By Tom Sloper

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Column #71

American (2003 NMJL card). One of the fascinations of mah-jongg is the new problems you get to work on, not just with every new hand, but sometimes with every pick. Sophia had plenty of new problems to challenge her gray cells with this hand.

With all those winds, she decided to go for a winds hand. Do you agree? What would you pass in the first right? (See answer #1 at bottom.)

By the start of the second Charleston, she hadn't gotten any more winds, and now she had a pair of 2D. She decided to change her strategy for the hand. She decided to work on Runs, keeping ones, twos, and dragons. After the courtesy, she had a completely different hand.

Which hands are her best possibilities with this? Which is her primary and which is her fallback? (See answer #2 at bottom.)

Almost immediately, she had to make a decision. Wesley discarded 1b. She decided to pass on it. Her next pick was White. This impacted the plan tremendously. She discarded 2C. Her next pick was 1C, and now she had to make a decision again.

She had to give up on one of her hands.

The 2B had to go (only one fallback needed it). Shortly, she obtained a joker by redeeming it from someone else's exposure. Decision time yet again.

What advantage do you see of one hand over the other? (See answer #3 below.)

Discarding G, she soon picked in a 1C. And again. A decision to make.

Both hands were equal. Safety wasn't an issue, judging by the exposures and discards. She practically flipped a coin (choosing a hand based on nothing more than which one she "liked" better).

Wesley, who had a kong of Norths up, started discarding jokers. Clearly he was working on Winds #2, and had his Souths. But which odd number was he using? No way to tell. He threw three jokers in all. With each one, the group's dislike of him and his smug self increased, and the groaning got louder.

Sophia had gotten closer to Like Numbers #1 (two away) when Wesley picked 3C for mah-jongg.

Answer #1. If you agree that she should go for a winds hand, then she can pass 46C for sure. But the pair of Norths also suggests Winds #2 (pairs of odds). She has two ones, so those shouldn't get passed right away. The 9B is the third passer. 46C 9B.

Answer #2. It was a trick question. Sophia has two primaries and two best fallbacks. Runs #4 and #6 are the primaries. Like Numbers for the fallbacks.

Answer #3. Run #6 is an exposed hand - Like Numbers #2 is concealed. It's much harder to make the concealed hand. So that's the one she gave up.

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.