, mahjong is played by more men than women and I actually played before my wife did,” Rob said.
“I took it up after I retired about six years ago, and I may be the only man in the comp but I give as good as I get!”
“We do travel around and go to different competitions, it’s not religious though, we just like to have a good time.”
Mahjong good for the soul and the brain
Palm Lakes Dragonette Val Watson said there was a lot of interest in mahjong and it continued to grow every year.
“We have been established for two years and have an average of 28 players on a Wednesday and Saturday,” Val said.
“We play for the interest in the game, the technicalities in the game but also for the comradery, the friendship.
“We are all above average and we like to play in the competitions, there are five in our region from Yeppoon down to here.”
Val has also played for six years and said it was wonderful to see competitions like the Chinese New Year Mahjong Tournament held in Bundaberg.
“Look at the number of women here today, why are we all here, it’s because we are lovers of the game and the social interaction we get from it, and it helps our mental well-being,” Val said.
Anyone interested in finding out more about mahjong could phone Bargara Breakers member Claire Capstick on 0437 399 869.
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