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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)


  1. Very nice comparison of the new card with the previous one! One correction you might want to make is regarding your comment (under 13579) that there are no pungs of dragons anywhere on the 2020 card. The next to last consecutive run has two pungs of dragons. It is a closed hand, so if you see someone expose it, you can call the hand dead. Ditto for pungs of north and south. Thanks again for the nice analysis!

  2. It would be nice if the online game was FREE during our "Stay in Place" order for everyone who has already paid for the card. While is was exciting to get the card yesterday, we cannot really use if and cannot get together with our friend to play.

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  3. Can you give the background on why this hand is most maligned? Thanks!
    "A familiar hand, and the much-beloved yet most maligned hand, FFF 1111 2222 DDD, has disappeared and will probably never be seen again."

    1. The hand was much beloved by some because it was considered a "go-to" hand, and so it gave players a place to go when other hands went dead or they picked matching dragons. However, it was maligned as being too easy and endlessly played ("ad naseum" hand some players called it). When you have something too easy, it upsets the balance. Many groups changed it to a closed hand to make it more challenging.

  4. hey! I noticed you haven't updated in a while. Is everything alright?

    Can't wait to see new posts.

    1. Thanks for your concern. I am fine. I will post shortly - it has been a trying time for us all.