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By Tom Sloper

June 12, 2005 (Year of the Rooster)

Column #218

Japanese Modern (riichi/dora). Each mah-jongg variant can be considered simpler than another, yet more complex in other ways. Japanese mah-jongg is simpler than Chinese Official in that there are fewer scoring elements to remember (and in that you only need to score 1 fan as opposed to 8 points). But CO scoring is much simpler than Japanese. And Japanese mah-jongg might seem more complicated than American mah-jongg in that the scoring is more involved. But Japanese has less hands than American. And you don't need no stinking jokers, either!

But when it comes down to it, many mah-jongg principles and strategies are applicable from one variant to another. Let's take a look at Noriko's hand.

Noriko, as readers of this column may be aware, plays not only Japanese riichi/dora majan but also Chinese Official rules. So when she looked at her tiles she thought of the valuable CO hand kwa leung ("pure straight"), which is also a Japanese hand (itsu). It's worth much more in CO than in Japanese rules, but it appealed to her since she was deeply in practice mode for the upcoming OEMC in Nijmegen, Holland, on June 25. She discarded sha (W) and decided that she'd chow 3, 5, or 8S. Her next pick was 2P and she threw ao (G). Her next few picks were uneventful, and by the end of the 1st row of discards she decided the hand wasn't going well. And of course, to top it off, after throwing away her 9M she picked another 9M, which then had to follow its sibling into oblivion. Watanabe threw 1P, and Noriko had to think whether or not to call it. But the Japanese game discourages exposure, so she passed. Watanabe threw 5S, which fit into Noriko's Plan A, so she called it. "Chii." Shigeru then declared riichi, so it was definitely time for Noriko to study his discards.

The 3rd row of discards had begun dangerously. Noriko knew that she now absolutely must play defense. Her safest discard was 7S (based on the 1-4-7 principle). Shortly, Watanabe threw 3S. Noriko called it, throwing 9P (Shigeru had thrown one after going riichi). But you know what? I'm probably boring you with unnecessary details. The hand was a dud. Other than Shigeru, everybody was noten, so they just had to pay Shigeru a measly 500 points. 500 Japanese points must correspond to 8 Chinese Official points. Maybe, kinda, sorta... But my main point is that her knowledge of multiple variants didn't hurt at all.

* Dora tile shown, not dora indicator.

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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.