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Monday, March 29, 2021

Let the Games Begin - with the 2021 Card!

 Thank goodness we can put away 2020 for good!  The 2021 card has been released and is making its way to mailboxes far and wide.  And since it is still a violation of copyright protection for me to show the inside of the card, I will continue my tradition (since 2015) of posting a summary of the changes.  This is not an analysis, per se, but a description.  I understand there will be many who will analyze the card, and their impressions will soon be available online, and, of course, you can do your own analysis when you get the card and when you actually start playing.  But for now, get out your 2020 card and follow along with this side-by-side comparison.

As in 2020, there are four hands in the 2021 category.  The first hand is essentially the same, with the year changing to 2021 and the second kong being 1's instead of 2's.  The next two hands in the category are gone, replaced by two hands which both use a kong of soaps.  One hand is a "pattern" hand; pung/kong/pung/kong, in two suits; 222 0000 222 1111.  The next hand is in one suit, kong of flowers, kong of 2's, kong of soaps and a "pillow" of 21.  The bottom, closed hand is a twist on the 2020 closed hand - North and South are pungs and East and West are pairs.  2021 is in the middle.

EVENS (2468)
Some things old and some things new here.  Still eight hands in the category. The top hand is a pyramid (pair/pung/kong/pung/pair), with four flowers in the middle and the pairs at the end being 2's and 8's.  The second hand on the 2020 card appears on the 2021 card in one suit.  The third hand on the 2020 card appears on the 2021 card in the sixth position.  The "pattern" hand switches to a pung/kong/pung/kong pattern instead of pung/pung/kong/kong.  The next four hands on the 2020 card have been replaced.  There are no multiplication (or addition or any other "math" hands) on the 2021 card.  The four hands have been replaced by:  (1)  The "gate" - two flowers, matching kongs of 2's and 8's with pairs of 4's and 6's in a second suit.  (2) A three-suited hand:  matching pungs of 2's and 4's, a kong of 6's in a second suit and a kong of 8's in a third suit.  (3)What the.... FF DDDD 2468 DDDD any three suits, 30 points.  2468 is a new configuration of singles, maybe the beginning of a  trend?  (4) The closed hand is three suits:  pung of 2's, single 4 and 6, pung of 8's in one suit and like pungs 2, 4, 6 or 8 in other two suits.

The addition category has been eliminated and all three of the any like number hands have been changed.  The first hand, what the... FF 1111 NEWS 1111.  Hmmm...NEWS in a like number hand is NEWS to me!  Second hand is four flowers, kong/pair/kong of any like numbers, and lastly, in the pung/kong/pung/kong pattern is a two-suited hand, pungs of any like number with kongs of matching dragons.  Interesting!

Out with the old, in with the new(ish).  The "any" hand is now five flowers, with kong of any number and quint of any wind. (There are three five-flower hands on the 2021 card, as there were with 2020.) The bottom quint from 2020 is now in two suits, the quints match and the pairs match.  The second and third hands have been replaced with (1) a consecutive run - quint/kong/quint in one or three suits, and (2) a like number hand - pair/quint/pair/quint - any two consecutive numbers in two suits.

Always the perennial favorite, there are still eight consecutive run hands.  The top, classic hand, is a pyramid - pair/pung/kong/pung/pair - same numbers as always.  The second hand in 2020 consecutive has gone back to the block, with two flowers and three consecutive kongs, one or three suits.  The pattern hand is now pung/kong/pung/kong.  The one-suited dragon hand has been changed to a single/pair/pung/kong/kong pattern using any four consecutive numbers with a kong of matching dragons.  The hand with three pairs now ends in like kongs, as opposed to consecutive kongs, something we have seen before.  The four flower, four number hand is now five flowers followed by pair/pung/kong of three consecutive numbers. The second to the last hand on the 2020 consecutive runs has morphed into a closed hand with a pair of flowers, any two consecutive pungs, with pungs of opposite dragons, and the closed hand in 2020 has morphed to an open hand, three suits with a pair/pung/pair/pung/kong pattern - an old favorite:  11 222 11 222 3333.

ODDS (13579)
Pattern change alert!  The top hand is now in the pyramid shape, one or three suits, with matching 7's and 9's instead of 5's and 7's.  Remember, no multiplication/addition hands this year, 3X5 and 5X7 is O-U-T.  The pattern hand is still there of course in the pung/kong/pung/kong configuration.  No more sandwich hand, and the one-suited dragon hand now has two flowers, pair/pung/kong of 1-3-5 or 5-7-9 with a pung of matching dragons, which is an unusual configuration.  I don't think I've ever seen this configuration before, at least not in this category. There's a nice block hand with four flowers, four 1's, two 3's and four 5's (and the same in 5-7-9), and the three-pair, 30 point hand is now 11 33 55 7777 9999 (three suits). The closed hand is in three suits, with matching pungs of 1's and 3's and a pair of 5's, or matching pungs of 5's and 7's with a pair of 9's. 

Two hands remain unchanged from the winds category.  The top hand and the hand with the year in the middle.  Well, the hand is the same even though it says 2021 instead of 2020.  The rest are O-U-T, replaced by:  (1) like numbers with winds: pair of a number, pung of a North or an East, pair of a like number, pung of a South or a West, followed by a kong of the like number.  The North-South combo takes odd numbers and the East-West combo takes even numbers.  (2) Four flower hand with pungs of North and South and pairs of East and West.  I think this one is also brand-new.  (3) An old favorite, pair of flowers, kongs of North and South with kongs of Reds, same hand in East/West with kongs of Greens.  And the closed hand is also a debut hand:  NNN E W SSS DDD DDD, with any two dragons.

369 has gotten a real makeover.  The first hand changed to pattern pung/kong/pung/kong.  Second hand with kongs of threes is eliminated, and replaced with another new three-suited hand:  Matching kongs of 3's and 6's with two pungs of 9's.  The single-suit dragon hand is now kong/pung/kong/pung, so it seems dragon pungs have made something of a comeback, appearing as exposures in two categories.  The hand below the dragon hand on the 2020 card is out, replaced by a second dragon hand in the category, this one in three suits:  33 66 666 999 DDDD.  This gives the category two hands with a pung of 9's.  The block hand with two flowers and three kongs is still in, in one or three suits, but there is now a five-flower hand:  Five flowers, two 3's, three 6's, four 9's, one suit only.  Lastly, the closed hand has been changed to replicate the pattern in 1-3-5; three suits, three 3's and three 6's in one suit; three 3's and three 6's in a second suit and a pair of 9's in the third suit.  Sweet!

Singles and Pairs
All of the singles and pairs have been changed.  Some are familiar oldies but goodies and some variations on old favorites.  As always, each category has a representative singles/pairs hand.  The NEWS hand is pair of flowers, NN E W SS and pairs of any like number.  Odds hand is the same pattern as the 369 pairs hand on the 2020 card, only using 1-3-5 or 5-7-9.  Consecutive run hand is a pair of flowers and any six consecutive numbers in one suit.  So take away the pair of dragons in the 2020 hand and make it two 6's.  2468 hand is pair of flowers, pairs of 2,4,6,8 and then like even numbers in other 2 suits.  We've seen this one before!  For the 369 hand, it's a tough hand, pair of flowers, pairs of 3's, 6's and 9's in one suit and again in a second suit.  And lastly, the "big hand," which is worth 75 cents now, since you only need 3 soaps, is a pair of flowers followed by 2021 three times in any three suits.  This may prove as elusive as the 2020 big hand, as you need three pairs of 2's!  Naturally, when you play your first game on this card you will open with four soaps - it's a mahjongg law!

So whether you play online or in person, let's embrace the new card, and thank the League for 84 years of continuous philanthropic endeavors and the opportunity to enjoy the game for another year!


  1. Great explanation-thanks for your insight.

  2. I'm dizzy...think I'll just wait to get the card and PLAY. MISS seeing all of you--I have many mahjongg readernecklaces made and ready...hope to see some of you IN PERSON SOON!

  3. Thanks for all of your hard work, Linda!! Looks like a great card and I can't wait to dive in. Hope to see you soon in Bryant Park!!

  4. Thank you will be looking for card in the mail!😊

  5. Thanks for the new card review. I found this helpful.

  6. Thanks as always for the detailed descriptions! I have a couple of questions:

    In the 2021 section, does the FFFF 2222 0000 21 hand require 5 (aka a joker) of 2's in a single suit?

    In the quint section, it says (1) a consecutive run - quint/pung/quint in one or three suits. I think that adds up only to 13 tiles. Is it a kong in the middle?


    1. You are absolutely right: this write-up should say quint/KONG/quint (for the first quint hand). Now it adds up to 14.
      Additionally, in the 13579 write-up, the last sentence should say "matching PUNGS of 5s and 7s," not "matching PAIRS of 5s and 7s."
      I can understand how confusing writing a summary must be!

    2. Yes, in 2021, the third hand requires that a natural 2 be used for the "21." this means you must reserve one 2 and use a joker with the kong.

      Thanks for pointing out the errors - I will correct the text.

  7. Quick the consecutive run on the 2021 card ff 1111 2222 3333 [one suit or 3 suits] is it these numbers only? (5th hand down)

    1. That hand can be ANY three consecutive numbers. (Any run). If it is in the consecutive run section, the assumption is it is ANY consecutive numbers, up to 9, unless it specifies "These numbers only." There is no room to publish all the instructions for all the hands, so some things are implied.

  8. the like numbers....first hand with FF...1111....NEWS...1111
    Any 2 suits....
    If you pick up a WIND tile to complete the NEWS which has been discarded. a nd expose it on your rack and cannot call Mah Jongg is that legal ,what are the rules for NEWS

    1. NEWS is considered single tiles. You can only call to expose a pung (three *identical* tiles), a kong (four *identical* tiles) or quint (five *identical* tiles). Any grouping of single tiles or pairs (or singles and pairs, which sometimes occur together) cannot be called for exposure. You may only call a tile for NEWS if it completes your hand and gives you mahjongg.

  9. in the singles and pairs first group, can "NEWS" be comprised of N EE WW S or some such combination other than NN E W SS?

  10. Singles and pairs are as written, unless otherwise stated, so the answer is no.

  11. Thank you for that response. Now another Q.

    Only playing three-handed and using a "bone pile" for tiles, not a wall.

    If next player in turn picks up a tile and looks at it but has not placed in in the rack before another player calls for the most recently discarded tile, how is the "picked up and looked at tile" handled?

    Is it returned to the pile of tiles or is it retained and then used by the player when her turn comes next?

    1. So, not commenting on your style of three-handed mahjongg, as it is not NMJL regulation style, I can say that there are times when a player will pick a tile and look at it and before it is racked or discarded another player calls for the prior discard. In that case, the player who picked must return the tile to the wall, even though it has been seen.

  12. Question: Last Consecutive Run
    Any two consecutive numbers with Opp Dragons
    Can one of the Dragon Pungs match the consecutive #’s suit? Directions do not say 3 suits as in other hands

    1. When a hand is printed in three colors, it signifies it must be played in three suits. In this hand, it states "opp. dragons," which means the dragons must be in suits opposite to the consecutive numbers, so they cannot match.