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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tournament strategy

Sunday's tournament in North Bellmore, NY was really a delight.  The turnout was greater than anticipated due to the unexpected cancellation of the fall Manhattan Mahjongg event.  Condolences to the family and please reserve my seat for the spring.

What made the tournament delightful was the pleasant atmosphere; the big, sunny room, the tasty and nutritious lunch and 16 tables of fine players.  Good job, Janice.

I made a respectable second place showing.  The first place winner, Linda Kenney, came in 100 points ahead of me, so I didn't feel so bad about the mistakes I made, as they did not cost me the win - although often it's just a matter of 10 points, and every move counts.

I came into the tournament psyched to win, and took all the steps to make it happen  I dressed in layers (tournament rooms are either too hot or too cold), brought a large iced coffee and a 100-calorie Vitamuffin - the coffee to keep me awake and the Vitamuffin to keep me from the strudel.   I brought a pillow to sit on, and since I'm East, I brought my set, table cover and bridge table corner cup holders.

This tournament was all about switching, or, as it seemed, stretching.  It often seemed that one tile was the tipping point between one hand and another.  For example:

  • 2222 46 W EEEE JJ  became EEEEJ FFFF 2222J after I picked two flowers and got rid of the other even numbers.  Two wests had already gone out so it seemed a better bet to go with the quint.
  • FFFF 55 7777 66 R morphed into FFFF 22JJ 55 7777 after three reds got exposed.
  • 998 99887 997GJ stretched out into 8899 888999 GJJG after I went dead on 8 bams and picked another joker.
The moral of this story is yes, you can win the day with pedestrian hands.  I won 11 games out of 32.  Only two were premium hands - one quint, one singles and pairs.  Five wall games.

I learned that little things make a big difference. Paying attention to the table and calling people dead gave me extra picks, sometimes resulting in a win.   Not throwing mahj boosted my score, as those games ended in wall games.  I relaxed over lunch, not too many carbs, and made some new friends and contacts.  I bought a pretty little box with a 9 crak on it, will use it for wall game money.

By the last round, however, I was tired.  My brain was working hard and I started to feel it.  I began making mistakes and even passed away tiles I needed.  The play slowed down and our table was the last one playing.  I had the identical quint, 2222J EEEEJ FFF and needed one tile to mahj, but I couldn't get it, so I only scored 10 points for a wall game that entire round.  But for 8 rounds I think I did OK and I'm looking forward to the Mahjongg Madness tournament on November 11 in Atlantic City - that one is 12 rounds over a weekend with plenty of time for recharging at the spa.  Come to think of it, my prize money is just enough for a sea salt Swedish massage...



  1. Congrats on your great showing! Coming in 2nd is impressive.

  2. Way to go, taking 2nd place. I loved reading this blog, I feel like you are my MJ coach giving me a pep talk as I'm heading to a tournament tomorrow.

  3. 2nd place is a great finish!!! Mazel Tov! Have fun in Atlantic City,,,hope you will come to our spring event Mah Jongg Kalahari in Sandusky Ohio April 27-29, 2012.

  4. Replies
    1. In other forms of mahjongg, if you have a hand with three kongs, or four pungs, the pair is referred to as a pillow. It's not a term that's used in NMJL mahjongg, but sometimes it's a good way to describe a pair.