The Chinese gambling game Mahjong becomes a mind sport, is put forward as a contender for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and is responsible for a series of epileptic seizures.
“What’s that game?”
It’s the same question each time I walk into the casino with a newbie. It’s the corner for the Chinese. The sound of rattling tiles overpowering the sound of riffling poker chips. It is, of course, Mahjong, and earlier this week, fans of the Chinese tile game got the thumbs up from the International Mind Sports Association (IMSA).
The gambling game is the sixth game to be officially recognised as a mind sport by the IMSA behind Chess, Bridge, Go, Draughts, and Ziangqi. The addition of Mahjong is interesting because it is such a popular gambling game, which one assumes is the primary reason the IMSA doesn’t recognise poker as a mind sport.
And Mahjong hasn’t reached the summit yet.
Chen Zelan, President of the IMSA, has told reporters that he plans on doing everything in his power to ensure Mahjong is part of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. I can only assume, the players will be forced to wear Phil Laak style ski-goggles.
Of the six officially recognised mind sports, only Chess and Bridge are deemed sports by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), so Chen is pushing his luck with this one. The Prez believes for Mahjong to become an Olympic sport it needs to shed its gambling image and create a unified set of rules.
The IMSA pulls together over 400 national associations and over 500 million players.
Mahjong Players Head to the River to Play
The IMSA may want Mahjong players to compete at the Winter Olympics, but the Chinese are currently taking special measures to compete in Mahjong matches throughout the nation.
With China experiencing a heatwave, and Mahjong played by a primarily senior group of players, the games have had to be taken down to the riverside to prevent people from sustaining heatstroke and exhaustion.
To escape temperatures peaking at 50 deg C, Mahjong players in Chengdu City have taken their boards, tiles, chairs, and umbrellas, and headed en masse to the local rivers.
The move has drawn complaints, with concerned citizens expressing their worry that the Mahjong players smelly feet could pollute the water.
Don’t Worry About Heat Exhaustion, What About Epilepsy?
Mahjong is a dangerous game.
Not only are people likely to die of heat exhaustion playing in the local clubs, or drowning in uncoordinated riverside hikes, but players are also hitting the deck, left, right, and centre suffering from epilepsy.
Several months ago, a 52-year-old man from China, identified as Fang, collapsed when playing Mahjong with his friends. Concerned Mahjong players rushed Fang to a hospital where Doctors told him he had suffered an epileptic fit but were none the wiser as to how the fit occurred.
Fang later left the hospital, and after making a full recovery returned to his local Mahjong game, and suffered a second epileptic fit. After some thorough research from the Neurology Department in Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Fang was diagnosed as suffering from a form of epilepsy known as Mahjong Epilepsy.
It seems all of that tile shuffling can result in a seizure as the dots and patterns act like strobe lighting in the eyes of the unfortunate few that suffer from this rare form of epilepsy.