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By Tom Sloper
April 4, 2020

Column #740

American Mah Jongg (2021 NMJL card). The 2021 card has arrived. Here doth commence the annual new-card analysis. First, I wanted to see how many of the 54 hands were new, how many were repeats, how many were variations on past hands.

The biannually alternating hands are as expected. Consec #1 and 13579 #1 are as they were in previous odd years (every other year, the pairs are at the ends), and Consec #2 is the same as in previous odd years (pung-kong, pung-kong), and it's also back in its traditional #2 slot in the Consec family. And this pattern (pung-kong, pung-kong) is present in the usual places, but also in some not-so-usual places. See:

That's a lot of no-pair hands, so perhaps we'll see fewer wall games this year. These hands are the heart of the hand-switching strategy. The 2-pung/2-kong hands in 2468, Consec, 13579, and 369 offer opportunities to trip up opponents who can easily be misled as to what you're doing. When you see an opponent's two exposures, keep your mind open as to the possible hands they can be making.

As usual, four-pungs-and-a-pair hands are present, as concealed hands:

Four-pungs-and-a-pair hands are very easy to make, thus they're marked Concealed. Don't be cowed by those Cs - these are very doable hands!

Two exposable dragon pung hands: 13579 #2 and 369 #2. A second exposure can easily give away the hand.

Of note this year: flower quints (Quints #1, Consec #4, 369 #4). No flower pungs. Also of note: the NEWS in Any Like #1, and the 2021 in the Winds-Dragons section. A small step out of tradition there.

The 5th hand in Consec is an "any consecutive numbers" hand but there wasn't room to say so in the parenthetical. The only hardwired consecutive numbers are in Consec #1. All the Consec hands except #1 are "any consecutive numbers" hands.

The back of the card has not changed from last year. It is nonetheless recommended reading.


Question or comment about this column? I often, um... intentionally... "miss" something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board. Hit me with your best shot!

Column #740

On Monday, April 5, 2021, 02:16:16 PM PDT, Libby S wrote:
Column #740
Hi, Mr. Sloper. I always look forward to your analysis of the card. I do think you should remove the following hand from your pung-kong, pung-kong list since it doesn’t follow that pattern.
W-D #1

Well, Libby, you're correct that W-D #1 doesn't show a pung at the left, then a kong and a pung in the middle and a kong at the right. But it is a two-pung / two-kong hand, which means it has no pair. In fact, re-examining the card just now, I find that I overlooked 369 #2, which is yet another two-pung / two-kong hand. I'll make a modification to the column to address your observation. For next week's column I'll go into some strategy implications, so I hope you'll enjoy that one.
Play safely and stay healthy. And may the tiles be with you.
Tom Sloper
Author of "The Red Dragon & The West Wind," the definitive book on Mah-Jongg East & West.
Author of the Sloper On Mah-Jongg column and the Mah-Jongg FAQs
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April 5, 2021
Los Angeles, California, USA

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