PRICES GO UP AT THE GATE
Well, nothing much happened "Mahjong-wise" in this episode, but hey - we finally got to see the girls rounded up as a whole group. It goes without saying that this episode breezed through the warming up phase pretty quickly. If I didn't know any better, I'd say they wanted to cut to the chase and just bring us straight to the Nationals where we left off from the last season. When that does happen, would we still be able to root for the Achiga all-girls team, or will our hearts still cheer on for Kiyosumi? I wouldn't have minded a little more character development from the Achiga girls side, if that were the case.
But hey, I'm in no position to demand. At this point, perhaps it'd be a good idea to "refresh" ourselves on just HOW a game of Riichi Mahjong is played. Here's a run down of the basic objective of Riichi Mahjong:
There are four players, each given 13 tiles to begin with, drawing a tile per turn to form a 14-tile hand. The objective of the game is to complete specific hand combinations, which MUST consist of the following:
A meld is a combination of three or four tiles that create either a sequence (e.g. 1-2-3 - three tiles only) or triples/quads (e.g. 3-3-3 or 4-4-4-4). Melds are SUIT SPECIFIC (i.e. 3-3-3 with each tile from a different suit is an invalid triple meld; 1-2-3 with each tile being from a different suite is an invalid sequential meld), and are NOT continuous in a loop for sequential melds (i.e. 9-1-2 is not a valid sequential meld). Melds may be declared by revealing them to the other players, usually when a tile is stolen from another player to complete the meld.
2. ONE pair
Sometimes called the "eyes" of the hand (because there are two of them). A pair cannot be opened or completed by stealing a tile from another player unless the tile completes the player's hand.
3. At least ONE yaku
A yaku is a hand combination, similar to poker hands, each having their own corresponding Han value. It goes without saying that you can't get Han points without first getting yakus. How would we calculate your score if you don't even have Han points to begin with?
There are only TWO exceptions to these conditions for winning. First is a case of having Seven Pairs (called chiitoitsu) and the second is in a case called Thirteen Orphans (called Kokushi Musou). The latter is a special hand called a Yakuman, which basically awards the person who completes it the highest attainable score in a game (the only thing higher than it is multiple yakuman). This only goes to show how difficult it is to create this hand. It is composed of one of each wind and dragon tile, a 1 and 9 from each of the three suites, and a final tile to serve as a pair for any of the previously collected tiles. This results in a hand having 13 different tiles plus an additional tile to form a pair (hence the name "13 orphans").
Finally, the minimum number of tiles a player can have upon winning is 14 tiles: [4 (individual melds) x 3] + 2 (pair tiles) = 14. However, in cases where quads have been declared, the number of tiles in a completed had increases for every quad declared (i.e. having declared 2 quads, the player's winning hand would contain 16 tiles). The reason for this is to maintain the previously mentioned conditions for winning. Each time a quad is declared, the total number of tiles available for completing an additional meld (in the four meld condition) is violated. Drawing a supplemental tile from the dead wall after declaring a kan solves this problem.
Did you get that? In a nutshell, it's like a more complicated form of Gin Rummy with more kinks and bumps that could easily scare the beginner. Try playing an actual game and you'll start to get a feel for how the rules set in. What's important at this point is the objectives. The nitty-gritty and "how to win" will come, eventually. :)
Follows is a list of terms used in this week's "Saki's Corner"
Dora - Short for "Dragon" tile, and not to be confused with the "honor" tiles for the three dragons (red, white, green). These are "bonus" tiles that are indicated at the start of each match, or represented using specially marked tiles. Each dora tile present in a hand adds an additional han point to the hand.
Dora Indicator - A tile located three tile away from the opposite end of the wall from which players draw tiles. The value of the tile AFTER it indicates the dora tile for that given match (e.g. 1-stick dora indicators means that the 2-stick is the dora for that round).
Han - Points awarded for specific combinations that are used as multipliers in computing one's score for a winning hand. The higher the han, the higher the score (or worth) of the hand.
Kan - A quad or a four-of-a-kind. Equivalent to "kang" in the Chinese variant.
Kazoe-Yakuman - Also called a "counted yakuman", is a hand whose han points are 13 or higher such that they are considered to have already exceeded the limit for the maximum number of basic points. As such, they are considered Yakuman in themselves, and scored as such (see Yakuman).
Prevailing Wind - The current wind of the round in which the games are set. Mahjong always begins with a prevailing wind of EAST, and consists of one go-around where each seat wind gets to play as a dealer. The prevailing wind moves into SOUTH after the last player (NORTH) has had a chance to be dealer.
Seat winds - the "Directions" which designate seating arrangements during a match. Represented by the directions NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST - but unlike the cardinal directions, SOUTH always sits to the right of EAST.
Suu Kantsu - A yakuman consisting of four quads, either closed or opened.
Yakuman - Also called a "limit" hand - the highest possible score that can be awarded to a hand. Given to special hands that are particularly difficult to obtain.[/list
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Saki's Corner: 2nd Tile
Hey, you're in my seat!
Though there wasn't much Mahjong action that happened in this episode, there's still something we can learn from the chibi ending credits we were treated to in the end. In the series of animations, we see Ako reprimanding Shizu for being in the wrong seat.
Pop Quiz Time!
In the last frame, we see that Arata is seated in the east seat, but Ako points out that the north seat is on the opposite side of the table from where Shizu is seated. If we stop and think about this for a second, it seems a bit off. On a typical compass, you'd expect north to be on the RIGHT of east, but apparently it's BACKWARDS in this case. What's going on?
Answer - Believe it or not, the Chinese view of the cardinal directions of NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST is not related to the magnetic poles of the Earth as seen on a compass; rather, it reflects the direction of "winds" as a part of their Eastern Mysticism. I'm not familiar with the Feng Shui of it all, but suffice it to know that east and west ARE, in fact, backwards on the mahjong table. Mahjong is, for what it's worth, an extension of this eastern mysticism, so it comes as no surprise. To minimize the confusion, we simply refer to the winds in reference to the east seat. By default, south is always seated to the RIGHT of east. It follows, that the position of dealer moves to the RIGHT as the round progresses, and when the prevailing wind changes it moves to the RIGHT as well. In other words, the south round follows the east round.
Confused? Don't worry, looks like Shizu pretty much shares the same sentiment. :)
Counting the dragons
It's amusing how much we can learn from these Chibi animations, because now we come across more dora madness from Kuro. In these frames, we see Ako calling out a Kan, after which a shot of the dora indicators shows that there are TWO tiles flipped right-side up instead of the typical single tile. The last frame shows Kuro panicking due to the fact that she now has 7 dora!
Indeed, doras are powerful point multipliers, but remember that there can be AT LEAST 8 dora in a given round. These include the four dora that are indicated by red tiles, and the other four that are selected at the start of the game with the dora indicator. The cool (and sometimes scary) thing about it, though, is that for every kan called during the round, the tile ADJACENT to the dora indicator is flipped over, thus adding an additional FOUR dora to the board! Whoa!
Pop Quiz Time!
You might think that sounds crazy, but what do you think is the MAXIMUM number of dora that can go into play during a single round?
Answer - 24 dora. Remember that each kan declared adds an additional dora indicator on the board - but in any given game, only FOUR kans can be declared. On the call of the fourth kan, the match is automatically called a draw. This means that only 3 additional dora indicators may be flipped in addition to the original one at the start of the game. Add this to the four red dora tiles and we get: [4 (dora indicators) x 4] + [4 (red dora tiles)] = 20 dora. Now how does that become 24? Surprisingly, there's an exception to the four kan-only rule. If all four kans declared in a game were by a single player, then the game is considered a draw ONLY at the call of a FIFTH kan. This is the only time wherein 5 different dora indicators will come into play, resulting in [5 (dora indicators) x 4] + [4 (red dora tiles)] = 24 dora!
The number of doras possible sounds nauseating, but take note that with that many han points in a single hand, the hand is called a "counted yakuman" (kazoe-yakuman), and is thus awarded the maximum number of points as a yakuman. This happens for hands having 13 or more han points. Looks like having as many doras as that is simply too hot for Kuro to handle. :D
In Counting the Dragons, we mentioned that a player would need to have called four kans in order to boost the number of dora to that ridiculous amount. Sadly, though, it doesn't mean much because if the player DOES win, they would have completed a yakuman anyway called suu kantsu (four quads). The interesting thing about this yakuman is that it can be completed as either an open or CLOSED hand. Completing this type of hand by opening up our melds sounds easy enough - but how are you supposed to complete 4 kans without stealing any tiles, while at the same time maintaining a CLOSED hand?
Answer - There's only one way, and it is ridiculously hard to do because it involves a tremendous amount of luck… Godly luck, even. It requires having a hand consisting of three quads and a pair. Take note that this is not a complete hand (a complete hand requires FOUR melds). The player declares a kan and draws a supplemental tile from the dead wall which must match their pair tile, thus creating a triple meld. The player then declares ANOTHER kan and draws another supplemental tile from the dead wall. If the supplemental tile drawn from the dead wall matches the triple meld already in the player's hand, it will complete a fourth kan. However, this is still not complete - the player needs a pair to complete their hand. In order to do this, the player must declare the remaining two quads in hopes that the two supplemental tiles drawn from the dead wall will complete the needed pair. By doing this, the player would have completed four quads with a pair - a hand containing 18 tiles - all without having to rob any tiles from another player: a CLOSED Suu Kantsu.
Given the amount of effort and sheer luck involved to perform this, I feel that it isn't doing it justice to award it the same number of points as an OPEN suu kantsu. Either way, both open and closed forms of this yakuman are awarded the same number of points, so all that luck goes to naught. Sure, keeping it closed is a very elegant way to do it - but it looks to me like a one-in-a-buhjillion kind of probability. But hey, it's still possible.
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