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By Tom Sloper
September 14, 2014

Column #618

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American Mah Jongg (2014 NMJL card). Ever go looking for your keys? Happens all the time in American mah-jongg. Consider these exposure combos -- what are the key tiles,* and what do they unlock?
* Note that "key tiles" are different from "hot tiles."

1. There are two keys for this combo: S and G. If S is dead on the table, then her only option is W-D #3. If G is dead, then her only option is W-D #1. If both are dead, she's dead, and you should say so.

2. Her key tiles are 1C 2C. If either one is dead, she's dead, because she needs both pairs for Consec. #6.

3. Her key tiles are F (she needs a pair) and 2014 in dots. But since there are eight Fs in the deck and she needs four different singles, it could be a challenge for you to see that any of her keys are dead.

4. Could go Like Nos., so 1B 1C are key (only if both are dead can you tell that she can't make Like Nos.). Could go Consec. #5, in which case the key is soap; if it's dead, she can't go that way. The other possibility is Odds #3; 3D is key for that one. You can't call her dead unless all those keys are dead!

5. Her key tile is F. But you'd have to see seven of them dead for this key to be useful. (Odds #6.)

6. The keys to this combo are 2B and 3B (Consec. #6); if either key is dead, she can still make 2014 #2.

7. The key tile here is 6B; if it's dead, she can't make 369 #5, so she's dead.

8. How odd; her key tiles are 1B 3B 5D 7D 5C 7C. If either bam is dead, she can't make Odds #1, but Odds #5 would still be a danger. If either dot or crak is dead, she still has two ways she can stay alive.

9. Pretty obvious: either Consec. #1 or Consec. #6, right? Six key tiles: 5D 6D 7B 8B 7C 8C. If either of those dots is dead, you know she's not doing Consec. #1. If either of those bams is dead, she could be doing #1, or #6 but with craks (and vice versa).

10. 1D 2D 3D and 4D are all key; if the highest number is dead, Consec. #4 still lives. If any of the three lower numbers is dead, Like Numbers yet lives.

A tip o' the Sloper hat to Julia C.!

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Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook from the NMJL (see FAQ 3). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules:

© 2014 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.