I went and checked out the action at Yuukan Fuji Cup 2020 women’s league on Thursday. Gemma has been in town for our annual Mahjong Crash Course, so it was her turn to represent ReachMahjong.com this month. It’s a women’s league so what was I doing there, you ask? Well I’m Reachmahjong.com’s manslpainer in chief! I’d prefer the title coach but I feel I have some work to do to earn that title after watching Kuroki’s video of me splaining all over Gemma between games.
The first game was Gemma’s best and merits most of our discussion here. She made a great play early in the game reaching with chanta and sanshoku but with a weak 7s wait. No worries, the next discarded threw it ippatsu and Gemma was out to an early lead. The lead had shrunk by the first hand of the south round and I watched with trepidation as the dealer pieced together an almost Suanko hand. I was situated behind her and Gemma so I got to watch this whole train wreck of hand from impending doom to mangan crash and burn. From one perspective, Gemma threw East at the end of it and that was the meaning of everything, but there were some other spots in there of at least equal if not greater importance.
First of all around the 5th draw, Gemma had this nearly ready hand:
Dora was ⑤ and Gemma drew another 7s. Gemma threw 2s here, and there are certainly arguments to be made for that choice. ⑤⑥⑦⑧ and 6778 are indeed strong shapes with great potential to become open ended waits. We had just discussed such shapes in the crash course the week before. However, another way of thinking is that here she is one away from ready, it could be time choose a course and start limiting options. Personally I was leaning towards throwing 4s, which was obviously best (in retrospect) because her next draw was another 2s. ④ gut shot is obviously not a great wait but just…just wait. A little later as I was watching the dealer assemble her monster, she drew another east to go with one she had in her hand
Obviously better than waiting on the Dora indicator would be waiting on East of which none were yet out, and it changed the hand to honitsu. Had Gemma already been quietly waiting for the Dora indicator, the hand would have ended quietly here. Gemma would add some to her lead and take it from the current second place player.
The 2s miss is the first place Gemma lost this hand. It’s actually not unusual for many players to immediately give up hands if they’ve made a wrong turn slowing them down. We could figure in general at least one other player is taking the fastest route to the winning hand and if we’ve missed our fastest route then we may already be far enough behind to give up the hand. Obviously we will fold some winning hands with such a strategy, but we’ll also avoid throwing into others.
A couple draws later came another opportunity to lose less on this hand. The dealer got to tenpai with a 1s chi. Gemma’s next draw was a 4s. The dealer had discarded no souzu yet so one could imagine that she wasn’t tenpai yet. But the likelihood of a flush or half flush was high and there was no reason on the board to assume that the 4s was definitely safe. (Although it is always gratifying to tsumo giri a tile to show a recent chi or pon that they unnecessarily cheapened their hand) Here too was a chance to choose to lose the hand by folding but cheaper than how we know this story ends.
Gemma eventually got to tenpai waiting for 6-9p and the dealer had been just discarding her tsumo so her hand hadn’t progressed any since the 1s chi. 9p was in the dealers discards so it was a pretty good wait too. When Gemma drew an as yet unexposed East, she just threw into the oya mangan, but I think that actually given what had happened so far, this was the correct play. It makes little sense to throw an obviously risky 4s earlier, and then later give up because of the east. She’s pot-committed, so to say. Conversely, the moment she drew the third 2s and then threw the 4s, vacillating between strategies instead of sticking with her choice, would also have changed everything. She’d have missed her fateful tenpai making it more likely she folds that late East.
It was a long and winding road to get to one game losing discard. I think the important lesson here is not to focus on that unfortunate East but rather the fateful decisions leading up to it. Choosing a different path at any of those forks in the road could have led to very different outcomes.
Gemma returns in a couple months to confront more forks in the road. The team is still quite in the running with a good many games still to go. I hope to have improved from mansplainer to at least coachsplainer by then.