By Tom Sloper

January 18, 2004

Column #145

Japanese Modern (riichi/dora). Etsuko played it safe... and didn't win. She was oya (dealer)...

Her obvious discard: N (pei). Her next pick was 1S, she threw 1P. Shigeru discarded 1M. Etsuko let it go. Why? Because of the Japanese game's focus on concealment. She wanted to have options - to be able to go for chows or pungs, or even all pairs (chii toitsu). Too soon to go punging everything possible!

Shortly, Watanabe threw the last 1M. Etsuko picked 7P and had to decide what to discard.

The obvious sore thumbs were the 1S and 3S. She threw 1S. The 3S went out not long after (it was the last tile in her first row of discards).

At this point she could go for chii toitsu or all pungs (toi-toi) - or a cheap riichi hand. Soon, when Shigeru threw 7P, Etsuko had to decide whether to go for toi-toi or not. If she picked either 6M or 5P, she could discard 4P and be ready for it. If she took the 7P, she would have to discard 5P or 6C, then get another pung, before she'd be ready. Chii toitsu seemed closer than toi-toi. So she passed.

Watanabe konged S (nan). Kan dora indicator: 9P (kan dora: 1P). Etsuko picked 6S, threw it back. Dora. Her next pick was 1P. It being the middle of the 2nd row now, she had to think about what was safe to throw - and what her chances were to get her needed tiles. 1P was actually safe to throw, and unlikely to pair up (she'd discarded one previously, and so had Watanabe). So back it went. Kan dora.

Watanabe punged 9S. Etsuko picked 6S (dora), threw it back with a big sigh. On her next turn, she picked 3M. Rethink time? Her hand hadn't moved an inch. But now that the 3rd row of discards had been started, it was time to shift to defense. 3M was raw. 5P wasn't, but the most recently thrown one was getting awfully ripe. 6M looked like a safer throw (Shigeru had thrown one two turns ago).

The next several picks were not helpful. Shigeru threw 4M. Kinda late to switch to toi-toi; Etsuko let it slide. Eventually she picked the haitei (last tile): 4S. She discarded safe (3M). Wall game. Everybody was noten (nobody had been waiting)!

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Some fun links about Japanese-style mah-jongg.

Copyright 2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.