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By Tom Sloper

July 24, 2005 (Year of the Rooster)

Column #224

American mah-jongg (2005 NMJL card). Charleston time.

Choose 3 tiles for the 1st right.

Choose 3 tiles for the 2nd across.

Choose 3 tiles for the 1st right.

Choose 3 tiles for the 1st across.

1. You want to keep dots and see where that takes you. You don't want to pass S and W together; the player at your right might decide to use them in a Winds hand. You don't want to pass the 6C and either 9 together; you might be setting up your righty for a 369 hand. You don't want to pass nines and S together. There are comparatively few hands that use nines from 2 suits, so pass W 9C 9B.

2. The 5B will go, but what else? This hand could be Consec. #1, 13579 #1, or S&P #2 or #6. None of those hands wants three ones. Quints #1? Not enough jokers. Sevens #1? Not enough flowers. So a 1D will go. Now it's a question of odd vs. even, and low vs. high. Odds equal evens (after culling a 1D). There are six low numbers (after culling a 1D). S&P #2? Got no soaps or flowers. If you go for S&P #2, you only need five consecutive numbers - counting from either end. And you're not allowed to pass a joker in the Charleston.

The 2nd across is often the hardest pass of the Charleston. You have to make a hard decision now. If you had no jokers, you could go for the S&P. But since it's likely you'll get more jokers, you need to look elsewhere. Best bet is Consec. #1 (low). Conserving 2468 leaves only 7D. Pass 5B 1D 7D.

3. One pair - 4B. But look at the other suits - maybe a Consec. hand, #3 or #7 (both of which are this year's frequently made hands). E W R Wh suggests maybe W-D #7. But you can't have it both ways. The F doesn't work with anything, and neither does the 8B. Which leaves you with only the 5B, since you want to keep the two threes. Yes, it's generally advisable not to pass flowers, but this year's card isn't very conducive to floral arrangements. If you want to preserve the W-D option, pass F 8B 5B. Otherwise pass 8B and a wind and a dragon.

4. If you start by weeding out 6B and N, you have two equal hands - with no tiles shared between the two. This could go towards the W-D family if you keep the N, and drop the Consec. option. The 4B pair could still work for W-D as well. There are several hands that can use threes in two suits, so pass 6B 3C 4D.

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Haven't ordered the 2005 NMJL card yet? Read FAQ 7i.

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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.