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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Virtual Mahjongg


 It's been five months since the last post and, like every other aspect of life, our mahjongg world has been transformed.  We have had our comfortable rug pulled out from under us and we are all swirling in a zone of uncertainty, questioning everything about what once was certain.  But we do know one thing:  Mahjongg is not going away.  As with every other social crisis over the entire 80-plus years of the existence of the Mahjongg League, our beloved game has adapted and proved solid.  And so has our mahjongg community and all the players who will not let this game go the way of (take your pick) --->

"Oh, no, not I," says mahjongg, to quote from a popular disco hit, "I will survive," and, thanks to the virtual world, it will.

For some people, it's a giant stretch to play mahjongg online.  But, folks, if the National Mah Jongg League can go virtual....Yes!  The phones go live tomorrow, yet the office is not open.  The cards can be ordered, the game can be played, there is even an email address for card order inquries:
Your inquiries will be read and responded to.

We should all give kudos to the admins of the online sites - whether you play on the League site, Mahjongg Time, myjongg, Real Mahjongg or any other iteration of the NMJL game, these folks are doing stellar work dealing with the huge influx of new subscribers.  

Players everywhere are rising to the challenge by finding ways to adapt and experience the game in a new way.  Technology is driving innovation, as players find ways to "stay in the game," and enjoy the challenge of playing the card and connecting with each other.

While it is clear that we are all waiting for our real lives to return, some of the "new normal" may find its way into the long term - things like online tournaments, group Zoom mahjongg, family game time, Siamese and Solitaire mahjongg and social events like webinars and conferences.  Hmmm...that's an idea...a virtual mahjongg conference with speakers and panel discussions with the online admins... It's not something we would have thought of previously, but now it doesn't seem like an outlandish idea.

For myself, I have been busy.  I have tried to replicate the Bryant Park social experience on Zoom, using breakout rooms and Real Mahjongg.   We play from 7:30-9:30 Eastern time every Monday night and have been getting folks from far and wide.  For this event, you need a Facebook account to sign in to the Mahjongg at Bryant Park page to pick up the meeting ID and password, then sign in with Zoom, find a table and start playing Real Mahjongg with your new friends.  I also run a live group chat for beginners/intermediate beginners, where we work collaboratively on strategies for passing, forming a hand, making decisions, etc.  This group meets via Zoom on Fridays from 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. also Eastern time.  If you are interested in joining (no charge) please send me an e-mail.  Do not leave your e-mail in the comments, however, as the comments below are public.  My email can be found by clicking on my profile at the bottom of the blog.

There are so many others who are doing great things to keep the flame of our game alive; the vendors and tournament directors and Facebook page admins. authors and vloggers and everyday players who refuse to let their friends get into a slump.
They know that mahjongg has energizing and healing powers - we get it from each other and we get it from the tiles and the game itself, which can take us away from the troubled world and give us a more manageable one, at least for awhile.

What are you doing to get your mahj on?  Let us know!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The 2020 Card

The card was mailed on time, and just in time to ease the anxiety of living on lockdown.  It was difficult to stop myself from ripping open the envelope with my bare hands, but after using the protocol recommended by the CDC, I was able to feel comfortable handling the card.   I don't want to dwell on the situation we all find ourselves in, so let's go right to the annual side-by-side comparison.  If you get out your 2019 card and follow along, we can see what has changed, and what has not.

One thing that has not changed is the categories, although there is no section for Addition hands this year - the "math" hands are woven into the Even hands (4x6=24 and 6x8=48) and the Odds (3x5=15 and 5x7=35).  Looks like algebra to me!

2020 - This category still has four hands, but of course 1s and 9s are gone, and because of the prevalence of two's, some fancy footwork had to be done.  So it really isn't about the soaps, it's all about the 2s.  Wondering what 2022 has in store! The only hand that was retained to any extent is the one with the pair of flowers, two kongs of dragons and the year in the middle.  This year, however, the hand must be made with Reds and Greens and the 2s any suit.  It could not be any other way.  The closed hand from 2019 has been totally reversed and now the 2020 is in the middle where NEWS was and the winds are where the numbers were.  But don't fret, because NEWS shows up later.  The first hand is a pair of flowers, 2020 and two kongs of twos.  Again, because of the 2's it must be in three suits.   The second hand in 2019 has been completely replaced with five (count 'em, five) flowers, a pair of twos, a pung of twos and 2020.  This will dovetail nicely with some other hands, should those soaps prove elusive.  Keep reading...

2468 - This category has been only modestly redesigned.  The first hand differs from the 2019 hand only in that it requires four flowers and one 2, instead of three flowers and two 2s.  Three hands were retained (the second, third and fifth ones on the 2019 card, although the pattern hand has changed from pung/kong/pung/kong to pung/pung/kong/kong, as it does from year to year).  The gate, my favorite hand, with the pairs in the middle, has been stretched out to make a closed hand of two flowers, with three 2s and three 8s in one suit and three 4s and three 6s in a second suit.  The category is serviceable, keeping in mind that 2s are at a premium.  There is a three-suit hand with opposite dragons that has made a comeback from prior years.

Any Like Numbers -  The first hand is retained.  The closed dragon hand is no more.  Instead there is a brand new hand which calls for a pair of flowers, two like numbers each with a matching pair of dragons; i.e. 1111 DD 1111 DD.  (two suits), open hand.  2's and soaps, maybe?  And the bottom hand is another five (count 'em, five) flower hand, followed by a pair, a pung and a kong of like numbers. if I go dead on the five-flower 2020 hand....

Quints -  Kiss the top quint in 2019 goodbye, and the bottom hand has been changed so instead of two like number quints with dragons in the middle, it's a quint of five (count 'em, five) flowers, any dragon, any number.  So this takes the place of the "any" hand as well, with dragons replacing the winds and adding one more flower.  The third hand in quints has been modified.  Instead of a pair in the middle and a pair of dragons at the end, there are two pairs in the middle, making a consecutive run; quint/pair/pair/quint.  But wait!  There's also a quint hand with 1/3/5 and 5/7/9 - the pattern being quint/kong/quint.  A like number (or is it a consecutive run) hand  gives some spice in a pair/pair/quint/quint pattern, also a new hand never before seen.  11 22 33333 33333.  Think of the consecutive run hand 11 22 33 4444 4444, only with two pairs and two quints.  Maybe it's easier, maybe it's not!

Consecutive run - 2019 had seven hands in this category; 2020 has eight.  The top three classic hands are back, with some slight pattern variations.  The three-pair hand has gone back to it's old configuration, 11 22 33 4444 5555.  A familiar hand, and the much-beloved yet most maligned hand, FFF 1111 2222 DDD, has disappeared and will probably never be seen again.  Ah, well.  There is a dragon hand, and, surprise, it's also got two kongs and two pungs, 111/2222/333/DDDD, one suit, but no flowers.  It remains to be seen whether it will be played as often.  The four-flower hand in consecutive is eliminated to be replaced by a four flower hand in the same pattern as the first hand in 2468 - kong/single/pair/pung/kong.  We get two closed hands in consecutive, maybe to make up for the lack of a concealed hand in like numbers? The first closed hand simply changes the pungs in the 2019 concealed hand from like numbers to opposite dragons.  The second concealed hand is a 1-2-1-2-3 hand, in a pung/pung/pung/pung/pair pattern.

13579 - First hand the same, different pattern, now pair/pair/pung/pung/kong. Classic 1/3/3/5 and 5/7/7/9 are back in pung/pung/kong/kong.  Sandwiches are back, both in odds (1/3/3/3/5 and 5/7/7/7/9) and winds (N/1/1/1/S and E/2/2/2/W).  A dragon hand complementary to the one in consecutive run rounds out the open hands in odds (111/3333/555/DDDD and 555/7777/999/DDDD).  Will certainly be "odd" to see a kong of sevens and a pung of nines in one suit!  And, it looks like there are no pungs of dragons on this card that can be exposed!  The closed hand from 2019 is gone, replaced by a harder-looking one; two flowers, 1/33/555 and then 5/77/999, two suits.  Better start practicing now - it's 35 cents.

Winds-Dragons - The block hand on top now has a kong/pung/pung/kong pattern.  This goes nicely with the sandwich hands, which also have kongs of Winds, no flowers, and a hand with two flowers, kongs of winds and 2020 in the middle.  And, lest you worry there's a teltale pung, there's NN EEE DDDD WWW SS.  This will be helpful if you go dead on the closed hand in 2020.  But where are the dragons in winds and dragons you say?  Well, the all-dragon hand is gone, replaced by a hand with a pair of flowers, two kongs of dragons and -- wait for it -- NEWS -- in the middle.  Yes!  It looks suspiciously like a hand in 2020, but remember the 2020 hand must be done in reds and greens only.  Sneaky!  Closed hand lovers, rejoice - the closed hand in winds makes an unprecedented third appearance in a row.

369 - This category retains three out of six hands; the 369 block, the pattern hand which switches to pung/pung/kong/kong and the "step" hand, which also switches pattern to pair/pung/pair/pung/kong.  The closed matching dragon hand now complements the dragon pattern seen in consecutives and odds, and there is a familiar three-pair hand with like kongs, 3's, 6's or 9's.  The only thing that's new-ish to the experienced player is the closed hand, 369 in the same pattern as the 135/579 closed hand, also 35 cents.

Singles and pairs:  I'll get right to the point - after much speculation the "big" hand is FF 2020 NEWS 2020, now worth 85 cents.  Four soaps make this hand extra challenging.  The first three hands are familiar:  Wind pairs with any three consecutive numbers; the run hand is two flowers, run of five numbers, two dragons, and - back by popular demand, I suppose - FF 11 22 11 22 11 22.  Making its debut is a very cool-looking even pairs hand:  FF 2468DD 2468DD, any two suits.  The 369 hand is a cha-cha:  336/33669/336699, followed by an odds hand; 11 357 99 11 357 99 in two suits.

So there you have it - the new card - while you wait for the new card.

On a personal note, writing this blog, much like the game of mahjongg, has been a means of transcending the unsettled atmosphere outside my home.  I live in Queens, which has been very hard hit, and we are all sitting tight, Zooming together and playing online.  The League office is closed, so if you haven't received your card or aren't sure if you ordered it, or want to complain about a hand, there will be no one there to take your call.  We are sheltering in place, with our family and friends, trying to stay connected in a world that doesn't make sense right now.  I hope you are all safe and remain that way so that we can get back to bickering over who gets the tile when someone has exposed.   (Hint:  The answer is now on the back of the card)