By Tom Sloper

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Column #45

American (2003 NMJL card). The Charleston was a popular dance in the Roaring Twenties. Mah-Jongg became a popular game in the Twenties. The intricate passing maneuver that starts the American game is very much like a dance. So given those three pieces of information, the puzzle starts to take on aspects of a picture.

American mah-jongg limits the players to the hands listed on the yearly card, so the Charleston is strategically vital in shaping the hand before regular gameplay commences. Sophia lets you take a seat near her and observe as she starts to dance...

Sophia's deal had four pairs. But they didn't all go together. Counting the possibilities:

"I've got five hands. They're all even."

She was able to pass 3 tiles that didn't disturb any of her possibilities: 79C 7D. She got 8C 8B 2D. The 2D furthered her fifth possibility, but keeping that possibility open meant she'd have to close one - no, two - of the others. She had to kill the Winds-Dragons hand, even though it was coming in. She got 2C R 8B. She now regretted having passed 8B before. But you never know, things have a way of coming back in the Charleston.

The extra 2C greatly aided her 2468 family. So it looked like she had to kill the Run family. She passed 5D W left, and blind-passed a third tile, getting 1C 7D 5D from Esther. Sophia passed those unaltered in the second left, getting 3C 3B 4D.

She passed 3C 3B 2D across, getting 9B E N from Nora. She passed them right, untouched. Got 8B 78D in the last right. The prodigal 8B had returned! She passed 2B 7D 6B in the courtesy.

She was much stronger in the 2468 family now.

Let it not be said that Sophia is anything but a good dancer... (To be continued in Friday's column.)

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.