Jewish Journal

the charleston

by Elaine Sandberg

January 9, 2011 | 2:44 pm

                                  THE CHARLESTON

The Charleston is an anomaly in American Mah Jongg. No other Mah Jongg has it, be it Chinese, Japanese, German, Philippine or any other that I know of.  And the name, “Charleston”, has no known origin.  It was already a part of the game when the League first formalized the rules in 1937, and even they do not know where the name, or the procedure, originated. I checked.  My guess it came from the dance craze of the era.  Or maybe it was a technique used in games in a city named Charleston.  I don’t know.

It’s always a surprise, because you never know what tiles the Charleston will bring. Sometimes it brings joy and a hand and sometimes frustration, angst and a need to make a quick decision about what to keep and what to pass.  These decisions are often critical “make or break”. 

Be that as it may, one of the functions of the Charleston is to allow the player to rid the hand of unwanted tiles. It offers new, sometimes useful and sometimes useless, tiles—21 to be exact.

In addition, the Charleston is a defensive tool, a way for you to deny opponents potentially useful tiles. So here are some basic defensive tenets of the Charleston.

Never pass a Pair of any tile!

Pairs are the nemesis of many hands and presenting an opponent with the gift of a Pair is a definite NO NO! And your Pair may complete a combination your opponent needs.

Don’t pass Flowers!—-unless you can’t steal or have no other option.

The 2010 card has 27 hands that require either a Pair or a Kong of Flowers.  If you pass them you may be helping your opponents.

Pass disparate tiles!

Don’t pass all the same Suit, all even or odd numbers, all Winds/Dragons.  Mix them up as much as you can.

The decision of what to keep and what not to keep depends on your specific choices, but even so, there are some general principles we’ll discuss in the next posting.  Stay tuned!

Til the next time……

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A kid from Brooklyn, a graduate of Syracuse University and an immigrant to California via Palo Alto, San Juan Capistrano, finally, Los Angeles, I have been here for the past 15...

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