By Tom Sloper

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Column #74

Japanese (riichi/dora). One of the trickier aspects of the modern Japanese game is the furiten rule. It's impossible to predict what tiles you will be picking in, and therefore difficult to guard against the prohibition on calling a tile you've previously discarded. Watanabe-san came up against the rule in today's hand.

The dora indicator was R (thus the dora tile was Wh).

He did a quick assessment, and decided the hand could win. His dragon was dora, and he needed to hang onto it for now. But those winds had to go.

By the end of the first row of discards, he'd picked a few things, and had run out of unconnected tiles to discard. The white was a goner. He felt better when Etsuko threw one also. He picked 4C, threw 9B, picked 7B.

At this point he was hoping to pick 7C or 4D. Something to bring the loosely connected tiles together. He decided that 7D was better for his pair than 5B. It was a snap decision he would regret.

With about 6 turns left in the game, he picked 7B. He re-organized his hand to spotlight the sore thumbs.

What tiles would you want to add to this if you had this hand? The shortest distance involving tiles already in the hand might be 6D and 47B. He decided that the 8C was the proper discard at this point.

Almost immediately, he picked 6B. Throwing 5D, he would be waiting for 58B. But he had already discarded 5B. The other players had a right, under the rules, to expect that it was safe to throw any tile in Watanabe's discards. So if he throws 5D, he'll have to self-pick 5B or 8B. As he prepares to put the tile down, he considers whether or not he ought to declare Reach. The house rules permit "furiten riichi," but he has to weigh other factors. He's a gambler, so he sees more reasons to go for it than not. He had to throw his White, but maybe there's something nice under the dora indicator. "Riichi!"

As it turned out, he picked 8B on his next turn. "Riichi, ippatsu, pinfu, tsumo..." He touched the red 5C, "dora..." He reached for the dora stack, looked underneath. Nope. Five fan. "Mangan!"

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Some fun links about Japanese-style mah-jongg.

Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.