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Monday, July 25, 2011

Plot and Subplot

If you've ever watched a sitcom, you may have noticed that every show has a plot and a subplot.  For example:   Ricky and Fred think doing housework is much easier than earning money.  Lucy and Ethel feel the opposite.  So the boys try doing the housework while the girls attempt to hold down a job at a candy factory.  Two things are going on here, yet they intertwine in a seamless way and in the end all gets resolved. What does this have to do with mahjongg?  Read on.

My table mates rolled their eyes as I snapped pictures of my tiles, but they're familiar with my obsession and I appreciate their patience.  The two hands above struck me with their similarity, making me realize I have a tendency to organize my hands into a plan A/plan B pattern.  Both of these hands have 10 tiles for hand A and 9 tiles for hand B.
The first hand:  F 2J22 466 888 DD 9 was ripe for calling on the 2s or the 8s but required two pairs; the flowers and the 4 dots.  Two four dots had already gone out and if another one fell, I'd be forced to switch to plan B - FFFF 2222 8888 DD, but I was ready.
The second hand:  4 55666 777 999 was the same, yet different.  I was in calling position for all possibilities here, no pairs to worry about.  But there were two 4 bams out already.  Had I picked a seven bam, I would have ditched the sixes and the four and gone with 555 777 7777 9999.  Don't you just hate throwing out three of the same tiles in a row?  But sometimes you must for the sake of the hand.  No matter which plot thickened, I would have had to do just that.
How did it get resolved?  On the first hand, I called for the two crack and threw out the nine, but then someone else mahjed. Oh, well. On the second hand, I called for the five bams then had to face "decision time".  I threw the nines, as I couldn't cover the seven bams, and when the final four bam came out I had the joker to cover it, so I mahjed on that hand.
As with plots and subplots, the resolution of one should set up the resolution of the other.  The time will come in the story of your hand when you pick a pivotal tile and you must decide which elements of plan B to merge into plan A (or vice versa) and what to discard.    This may make you feel like Lucy in the chocolate factory but don't forget, in the subplot, Ricky and Fred make a mess of the kitchen by cooking four pounds of rice instead of four cups.  In other words, no one said it would be easy, but hopefully your hand will have a happy ending.

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