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By Tom Sloper
April 19, 2020

Column #737

American Mah Jongg (2020 NMJL card). Continuing analysis of the 2020 card. This week's topic: defense. In other words, figuring out what your opponent is doing so you don't discard her winning tile.

Dragon Pungs - The 2020 card has no exposable dragon pungs, and only one dragon pung hand on the entire card! Consec #7 is a Concealed hand, so if you ever see anyone expose a pung of dragons, you can (and should) call her dead. It's an instant death exposure.

Flower Quints - Since there are only three flower quints on the card, you know she can only be making 2020 #3 or Any Like #3 or Quints #1. If she later exposes twos, the only question is "how many?" If she exposes a pung of twos, you know she's not making Quints. If she exposes a kong of twos, it's Any Like. If she exposes a quint of twos, it's Quints. If it's any number other than twos (and not a quint), then she's making Any Like, and you know what number she's playing. If she exposes a dragon kong, it's Quints, so watch for clues indicating her number.

Two Pungs - There are only 16 hands on the card that use two exposable pungs. There are 54 hands (line items) on the card, so if you see two pungs, you can eliminate 2/3 of the hands from your ponderings. You can also eliminate 2020, Any Like, Quints, and of course S&P. Are her two exposures even numbers? Then she's in either Evens or Consec, unless the pungs are both sixes, in which case she might be in 369. Are they both odd? Then she's in either Consec or Odds.

Two Kongs - Two-kong hands are much more common than two-pung hands on the 2020 card. I count 27 hands that contain two or three exposable kongs. That's half the hands on the card! If her kongs are consecutive, she's working in Consec. If they're both odd (and not alike), she could be in Consec or Odds or 369. If they're both even (and not alike), she could be in Evens or Consec. If they're the same number, she might be in 2020, Any Like, or 369. If they're dragons, she's doing either 2020 or W-D. If they're winds, you know where to look. This simple equation makes it pretty easy to narrow down what she's doing so you know how to defend.

One Pung + One Kong - There are only 16 hands on the card that she could be working on if she's showing a pung and a kong. You can narrow down the family by looking at the exposures. They can't be dragons (no such hand). If they're winds, it's W-D (duh). Look at the numbers. Both even? Both odd? Consec? Alike? Just be aware that Consec is the great fooler. You might assume Evens if the exposures are both even, but check Consec. You might assume Odds if they're both odd, but check Consec! Also look at the distance between the numbers. If the numbers are too far apart numerically, you can rule out Consec; no Consec hand uses numbers separated by more than two. For instance, if you have a pung of ones and a kong of fives, there is nothing in Consec that puts that much numerical distance between a pung and a kong, so she's doing Odds and you can eliminate Consec from your inquiries.

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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 outdated official rulebook. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND every player should have a copy of Mah Jongg Made Easy, the official rulebook of the National Mah Jongg League (see FAQ 3 for info on mah-jongg books).

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