Monday, 30 January 2012

Defence theory(1): Why do you want to defend?


Japanese mahjong can be said to be the mahjong that pays the most attention to defending. Regardless of the depth of tactics, or the ratio of defending, when it comes to defending it's the champion of all mahjong.

In fact, according to Japanese mahjong researcher とつげき東北's latest work, one of the three most important factors that affects the results of a mahjong player, is the rate of dealing in. (To be more accurate, it should be the dealing in rate outside of riichi and having two exposed melds.)

When beginners see the high level game records of Tenhou special, they will find the players too cowardly. Once someone declares riichi, the other players will dismantle their tiles and aim for a draw. But what I want to tell everyone is, this is an important process in Japanese mahjong. In a usual high level game record, 40% of the games end in a draw.

If you find this kind of mahjong boring, Japanese mahjong is not for you.

Since the frequency of abandoning the win is so high, knowing how to defend is very important in Japanese mahjong. But the main reason why beginners tend to have a higher deal-in rate, is not because they don't know how to aim for a draw, but because they refuse to. Therefore before I seriously discuss "how to" aim for a draw, I must first explain "why". Otherwise, if you're not interested in defending, no matter how much I discuss defence theory it'll just be a waste of time.

The payout of a person who dealt-in in Japanese mahjong
In Japanese mahjong, if you deal in, you'll have to pay the full amount of the hand's value. I believe that everyone knows this. For example, if a player wins with a hand of tanyao dora 3, you'll have to pay 7700 points. But if the player won with a tsumo, you only need to pay 2000 points, thus saving a lot of points.

Everyone please note, do not compare it with Chinese international standard's and Taiwan mahjong's payout, where all players have to pay when someone wins. If the payout for dealing in and tsumo is the same, it will not encourage players to betaori.

The special characteristics of position battle
In Cantonese mahjong, if you deal in this round and lose $100, you can offset the loss by winning $100 next round. As everyone is only concerned about their own wallet, no one would care how much the other players win or lose.
However, that's not how it works in Japanese mahjong.
Japanese mahjong compares position, not points. Tonpuusen last hand, you deal in to a 12000 points hand and drop from first to last place. If you win a 12000 points hand the next round, would that offset your loss from the previous round? Of course not.
Also, because of special characteristics of position battle in Japanese mahjong, the point sticks of the other players will affect the outcome of your game. For example, if you deal in to a 8000 points hand, not only will you have a 16000 points gap with the player you deal in to, you will also have a 8000 points gap with the other two players. If the player tsumo instead of winning from your discard, there wouldn't be this problem. Therefore when dealing in while playing Japanese mahjong, although the points are only given to a single player, the reality is that you lose to the other 2 players as well.

To iterate my point, defending is an important skill in Japanese mahjong. I understand that sometimes giving up a win is depressing, but this is an important process in Japanese mahjong. If a beginner wants to quickly improve, practicing to abandon a win is a good method, as attacking too much is a common problem with Japanese mahjong beginners. 

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