In Garthe’s Hands: Tsumo

Is your basic strategy to reach pretty much any time you have a ready hand? It’s certainly an aggressive way to play. And we all know that aggression generally tends to get us more than passive resistance. At least in Mahjong.

But what happens when the other players start to realize that you reach with anything? They’ll probably start coming back at you with just about anything too. While that may be to your advantage when you happen to have a monster, you can’t always have a big hand. Sometimes you’re going to end up paying big to someone who might have given up his hand in fear of your reach.

To avoid getting too loose, I’d like to remind you of a hand point that you probably don’t tend to think of “going for” on it’s own. Yet it can still be useful by itself and should not be forgotten when you get to ready with a cheapie and are debating whether to reach or not. That hand is Concealed Self Draw, or Menzen Tsumo in Japanese. The explanation for this hand is that it is simply you making a completed hand without taking any tiles from other players, including your final winning tile too. There’s no special combination of tiles needed, they just all need to have been drawn by you. So of course, you’ll have nothing showing on the table, your hand will be entirely concealed. Oh wait, unless you had any concealed kongs. Then just that part of your hand will be exposed but it will still be considered “concealed” for the purpose of scoring and being able to use Reach and Concealed Self Draw.

More often than not, this hand will be part of a combination of other winning hands, especially Peace, Simples, and Reach. In fact, it can of course be coupled with any other hand point to increase the overall value of your hand. But let’s take a look at a hand that beat my reach the other day at work. Lucky Dragon was the Red Dragon and I had reached on the 7th draw.He won with this Concealed Self Draw hand on the 9th draw.

Active ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive ImageActive Image Draw: Active Image

No wonder this guy didn’t have any Lucky Dragons, they were all in MY hand! He correctly sensed that I had a monster and threw away Active Image
a much better openended wait, in favor of the single tile wait Active Image. Was he some kind of future reading genius? No he simply knew that Active Image was a dangerous tile, the Active Image was safe (in my discards) and decided not to take a stand with that cheap hand if he didn’t have to. As it turns out, it was the tile that made my hand ready so I wasn’t waiting for it anymore and he could have gotten away with dropping this risky tile. However, as it turned out (after it turned out?), playing safe worked even better because he drew another one to escape with a 300/500 point hand plus my reach stick and most importantly, kill my monster of at least a 12,000 point hand.

So don’t forget to consider Concealed Self Draw in your calculations for where to take a stand. In fact, don’t forget it always as newer players will often forget to include it in their scoring when they have a bunch of other hand points already in the hand. But my point for today is that it can still also be useful just by itself. It may leave the hand very cheap not to reach, but it will also leave you an escape route should you need it.

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