Here’s my ideal way of starting 2016…
Our friend Jan in beautiful Vermont posed a question and I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I will tell you that defensive playing seems to be one of the hardest concepts to get across to my Mah Jongg students. Frequently I see someone throwing out the needed tile for Mah Jongg when a rack has three exposures and it is beyond obvious what tile is needed. Newer players believe hope springs eternal and, even if there is only one tile in the final wall, they are unwilling to break up their hand. As seasoned players always say, you can’t win second.
I try – and I say try because clearly the students aren’t listening to me! – to teach newbies to never throw a “hot” tile to a third exposure, particularly when we are down to the last wall. But do they listen? Oh, I see the pain on their faces, trying to decide what they should do. And I will say that they almost always decide to save their hands and throw out the tile that ends the game with someone else’s Mah Jongg!
I like a defensive game and when another player throws out a tile that gives Mah Jongg to someone else, I can’t help but ask why they did so. As Jan says, there is no second place in Mah Jongg.
How many of you have experienced exactly what Jan is finding at her table:
“There’s one half of the last wall left. Player throws out a 3 Bam when the player to her left has exposed a Kong of 9 Bams and a Pung of Greens. Player to the left obviously calls it and exposes a Kong of 3 Bams. The same gal is up and says “I have her tile.” I say, “you can’t win second.” She throws a 6 Bam. Needless to say, I’m not happy and I say that is why we should start playing that if you throw into 3 exposures, you pay for the table. Yes, I saw eyes roll, but seriously???? Am I that wrong?”
Can’t wait to hear what you think about this!
Look at this magnificent set, courtesy of the Mah Jong Museum (owned and operated by the website, Where the Winds Blow and founded by the wonderful Jim May), made and carved in China probably in the early 1920s. The tiles are made of bone and then backed with ebony wood. I love this set not only for its beauty and craftsmanship but also because the tiles represent such incredible sentiments and meanings – you can read the translations for the tiles’ ideographs on the museum’s website.
My favorite translation encompasses the entire set, based on the Buddhist tale, “Heaven girls playing with flowers.” I love this set because of the kind, generous, and happy meanings of the tiles but especially for the magnificent and intricate Flowers. Beautiful carvings filled with beautiful thoughts to take with us into the new year.
Wouldn’t it be a treat to play Mah Jongg with this set? To see other beautiful and rare sets, go to the website for the Mah Jong Museum and have a great time!
Some interesting Mah Jongg hands, courtesy of Wendy Dougan.