Although there are records of British Mah-Jong players in China before the First
World War, the game did not reach the West until itwas launched in the United States
in the early 1920s.
Joseph Babcock, who claimed to have developed it himself, helped popularise Mah-Jong
and with the aid of astute promotion, it grew into a craze.
The great English eccentric Edith Sitwell rapidly embraced the game, setting up her
Mah-Jongg League in London’s Knightsbridge. But, like all crazes, it died after a
The BMJA rules differ from the Chinese gambling game in that a few more “special
hands” are included and that only one chow is allowed per hand.
The BMJA rules differ from the American style of play in the rejection of the extraordinary
proliferation of newly devised limit hands and their insistence on “cleared hand”
play, that is, refusing to allow a player with more than one suit in his hand to
The BMJA rules differ from Japanese “sudden death” rules by removing the need to
be the first to go Mah-Jong at any cost.
In Japan only the player who goes out first may be paid, which results in players
going out with three chows and a pung within five moves for a score of 22. This affords
no opportunity for strategically planning through the length of a close game.