Tile Efficiency 101 (Part 1)

This is xKime, aka Kimecchi. Just another online mahjong player/writer from the depths of Tenhou.net, Janryuumon, RonRon, Toupaiou, Saki’s website, and pretty much any other mahjong playing system you can find out there, trying to improve his level and learning on the way. Not godly, not completely idiotic, going up one step at the time. This time, I come to talk to you about 牌理 or “tile efficiency.” From the very basics, going into more delicate problems. A great skill to have at the time you encounter a “What Would You Discard” problem.

Part 2: http://www.osamuko.com/tile-efficiency-101-part-2/
Part 3: http://www.osamuko.com/tile-efficiency-101-part-3/
Part 4: http://www.osamuko.com/tile-efficiency-101-part-4/
Part 5: http://www.osamuko.com/tile-efficiency-101-part-5-climaxing/

“Pairi” or “hairi,” which will now be referred to as “tile efficiency,” is more than just a tenhou tool to count shan ten. It’s a vital skill. While most people already have their own instinct-based tile efficiency theories, instinctive tile efficiency can be heavily improved by reading tile efficiency theory. Think of it like this: If you play around with a Rubik’s cube on your own, just by “raw experience,” it will be months before you can think up of a method to solve it; however, if you look up a Rubik’s cube tutorial online, you can learn to solve it in a day, and use the remaining time to practice your speed and dexterity. The same might as well be true to mahjong.

Now, where does the problem lie? Resources. There aren’t many mahjong resources in English. Most of the sites updated with theory are written in either Japanese or Chinese. Furthermore, the average player’s first language might not even be English at all. Trying his best to learn his first language, then learning English in order to be able to enjoy many resources, and suddenly… wait, he has to learn a third language? Most people don’t have the time or constancy. That’s why, from this point on, I’ll be contributing by translating content from Chinese and Japanese sites. I’ll start with the Tile Efficiency theories taken from beginners.biz, as these are simple to understand and are very helpful.

Why I chose tile efficiency? It’s at the very beginning, it starts very simple for beginners to follow, and goes into more complex matters that must be viewed first before going any further into other subjects. In the current world of mahjong it’s very important, as only Riichi, (Ippatsu) Tsumo, Red Dora, Ura Dora will give you mangan, as soon as you get your hand ensambled swiftly and efficiently, you have a possible mangan. So, without further ado:


Pairi is the theory to complete with efficacy four melds and one pair. That is the basis for building a hand in mahjong.
The term “Tile Efficiency” also exists and has the same meaning. If you only consider one single hand of mahjong, then mahjong is a game where you compete to be “the fastest of four players to complete four melds and one pair.” That’s why it is basic to choose discards according to tile efficiency.

In a mahjong hand, you have three factors “speed,” “score” and “defence.” Among these three, “speed” is the best. This is because speed makes up for “score” and “defence.”

No matter how high-scoring your hand is, if you don’t complete it you won’t be earning any points. Getting a fast win means you are also destroying any possible hand your opponent was going to build, so you can virtually consider your profit to be: Hand Score + X. If you win before your opponent is tenpai, then there is no way you will deal in. Speed is “the life of your hand.” Let’s try to remember not to miss our chance to win because of giving yaku too much of our attention.

“Splendid composition will only postpone your win.” This is the motto of the manga “Aburemon.” Quite a wise saying.

Let’s finish the introduction right here, and jump into explaining tile efficiency.

For example, how do we think about this kind of hand? We are close to chanta, and if all went well we could aim to get a San Shoku in the high numbers. Mahjong beginners will usually think about which yaku they remember and try to aim for them, but that’s all they do. That’s why

they usually commit the mistake of discarding with this hand. It’s important to think about the 13 (+1) tiles in your hand in an organized manner.

Melds: Compound shape:

Pair: Ryanmen (double wait): Isolated tiles:

That’s how the hand is composed. What is missing for four melds and one pair? We have two melds and one pair. The can be easily completed, so we can assume it to be virtually completed. All we have left is one meld. As we have no remaining taatsu, we have to complete it with either . So which one is the most difficult to form a taatsu with…

With this line of thought, the answer as to what to discard will come off without problem.

Analyzing the contents of the hand, selecting your discard by “process of elimination,” then comparing the selected tile is good. The important thing is “to compare.” By comparing, the problem of discarding will be greatly reduced.

In this hand, we must choose the candidate between the that are not constituting a meld. Understanding each of their functions, we can consider the most unwanted tile.

To list up the discard candidates, and then comparing them once and again. This is what it means to play by “tile efficiency” and also the basic concept of mahjong.

This is it for part one. So far, so simple to follow and understand. I would go on, but it’s already a wall of text as it is. On the next part, it gets a little more complicated and theoric, so be prepared for that time.

10 thoughts on “Tile Efficiency 101 (Part 1)

  1. The problem is, beginners indulge into “kimeuchi” way too much. This is, they decide the shape they want for the hand, and discard all other possibilities. That’s why discarding 5s is a mistake. You should keep an eye for chanta, but not chase it like there’s no other thing to do. Even riichi – pinfu – tsumo is around the corner. If you consider the posted theories, you will understand why.

  2. Thanks~

    The next ones are a lot better, but I didn’t want to flood the blog index by translating 10 pages in one day, so I’m taking it easy. Now that Tenhou has released Jansou mode, I think I’ll be deviating from tile efficiency next time and concentrate on the page about how to play efficiently when Shuugi are in game.

  3. If it were me, 9m. A little Chun shibori is not bad here. But discarding 5s is seriously overdoing it. Same thing with 3p. It’s more of a push between chun and 9m than it is between the other tiles.

  4. Be careful to not neglect any proto-melds and the rules on the table. When shuugi is in effect, throwing fives is a death wish. 1235s is two ta-tsu, not “just one group and a straggler”.

    Also, since the hand is chanta-nomi, it’s worth more in shuugi mode to keep your hand closed.

  5. This post is not on Shuugi Maajan, but standard maajan. You can find the post on Shuugi Maajan in the front page. Nonetheless, discarding the 5 is not a viable option nor there, nor here. And just for the record, 5 is not the only death wish in Shuugi Maajan; 4’s and 6’s are, too (they complete 56 and 45 as well as 57 and 35 shapes nicely). Indeed, throwing a 5 is what we would call yarisugiru. AKA overdoing it. The hand is still not decidedly going towards chanta necessarily, and there is also no need to call tiles. Yet.

    The author makes a strong point in differentiating tiles that are connected and tiles that are not connected. That is, continous shape, and complex shape. 1235 is better thought of as one meld and one separated tile. Separating 1235 into 12 and 35 to think of it as two bad shapes is less efficient than thinking of 123 as a meld and 5 and as an uki-pai (straggler). 12, 35 are only completed by 3 and 4. The 123 being complete, 5 progresses with 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Rather than nitpicking on the possible interpretations, the point is thinking about efficiency. A sanmenchan 23456 is also a ryankan + kanchan (246 – 35) but there is no point in thinking about it that way.

    Still, no need to add aditional rules or clarifications, as this is not a discard quiz, but tile efficiency theory. There are other articles on Aka Iri Maajan (red fives mahjong) and Shuugi Maajan (i.e. Jansou Mode) separately, as these concepts can just be introduced later.

    Ah, and all articles assume open tan yao is allowed, btw. Because, you know, it’s Japan. Closed tan yao is kind of not so popular.

    Still, as I say, I don’t write it, I just translate it and try my best to learn it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.