|By Tom Sloper
March 25, 2012
American Mah Jongg (2011 NMJL card). Readers this week asked about what may and may not be passed in the Charleston. My guess (not yet confirmed at the time of this writing) is that these questions are based on Elaine Sandberg's book, A Beginner's Guide to American Mah Jongg, in which she says:
These excerpts, I assume, are behind the questions I received this week (combined here for brevity):
There is an important difference between rules and strategic principles: rules must be obeyed. But strategic principles are just guidelines that can be trumped by preference and circumstance. Here is the rule from the official National Mah Jongg League rulebook, Mah Jongg Made Easy:
It's unfortunate that Sandberg's wording implies that the rules prohibit passing pairs - they do not. And a discerning reader can tell from her wording that she is not indicating a hard rule against passing flowers.
Imagine it's the second across, and you have:
1. You are clearly well set up for Consec. #1. You need to pass the E pair and the flower, because everything else is needed for one clear hand. Sandberg says "never pass a pair," but seriously! You wouldn't really break up your hand at this point just because an author says "never," would you? Dude, pass EEF already! When your hand is this strong now, it only makes sense to go for it aggressively (and to heck with the strategic principles). Here's a new "never" strategy for you: "Never say never."
2. You have three tiles not needed for S&P #3: J F 8B. You can pass 8B, no problem. There is no rule against passing F. But you may not pass J. You should think about what other hands besides the S&P hand you might be able to make, and use that thinking to help guide your choice. Since my third passer can't be J, I would pass 3B, preserving the dots for a 13579 #1 option. Not 3C, because I "never" wholly erase a potential pair. But now I've wandered from the topic.
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Question or comment about this column? I often, um... intentionally... "miss" something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.
Play American mah-jongg and always get lost in the Charleston? "The Mah Jongg Groove" is available in the iTunes App Store.
Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.
Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook from the NMJL (see FAQ 3). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules: http://sites.google.com/site/mahjrules/.
© 2012 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.