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 12 – mind the score.
For the last year I have played almost every weekday to earn me some golden coins. With them I have played almost all tournaments on Saturday (GMT). Besides that I have played quite some live tournaments in the last years. And of course I play every week at the club ENMV in a club competition. I think that qualifies me as an experienced tournament player. Playing tournaments holds an aspect that I still haven’t mastered yet but I’m definitely working on. And it is easier playing online than in live tournaments: checking the total scores and adjusting strategy to that.
As a starting player you only have one thing on your mind and that is making mahjong and winning the game. But when you play tournaments, or even just one round of mahjong, you should take into account what your position is. In the qualification rounds of Sit & Go tournaments for golden coins you need to end as first or second, in GMT’s or playing live you want to get as many table or tour points as you can get. But all too often I see a player, at that moment 3rd or 4th, make mahjong in the last game and score not enough points to gain a rank. Absolutely useless. Digging your own grave.
Golden coins tournaments are mostly played in Riichi style. Quite often small hands are played by claiming a dragon pung or something like that and go out on a hand worth about 2000 points. When the end of a round is near and you are more than 8000 points behind it is no use to go for that kind of hand. You need bigger and you have the most chance to keep your hand concealed, have some red fives, declare Riichi and hope you’ll have the advantage of scoring Dora tiles. And give yourself the chance to get to the next round and win something.
When playing a usual round you may want to keep in mind that you are also playing for your rating. You may choose to go for a small scoring win just to control the damage done to your rating or even the ranking in a GMT. But the golden coins tournaments are unrated so no damage control is needed. You only have to focus on getting through and winning regardless how much points you lose when you don’t succeed. Winning a final hand with a small score in a Sit & Go tournament only leads to: ‘Hurray, I won, good luck next round and see you tomorrow.’
Adrie van Geffen