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By Tom Sloper

July 3, 2005 (Year of the Rooster)

Column #221

American mah-jongg (2005 NMJL card). The OEMC is behind me, so I can get back to writing about American mah-jongg again. This week's column comes from a question that was submitted to my Q&A Bulletin Board. Esther's hand was finally taking shape, but when she went to call a tile, something untoward happened. Esther's tiles at the outset were dull. After the Charleston, she discarded a wind and was sure she'd go for Consecutives. Well... fairly sure, anyway.

She'd gotten rid of a 1B during the Charleston, but it had come back, and she'd passed it again. Then her first two picks were 1B. Were the mah-jongg gods trying to tell her something? She picked and discarded several times, not making much progress. The tiles weren't developing well enough for the consecutive hand - and weren't good enough for 13579 either. 8D went out twice but Esther wasn't willing to commit without better tiles in hand. When she got another 5B she gave up on Consecutives. She got a third 5B and a 7C, and now she was sure what she was doing.

Certain now that she'd go for 13579 #2, she threw 9C (the nines would be in dots, and she'd be discarding 557D when more things came in). 7C went out, but the craks would probably be her pairs, so she didn't call. She got a 9D. Then 7B went out. Her voice and Sophia's rang out together. "Call." "Mah-Jongg!" Sophia exposed her hand, taking the 7B.

Sophia started her litany of how she almost hadn't made the hand (even winners get to complain in American mah-jongg), but Wesley stopped her. "It's wrong. You have to have a pair of fours, not threes." Sophia tried to deny this, postulating the hypothesis that in the absence of a parenthetical saying "Pair 4's Only," that the hand was flexible. But she was overruled and declared dead by a majority.

Esther spoke up: "So, since she was wrong in calling the 7B, I can have it, right?"

Everyone looked at each other. Nora said, "Uh, I don't know." Esther was inching her hand towards the 7B on Sophia's rack. Wesley stopped her and got out the rulebook. Unfortunately, though, the rulebook doesn't cover every possible eventuality. So the group fell back on common sense. It was decided to leave the tile in Sophia's rack. She'd paid for it with the death of her hand, after all.

Oh. Esther didn't win, either. Wall game.

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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.