(Macau, September 21, 2008)
The second-annual World Series of Mahjong entered final stage today at the Wynn Macau. 32 mahjong players, out of the original 302 contestants from 15 countries, battled in the fifth round this morning. After 12 hours of four elimination rounds, the world champion was crowned at 10:30pm. Alex Ho Kwok-Hung from Hong Kong became the new mahjong world champion, while Hong Kong natives Tong Kam-Wing and Lam Ho-Nam settled for the second and third place respectively, followed by Japanese player Shigeru Aono.
The 34 year-old world champion Alex Ho Kwok-Hung had never thought of winning, and believed that he was just lucky at the final round. At the sixth round, he was selected by the computer system to play on stage, which made him nervous. Moreover, as he was not familiar with the automatic mahjong table, he dropped and illegally exposed his tile to the other players when he was drawing. He then decided to change his strategy and eventually won the “Pure One-Suit” hand worth 420 points. In the final round, he was originally the last of the top four players, posting a negative score. During the last two hands of the final round, he beat Japanese player Shigeru Aono, who had been leading in the first few hands of the round. Eventually, Alex won on discard and became the world champion scoring 180.38 points. He then took home the US$500,000 prize money and the HK$150,000 champion’s necklace.
First runner-up Tong Kam-Wing, 58 years old, is currently retired. He had been in leading positions throughout the final day of the tournament. Since childhood he has been playing mahjong and had worked as a taxi driver. Last year, he also participated in the first World Series and ended up in the 32nd position with US$5,000 prize money. This year, he returned to the tournament with eight family members, including his son and daughter who did not make it to the final round. Mr. Tong was awarded US$150,000 for second place.
Third-place winner Lam Ho-Lam is a student from Hong Kong. The 22 year-old university student is the youngest among the top four players. He graduated from the Faculty of History at Hong Kong University, and is studying education at the Chinese University in Hong Kong at the moment. He wants to be a teacher, and is not worried about having a negative image in the eyes of his future students, when they find out he had participated in a mahjong tournament. Today, his friends from Hong Kong came to cheer for him and he took home US$80,000.
The 52 year-old Shigeru Aono is an entertainment industry researcher from Japan. He has been playing mahjong for 35 years, and had participated in different mahjong competitions in mainland China. With his solid experience in mahjong tournaments, he had been leading in a few rounds, but lost many points as a discarder during the last few hands of the final round. He settled in the fourth place and won US$50,000.
Yu Xiao-ping, Taiwanese celebrity and second-runner up of the 2007 World Series, battled alone at the tournament today. Both her mother and grandmother were eliminated from the game earlier, but they still came to support her. Miss Yu dropped from the fourth position at the fifth round to the eighth position at the seventh round. Although she could not make her way to the final round, she still won US$15,000. After the play, she said she was very jealous of the Japanese players since their mahjong skills were so good.
Hong Kong players continued to dominate the World Series this year, followed by players from Taiwan and Japan. The average scores for this year were higher than last year’s, while the tournament duration was relatively shorter, so the players were less exhausted. Most of the players thought that the World Series provided them with a precious opportunity to play mahjong with people from different countries. World Mahjong Limited, founder of the World Series, said the second year was more successful than the first year, and hoped to have more players from different countries joining next year.
The World Series of Mahjong was launched by World Mahjong Limited in 2006, and the tournament gathers top mahjong players from all over the world to vie for the enviable title of “World Mahjong Champion” and the biggest prize money – US$1.0 million – in the history of mahjong.