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By Tom Sloper

December 5, 2004

Column #191

Japanese Modern (riichi/dora). Watanabe-san's deal fairly spoke to him. But then the tiles that he picked suggested an alternate direction. A computer experiment turned up interesting results.

Watanabe was in the sha (W) seat, of course.

If you read my previous column on the Japanese game, you know what another Watanabe (Akira) would do... See answer #1, below.

He started by discarding 9P. After a while, his hand had changed considerably.

What a pickle. Four pairs and two complete terminal chows. The hand could be played as either a chows hand or a pairs hand, but which was better?

Using the magic of computers, the game was saved at this point so Watanabe-san could try it both ways.

First, playing it for a chow hand. He discarded 1P (planning to pung the last W if it came out). His goal was to make chows with the 3-5 pairs. But then Noriko threw 4S. So did Shigeru! Watanabe couldn't call it because there'd be no yaku. Picked 9S. Threw 1P. Shigeru threw 6S; again, couldn't call it. Then 3S went out twice in a row (dashing hopes of picking to make a riichi-able hand). Several moves later:

If Watanabe threw 9S he could make riichi. But 3S was dead, and only one W was left in the game. Trying for a safe discard, he threw 9S but Noriko won on it.

Second, using the computer, and replaying the hand to try for Plan A - chii toitsu. Watanabe threw 8S (killing a chow). Now when Shigeru threw 4S, Watanabe didn't care. His next pick was 9S. He threw 7S (dora). A few turns later, he picked 2M.

For his throw, he had to decide between 1M and 3M. He judged 1M likely to be thrown by someone. To increase the score should he win, he declared riichi. And lucked out. Shigeru threw it. 3fan; 4200 from Shigeru.

1. That other Watanabe-san, Akira, favored chii-toitsu (seven pair) hands. Having three pairs at the outset is a great beginning for that or for toi-toi (all pungs).

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© 2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.