By Tom Sloper

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Column #94

American (2003 NMJL card). It sometimes happens that a clear hand takes shape early in the Charleston. Such was the case for Nora.

Two families came to Nora's mind immediately upon seeing these tiles. But only one hand used all three of her pairs. What families, and what hand? Answer #1 below.

On the first left, she had to blind pass a tile. She warned the others, "Go slow. I might have to stop the Charleston," wanting to see what tiles came in before deciding.

She was more strongly coming in on her first-choice hand and on her fallback family. Is it a good idea to stop the Charleston at this point? Answer #2 at bottom.

After the passing was all over, she picked her first tile, 6B, and threw it back. Her next few picks were all throwaways. Then she got a pair and a joker.

A pair is usually a good thing to have (the old "joker bait" gambit), so she threw G. The next several turns just brought in junk, which got thrown back promptly. Then she picked 4C and threw 5B.

The player at Nora's left threw a 3D (a bad sign for the "joker bait" idea). And Nora picked a second joker. Throwing a 3D, she could now safely kong 4C or F, and still be ready to call the other for mah-jongg.

The last wall was getting short when Sophia threw F. "Call!" Now she was waiting for 4C for mah-jongg. She couldn't know that Esther had a pair and was using it. She needed to pick F (and redeem her own) or J. With just 5 stacks left in the wall, she picked a joker.

1. Runs and Like Numbers. FF455RR is halfway to Run #6. In Like Numbers, she could also shoot for fives and flowers, or fives and dragons.
2. No. The G, Wh, and 8C are all perfectly fine to pass. Like Numbers #2 is a long shot and isn't worth holding the Charleston for. The 5B is the only Like Numbers tile worth keeping, otherwise keep shooting for Run #6.

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.