Let’s Talk Defense

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(This article also appeared in our August Monthly Newsletter along with the monthly Classroom Corner)

onesThis month’s Classroom Corner looks not at what to do next because you exposed some tiles, but what do you do when someone at the table exposes 4 of the same tile – in this case four 1’s.  In other words, playing with the thought of defense.  Too often we all seem to focus on making a winning hand. So what do you do when someone at the table appears quicker and closer to making that hand?

I know we have all heard it said before, “You cannot win if you give (throw) the winning tile to someone else!” Defensive play is important to becoming a good player. I have witnessed Japanese players start to throw their own hand away even if there is plenty of wall left because a  player at their table has gone into richii (declaring their concealed hand one tile away). I too tend to throw tiles in my hand that I may have used because I draw a tile I know my opponent needs even if it is early in the game.

So how do you start to play defensively? First of all, pay attention to what your opponents expose. What do these exposures tell you? They lead you to certain areas of the card and very often even to one or two hands in particular. An exposure of 4 South winds limits it even more to only a couple of potential hands while as we notice in this Classroom Corner an exposure of 4 one dots could mean many potential hands may be in play!

Look next to see what else may be needed. Sticking with the one dots – do you have nine dots or two dots or five dots in your hands, or are they on the table already? The discards on the table can also tell a story.  Unless you are truly in your own position to win – waiting on a single tile that you know is still out there – be careful with your own discards. Play for a wall game if your hand is not even close.

Good Mah Jongg play involves trying to make a winning hand for sure but also involves not giving a tile to make a winning hand on your opponent’s rack.

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