By Tom Sloper

March 14, 2004

Column #153

Japanese Modern (riichi/dora). Today I'm playing in an American tournament hosted by Bill & Judi Nachenberg...

...Then I'm going to a birthday party for Ricky Shiraishi. I've done quite a number of American columns lately, so in Ricky's honor, here's a Japanese column.

Etsuko's hand:

Obvious first discard: ton (E). She'd worry about the strategy after a couple of picks. She got 3M and threw 9P. When she picked 8S, she started thinking about making itsu (a pure straight). Discarded 2P, forcing 1P as the pair (Watanabe had already thrown one of those). Picked 3M, threw it back. The last 1P went out, then she picked 7M - and threw that back as well. Picked and threw 9P. Then her next pick was 4S.

She had to break up either the 2-3 or the 7-8. Pretty much a coin toss (even considering the discards). She threw 7M, hoped for 1M. Got 5P, threw that back. Picked and threw 8S and 4S - then Shigeru declared "reach" with 5M. Picked 1M. The 1-4-7 principle says that when a player discards 5M, he might not be waiting for 8M (since if he threw 5M he is not holding 6-7M and he is not holding 3-4M - and incomplete chows are the most common wait). So Etsuko threw 8M, likewise declaring "reach."

Shigeru's next pick and throw was also 8M. Then a nerve-wracking waiting game commenced, as both Etsuko and Shigeru picked and threw (unable to change the hand after declaring riichi). Noriko declared "reach" too, then Etsuko sucked air between her teeth as she picked a dora (8P) and had to throw it. She exhaled when nobody bit. The wall dwindled until it was down to the last 14 tiles. Shigeru and Watanabe had Etsuko's 3S's. Shigeru needed 7S, and Noriko needed 7M. The iihan shibari (one fan minimum) requirement, coupled with the riichi feature common to the majority of Japanese tables, tends to result in the player making a hand that wouldn't qualify were it not for riichi. In this case, though, Etsuko's hand would have been worth two fan, even without riichi. (If she'd only gotten the 3S.)

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Some fun links about Japanese-style mah-jongg.

Copyright 2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.