September 4, 2005 (Year of the Rooster)
American mah-jongg (2005 NMJL card). A question from the bulletin board inspired this column.
The Charleston had progressed nearly to its conclusion. North realized that she didn't have three tiles to pass in the last right - she'd need to blind pass. She'd have to wait to receive tiles from East. So she held her two tiles and looked up at the other players. Everybody was looking at each other - nobody was passing. North looked at West, who looked back expectantly. North announced, "I'm going to blind pass, I only have two."
That's when it was discovered that each of the four players wanted to blind pass. They all looked at each other in utter confusion. "What do we do now?"
The NMJL rules don't cover every possible weird thing that might happen, so this is one of those times when common sense needs to be used. The rules say that three tiles must be passed, and that blind passing is permitted. So the common sense thing to do is as follows.
Let's say North has two tiles to pass. She passes two tiles to West and says, "here are two. I'll give you the third in a few seconds." West now has three tiles to pass. She passes three to South. South now has three tiles to pass. She passes three to East, who now can pass three to North. North now blind passes one to West, saying, "Here's that tile I owed you." At this point the impasse has been broken.
The rules don't say to do this, but it's just a common sense solution, and it's perfectly permissible under the rules, since the rules don't cover the situation.
But what happens if one player has no tiles to pass? Let's say North passes two tiles to West and says "I owe you one," but then West only has two to pass? There are two ways to go, and they both work.
A. West could take back her two tiles and poll the others: "Anybody else have two to pass?" Most likely somebody will. Let's say East has two to pass to North. North now has three to pass to West. Impasse broken.
B. West could take the two, pass them on, and repeat the "I owe you" process. Eventually one will come to West and she can pass it, even if belatedly. Done deal.
The worst case would be that nobody has any tiles she wants to pass. The chances of this happening are minuscule. How about this common-sense solution: E to N: "I owe you three." N to W: "I owe you three." W to S: "I owe you three." S to E: "I owe you three." Now everybody's debts cancel each other out.
If one person has one tile to pass, and that's all anybody's willing to pass, you can either pass it three times around the table... or just say you did!
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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.