Thursday, January 20, 2011

a3geffen's Hints and Pointers - Right time to act

There are quite a number of manuals on the basics of how to play a game of mahjong. The amount on strategy and tactics however is limited. Mahjong Time has asked Adrie van Geffen (a3geffen) to share his views in that territory. In the year 2011 he will publish a series of articles with hints and pointers having to do with strategy of mahjong in the different styles (excepting American): Hong Kong (HK); European Classic (EC); Mahjong Competition Rules (MCR); Riichi Competition Rules (RCR); Taiwanese (TW). Below part 2 – Right time to act.

The tiles are there, the tension is there. You’ve made up your mind what you want to get based on what you have. The first tile is discarded and you go for a chow immediately. Better to have than to wait is what you figure. If you are playing EC it could mean that you go for the fast win because with a zero points minimum, as EC is played, you can’t be too fast. Or you are playing HK and want to go for a no flower hand with all chows and self drawn to reach your 3 fan minimum and you cannot use a flower taken from the wall. Otherwise: bad strategy.

It is not only because you can get points for a concealed hand in most styles. By claiming a discarded tile you show your opponents which way you are going and you give valuable information. In HK it could be the color you are going for, in MCR and RCR you limit your own possibilities hugely. But simple mathematics tell you that there is a better reason not to claim a tile immediately, especially when it concerns a chow. If it’s a closed wait in this chow then there is three more of that tile in the game, probably in the wall. If it is a two-sided wait then there are still seven tiles to complete the chow. The tile isn’t claimed for a pung (otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten it anyway) and chances are quite large that it will be discarded again and most of all: you pick it up yourself. The latter means that you not only will have kept your hand concealed but also that you haven’t lost two turns: one to claim a tile and one to discard that tile when you pick it yourself but no longer need it.

To claim a tile to make a pung is more tempting and not totally unwise when you are playing HK, EC or TW. Especially pungs and dragons can be profitable and then it could be a good decision playing RCR to make a small quick mahjong with 1 yaku. But even then: if you already have two of the same tiles and a third is discarded, you may as well wait. The fourth is bound to be thrown too unless one of your opponents is playing for a special hand (13 orphans or knitted tiles). When you are playing MCR you do a lot better to wait, as goes for non-yaku pungs in RCR. In that way RCR is even more special because it is played much more defensive. The two tiles in your hand, especially when being wind or dragon, could be a certain safe discard.

Waiting can be strenuous, but try it. Don’t claim a tile and check how many times you pick it of the wall yourself. If it works out well you not only keep your hand to yourself but you might even pick up a lot bigger score by winning by self draw.

Written by Adrie van Geffen
Adrie van Geffen

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