Hi! One of the most recent posts on Osamuko made me think of a little discussion topic. Let’s press the issue!
1. How do you learn Mahjong? I don’t mean the rules here, but rather strategy & skills. How do you learn new concepts and ways to look at different situations? Do you think it’s more fun to discover everything yourself or use any help you need to improve faster/smoother?
2. Do you think it’s possible to become a good player (upper Tokujou/Houou) without reading ANY strategy materials, getting help from stronger players?
3. Do you think “style” applies to Mahjong? Many situations are quite clear cut (tile efficiency, safe tile choice/order), other not so much – push/pull decisions, going for certain types of hand more/less often.
Can any reliable “style” be developed without knowing the fundamentals of offense/defense/situational play etc.? Newbies like to talk about their “gut feeling” or “intuition” they play by. What do you think about that?
I used to learn mostly by myself until I started playing Tenhou. When I got to 2d and hit a wall, I realized how much I sucked. I was lacking solid fundamentals. I thought I had no choice but to ask other players for help. I posted games on Osamuko, started reading strategy articles in English. I began to play with more awareness of what I was doing. Slowly and gradually, I improved.
Another huge thing for me was Daina Chiba’s book which opened my eyes to some new concepts and helped me eliminate my worst habits. I followed other players’ advice and started playing fast Tonpuu to learn to think faster and get more comfortable in tight game situations.
As things stand now, I know I have what it takes to get to Tokujou with decent R. That’s my first milestone. I’m not there yet but I WILL get there. It’s quite likely that I will hit another wall and will need to get a hand from stronger players, yet again.
Mahjong is not rocket science. I think you don’t have to be a genius to figure it out by yourself (basic tile efficiency, suji etc.), but I think it’s more likely you will just develop a plethora of bad habits that way. And you will not even realize some of them because of hindsight bias. The learning process will be longer and bumpier. I can’t even imagine getting into advanced strategies…
Some may say it’s more fun to learn everything through trial and error. A matter of preference. One thing’s for sure – what you learn that way, sticks faster.
I think our Mahjong depends on individual predispositions too (and experience with similar games) – some people may naturally grasp the basic concepts and improve quicker from there. It’s their minds being more logical, I guess (???).
In my case… well, even stuff like “hey, I have 245 – I don’t need that 2 that much!” took surprisingly long to digest. Perhaps I wasn’t really paying attention back then.
Final thought: I think that initially it’s better to rely strongly on advice from better players and then, as we develop our skills, try to understand the game better on our own. A mixture. A concoction. A fusion. Sweet!
It’s definitely possible. People do that (as far as I know, DdR_Dan is self-taught and got to 6-7d on Tenhou) but (high) chances are that you’re not one of them. There are enough good materials in English and strong players willing to help. Taking advantage of that can DRASTICALLY reduce the time you need to take your Mahjong to (a) new level(s).
I admit that this is the part where I have the least to say without pulling stuff out of thin air, due to my current skill level… Bear with me 😉
Anyway, there’s certainly an element of style to Mahjong. However, I don’t like to use that word in this context at all. There are different ways to approach decision making (digital/analogue, logical/occult) yes, but it’s always you vs randomness (and those 3 other guys). I don’t think there’s a lot to develop in terms of style. Maybe I’m wrong…
If you don’t follow the most efficient (in both defense and offense) path 99% of the time, you will get nowhere in the long rOn. Your own situational twist may show through later on, once you’ve got the basic/intermediate stuff down. Before that – don’t even mention “style”. This isn’t figure skating. Just stop. Please! You either play well or badly – deal with that.
That “style” often leads to terrible misplays/really bad playing patterns being called just that. Some people get offended when stronger players point out their obvious mistakes. And they won’t give up easily. Oh no, they will stand by their “style” even after admitting their mistake. Why? Why??? WHY???? If something doesn’t work, just discard it!
I’ve heard players mention “intuition” which mostly mean blind guessing & being occasionally right. That stuff ain’t gonna work IN THE LONG RUN (and some people can’t look past their current successful crystal ball guess) until you really know the mechanics of the game really well. I think all that mumbo jumbo may come from confusing real Mahjong with some Manga/Anime.
Unless you’re a Marvel character, you probably won’t get to a level high enough to develop Mahjong “intuition” (which is nothing more than logical reasoning based on your knowledge of the game & experience) without at least a few hundreds of games played & reviewed with full focus on your and other players’ decisions. And that’s only if your mind is hard-wired for that game. Otherwise, you’ll probably need a lot more. And I mean A LOT.
I’m done. Quick bonus:
7 commandments of a Houou-to-be:
1. Thou shalt play A LOT (but not too much!)
2. Thou shalt always THINK while you play
3. Thou shalt study Mahjong & your past games
4. Thou shalt be humble & ask others for advice (even for the games you won!)
5. Thou shalt accept constructive criticism
6. Thou shalt learn to take good advice
7. …and Thou shalt learn to use it
Repeat ad infinitum 🙂
Looking forward to what any of you have to say!
May Yakuman be with you!