In Garthe’s Hands #19: After-attaching

You know what pisses me off? “Ato-zuke”. God I hate that crap! It’s the kind of thing that turns a nice friendly game of mahjong into the most agonizing descent into the pits of Dante’s Inferno. Let me explain.

Translated directly, the phrase is “after attaching”. Not an actual hand point per se, it refers to the ungodly practice of creating your hand point on your winning tile after you’ve already stolen tiles from other players. It’s probably easiest to see with an example. Let’s say some joker’s hand looks like this:

When the 1 of bamboos comes out he bumps it and now he’s waiting for the 3 of bamboos or the red dragon to win yes? “Wait a second!” some of our astute readers might be saying. “What’s his hand point?” Indeed one of his waits, the 3 of bamboos, gives him no hand point and if he were to go out on it we could all gleefully point it out and take 2000 or 4000 points from him depending on who was dealer. The unhappy ending to this story is that the red dragon came out instead and he was able to win the hand by “after-attaching” his hand point.

One clarification for those who might be interested in ruling this sort of thing out: “After-attaching” generally means that after melding tiles from another player’s discards, one or more of the tiles that a player is waiting on will not be go-out-able as in the above example. If both waits were value tiles, ie, all his waits made hand points and were winnable, the hand usually wouldn’t fall into the “after-attaching” category. Here he needs a specific tile among his waits to create a hand point. This example using value tiles is the most common way that hand points will be after-attached but not the only way. 3 Colored Runs, the outside hands and even All Simples are also possible candidates.

The concept is so vile and disgusting that some home games and even some Mahjong parlors may choose to forbid it. Actually, I’m hardly in a position to get on a pedestal and speak out against it. There are certainly situations where it’s useful and I’m no innocent. For example, if I have 2 Lucky Dragons (dora) and one of them comes out, I might decide to bump them and worry about creating my hand point later. Also, in the last hand of the game I might have enough points that I only need to win the hand to win the game; in such a situation, I might be tempted to steal tiles early with the expectation that another player will be forced to throw my obviously needed value tile in his attempt to win.

And therein lies the crux of the issue. Generally, one shouldn’t be able to expect these tiles to come out as it’s often quite easy to tell when someone is doing this. When a player bumps or chows anything with a 1 or 9 or an honor tile that isn’t also a value tile, alarm bells should be going off in the other players’ heads and they should be a lot more careful with value tiles of which they can only see 1 on the board or in their hands. The problem, at least for me lately, is that the alarm bells go off and other players start discarding value tiles willy nilly, sooner or later hitting on the one needed by the “after-attacher” (AA? start a group for these people?). This highlights a discussion Jenn and I sometimes have (actually more of a whine by me) about whether it’s more difficult to beat “good” or “weak” players. If you can’t depend on the other players to play any defense, the defense you bother to play yourself can become pretty meaningless.

I’ll save the rest of that whine for another day. One last point for those thinking of becoming AA’s: beware of the missed win rule! It is not unusual for you to draw your no-hand-point winner before you have a chance to get your actual winner. In the above example, drawing the 3 of bamboos and then discarding would be a missed win and would mean that you could no longer win when another player throws your winning red dragon. It’s the one time the AA’s get their comeuppance and it’s good to pay attention and check for other winning tiles in their discards or those of the other players in the same drawing round.

Let’s put some hands out there to see what people might do:

Lucky dragon (dora):  , 5th draw of East Round 3rd Hand, South seat, 27600 points:

East seat throws  , do you chow? If so, what do you discard?

Lucky dragon (dora)  , 14th draw of South Round 4th Hand, South seat, currently 1st place by 6000 points:

East throws  , do you bump? If so, what do you discard?

Lucky dragon (dora)  , 8th round of East Round 4th Hand, North seat, 2000 points out of first place:

West throws  、 do you chow? If so, what do you discard?

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