As battle cries go, I guess there have been better. Kong’s are rare enough themselves, and for one of them to help you win is rarer still. That said, it’s amazing how often people forget the Kong and it really costs them. How about a real live example?

First let’s review what the King’s Tile Draw is. It’s the special situation where you happen to be ready when you declare a kong, and win with the replacement tile you draw from the King’s tiles (also known as the dead wall), worth one hand point. These tiles would not normally be available, and from a purist’s don’t-believe-in-magic statistical point of view, there’s no more likelihood that your winning tile is going to be in the King’s tiles than in the rest of the tiles which were normally going to be drawn. And of course, that tile needs to be replaced in the King’s wall by the tile which would have normally been drawn last and that might be your winning tile also. Still it’s another draw, to replace the one which was useless because it only completed your kong, and the more draws the better, yes?

Let’s take a situation from my recent crash and burn at the Mahjong Supercup in Macau. There’s a lot of stealing tiles in Taiwanese Mahjong so I won’t list all the tiles I had stolen up to that point, except for the , which I had ponned 3 of already. The remainder of my hand was my whole wait which looked like this:

So I’m waiting on   yes? As I was sitting there waiting, the guy across from me drew a tile which would have completed a kong in one of his already ponned sets and he accidentally discarded it, remembering that he could have konged with it only after it hit the table and it was too late. “Ha ha, rookie!” thought I, “That’s what you guys get for playing so gol’darn fast all the time!” Not being used to the rules and style of Taiwan play, I have to admit I was not totally comfortable with the speed at which they play. I was still chapping that guy in my mind a draw or two later when I drew the last 1 of cracks and discarded it myself committing exactly the same error I was laughing at him about. Had I remembered to add it to my already ponned set of 1’s I would have been allowed to draw from the King’s tiles. The very next draw, the woman to my right threw my 2 of bamboos which I reluctantly won on, and then I did what no self respecting mahjong player should ever do, I checked. While she was getting out the points to pay me, I peeked at the tile I would have drawn had I remembered to kong, and there it was, my winning 2 of characters!

Unless you’re in a study situation, looking at what might have been is generally considered bad form and most self respecting players just won’t do it. It’s similar to checking the Hidden Lucky Dragon when you win on a concealed hand that you declined to reach, or in poker, asking to see the river after everyone has already folded the hand. It just doesn’t matter any more, and I’ve actually been swatted by another player for reaching to check what might have been.

One other situation to beware, after reaching, it’s still ok to declare a kong for a triple of tiles that doesn’t change the shape of any of your groups or wait. Many’s the time people are drawing along waiting just for their winners when they draw what could become a kong there too, and discard without konging. Just like the other situation, we’re all so focused on our wait that we forget to notice what else might be happening and miss a chance to improve our hand.

So there I got two ignominies for the price of one: missing my kong, and following up by checking to see if I would have won had I played correctly. That missed kong is surprisingly common, seen twice in that one hand alone, and then, look what it cost me. It might not seem like that big a deal as I did win the hand eventually, but self draws in Taiwan Mahjong are a much bigger deal than in Reach because everyone ends up paying the full value of the hand. With only two more hands to go, that win would have put me in second, in great position to go on to the next round.

So don’t get too caught up in just what you’re waiting for, remember the battle cry, remember the kong!

RM on Social