By Tom Sloper

July 25, 2004

Column #172

Chinese Official Tournament Rules. Mah-Jongg, it is said, is composed of equal parts of strategy and luck. The strategy is the tiles you throw, and luck is the tiles you pick (and the tiles thrown by others). In today's game, Noriko had good strategy - and luck.

West round. Noriko's hand had a little bit of everything.

She judged it not very good for a chows hand (too many disconnected tiles) - and not good for a knitted hand (sixes and nines in all three suits). Maybe All Types (what the Chinese call u men chi - Five Kinds). For starters, she threw 1C.

In the interest of brevity, we'll just say that Noriko eventually wound up punging N and chowing 8B.

She threw 6C, and shortly picked 5B. At this point she had definitely found a direction. Throwing 9C, her hand was finally Clean. She vowed to call 457B if possible. She swore inwardly when Waiyee threw R.

Waiyee's next throw was 6B - Noriko wanted that, but should she pung or kong?

She could always kong later. "Pung." She threw R. After a few frustrating picks, Waiyee threw 7B. This was why Noriko hadn't konged before. "Chur."

Now she was in the classic awkward spot. She would be left holding one tile, waiting for its mate, with little chance that the others would throw it. She had to decide which to throw. 9B would be safer to throw at this stage - and less likely to be useful to keep. She kept 5B and hoped to pick another herself.

A couple of turns later she picked 1B (she'd thrown one of those as her second move!). And she had to make a decision yet again. 5B appeared safe to throw, since each of the other players had thrown 2B or 8B (1-4-7 principle). And 1B might be easier to get. Finally she decided to throw 1B since it looked safer.

She picked 5B. Luck and strategy both.

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