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By Tom Sloper
May 15, 2016

Column #652

American Mah Jongg (2016 NMJL card). Charleston exercises, using the Four Step system from columns 630 and 631.

1. First, check for pairs: there are three (5C 6B R). Are they friends: yes, all three pairs go together to make Consec. #4 (six tiles). The only other tile that seems to work with two of your pairs (the fives and sixes) is 6D (for Consec. #3). And F works with your fives and reds for the bottom Odds hand. That's enough analysis; the Charleston is primarily about elimination. Move everything else to the right (2C 2B 9B E S), and choose three passers. I'd pass a two, a wind, and 9B.

2. Four pairs (very rare): F 1B E S. Are they all friends? No. 1B seems to be odd man out, six tiles towards W-D #4 (not counting the joker*). What other options are there (what other friends)? You could hang onto the dragons for a possible W-D #5. You could keep the 1B pair for a possible Elevens hand, but seriously - W-D is a much better option with these tiles. I'd pass three number tiles.

3. Three pairs again; F 2C soap. Those are all friends for 2016, numbers 4 and 5 (eight tiles each, not counting the joker*). 2016 #3 is not a good option: just four tiles. What other friendships are there here? The twos and soaps go with 3D for Consec. #4 (five tiles, not counting joker*). Stay with 2016. Pass 3C 9D N.

4. No pairs. Any obvious friends? No (other than evens, and 6C 7B 8C G). You can pass 1D W and soap. I dislike passing soap in the first pass because it might give an opponent ideas, but offense has to take priority over defense in the Charleston.

5. Three Fs and pair of ones; those are friends for Elevens or for Odds #5. That leaves you a lot of passers to choose from. The seemingly obvious pass is W 0 R, but I don't like passing two dragons at once. Keep soap, chuck a number.

6. Three pairs: 3D 2B 4B. Those can go together for Consec. #4 (you'll need some soaps). But you could also go for Consec. #1 in bams, or Consec. #2 (most powerful hand on the card) with 3B 4B 5C 6C. All those leave 7D 9D and F in the cold. Some authors say "never pass a flower," but I say "never say never."

7. Odds #5, Like Numbers, or Elevens. Pass 6D 9C S.

*I don't count jokers during the Charleston because they don't give you useful information (other than either "don't go for S&P" or "don't go for Quints").

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