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By Tom Sloper
May 24, 2015

Column #636

American Mah Jongg (2015 NMJL card). A different angle on the Charleston this week. It's the sticky second across pass. You could have stopped the Charleston, and you didn't. Now you're in a pickle. What would you do?

1. A rough approximation of a problem one of my students had last Friday. Her problem was that because of the way she was arranging her tiles (trying to form two 2015s, in two suits), she was not seeing a hand (she didn't see the bottom 2015 hand). Yes, it's a concealed hand, but it has nine tiles. And all the bams are expendable. This is missing twos, but you don't need many if you pick up some jokers along the way (and that's what she did, and she did make the hand).

2. Another problem from last week's strategy class. Clearly, the N and F can go, but then you have to break up something! Clearly, you don't want to pass a crak; Evens #4 needs them for pairs. Tom to the rescue: I said to pass 4B. If it gets discarded, you can pung it right away (whereas if you pass 8D, you have to risk exposing a joker to make the kong). As it turned out, the player at her left blind-passed on the last right, and the 4B came back in the Charleston. When we were discussing the hand, the student expressed a concern at not having any of the sixes. I asked if there was another hand she wanted to go for that had better chances; she said no. Guess what: she did win with that hand.

3. Two obvious discards (4D and R), But which way to go here (2015 or W-D)? There are two W-D hands that can use F (#2 and #5), and one that can't (#1). Counting the tiles for each option, the flowerless 2015 hand has 9 tiles, and the strongest W-D hand has just 8 tiles. It's too many hands, so let F go.

4. Four different hands in Evens fit this; the weakest one is #3 (only six tiles, not including J). Breaking up only that one option means passing 2D 6D soap. If you don't like that and/or want another option to break up, you can break up #1, for which you do not have either of your pairs. 8B can go.

5. The three pairs are not friends with one another. The only two friendly pairs are 3C and 9D; Odds #4, not 369. Sometimes even two pairs that go together can throw us off the scent (sometimes it can be necessary to break up not just one, but two pairs). Keep all dots for Consec. #1, and pass 4B R R. I know, I know, "never pass a pair," but this is very late in the Charleston, thus it's unlikely that dragon pair is going to suddenly make someone's game. Never say never.

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