Saturday, June 04, 2011

a3geffen's Hints and Pointers – Time

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 (except American): Hong Kong (HK); European Classic (EC); Mahjong Competition Rules (MCR); Riichi Competition Rules (RCR); Taiwanese (TW). Below part 10 – Time.

A complete game of mahjong consists of a certain amount of hands to be played. In RCR two rounds (East and South) are played, thus a minimum of 8 hands. Other styles have a minimum of 16 hands (in MCR that amount is fixed). Playing tournaments IRL with sufficient time to play full games resulted in a long waiting time for those players that were fast and had no extra hands to play after wins by East. Organizers of tournaments weighed the pro’s and con’s and nowadays rounds usually have a set time, mostly not enough to complete a full game.

Mahjong Time has fixed time schedules in tournaments as well. A good thing for all kinds of reasons, like very big scores that cannot be beaten anymore; drop out players substituted by Jerry; temporary absence for physical needs; etcetera. These are also reasons why few tables are set up to complete a full game. By setting these time limits a new element is introduced which can lead to some annoyance at the table: the clock.

Keeping an eye on the clock, which is not very difficult for the screen tells you how much time is left, can be used in several ways. An obnoxious one is stalling. A player can wait out the full time he has available, and even more when extra time has been bought. This will soon lead to understandable and just complains. That doesn’t only happens on line but in live tournaments as well. Stalling by a Chinese player, very fast all the time but suddenly at the end, with him in the lead, ‘thinking’ for over 40 seconds to move, lead to some bickering at the table at the World Championship MCR 2010. No need to speak the same vocal language to make clear this was not appropriate behavior. And it’s not the right way to use the clock.

A better one to use the clock is, when in the lead, not to mind your own hand but discard only safe tiles. It may be completely against your natural striving for making a good winning hand, but you have to mind the bigger picture: win the game. Your fellow players won’t notice it immediately and you stay well within what is allowed. Checking the archives may reveal you defensive play but there are no ground for complaints. You have to practice for this kind of play against your gut feelings, but it may prevent you from discarding the winning tile in the last minute and lose the game with a waiting hand that just didn’t make it.

Written by
Adrie van Geffen



KittySaysMeow said...

Hi, my name is Ruchama, and I am a newbie to Mahjong Time. I read your article and I found it very clear and informative. But as I am new to the game I do have a quick question, when you said "when in the lead...discard only safe tiles" what do you mean? What constitutes a safe tile to discard? Thanks for all the advice, and I look forward to your answer.

Anonymous said...

In RCR, if someone is ready, see what they have thrown out and throw out the same time. They cannot go out on what they have already thrown out. If you have no more tiles then throw out something that someone else has already thrown out after the player has become ready. If your hold the last wind or dragon then discard it as well as it is safe.

a3geffen said...

Safe tiles are those of which you are (pretty) sure the other players cannot use. Copy discards, break up sets, even your own concealed pung. When playing MCR, discard flower tiles! This last one is of course the only one with 100% guarantee.

Anonymous said...

@ KittySaysMeow
In Mahjong, when you discard, you have to worry about what you have in your hand AND what your opponents have in their hand. What he means by "safe tiles" are basically tiles that you know your opponents don't need. If you see all copies of a certain tile, or you see other players discard with no one picking it, then that tile is most likely to be safe to get rid of. Note that this is not always correct, but it works most of the time. Hope that helps. Sorry if it is too wordy.