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Woman braves labor pains to win mahjong prize

MIAOLI, Taiwan -- A pregnant mother in Miaoli City did not win the top prize at a local mahjong tournament, but she was more than happy to have a healthy baby girl delivered and settled with the second prize in the competition.

Chien Yu-chih, 28, first learned how to play mahjong, a traditional Chinese table game with a set of 144 domino-like tiles, two years ago in order to accompany family elders at home.

Mahjong is played by many senior citizens in Taiwan as a way to keep the mind sharp and fight off dementia.

She gives thanks to her quick learning ability plus the name her father gave her — the surname “Chien” already means “money” in Chinese character containing a radical of gold, and her given name Yu-chih consists of two more radicals signifying gold in two characters.

She has always been able to earn a little pocket money by spending time with elders at the mahjong table.

Chien’s mother-in-law enrolled for the public mahjong championship. Since Chien was due on Dec. 25, she decided to take part in the tournament to accompany the mother-in-law.

After gradually eliminating opponents, including some elders and seasoned players of her own family, Chien realized she had a shot at the grand prize of NT$60,000.

But by Sunday afternoon, she started feeling intense labor pains. She managed to finish the finals, but settled for the second prize of NT$40,000 cash award because the pain made it hard for her to focus on the game.

With no time to collect her prize, Chien was rushed to the hospital by her husband, and delivered a baby girl.

The mother-in-law joked that if Chien had a baby boy, the family might consider to name him “Bo-yi,” meaning “gaming” in Chinese.

Chien’s husband celebrated the baby girl’s arrival by buying a lottery ticket in hopes of winning an extra prize for the forthcoming Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.

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