By Tom Sloper

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Column #70

Chinese Classical. One of the oddities of the classical game is that a non-winner can collect more than the winner. That's what happened in today's example. Wendell had been closing in on a complete hand...

...and was planning to pung 2B, 4C, or 7C, then throw 7B and wait for mah-jongg on a 2-way call.

But Soleil beat him to the punch.

Her hand scored 16 (exposed pung of simples for two, exposed pung of terminals for four, plus ten for mah-jongg). Wendell and Noreen both paid her 16. Esteban paid double (32). Soleil collected 64 in all. Then the players compared their non-winning hands to complete the settling-up before redealing.

Wendell's hand had no scoring elements except the two flowers (eight points). Noreen's hand had nothing but one (four points).

But Esteban's hand was chock full of scoring elements, mostly valuable pairs. The dragon pung doubled the value of the hand.

Noreen subtracted her four points: 40. Esteban being East, she owed him 80. She paid four to Wendell since his two flowers outnumbered her one.

Wendell subtracted his eight: 36. Doubling that, he owed Esteban 72. Once Wendell and Noreen paid Esteban, the next hand could begin.

Novices to the classical game often find this scoring system intimidating and off-putting. And while some players enjoy this ability to outscore the winner (and its impact on the strategy), many prefer a system that rewards the winner over non-winners.

Widespread dissatisfaction with the classic scoring system is arguably responsible for the evolution of the numerous offshoot variants, and the subsequent fall from dominance of the classical game.

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.