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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The 2015 Card

 Here it is!

I often bemoan the fact that I live in New York - things are so expensive, the 1% are destroying all my favorite buildings and restaurants, but there is one consolation.  I get the card early!  The card was mailed 3/25 from zip code 11801.  I received it 3/26 in zip code 11375, approximately 20 miles away.  I don't know how or why, but I am not complaining today.  So let's get down to facts!!  As you know, I cannot publish the card, but I can talk about it and let you know what to expect.  It's easier if you use your 2014 card to follow along and envision the changes.

The card, as always, has changed in subtle ways, ways that we can only learn by playing it.  Like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is only room for so many pieces to be exhibited - some must be warehoused and others brought out of storage on a rotating basis for us to enjoy.  So I have tried to note which are gone, which are back and which are new, in the hopes that it will whet your appetite for what is to come.

One note- The pattern this year looks consistent; pung, kong, pung, kong can be found throughout the categories and for the first hands in evens, consecutive and odds the pattern is pair, pung, kong, pung, pair.  If this doesn't make sense to you, read on.  I always look at patterns first.

This category has changed in subtle ways.  
The first wind hand is the same but 2014 is now 2015.  
The hand with three twos, two soaps in one suit and the ones and fours in the second is gone.  
The hand with the four soaps is the same, with the exception of 14 is now 15.  (But you expected that, didn't you?)  
The hand with two flowers, 2014 in one suit, ones in the second and fours in the third is the same except the fours are now fives. 
The closed hand with the year surrounded by dragons is changed: Now open, two flowers, kongs of dragons, year 2015.  Well done, League!  
New: A closed hand has been added; pair of flowers, pungs of 2,0,1,5 all in one suit.  Interesting!  I'm liking it already.

Hand with kong of dragons - gone.  
Returning: Kong of flowers surrounded by pungs of 4 and 6, pair of 2 and 8 - one suit.  
Kong of 2s, pair of 4s, kong of 6s with pairs of 8s - gone
Pairs of 2s and 4s, pungs of 4 and 6, kong of 8 - unchanged.  
Pung of 2s and 4s, kongs of 6s and 8s changed to pung of 2s, kong of 4s, pung of 6s, kongs of 8s.   
(Pattern in 2014 was pung, pung, kong, kong - now pung, kong, pung, kong) 
2s and 8s with dragons changed to a pair of flowers, kong of 2s, kong of 8s with kong of matching dragon in one suit or three.  
Returning:  My old favorite - pair of flowers, matching kongs of 2s and 8s with pair of 4s and 6s in the middle.  Yay!  
Closed hand changed to a pair of matching dragons on the end instead of a pair of flowers at the beginning.  It's still worth 30 but seems harder to me.

Like Numbers
Changed to pair of flowers and kongs of like numbers.  

Addition hands:
Changed to seven hands:  1+6, 2+5 and 3+4.

Run from 2 to five is unchanged.
Run in three suits is gone. 
Returning:  Like number quint hand: 1123 with quints in pair.
Flower, any wind, any number is changed to Wind, Dragon, Number with dragon being the kong. This is worth 45, while the one with flowers was worth 40.  
Numbers with dragons gone - and it doesn't look as though it shows up anywhere else.  :-(
New: four flowers with quints of any two consecutive in one suit.  I don't remember that one although I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't new. - Value 45.   I wonder why?

Consecutive run:
Standard runs - pattern is changed to pair, pung, kong, pung, pair.
The any four consecutive numbers is unchanged.
The "sandwich" or "bookend" hand with the pairs in the middle is gone.
The run with three pairs and two like ascending kongs changed to closed hand; three pairs, and instead of like kongs, the kongs are ascending; i.e., 4444 5555 as opposed to 4444 4444.  Oh, did I say it's closed?  And only worth 30?  Let's see how many times this one gets played.  It was hard enough when it was open.
Four flowers, two consecutive numbers and pair of dragons is changed to pair of flowers, and kong of matching dragons.
1-2, 1-2, 3 is gone.  But wait!  
Returning:  Old favorite pair of flowers any three suits, any three consecutive numbers is back!  Yay!!  The gods have heard our plea!
Closed hand run with pungs of opposite dragons is gone. 
Returning:  Knitted hand.  Any three consecutive numbers; any two suits, kongs match and dragons match.  So if its 1, 2, 3, dragon, the 1s and 3s are kongs and they match and the 2s match the dragons.  I've never been very good with those hands.

1,3,5,7,9 changed pattern to pair, pung, kong, pung, pair.
1,3,3,5 and 5,7,7,9 changed pattern to pung, kong, pung, kong.
Four flowers with 1,3,5 or 5,7,9, unchanged.
Pair of flowers, kong of one, nine, dragon - unchanged.  (But moved down on the card)
The odds hands in three suits with pairs, pungs and kong, gone.
New: interesting - three suits:  pair of 1s, 3s and 5s, kong of seven in second suit and nine in third.  30 point open hand.  I'll give it a try.  (This may be returning.  If it is, I've forgotten it)
New:  (Possibly returning) Two closed hands in odds.  One in 1,3,5 and one in 5,7,9.  These hands have five pairs.  Pair of 1s, 3s in one suit, 1s, 3s, 5s in second suit and kong of 1, 3, or 5 in third suit.  Change the 1, 3, 5, to 5, 7, 9 and you have the second hand.  These looks very challenging, especially when fives are in high demand.  Well, Ms. Unger always said they had to make the card easy enough for beginners and challenging enough for the experienced.  I think they have here.

Wind hands
Old favorite kongs of N, E, W and pair of S - unchanged.
Winds and dragons - gone
Returning - kongs of N,S with two like pungs of odds or E,W with two like pungs of evens replaces the winds with numbers hand.  Of course they are open, worht 30.
New:  Two wind and flower hands:  Pair of flowers, kong of N,S, pair of E,W - similar to 2,4,6,8 hand.  Open hand, 25 points.  Also kong of flowers, single N, pair of E, pung of W, kong of S.  Closed, 30 points.  So if you see someone expose a pung of Wests - you know what to say.
Flower and dragon hand unchanged.

This section is the most changed.
369 dragon has changed to one suit, kong of 3s, kong of 9s, pung of 6s, pung of dragons.  Everything matches, unlike the knitted hand in consecutive run.
3-6-6-9 pattern has changed to pung, kong, pung, kong.
Pairs of 3,6,9 with like kongs - gone.
Pair of flowers, 3,6,9 in three suits can now be done in one suit as well.
The hand with the like pungs - gone
The closed hand with pungs of 3s and 9s with a single 6 - gone.
Returning:  Pair of 3s and 6s, pung of 3s and 6s, kong of 9s in three suits.  Matches with 2,4,6,8 hand.
New:  Pair of flowers, pairs of 3,6,9 in one suit, pungs of opposite dragons.  Open hand, 30 points, so three dragons is OK to expose this year.
New:  Closed hand:  Pairs of 3s and 6s, pairs of 3s,6s,9s, kong of 3, 6 or 9.  Matches with closed hand in odds.  But, again, five pairs.

Singles and pairs:
Wind hand the same.  Pairs of winds with like numbers.
Consecutive run changed: Now any one suit, any seven numbers.
Evens hand is now pair of flowers, pairs of 2,4,6,8 and even pair in other two suits.  Different.
Pairs hand in odds is returning to pair of flowers, pairs of 1,3,5,7,9 and pair of dragons.
Returning: My favorites!  112 11223 112233 and its counterpart with 987!  Look out!
And, of course, the "big" hand - now 2015 instead of 2014.

So there you have a cursory first look at the new card.  If I made an error in my haste, please let me know and I will correct it.  I hope it tides you over until your card comes!  Can't wait to start a game!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Playing Without a Card

There's one in every crowd

While we're waiting for the new card to come, here is some food for thought.  It's late in the year and those of us who are regular players pretty much know the card inside out.  Right?  But yet we still keep it in front of us as we play.  Why?  Do we think by now there is some hand that we may have missed? 

I went on a mahjongg cruise a few weeks ago - what a pleasure to get out of the snow!  I went with a friend who had not been to many tournaments and she drew my attention to the fact that several of the players played without a card!!  This meant little to me, as I often meet up with cardless players and it was almost March, for goodness sake, but my friend seemed intimidated.  The assumption is that someone who plays without a card is a great player.  Let's put that assumption to rest.

There are many reasons a player will play cardless.  She could have left her card at home.  More likely she has played enough times that she is confident that she knows the hands.  But oftentimes a cardless player will lean over and say "Let me look at your card for a second."  Should I refuse? After all, by playing without a card they are saying to the world that they don't need it.  Some will actually dispense with the card early in the season.  I once went to a tournament in April and saw a player without a card.  My assumption was she had a photographic memory, or else she played all day every day for a few weeks.

When the new card comes out there is a learning curve.  I wonder what techniques work best.  Rote memorization may help but we all know there is more to it.  Maybe an app with flash cards?

Even now, when the hourglass is running low, when I know I know all the hands, I will not play without the card.  I calculate that by playing every Friday night, four games an hour, at least four hours, for fifty two weeks, throwing in a few tournaments, pickup and fill in games, games where I was teaching others, rounded out, I have played at least 1000 games this year.  But I still feel the need to look at the card, to touch the card, to compare hands and let the numbers speak to me (or not).

It's also important to remember that each hand is not merely the hand that is written.  While there may be about 60 hands on the card, most hands have permutations and options in terms of suit, structure and number.  It is beyond my math capability to determine the exact number of possible hands on the card.  Maybe someone who plays without one can figure it out.

So the new card will be here soon.  And, like all of you, I am out on the steps, waiting for the mailman, disappointed to see nothing but the usual bills and circulars.  I am wondering what the League has cooked up for us and what is in the cards.