Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

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Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Senechal » Sat Sep 06, 2014 9:56 pm

Hi,

There has been discussion from time to time (and in various venues) regarding how Mahjong organizations view nationality, and how it impacts the ability and desire to participate in tournaments, from the following angles:
  1. being able to even apply
  2. being able to be a representative of X-nation (at home)
  3. being able to be a representative of X-nation when living in Y-nation (away)
  4. being able to represent Y-nation when living in Y-nation, and if the person's standing with X-nation even matters

Considering the nature of many future events and current established practices, it will be inevitable that Mahjong organizations will end up presiding over a mess of restrictions that FIFA has to endure for world football. Some countries (and clubs unofficially taking the role of a national organization) are willing to accept anyone, from any birthplace, with any skin colour, as long as they are present on their territory. Others have shown a reluctance to do the same, invoking local procedure and tradition to deny or otherwise discourage people to fully join an organization. And some places without even these kinds of frameworks end up having to develop some ad hoc solution to determine representatives.

What ends up happening is that a lot of people end up falling through the cracks, sometimes for good reasons, often for bad ones. I was going to say that it seemed like a self-evident tenet of Mahjong to want to expand across the globe, implying a universal form of equality, but it really isn't.

  • For starters, do we accept that as a premise, and if we do, how do we implement it going forward?
  • Is it citizenship or residence that matters?
  • How would we deal with people in unorganized countries?
  • What do we do with people from organized countries but that live outside the organization's sphere of influence? Is there an acceptable limit to say that X-nation can or cannot restrict eligibility of people who may be at some Z-distance from their sphere of influence?
  • How do we deal with "countries within a country" (I guess at the moment, there is no separate organization in the UK), territories and protectorates of a country, etc?
  • How do we deal with organizations who render people stateless/ineligible out of spite, malice, or ignorance?

I don't want to go off in too many directions at once, but there was a man I respect who was present at the WRC2014 but was told he was ineligible to participate for reasons that to me seem totally asinine. Who the heck tells Usain Bolt "oh sure, come to our track meet, but don't run, because that would be wrong... oh and don't apply either" and thinks that is in the world-wide interest of the game?

I'd like to know what other people have to say about this. There were 23 countries present last time, it would probably be a good idea to spell this stuff out for the future to encourage a sustained participation of those 23 as well as other nations. I'd love to see at least 30 for next time around.

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Ignatius » Sun Sep 07, 2014 10:59 pm

Never thought about this... I´m from Spain, as far as I know there´s no Spanish Riichi Mahjong Association. I know about two clubs of chinese mahjong and a Spanish Mahjong Federation (chinese mahjong only, or so looks like). That´s all.

If there will be a Spanish Riichi Mahjong Association I would join in, fast.

I would like to represent Spain or France (my surname is french, but I´m unable to speak or write french, thanks to my father for that :x ) in a riichi mahjong tournament regardless of where I live... I would like to study french, but I´ll continue with japanese and I´ll start to attend english classes...

Enough rant.

How come a man was not eligible to play?

Why?

Given now there´s internet and all. Shouldn´t be easy to participate in a tournament even if you live in another country or whatever?

I´m asking because things like that confuses me...
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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby MortenA » Mon Sep 08, 2014 1:43 pm

I see 2 main reasons why participation in tournaments may be limited.
First off there is basic practicality. The organizers may only be able to fit 100, 120 or 200 people in the playing area or may not be able to organize food etc. for a bigger crowd.
Secondly; The more players you admit to a tournament the more players with less skill you will admit making the overall skill level lower once you hit a certain number. Of course it is unclear what this number exactly is. Nor is it the desire of everyone to maintain a high level of play at every tournament.

So once the number of players has been set it needs to be decided how the places are distributed between countries. Currently there isn't really a governing body to decide this for world championships but there probably should be.

In EMA (the European Mahjong Organization) there is a quota system in place where a country gets a higher quota for more active players but also for more skilled players (based on European tournament results). It is probably currently very hard to make a similar system worldwide since that would also require a world wide tournament organization standard (I don't think we are quite there yet).

This may mean that the World Riichi Organization, once it gets going, will have to make slightly arbitrary decisions regarding which country gets how many seats. But I am sure that is doable. The important thing here is to keep the process open.

That leaves the question of which players the individual countries send. Who governs that?
Well currently each country is in charge of their own quota. Some countries have qualification tournaments and/or systems others send whoever they like (based on nepotism, existing ranking or who can afford to travel). Perhaps is is possible to impose certain rules on the qualification systems of each country?
But what is fair?
Can you require that a person be a member of the organization to qualify? (I personaly think that makes sense as long as the requirements to be a member are few)
Can you require that they live in the country or that they are a citizen of the country? (Well I don't care either way and currently in Europe either is possible but it needs to be restricted so you can't just decide to play for whichever country will give you a space and then change your mind for the next tournament).
Can you require that the country base the players they send on some form of ranking/tournament etc? (Well I certainly think that nepotism is no good here or the exclusion of people based on gender, race etc. There are perhaps other factors that may be more ok...spending time organizing the previous or next world championship for example?).
I would at the very least like to see the process being open and visible to all for all countries as a minimum requirement.


Oh and with regards to Spanish organization. Even though they may not currently be holding any riichi tournaments the Federación Española de Mahjong are still in charge of the quotas for European and world championships so if you want to participate in either (no dates have been set yet) you should probably still contact them.

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Ignatius » Mon Sep 08, 2014 2:06 pm

Oh good to know about the quotas. But to play un a tournament I think I should get better, learn to count points, and more importantly I need a job to pay for the travels. So I´ll wait a little.
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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Kyuu » Mon Sep 08, 2014 10:01 pm

A Team Tournament format - if interest in that ever grows - would solve the quota problem, due to a fixed number of people playing per team. Though, I'd have to wonder if any interest in that exists at all. Going back to the individual system and fairness to qualification.

MortA wrote:That leaves the question of which players the individual countries send. Who governs that?


The different countries themselves should determine, who to send with their own qualifications. That'll save the overall governing body the headache of making that determination. Likewise, they retain the right to determine, who gets to play in their own tournament. That leaves the governing body the task of determining how many per country (seats) are allowed into the main tournament.

MortA wrote:Perhaps is is possible to impose certain rules on the qualification systems of each country?


Each country will have to accept a set number of rules pertaining to qualification.

MortA wrote:Can you require that a person be a member of the organization to qualify? (I personaly think that makes sense as long as the requirements to be a member are few)


And alienate players, who may turn out to be better than members? Membership is just a special status by association; but that may not have anything to do with game capabilities. Probability would lean in favor of membership; but dark horses have its way of existing.

(And I get to go home, so I'll try to answer the rest.)

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Shirluban » Mon Sep 08, 2014 11:37 pm

Kyuu wrote:A Team Tournament format - if interest in that ever grows - would solve the quota problem, due to a fixed number of people playing per team.

I don't see how that would solve the quota problem in any way: we'll still have to set up a quota of number of teams by country.
That would ever rise a new problem: how to deal with countries who don't have enough players to fill a team?

Kyuu wrote:
MortA wrote:Can you require that a person be a member of the organization to qualify? (I personaly think that makes sense as long as the requirements to be a member are few)


And alienate players, who may turn out to be better than members? Membership is just a special status by association; but that may not have anything to do with game capabilities. Probability would lean in favor of membership; but dark horses have its way of existing.

True, but how would you qualify players outside the organization? Typically, they don't play in the organization's tournaments, so they don't have any ranking.
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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Kyuu » Tue Sep 09, 2014 12:42 am

The team tournament idea. For now, that's just a pipedream. The quota problem for team tournaments only exist for countries (like Japan **cough**), that have plenty of players to choose from.

Shirluban wrote:True, but how would you qualify players outside the organization? Typically, they don't play in the organization's tournaments, so they don't have any ranking.


Indeed. That is definitely a problem, that associations will need to handle. No tournament history. No past data. Well, somehow, unaffiliated people must still be able to play - IF - they're reasonably qualified to play.

===

With each year that I operate ACEN's tournament, I find the need to have some kind of qualification, while trying to remain "open". The basis stems on needing players who "know what they're doing". For now, if I happen to know said player is a member of a mahjong club, then I can be comfortable in letting such a person into the tournament without question. When I ran my panel presentations, I was able to tell whether an attendee is already familiar with the game.

When tournament time came, I ended up taking names just before the tournament start. That is through the fault of my own. Unfortunately, a couple of new players ended up into the tournament; and some of the tables couldn't even complete a hanchan within 90 minutes. Yea, that was somewhat sad to see.

Ultimately, I may have to find a way to "quiz" unfamiliar and unaffiliated players to measure their knowledge base. I'll see what I can do next year.

===

Now, that we're talking about a qualification tournament. This is where registration comes in. Unaffiliated players must somehow demonstrate their ability to even compete in such a tournament. Learn about the applicant and see what he/she knows about the game. As for these qualifications, it is up to the association to determine what knowledge base is required to be classified as a tournament player, vs that of a casual or a newbie.

MortA wrote:Can you require that they live in the country or that they are a citizen of the country?


Yes; though, I understand how some acquired dual citizenship. Such a person would have to pick one country to qualify through. That'd be a nice perk.

Without the citizenship requirement, then that will allow some player from one country to try for its qualification tournament, fail, and then try again in another country's tournament. Obviously, that's an increased unfair chance at trying to qualify, where most people only have one chance to do so.

MortA wrote:Can you require that the country base the players they send on some form of ranking/tournament etc?


WRC itself is setup as one tournament to determine one champion - along with the top 32, etc. Qualification tournaments should reflect the same principle. One event. One tournament. This to determine who gets to go. Yea, we all understand the nature of this game, where longer term results reflect player skill levels more accurately. However, long term results is irrelevant to a tournament. Tournaments only care how players perform on that day (or set number of days).

How can ranking be relevant? Qualification tournament seeding. As for those unaffiliated players, they are easily marked as unranked and unseeded.

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby MortenA » Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:47 am

With regard to membership of a national organisation.

Of course you are right that someone who is not a member of an organization can be just as good as someone who is not.
However as long as the requirements for being a member are small enough I think it is reasonable to make the demand since it shows that they are willing to support the local mahjong community.
It is after all the organization that is 'burdened' with arranging the qualification. Also in practice it has sometimes been a problem that people who have said they were interested in going have decided not to go anyway. This can of course happen with organization members too but it is easier to keep tabs on those people if they are members.

In Denmark we require two things of people who want to qualify.
1. They need to be a member of the organization. (The only requirement is a yearly fee of around 14 euro).
2. They need to sign up for the qualification (and probably need to play in several danish tournaments and do well to actually qualify) and pay a deposit of about 28 euro. (The deposit will be refunded if they actually play the tournament or do not qualify).

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby MortenA » Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:49 am

Of course for countries with more than one organization this requirement becomes somewhat more difficult.

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Senechal » Tue Sep 09, 2014 6:17 pm

Kyuu: Citizenship is often a rotten restriction, as we don't check papers when we welcome people into organizations, although it seems there is one exception out there... As well, any qualifying method using an anime con tournament would never be recognized. I told you that, and hope sincerely that we can execute our 2015 plans. We would like some kind of reassurance from our friend though.

Morten: For European countries that can be traveled across fairly easily in two hours, I'm all willing to say that "being a member of the Danish org, and 14 euros/year" sounds like a fair requirement. Two clubs operating weekly is much more than most places, making excuses of nay-sayers and critics fairly weak in such a case. One of the reasons I am asking are two-fold: how fair is it if say there was a country with a city as far away as Amsterdam or Prague from Copenhagen (relative to your locality, not a criticism of Denmark) or much further... and what interest would there be in country-X to attempt to be as fair as possible if others have/will cut corners? We at CRM will probably end up having to deal with distributing the national quota for Canada (which will definitely be larger than 1, but I can't speak of what magnitude, as I have zero input and very little knowledge on that) with cities as far as Amsterdam (Toronto) and Jerusalem (Vancouver). The United States will probably have a similar problem regarding geography, and whose clubs count as "part of the organization" or "part of those to be considered".

Also, the idea of a team tournament is asinine. I'm not entirely in agreement with the nation pooling that occured at WRC (French method meant to separate countries from ever playing each other generated from French complaints in the past... with France in two pools, still leading to similar French collisions). There's no point in a team tournament unless all teams and what they represent were treated equal (edit: imagine Die Mannschaft playing football with 27 men on the field... it wouldn't even be relevant for other teams with 3 or 9 players). I would be willing to revise my opinion on this if there was such a thing as a World Cup where each nation had a fixed number of players to send across the board and every participating nation would be able to provide without fail, but I don't see that happening for at least a decade, but here's to hoping for 2025.

Anyways, the biggest concern will be "how to qualify people who have no history in an organization in a fair and balanced manner", and to be quite honest about this, this should be dealt with by this year's end. Deciding the criteria in 2016/2017 is too late. So far, only Russia has *significant* parallel riichi development within its borders to its "designated national representative", but the rules and exceptions should be able to cover every case and be applied fairly.
Last edited by Senechal on Tue Sep 09, 2014 6:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Senechal » Tue Sep 09, 2014 6:28 pm

Also, I wanted this bit separate...

Organizations who do not actively promote Riichi Mahjong should *NOT* be the arbiter of quota allocations for WRC. (EMA can do what it wants for its tournaments within its sphere of influence, I'm not disputing that.) While I enjoyed playing with Antonio from Spain, if there ever were a dispute locally, the WRCC should be the deciding body unless it's agreed that there is a specfic delegate available locally. In the case of EMA countries, as long as they have a player who has been present in two/three local tournaments, I'm fine with them (BEL, ITA, POR: those specific players, not the organizations' presidents) but wouldn't be with ESP, HUN, or SUI having such a superdelegate.

Mind you, if there is zero dispute and no issues with quotas, welcome them, no problem.

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby MortenA » Wed Sep 10, 2014 8:37 am

In a country where no association actively promotes riichi someone will have to deal with the quota. I am sure that the Spanish organization would welcome riichi players as well but it is up to the riichi players to get the ball rolling on the promotion part.

But yes the big problem is organizing a fair qualification in countries with no or more than one organization. Again I would like the process to be open and visible but that is going to be really hard in some countries. I think it seemed to work fairly well with Japan this time around (but I could be mistaken since that was not an open process to me).

Geographical distance is a hindrance to physical qualification tournaments but surely not to membership of a national organization? (A Dane living in Japan would still be allowed as a member of the danish organization for example but would have a hard time qualifying since that requires tournament participation). For countries that are sufficiently large (like the US or Canada) the qualification will have to be either online and/or done with several local tournaments but that could still be managed by one national organization. I do however think that in general it is ok to ask people to travel a little bit to get to a qualification tournament.

For countries without an organization I see 2 possibilities. Either there are so few that want to qualify anyway that there doesn't need to be a qualification. If there are enough people that qualification is needed then they should also be enough people to create an organization (at least an informal one).

You are asking what reason there is to be fair? Well that is why I am saying that there perhaps should be guidelines on the qualification-process or at least the process should be transparent. In my previous post I listed some of what I think may be considered fair but I think making strict guidelines is extremely difficult since countries differ so much.

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Shirluban » Wed Sep 10, 2014 10:03 am

MortenA wrote:For countries without an organization I see 2 possibilities. Either there are so few that want to qualify anyway that there doesn't need to be a qualification. If there are enough people that qualification is needed then they should also be enough people to create an organization (at least an informal one).

The problem is we won't know that until the end of the subscription period, i.e. too late to set up an organization and run qualifications.
Countries without an organization also rise another problem: how do we choose how many seats to give without knowing how many players the country have?

To ease the process, every country needs to have a referring organization, even if it's a temporary informal one.
And it must exist before setting up quotas.
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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby Senechal » Wed Sep 10, 2014 7:20 pm

The reason why I mentioned that some "mahjong organizations" are by their very nature inept to manage riichi quotas is because there are nations that have organizations that do advocate only one mahjong ruleset. I'm not going to extrapolate on the Spanish situation, because I have one here right at home. There is such a thing as a "Canada Mahjong Association" that promotes exclusively MCR. It's not because an organization has the name of the country or because it might claim to be "national" that they are worthy of such consideration.

Last I checked, they did have a few satellite clubs but only in the Toronto area. Neither are they national in scope (yet), nor are we riichi players bound by them. They did send two people to Strasbourg, good for them, we wish them the best for their organization and their objectives... but their objectives are not ours. Judging by their membership, they have next to no people outside of their ethnic group (other problem, compared to our club which welcomes people of all languages and ethnicities). But it's easy for some outside observer to just rubber-stamp an opinion as fact in regards to establishing "national representatives". While I can't confirm which nations in Europe have a similar case to ours, it does seem likely that there are some.

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Re: Nationality: From local pride to the slippery slope...

Postby MortenA » Thu Sep 11, 2014 8:48 am

Well whatever the case a single point of contact in each country would still be the ideal and that should happen through some kind of national organization.
For the EMA it makes sense to have MCR and riichi (and other rulesets) bundled together since their aim is to promote all types of mahjong.
The same thing is not true when it comes to the world riichi championship so there it will make more sense to contact a riichi club than a larger MCR/whatever club.
That being said I think there can be strength in numbers and I would encourage to join with not only riichi players but mahjong players in general.

When it comes to Canada I don't know but you don't really mention requirements to join the "Canada Mahjong Association". The reason they only promote MCR might just be that they only have MCR players and if anyone was willing to join and promote riichi that would be fine. Of course that may not be the case but then I would encourage you to create a national Canadian riichi association.

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