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By Tom Sloper
May 14, 2017

Column #674

American Mah Jongg (2017 NMJL card). Charleston exercises. What would you pass?

1. The four steps say to start by checking for pairs. Fs, Rs, Ns. Next, is there a hand that can use all those pairs? (Are they "friends" with one another on this year's card?) No hand found that uses all three pairs, so next we look for two-pair combinations on the card. Fs and Ds go together in Like Nos. #1 (8 tiles not counting J), Consec #5 (just 5 tiles), W-D #6 (just 5), and S&P #7 (7 tiles but no soaps). Fs and Ns go together in W-D #5 (just 4). Ns and Ds go together in Quints #1 (just 5) and W-D #2 (just 5). Clear LN win. Keep Fs, Ds, and 1s.

2. Three pairs: 7s, 9s, 9s. They're all odd, but no hand can use all three (no Odds hand uses nines in two suits). Nines in two suits suggests either LN or 369 #6. You could keep all highs, pass lows (going Consec). But Thirteens is a possibility, if flowers come in from the wall. I'd pass 1B 2C 6C, but another pass could work.

3. Two pairs: 2s and Ws. They could go together for W-D #4, but they have no other friends (it's those two pairs against the world). Wind pairs have limited uses; with 2 jokers, you shouldn't go for S&P #1. You can hope more winds get passed your way, or you can try to divest yourself of them. If you go with the former, pass 8C 1D 6B. If you go with the latter, pass S W 1D.

4. Three pairs: Fs, 4s, 8s. They all go together for two hands: Evens #1 and #6 (6 tiles each, not counting J). But the four steps are just a starting point, not an overweening strategy. Look at those singles: they're all friends for 2017 #3 (8 tiles)! That's a much better way to go. Pass 4C 8C and a duplicate. Yes, it's counter-strategic to pass a pair, but you can't break up 2017 #3!

5. Where have all the flowers gone? Not to mention the nonexistent pairs. Jump to steps 3&4: highs (7, not counting the 5B) vs. lows (4, not counting the 5B), odds (7) vs. evens (5). Ones are the weak links. Pass two, together with E.

6. Three pairs: 5s, 7s, and Ns. Suggests W-D #3, or something in Odds. Pass any 3 evens.

7. Two pairs: 3s, 7s. They're "friends" towards Odds #1 and #5, but poor friends (just four tiles, with no backup). Those craks and dots suggest Odds #7, with the necessary singles. The hand is overall decidedly odd, so there's no need to look elsewhere on the card. The two winds can go, and break up 3B. Another case where the four steps don't do the trick.

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Join Johni Levene's popular Facebook group, "Mah Jongg, That's It!" for lively conversations about American mah-jongg and all things mah-jongg.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book about the American game, including official rules not in the official rulebook. 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).

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

© 2017 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.