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“Mahj”—A cry heard ‘round the world

by Elaine Sandberg

June 24, 2010 | 6:28 pm

Well maybe not around the World, but it’s heard in living rooms, dens, in rec rooms, in tournament rooms, conventional halls, on ship board—all over America.

Mah Jongg is once again sweeping the country, knowing no geographic, age, sex or ethnic boundary, much as it did in the late ‘20s, ‘30s , ‘40s and well into the ‘50s. Much to the chagrin of many of the “faithful”, the introduction of Bridge, the ‘60s and the sexual revolution, the Women’s Movement and the return to the work force by many women, saw the game fade away into (almost) obscurity.  If you had asked a person if they played Mah Jongg, the most probable answer would have been, “Oh that old-lady’s game my mom played?  Are you kidding?” Or “Mah Jongg?  What’s that?” 

After such an unromantic demise, why is the game of “A Thousand Intelligences” making such a huge comeback?  I have a couple of ideas.  The first is that a large number of “Boomers” (there are over 72 million) are looking for retirement pleasures and entertainments that can keep them healthy but also mentally alert and functioning.  And they want to be challenged and have FUN at the same time. Many of these Boomers are now “Empty Nesters” looking for new friends in new places, closer to their kids and grandkids. I meet people every day who recall playing “years ago when I had my kids” and they are returning to the game, refreshing the warm memories of those times. And there are those who are getting close to retirement and planning ahead, so to speak. And lots of folks are remembering their Moms playing Mah Jongg and thinking that maybe they knew something they didn’t.

But what about the younger generation?  Are they interested in an “old lady’s game”?  The answer is an unequivocal YES. 

When they are exposed to seeing the game played and/or learning it, their enthusiasm is just as great as their predecessors. Because it’s such a great game, they quickly realize how   interesting, challenging and what fun it is. The Internet is jammed with Mah Jongg sites that introduce viewers to newer versions of the game. And their curiosity is aroused to learn the original. Consequently, I see more young people in my classes and private groups than ever before and I applaud their good judgment. They come away loving the game and addicted to it—its challenges, its excitement and its FUN!! 

So, a new and informative post will appear to pass on tips and strategies, answer and discuss Mah Jongg questions, air your comments and/or criticisms and maybe share your recipes for food and/or drinks you find add to the pleasures of the game. And every now and then, present you with a Mah Jongg problem.

So here’s a tip for novice players:  If you have a tile you don’t need, but are fairly sure someone else does, discard it as early in the game as you can.  Eventually, if you are to declare Mah Jongg yourself,  you will have to discard it.  So discard it earlier, rather than later and hope your opponent isn’t ready to declare Mah Jongg.  If it’s late in the game, and you’re sure you have the Mah Jongg tile, if you have to, break up your hand to keep your opponent from winning. 

Send your questions, comments, suggestions, etc. to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  Till then, May the Tiles Be With You…..

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