By Tom Sloper

June 20, 2004

Column #167

Japanese Modern (riichi/dora). In my opinion, the Japanese game is easier to learn than either Chinese Official or American. My friend Ricky (who plays only riichi/dora majan) always cites the 'unbelievably high' number of Chinese yaku (81) over the Japanese number (48). Regardless of how easy one game is to learn, though, they are all equally difficult to master. And it's that challenge that makes mah-jongg (in all its flavors) so delightfully deep and enjoyable. Etsuko's hand:

She evaluated this as a worthwhile beginning, likely to win. She started by discarding shiro (Wh). Shigeru followed suit, then Watanabe-san threw ao (G). "Pon!"

The quickness of this play, before each player had had a chance to make a first discard, caused a reaction from the table. If this had been American mah-jongg, the ladies at the table would have been most vocal in their reaction to such a decisive move. But this was Japanese mah-jongg. So the reaction was subdued and subtle - but nonetheless powerful.

Etsuko discarded 5P.

Noriko threw her a 7S, but Etsuko hoped to make itsu (a pure straight) so let it go. She got a garbage pick, followed shortly by another. Then she picked 1S. By this time the first row of discards was fairly well along. Threw 8P.

Her next pick was nothing, but soon Noriko threw 6M. "Chii."

Etsuko had now given up on itsu, going instead for the quick win. Throwing 8S, she just needed 2S or 3S* to win. Shigeru had thrown 3S, three picks previously, so there were just three of those left in the game somewhere. No 2S visible, so that seemed more likely.

Little did she know that Watanabe would keep 3S if he got one (needing it to make a chow), and Noriko had 3S but wouldn't throw it (using it as part of a concealed chow) - both were already holding 2S. There was just one each of 2S and 3S left in the game. Watanabe konged the 8S. Turning over the kan dora indicator, chun (R) was revealed.

Etsuko picked and threw, picked and threw. It was seeming unlikely Etsuko would ever get 2S or 3S, but finally Noriko picked and threw the last 3S. "Ron!" Cheap hand - 1 fan only. 2500 from Noriko.

* Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Hilbert Turner for spotting an error and reporting it on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board. Blue text denotes the text added to fix the error.

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