By Tom Sloper

August 1, 2004

Column #173

Japanese Modern (riichi/dora). Strategy isn't enough. You also have to have luck.

Noriko (featured in last week's column, playing Chinese Official) always hopes to have both, but sometimes one or the other eludes her. In her regular Japanese game this week, Noriko was dealt a most intriguing hand.

If she wanted to go for a fast win, the 2-3P ought to stay. But if she wanted to go for a nice clean hand (honitsu), she'd want to get rid of it. The normal beginning move is to discard an honor, but she might need those for a clean hand. And, oddly, the other players led with simples (in manzu -- craks). Noriko led with 8S.

In the next couple of turns, she obtained 2M and 4P. Decision time. The honors were going nowhere. Threw sha (W). When next she picked 7P, she threw pei (N).

Watanabe threw 7M - decision time again. Take it? Go for tanyao?

Yeah. "Chii." Threw 9M.

Shortly, she'd added 3M, 7P, and 6M, discarding chun (R) and shiro (Wh). Interesting.

The obvious move at this point was to discard 3M... and wait for 6M or 7P for tanyao. Noriko was not above the obvious move...

Thence followed a series of garbage picks, one of which was nan (S) -- the dora tile. When Noriko threw one, a collective sigh went up. And the other players could safely discard the ones they'd been hanging onto.

Etsuko declared riichi. Noriko closely examined Etsuko's discards.

Noriko's next pick was 8P. Perfectly safe to throw, since Etsuko had discarded one.

But it was all in vain. Wall game. Etsuko and Noriko both were tenpai (waiting), thus each collected 1500 from an opponent. Noriko reached for the button in table center to open the hole, and her lovely waiting hand went into the table's depths.

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© 2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.