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By Tom Sloper
August , 2019

Column #729: Stop the Charleston?

American Mah Jongg (2019 NMJL card). You've passed "first left," and you've just received your first left tiles. Blind passing is not an option on the second left. Would you stop the Charleston?

1. You're working on two hands: 2019 #3 and Addition #1 #2. For the 2019 hand, you have four three passable tiles. For the Addition hand, you have just three. Many would say this is not Charleston stopping material: that you should just make a decision between these unequal options. Or are they really unequal? For the Addition hand, you have all your singles, but for the 2019 hand, you're missing a single 9C. To pursue the Addition hand, you'd have to pass three dragons. To pursue the 2019 hand, you'd have to pass a pair (and fives are in huge demand on this card). Stopping the Charleston may go against widely-held strategic principles, but you are allowed to do it, and unless there is a fifth player watching you, nobody needs to know why you stopped. If you pass three dragons, that might get a raised eyebrow or a comment. If you pass 5D 5D 7B, you may be giving someone a winning hand. If I had to choose between only those passes, I'd rather pass three dragons. Stopping is permitted. Would you?

2. Well, you've painted yourself into a corner. Or two. Or three! You have three options: Evens #2, Any Like #1, and Consec #4. Whatever shall you do? First: count. Evens #2: seven tiles. Any Like #1: six tiles. Consec #4: eight tiles. Any Like is the weakest, so you know you can pass 9B and F, and still preserve your other two options. But you have to pass a third tile as well. For the sake of Consec #4, the bams are precious, and none can be sacrificed. And Consec #4 is your strongest hand (eight tiles, as opposed to seven for Evens #2) - but with a terrible weakness: you need two singles to become two pairs. It is POSSIBLE to get a 7B and/or an 8B in a second Charleston, but think: how often have you heard the phrase "same old stuff going around"? The likelihood is low, but nevertheless it can happen. You take a risk if you go that way (by passing a crak). If you're going to sacrifice a hand, Consec #4 is statistically the better one to break up (because of the unpaired problem). Or don't. Don't forget, stopping the Charleston is legal, and, unless there's a fifth player watching you: SECRET. Just sayin', you can preserve both options by stopping.

3. Your best options are Odds #4 (seven tiles) and W-D #3 (seven tiles). But consider the difficulty of obtaining pairs. You have one incomplete pair for Odds (5B) but two incomplete pairs for W-D (G, R). By the time the first Charleston has ended, winds have usually already been passed. You're not likely to get more. But might you see dragons in the second dance? Nobody knows (except the Mah-Jongg Goddesses). Best to focus on the hand with the fewer problems. Pass S G R.

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