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By Tom Sloper

October 31, 2004

Column #186

American mah-jongg (2004 NMJL card). Rules are rules, no matter if some dislike them. Sophia's hand:

She passed 8D, E, N, getting 8C, 3B, and, um, some other junk tile in return. Now she had three pairs. She could use the 3B and 9C pairs if she went for 369 or all odds. She could use the 8C and 9C pairs if she went for a consecutives hand. She figured she could preserve all those chances if she passed W 4B 1D.

Got junk, passed it left. Her first left pass was much better.

She now had two completely different hands, and just one throwaway.

"I'm stopping," she announced.

The other players apparently didn't want to stop passing; much kvetching issued forth. In particular, Esther was unhappy with this turn of events.

"Why?" she demanded to know.

Let's stop the replay right there. There are two ways Sophia could respond to Esther's demand. She could answer the question, or she could refuse to answer. Let's take a look at both possibilities.

SCENARIO #1. Sophia replies to Esther, "I've got two ways to go. I don't want to break one up."

Esther now has ammunition to press her case and try to force a cancellation of Sophia's cessation of the Charleston. "That's not a good idea. Your two hands, are they both really good?

Sophia (under pressure, having opened the door and wishing she hadn't): "Well, no, they're both six tiles..."

Esther (zeroing in for the kill): "Then pick one and kill the other. You can't stop the Charleston with just two six-tile hands!" Esther continues like that, pretending that strategic pointers are hard rules, hounding Sophia, until Sophia gives in and lets the Charleston continue. Esther wins the hand, of course.

SCENARIO #2. Sophia coolly replies, "Because the rules permit anyone to stop the Charleston." To Nora she says, "I've only got one to trade you, dear." Esther sputters and fumes but clearly her intimidation tactics aren't working on Sophia, so the Charleston is over. Sophia probably doesn't win the hand, by the way.

THE MORAL. Sophia probably wasn't wise to stop the Charleston with just two six-tile hands, but she was well within her rights to do so. I further recommend that you never give explanations.

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© 2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.