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By Tom Sloper (湯姆)

August 7, 2005 (Year of the Rooster)

Column #226

Chinese Official Tournament Rules. I've waited three weeks to write this column! (I had to write about the Japanese and American variants in the meantime, else some readers would've gotten upset at me.) At the OEMC in Nijmegen, teammate Ryan Morris shared a most interesting hand with me. This hand illustrates the importance of flexibility - even when you are waiting for your mah-jongg tile.

You have two possible discards at this point. Both of them leave you waiting for one tile for mah-jongg - but one of them leaves you open for even further possibilities. Which one is it?

You could throw either 5B or 2B. Throwing either, you are waiting for 4D only, to make All Chows, All Simples, and Mixed Shifted Chows (effectively, a one- chance wait). Ryan threw 2B because, judging by exposures and discards, it was safest. But his choice, it turns out, was serendipitous.

Although 4D would give him mah-jongg, he remained open to even further possibilities. He wound up chowing something else that gave him even more options. What was it?

Ryan chowed 6B and threw 3B. Now he had a two-chance wait: 4D or 7D. It gave him more chances to win. It didn't increase his score, but, strategically, doubling your chances to win is no small thing.

A general rule known to the champion players is that when the last open chow is "odd" (is numerically distant from others, preventing a three-set combination), you should try to shift it towards the hand to increase your possibilities. Remember the tip in column 223 - that the champions' favored hand is Mixed Shifted Chows. In the first figure above, the "odd" chow is not the incomplete 56D - it's the 2345B. (The exposed 567B and the concealed 678C and the incomplete 56D are "clustered" together, all higher than the 2345B.) There is an exception: sometimes shifting the odd chow the other way helps you make Mixed Straight. Speaking of which...

Another quick example hand from Ryan:

You want 6D to make Mixed Straight. But what if the player at your left throws 2B? You could chow it, throw 5B. Your chances for winning are now doubled -- and that's twice as good! Both of which illustrate the power of Mixed Shifted Chows. And the usefulness of number-shifting to tap into it. Thanks also to Tina Christensen for help with this column!


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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.