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By Tom Sloper (湯姆)

October 30, 2005 (Year of the Rooster)

Column #238

Chinese Official Tournament Rules. I'm at the big tournament in Beijing. This column was written in advance. Noriko's hand was coming together well, and her defensive thinking was sound. But she still gave it all away. Noriko's deal and first pick:

Three pairs to start with - they suggest Pure Flush. Discarded 2B. Soon, she'd passed up a chance to pung 1C and picked a second 8B. Four pairs now.

Threw G. She passed up chances to pung S, 8B, and 8C. Picked 2C. Threw 6B. Given the mah-jongg gods' love of irony, it was natural that her next pick would be 7B. She threw it back, and Earl chowed it. He was now showing three exposures - 123B 456B 789B (Pure Straight). Noriko kicked herself for not having paid attention. She picked 7C, threw 8D, and got another 7C.

She now had five pairs. That's always a sign that you should go for pungs or pairs, so she threw a single - 9D. As the others played, she strategized. Perhaps she should go for Half Flush. The 8B pair was starting to look rather like a sore thumb to her.

But then she picked 3C. Throwing 2C or 6C, she would be waiting for mah-jongg with a Seven Pairs hand. Not pure, but hey.

But there was a hitch. Checking the discards floor, she could see that two 2Cs had already been discarded. And all three 6Cs were visible (on the floor and in Waiyee's melds). So that decision was made for her. Discarded 6C, hoping for 2C. Or perhaps whatever she picked next might be a better last tile.

As it turned out, each of her next picks not only suffered the same odds (two mates already showing), but were also dangerous looking. There was 1D, which looked dangerous because of Samantha's melds (345D 456D FFFFF).

So Noriko threw 2C. Her next pick was 9D. That looked slightly less dangerous than 1D, so she threw 9D. Next pick was 9B. It too had two mates showing, but at least Earl had thrown one recently. Her next one was 4B. It didn't look safe at all, but out it went. And sure enough, Earl chowed it. He now showed four chows, all in bams. Then Samantha threw 2C. If only Noriko had kept her original keeper tile, she'd be hu right now. Two more picks, then it looked like time to get rid of that pesky 1D. And wouldn't you know, that was the one Earl wanted to complete his not-all-bams-after-all hand.

Pure Straight, Melded Hand, All Chows, One Voided, and a flower, for 26 points. Talk about an unpleasant surprise.


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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.