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By Tom Sloper
April 18, 2010

Column #447

American Mah Jongg (2010 NMJL card). All rules were meant to be broken, as the Chinese say. Sometimes you have to throw out tried-and-true principles when things aren't working out. As in this Charleston with the new card.

1. Here's what I deal myself. I like those dots for Consec. #1, and I like the ones for Like #s. The eights also suggest Like #s, so that's three possible hands right away. I can pass 6C 4B but can't preserve all 3 options. Counting, I have five tiles towards Consec., and four towards Like #s, two ways. Twos and eights could be 2468 #6, 4 tiles there. Gotta think fast, gotta go with my gut now. I like the Consec. best, and that means I have to keep the low dots. The 1B pair goes with that towards Like #s. So I have to get rid of an 8. Flip a coin - 8D. I get 2D 6B R.

2. I know I'm gonna pass R, but two problems remain: 6B and 2D. I can go for 2468 #7 if I get 4D. I don't need three 2D's for Consec.; but they could be useful for 2468. On the other hand, pungs are easy to make, so I pass 2D R 8C, and get 5C 6B 9B.

3. For sure I want to pass 9B 5C but...? This is the first left, I can blind pass. Or I can give up on Like #s (or Consec., or 2468)... I blind pass and see what comes in: 9C 4B.

4. People are not passing dots or ones. Stop the Charleston, or give up on one of my options? I decide to give up on Like #s. Maybe pass F? Hmm, wait. 2468 #5... I can pass 1B 9C and... the other 1B. It's a risky move, but the pair was spoiling my thinking, and maybe nobody can use it, or maybe somebody will break it up. I get 1D 3B, and... 8C is back again.

5. Good! Now I have the 2 pairs I need for Consec. #1. And 2468 options (I'm thinking #s 5, 7 at this point). I can pass 3B 8C and...? The 2468 options are weaker, and I have to break one up. Drat that dreaded second across! This always happens. F is easier to get than anything else, so I pass F, getting 4D R 3C in return.

6. Excellent, I'm closer to my Plan A hand, and the 4D even bolsters a 2468 option (#7). Last right. I can pass R 3C and... blind pass. Winding up with 8C (again!) and 9C.

7. Belatedly, I see that the 8C is very good for 2468 #2, so I only have one tile to offer my opposite: 9C. It nets me a second 8C! Now I have a quandary with my first discard! I throw out 8B. Let the game begin.

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Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook from the NMJL (see FAQ 3). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules:

© 2010 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.