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a3geffen's Hints and Pointers - 1-4-7 rule

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There are quite a number of manuals on the basics of how to play a game of mahjong. The amount on strategy and tactics however is limited. Mahjong Time has asked Adrie van Geffen (a3geffen) to share his views in that territory. In the year 2011 he will publish a series of articles with hints and pointers having to do with strategy of mahjong in the different styles (except American): Hong Kong (HK); European Classic (EC); Mahjong Competition Rules (MCR); Riichi Competition Rules (RCR); Taiwanese (TW). Below part 5 – 1-4-7 rule.

 In RCR the 1-4-7 rule is called a rule but is really just an indication of a rule. For the other variations it’s a rule of thumb with an extra as reminder in MCR. Just get the name 1-4-7 in your head and don’t lose it.

The name of the rule derives from the possibilities of making mahjong on 2-3-4-5-6 in your hand. Three ways to go: 1, 4 or 7. A choice had to be made and it became 1-4-7, but the same applies to 2-5-8 and 3-6-9. Just a shift of one position. The 1-4-7 rule is part of getting a no win hand in RCR and being furiten. If you are waiting for a chow with 2-3 and you have already discarde the 1 yourself, you are not allowed to claim the 4 for a winning hand. If you have the combination of five with a three way waiting hand you are also not allowed to claim the 7 for a win. Perhaps better to give that ‘furiten’ a full page in the future…

For now it suffices to get the term in your head. Time is limited to make your move and this mind sticker can be very helpful. Earlier I suggested you to wait with chowing and punging and watch de development in your hand just by taking tiles from the wall. Although it doesn’t generate many points in EC, a style where mostly anything goes, it may pay off in the end. And that is because waiting will give you more opportunities to go out. Getting a sequence as 3-4-5-6-7 gives you a waiting hand (when the rest is formed) for 3 different tiles (2-5-8) of which ideally there are still 11 available. But it is also important for your flexibility and not losing turns by claiming a tile you later pick up yourself. The sequence of five tiles could be very useful to get a larger target for a closing pair if you are still looking for it. Four ways to get the eyes and if you pick the five you will have two full chows. Something to treasure.

In MCR there is a weird combination that scores quite some points: knitted tiles. In three different colours you need all (for a straight) or most in combinations 1-4-7, 2-5-8 and 3-6-9. As a personal note: I played this one during the 2nd Chinese Open in Hong Kong and the Chinese players were baffled. That was back in 2004 when the rules were played but not everyone was fully accustomed to them. Nowadays it is more common as a target to aim for. For me it is the first thing to look at when I turn my hand at the start. An initial looking-like-junk hand could well be just two or three tiles from victory.

For those wondering why many players simply discard Dragons and Winds early on: you have the most chances to make mahjong with a chow hand than otherwise. Better to save a the 4 or 7 when you have 4-5-6-7 than to save a single Dragon or Wind hoping to get more to make a pung. The pattern builders in RCR and MCR will discard them happily while the point collectors in TW, HK and EC will sit on them like hens on eggs. Adapting strategy from one style to another is something to to be cautious about. When three players at my table use HK strategy in MCR (pung, pung, pung), well then you have me. And I will curse them. Because then 1-4-7 in my mind has no use. Or…last tile, robbing a kong? Beware: 1-4-7 is powerful!

Written by Adrie van Geffen

To comment visit Mahjong Time's blog:
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