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By Tom Sloper
March 16, 2008

Column #356

General Interest. Today's column introduces a new notation format. Well, not really new this form of notation is already widely in use in Japan. I believe it can be applied to other forms of the game as well. The biggest challenge is American mah-jongg, due to its use of the Charleston. The Charleston is a series of three-tile passes at the outset of the game, necessitated by the fact that American players are limited to playing hands from a short list that changes every year without the Charleston, the American game wouldn't be playable in a fun way.

For each player whose play is annotated, four rows of tiles are shown. That works fine for "un-American" forms, but for American mah-jongg, two quadruple rows of notation are needed: One set for the Charleston, and one for the post-Charleston play. In the Charleston set, D = Deal, R = Received, P = Passed, and E = End of dance. A down-arrow in the second row denotes the immediate passing of a freshly received tile.

Now for the post-Charleston play. S = Starting state (post-dance), A = Acquired, T = Thrown, F = Final state.

I'm going to be trying this format going forward. We'll have to see how it goes. I may make modifications as I go along, to suit non-Japanese ways of playing, and to suit my column format. In Japanese notation, further notes are usually added when a player calls for exposure, and to indicate whether the winning tile is picked or called. I'm going to have to figure out how to implement such things as they come up. I think you can tell from the above that the player called 3D, then won on 3C.

Links about Japanese-style mah-jongg:

Haven't ordered the 2008 NMJL card yet? Read FAQ 7i.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, can be ordered through AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the booklet from the NMJL (see FAQ 3).

Jay Firestone of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles has posted a nice video about a young man (himself) learning to play American mah-jongg. You can see it at

Photos of the 2007 WMJC in E Mei Shan, China.
Photos of the 2007 OEMC in Copenhagen.
Photos of the Fourth China Majiang Championship and Forum in Tianjin, 2006.
Photos of the Third China Majiang Championship and Forum in Beijing, 2005.
The official website of the Third China Majiang Championship and Forum in Beijing, 2005.
The official website of the Open European Mahjong Championship
Photos of the 2005 OEMC
Photos of the 2003 CMOC.
Photos of the 2002 WCMJ.

Want to play Chinese Official rules on your computer?

  • FAQ 22 answers the most frequently asked questions about Chinese Official scoring.
  • Download the official English translation of the Majiang Competition Rules for free at
  • World Champion Mai Hatsune and fellow Japanese champion player Takunori Kajimoto have written the definitive strategy guide to Mahjong Competition Rules. It's been translated into English and is available for free at
  • For more help with your MCR strategy, see
  • Another useful MCR strategy tool is at
  • If you can read Chinese, the full and complete official rules are at

    Copyright 2008 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.