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By Tom Sloper

September 18, 2005 (Year of the Rooster)

Column #232

American mah-jongg (2005 NMJL card). Announcing a change in this column. The Japanese column is being discontinued. The column will now alternate between American and Chinese Official, with occasional forays into other variants. Because of the upcoming event in Beijing, there will be an emphasis on Chinese Official rules in October.

We've often discussed the need for flexibility in strategizing the hand. Today's hand spotlights the importance of this approach. In each year's card there are one or two most-made hands, usually in Consecutive Runs and with a sibling hand in 13579. Those hands are made of two pungs and two kongs; the easiest sort of hand to make in American mah-jongg. But this year's card has a most interesting hand that's an exception to this rule. I'm talking about the bottom hand in the Consecutive Runs section.

11 22 11 22 33 1111

Although this is a Concealed hand, with five pairs, it's amazingly easy to make. The reason why it's so easy to make is that it's consecutive numbers - and that gives the hand great flexibility and power. Consider the hand Wesley was working.

Consec. Run #3 was his backup hand. With the 9C pair, it was a tossup which suit (dots or craks) would serve as his bookends in this eventuality. But the bottom hand was his primary target, and Wesley figured he'd get rid of the 9D, then figure out whether to keep 7B or 8B, while the craks developed (if they developed, which is always the risk with this hand).

That was a moderately okay plan, but then Wesley picked 9D.

That changed everything. Like a light bulb switching on, Wesley suddenly saw a better plan. He discarded 9C. Whereas the first plan had been risky, requiring a lucky pick of only two tiles (7C and 8C), now he had four possibilities instead - 7C, 8C, 7B, 8B.

He double-checked the floor to make sure none of the numbers was dead. They were all alive - but 8C was getting in short supply. His next pick was J. He threw 9C, and he just needed to pick any one of his tiles. He picked 7C. Throwing 8B, he was ready for 8C. Because there were a couple of them already on the floor, somebody soon threw it.


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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.