Naples Daily News - Mah Jongg Tournament Article

Naples Italian American Foundation Mah Jongg 

tournament draws competitors from near and far.

Alexi C. Cardona

5:21 PM, Aug 22, 2015

5:28 PM, Aug 22, 2015

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Fern Oliphant, right, laughs along with Mei Koechen, center, Dolly Heims, left, and Belle Mata during a mah-jonng tournament at the Naples Italian American Club on Saturday, August 22, 2015. The proceeds from the three day charity tournament go to Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Scott McIntyre

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Charles works out his next move during a mah-jonng tournament at the Naples Italian American Club on Saturday, August 22, 2015. The proceeds from the three day charity tournament go to Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Scott McIntyre

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kathy Friedmann, above center, laughs along with Thelma Lustig, right, Thelma Hodges, and Laurie Biagetti, left, during a mah-jonng tournament at the Naples Italian American Club on Saturday, August 22, 2015. The proceeds from the three day charity tournament go to Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Scott McIntyre

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lynne Lake makes her move during a mah-jonng tournament at the Naples Italian American Club on Saturday, August 22, 2015. The proceeds from the three day charity tournament go to Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Scott McIntyre

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competitors focus on their next move during a mah-jonng tournament at the Naples Italian American Club on Saturday, August 22, 2015. The proceeds from the three day charity tournament go to Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Scott McIntyre

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenes from a mah-jonng tournament at the Naples Italian American Club on Saturday, August 22, 2015. The proceeds from the three day charity tournament go to Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Scott McIntyre

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenes from a mah-jonng tournament at the Naples Italian American Club on Saturday, August 22, 2015. The proceeds from the three day charity tournament go to Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Scott McIntyre

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenes from a mah-jonng tournament at the Naples Italian American Club on Saturday, August 22, 2015. The proceeds from the three day charity tournament go to Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Scott McIntyre

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Gruppuso, center, addresses competitors during a mah-jonng tournament at the Naples Italian American Club on Saturday, August 22, 2015. The proceeds from the three day charity tournament go to Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support. (Scott McIntyre/Staff)

Scott McIntyre

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

 

 

NORTH NAPLES, FL - The buzz of chatter inside the Naples Italian American Foundation became stark silence at the start of the clock.

Then came the sound of small tiles clicking the wooden tables. Muted voices called out names that sound like gibberish to those who don’t know the game.

 

One dot. Four bams. Dragon. Flower. Mahjong!

 

The tiles are turned upside-down and shuffled on the table. On to the next game.

 

The Naples Italian American Foundation on Orange Blossom Drive in North Naples is holding its second three-day mahjong charity tournament of the year this weekend.

 

Click here to see more photos of the tournament

 

The tournament, which benefits Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support, attracted 64 competitors — 63 women and one man — from all over Florida, many of whom visited Naples just for the tournament.

 

In tables of four, they played with unsmiling faces, leaning forward in their chairs to keep track of the tiles others discarded and quickly planning a change of hand if needed.

 

Saturday’s tournament consisted of six rounds of four games each. Each round lasted 50 minutes. The players got up from their chairs only after the 50 minutes were up to take bathroom breaks or get coffee, bagels or doughnuts.

 

“It’s very competitive, and you have to be alert,” said Nora Ousley, the foundation’s vice president of publicity. “It’s complicated.”

 

The players follow a card with the standard hands and rules of the National Mah Jongg League, which is based in New York City. The plays are symbolized by letters and numbers, and the card reads like bad math.

 

Although mahjong is played in groups of four, individual players rack up points for every mahjong — a completed play — they call. Point values vary by play, and scores are calculated at the end of each day of the tournament. They’re playing for cash prizes. The first-place winner gets $600. The 10th-place winner gets $50.

 

Some interesting theories surround the origins of mahjong. One goes that the game was played on Noah’s Ark during the 40 days and nights of torrential rain. Another claims the Chinese philosopher Confucius invented the game. One thing that is agreed upon is that the game originated in China. The word mahjong comes from the Chinese word for sparrow.

 

Nancy Gruppuso has been organizing the foundation’s tournaments for 10 years and has been playing mahjong for 14.

 

“I’ve memorized the card, but I play with it anyway,” she said. “Everyone learns at different paces. You have to be able to count tiles and suits and change your hand at any moment.”

 

Charlotte McDermott, 73, a Naples resident from the Bronx, has been playing mahjong for 52 years.

 

“I was a young bride with a newborn baby. My Jewish neighbors kind of adopted me and helped me take care of the baby, and they taught me how to play,” McDermott said. “In between games, they would take turns feeding and changing his diaper.”

 

McDermott said the way to succeed in the game is to know the card.

 

“I could play without the card, but I don’t,” she said.

 

Bonnie Wise, 52, the chief financial administrator of Hillsborough County, came to Naples just for the tournament with a group of fellow mahjong players. It was her first tournament in Naples.

 

“I work full-time, so for me it’s a distraction from work and good mental stimulation,” Wise said.

 

She started playing seven years ago and said it took her about a year to feel comfortable enough to play in tournaments.

 

She now has her own mahjong league, Dragons on the Green Mah Jongg, in Tampa. Mahjong tiles hung from her bracelet.

 

“It didn’t bring me good luck today, but that’s OK,” she said.

 

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

All contents © copyright 2007-2014 NIAF. All rights reserved. Information presented is for informational purposes only. NIA Foundation Inc. is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization.   EIN# 20-5045417

  
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