By Tom Sloper

July 20, 2003

Column #103

Japanese Modern (riichi/dora). The swaying reed doesn't break. But there's such a thing as swaying too far. Lucy Van Pelt calls that being "wishy-washy."

Consider Watanabe-san's hand. The group was playing at a jansou where red fives are not used. Dora indicator: N (pei). First pick: 2S (ryansou).

His initial assessment: the hand was a strong possibility for pinfu and tanyao (all simple chows). He threw his own wind.

His next pick advanced the hand towards pinfu but retreated from tanyao - 9P. He discarded 9S. Three Easts went out in a row, which caused a group chuckle - a dora wind tile is useless when you have only one. The automatic replay rule (nagare) that applied if all 4 players discard the same wind in one turn was unlikely to occur. But still, everyone looked expectantly at Watanabe-san as he picked and discarded. What he picked was 5S, which caused the reed to sway (it advanced the hand towards tanyao but retreated from pinfu). The one sore thumb in the hand was 4P, so that's what went out. Game not halted.

The mah-jongg gods being the way they are, his next pick was 5P. He put it on the table next to its younger sibling. His next couple of picks were immediate discards, but then he got 3S and had to think.

Two tiles had to go - 9M and 4S. He decided to work it inside-out. Threw 4S. His next pick was a surprise - a third 5S. On the belief that it's better to put everyone on edge early (this was the 2nd tile of the 2nd row of discards), he threw 9M and declared riichi.

Then, at the start of the third row of discards, he got another unexpected event - picked the 4th 5S. The question was, should he kong it? Answer below.

It went downhill from there. Pick & throw, pick & throw. Wall game.

The others were all noten. Everybody paid him 1000. Etsuko had a pair of 7M, and Noriko had one. The other could only be in the dead wall.

He shouldn't have gone for the quick riichi. Should've stayed with Plan A: pinfu tanyao.

Answer: Generally, you shouldn't kong unless you have a high likelihood of winning. This time he did it mainly to increase his number of picks.

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Some fun links about Japanese-style mah-jongg.

Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.