By Tom Sloper

August 10, 2003

Column #112

Japanese Modern (riichi/dora). The wind blew one way, and Etsuko bent with it. The wind blew another way, and Etsuko bent that way too. Everything was working as it should. Then the wind just plain died.

This is the story of Etsuko's plight that night. Dora indicator - 7S.

With four pairs, she wanted to go for either chitoitsu or toi-toi (seven pairs or all pungs). Maybe even a clean hand (depending on what tiles she picked). For starters, she discarded 8P. Shortly, she had a chance to grab another pei (N).

So much for chitoitsu. She discarded sha (W). She was a little disappointed by her next pick: 3P. The pairs idea had already died, and now the toi-toi idea was feeling poorly. She discarded shiro. Shortly, Noriko discarded G. "Ao pon!"

With that, Etsuko was now free to make any old hand, the dragon pung meeting the ihan shibari (one fan minimum). Throwing 7S, she was now ready.

It was at this point that the wind died. Etsuko picked four clunkers in a row, her hopes dying a little with each discard. Her next pick, though, made her think a little. She got 3S. She could now change her wait from 2S-4M to 1S-4S. She pondered briefly, then decided, "Naahh!"

Her next three picks were yet more clunkers. During all this, people discarded 8S (dora). The first one caused sharp intakes of breath between the teeth, but by the third one the crowd had lost its ability to be shocked.

Etsuko's last five picks were clunkers. Who'da thunk there were so many junk tiles in a mah-jongg set? But at least she was tenpai.

QUIZ. You are East, it's the East round. Dora indicator: 5P. What one tile should you discard?

Answer: nan (S). All the other tiles are connected, except ton (E) which is unwise to discard because it's valuable to you; you only need to pick one, then you can pung it and make any hand you like.

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Some fun links about Japanese-style mah-jongg.

Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.