By Tom Sloper

August 3, 2003

Column #108

Chinese Official rules. Mah-Jongg is an engrossing, engaging pastime. But understand: it often ain't pretty. Consider Samantha's hand. She'd played well, taking a less-than-ideal deal and parlaying it into a thing of beauty, only to have victory snatched away by another.

Looking at these tiles, she figured she would probably have to go for a clean hand (Half Flush), bams and honors. She took an inside-out approach on the unwanted craks and dots, discarding 6D.

Earl threw 8B and Samantha chowed it, discarding 5C. When Waiyee discarded G, Samantha took it for a pung. This she regarded as "progress."

She discarded 4C, then on her next pick she got W and threw 2D.

Mah-Jongg being the way it is, her next pick was 2D, which she threw right next to its twin. A sort-of-chuckle could be heard from Earl. Samantha's next pick was 7B, and she threw out the S.

As the others picked and threw, Samantha planned her next move. She decided to call 7B or W if those went out from anyone (of course, the extra point made W the more desirable). And she would chow 1B, 4B, 5B, or 8B if given a chance by Earl.

A couple turns later she picked and threw 7D. Waiyee chowed it for a 678. And a little later she gave Earl a 2C pung. Earl, on a roll, soon chowed 5C from Noriko. Samantha made several unlucky picks, her hand stuck in limbo. One of the tiles in her chow wish list, 5B, was discarded by Waiyee, but Samantha couldn't take it. She picked 2B and now had to break something up.

She checked the discard floor, saw that 6B looked safest, and threw that. Her next pick was a throwaway, then Earl picked his winning tile - 6B!

Samantha doubted her ability to judge what was safe! But as he added his score, she saw that, since Earl had picked it himself, and won on the case tile, she had to pay (along with everyone else) even more than she would have if he'd won when she'd discarded the same tile a turn earlier.

Just goes to show the difficulty of developing defensive strategy in the Chinese Official game.

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.