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Mahjong Game Review for Tenhou (+10 Bonus Key Advice Points)

Nicolas ProBy Nicolas Pro14 min read

Mahjong game reviews are fantastic for improving. There's only so many ways that you can effectively progress in riichi mahjong, and getting Tenhou logs reviewed is not only fun for the player but also for the mahjong coach. Sometimes players approach me to ask to have their mahjong games reviewed, mainly on Tenhou, even while many of them usually have no idea of what a game review comprises beforehand. So, I will post here an actual example of a game log I was sent recently to review. Maybe you can find some mistakes in common, and it can help you improve as well!

Mahjong Game Review for Tenhou (+10 Bonus Key Advice Points)

Audit, comments, guidance

Game Start

Let the (mahjong) game (review) begin!

INTRODUCTION: Reviewing what to fix about your mahjong game

Thank you for sending me this game log for reviewing your mahjong plays. I hope this can help you improve!

My first impression while looking at this game is that you don’t need to dig too far into advanced techniques, but you must absolutely fix the wounds in your fundamentals first: especially tile efficiency.

You’re prone to going back shanten for no apparent reason and choosing some discards that aren’t the best for neither defending nor attacking. It’s essential that your discards are good for one of those two things (or both!).

It also seems you don’t really know how to handle your honor tiles, and you just opt to systematically discard all of them at the start no matter the kind of hand you receive, I’d also like to try and fix that.

HYPOTHESIS: How to fix and improve your mahjong skills

I believe that if you review basic shapes over and over, you’re going to stop making basic tile efficiency mistakes. There were many errors that I’m sure that, if you were to stop and think calmly, you would have realized by yourself.

I understand Tenhou has a time limit and that’s the likely cause for those errors; so the only way to reduce your thinking time is by throwing in some more practice. "Quick thinking" is sadly not something that can be taught, it has to be drilled. There's an excellent way to practice this and get your head moving faster:

Get your mahjong set, grab 13 random tiles by yourself, then draw a random tile each time and quickly discard while trying to get to tenpai, without sorting your hand. This is the way a few parlor owners train some of their new members to play faster, and this training will cut your thinking time in half when you’re finally able to play with your tiles sorted, giving you more time to think about the strategic side and spend less time trying to figure out the shape. You should also become able to recall your hand without looking at it, which is a tremendously useful skill to have while playing.

Things you will need after this game review

I would like you to start playing while thinking about shanten number, and if you decide to take a step back (or forwards), you try to do so consciously. You don’t need to count when you’re farther away than 3 shanten, but I’d like you to be aware when you go from 3 shanten to 2 shanten, or when you go from 1 shanten back to 2 shanten. Internalize it.

Materials

  1. This book (you don’t need to understand the Japanese, just look at the problems and answers for now)
  2. This training (as described above), mahjong tiles for it
  3. Perseverance!

Procedure

  1. Become able to recall every correct answer of the book, one chapter at a time.
  2. Then, try to think by yourself of the reason why that discard is the correct one.
  3. Practice the discard exercise for 30 minutes as explained above.

Mahjong Game Review from a Tenhou Log

(Game log link removed for privacy)

East 1, 0 Honba

East 1, 0 Honba

East 1, 0 Honba

This hand has no dora, no yaku, and only one ryanmen. Pairing yakuhai will give you the speed boost this hands needs to make up for its low value.

The 1p1p mahjong tile and 9p9p mahjong tile are relatively less useful than your other tiles. If you draw 2p2p mahjong tile, 1246p1p mahjong tile2p mahjong tile4p mahjong tile6p mahjong tile isn’t an efficient shape (1p1p mahjong tile is unneeded), same with 4689p4p mahjong tile6p mahjong tile8p mahjong tile9p mahjong tile (9p9p mahjong tile is redundant). The 13469p1p mahjong tile3p mahjong tile4p mahjong tile6p mahjong tile9p mahjong tile or 14679p1p mahjong tile4p mahjong tile6p mahjong tile7p mahjong tile9p mahjong tile shapes are slightly okay, but since you have a completed sequence (567mshuntsu5m mahjong tile6m mahjong tile7m mahjong tile) and a ryanmen on souzu (78sryanmen7s mahjong tile8s mahjong tile) you’re not going to go for the Ittsuu here. In the end, 1p1p mahjong tile and 9p9p mahjong tile are only useful if they get paired up. Same as your haku and hatsu, except that they will actually give you a yaku and a chance to call if you pair them up.

Considering defense for the future as well, 1p1p mahjong tile and 9p9p mahjong tile are not that useful to you, but they might become someone else's winning tile later on very quickly. I suggest you discard either 1p1p mahjong tile or 9p9p mahjong tile and keep your yakuhai in hands like this.

Key point #1

Hands with very low value need either a speed boost or safety to compensate. ~NPMahjong


East 1, 0 Honba

If you discard 2m2m mahjong tile, you’re missing on the ryanmen improvement by drawing 3m3m mahjong tile. Ittsuu is too far away, and it’s only a 2 han yaku. Pinfu is worth only 1 han less, but it’s immensely easier here. To get that ittsuu here you need to draw 2p2p mahjong tile 5p5p mahjong tile 7p7p mahjong tile 8p8p mahjong tile in the right order and within the remaining draws (before anybody reaches and wins, too), and it’s not too realistic. Discard 9p9p mahjong tile. (Keep 6p6p mahjong tile for ryanmen and possibly sanmenchan improvement and sanshoku evolution)

East 1, 0 Honba

Key point #2

Many middle tiles discarded early on, and yakuhai as a first discard are signals of a fast, decent hand.

I think defending here was a good call, good job. East opened up his hand, and his discards look pretty fast (plenty of middle tiles and Yakuhai as his first discard these combined are signals of speed and value), while your hand is both, slow and cheap. It was an excellent choice to fold. However, next draw…


East 1, 0 Honba

This 3m3m mahjong tile is not a safe tile. Sure, it is also not an “incredibly dangerous tile,” but it’s an unnecessary small risk. You have plenty of safe tiles to defend all the way to the end. The sum of these little mistakes will add up in the long run. Discarding 3m3m mahjong tile doesn’t move your hand forwards, and it’s not a safe tile (it can still deal into toitoi, chanta, junchan, ittsuu, sanshoku, and yakuhai ankou, etc., all of them can use the dora as pair as well). Don’t give people chances like that when your hand is as cheap and unwinnable like this one.

Key point #3

With cheap, slow hands it’s crucial that you do not give people chances, however small.


East 1, 0 Honba

Your hand is cheap, your tenpai chance slim: only 6s6s mahjong tile and 9s9s mahjong tile, 5 tiles in total. Even if you do get tenpai, your wait will be 4 tiles at best. On top of that, you’re against a riichi and East who was already dangerous. 8m8m mahjong tile itself isn’t “too dangerous” (given that you see three 7m7m mahjong tile), but it’s an unnecessary risk for no reward. Choose 7m7m mahjong tile and fold correctly.

This hand is too terrible to close your eyes and chase it blindly like that. Save those points for when you get a decent hand.

Key point #4

When you get poor hands, don’t gamble unnecessarily; save your points to invest them into your better hands.


East 1, 1 Honba

East 1, 1 Honba

East 1, 1 Honba

Here you went back from 1shanten to 2shanten for no reason, and tearing apart the sanshoku you were trying so hard to build. You still don’t see a single 7m7m mahjong tile on the board yet, so is there a reason why you’d break up your hand and discard a tile that is neither safe nor leads you to tenpai?

It’s normal to discard 3p3p mahjong tile here. I understand you might feel uneasy about having a penchan shape, but this kind of detour is only playable in the first row of discards; after that, you fall behind everyone. You're lucky it worked out in the end, and you didn’t deal into anybody.

Key point #5

Long detours are only playable in the first row of discards.


East 2, 0 Honba

East 2, 0 Honba

East 2, 0 Honba

I think by this point you had probably already decided you’d go for hon itsu. That’s good. Nevertheless, there’s a technique you can use early on when you have decided to go for hon itsu to make your hand a little bit easier to win: discard the suit that you have the more tiles in first. In this case, souzu tiles. By doing so, you don’t reveal the actual color of your hon itsu to your opponents right away, making it harder to respond to your calls.

If you discard 1m1m mahjong tile 7s7s mahjong tile, then you immediately inform everyone that you’re going for pinzu right away. However, if you dump 7s7s mahjong tile 2s2s mahjong tile 1s1s mahjong tile, then nobody can pinpoint whether you’re going for manzu or pinzu just yet.

Other than that, this hand was average, and anybody would’ve played it with the same result - but that’s a good thing. It is essential that you don’t let the simple hands slip away.

Key point #6

When locking in towards hon itsu, start by discarding the obsolete suit that you have the most tiles in.


East 3, 1 Honba

East 3, 1 Honba

East 3, 1 Honba

The 3m3m mahjong tile becomes ryanmen with 2m2m mahjong tile or 4m4m mahjong tile. 9m9m mahjong tile never becomes ryanmen. The value of 3m3m mahjong tile is higher than that of 9m9m mahjong tile. Accordingly, please discard 9m9m mahjong tile. There’s also a small chance for 234 sanshoku naturally in the distance.

For instance,

3m mahjong tile4m mahjong tile2p mahjong tile3p mahjong tile4p mahjong tile7p mahjong tile8p mahjong tile9p mahjong tile2s mahjong tile3s mahjong tile4s mahjong tile6s mahjong tile6s mahjong tile2m mahjong tile

or

2m mahjong tile3m mahjong tile4m mahjong tile3p mahjong tile4p mahjong tile7p mahjong tile8p mahjong tile9p mahjong tile2s mahjong tile3s mahjong tile4s mahjong tile1z mahjong tile1z mahjong tile2p mahjong tile

depending on the timing and order in which you draw your useful tiles.

East 3, 1 Honba

There’s no good enough reason to discard the dora ryanmen instead of the 58mryanmen5m mahjong tile8m mahjong tile ryanmen. Riichi, tsumo, iipeikou, dora 1 is already mangan chance. It’s a waste. If you were playing with aka dora, 56sryanmen5s mahjong tile6s mahjong tile is also an option.

East 3, 1 Honba

3p just passed, you get a free pass to discard it safely and keep the larger 1 shanten. By shedding 5s5s mahjong tile, you lose the 47s tenpai chance, iipeikou chance, and the chance to discard dora safely. The only thing you gain in exchange is participating in the lottery of drawing one of the 2 remaining dora while dragging the risk of having to release it later on. I don’t recommend you buy into that lottery. Please, keep the larger 1 shanten shape. Riichi, tsumo (and iipeikou) are already 2-3 han (consider the chance for ippatsu and ura as well). Menzen riichi is very strong!

Key point #7

Mahjong is a game of choosing what lottery you want to participate in. Choose carefully, since every lottery has a different cost, probability and payout.


East 3, 1 Honba

If you’re going to take the chance of discarding dora vs. oya riichi, you should at least riichi yourself for the value boost and for the right of winning on 36sryanmen3s mahjong tile6s mahjong tile as well. It’s a better lottery.


East 4, 0 Honba (Last of East Round)

East 4, 0 Honba (Last of East Round)

East 4, 0 Honba (Last of East Round)

Shape. Discard 5p5p mahjong tile. There is no need and no “natural” way of turning this hand into 345 sanshoku anymore - drawing 5s5s mahjong tile would just mean that you missed your chance for tenpai. You're forcing it too hard, and you don’t need the value so badly right now. A good shape East Riichi is a stronger choice. Discarding 5p5p mahjong tile gives you the most considerable tenpai chance, all of which leave you with a good wait.

Key point #8

An early good shape riichi hand is your most reliable ally when you’re East ~NPMahjong


East 4, 0 Honba (Last of East Round)

The 5m5m mahjong tile just passed, and two people didn’t change their hands. Don’t give your opponents the chance to call pon/chii/kan/ron on 2m2m mahjong tile. Discard 5m5m mahjong tile.


South 1, 0 Honba

South 1, 0 Honba

South 1, 0 Honba

If you discard this live Chun 10 times, it’s bound to deal in once. Just because it’s an honor, it doesn’t mean it’s safe. Since you’re folding to this East riichi (because this hand is terrible in shape and value), it’s an unnecessary risk. Discard 3p3p mahjong tile first.

South 1, 0 Honba

East riichi and 1 person pushing. You’re not supposed to push 2m2m mahjong tile while noten (and with that 7s7s mahjong tile penchan that’s half dead); it’s too naïve, you’re only giving people chances. Please, fold!

South 1, 0 Honba

The 9p9p mahjong tile and 3p3p mahjong tile are safe, but 6p6p mahjong tile hasn’t shown up yet! It’s not “safe.” Therefore, that's just another unnecessary risk.

Key point #9

Double check your safe tiles - suji doesn't equal safe.


South 3, 1 Honba

South 3, 1 Honba

South 3, 1 Honba

Key point #10

Even if all options are "right", there is usually one better option ~NPMahjong

Disclaimer: All things considered, riichi isn’t really bad, it’s a bet that will give you a good enough average placement. Also, dama wouldn't be a bad choice either. After all, if you were playing Tenhou Rules I might choose dama in some cases. So let’s get that out of the way first.

However, I do believe that neither of them is the best choice in these (and under most of the existing) rules. The best discard is 8m8m mahjong tile for the points and shape.

The 3456mnobetan3m mahjong tile4m mahjong tile5m mahjong tile6m mahjong tile shape is so famous and strong that it has a name for itself, "yonrenkei", and it can quickly evolve into ryanmen, or sanmen waits. You also keep the chance for 456 sanshoku. You can also improve the wait to a 36 nobetan after drawing 4p4p mahjong tile 7p7p mahjong tile. There are too many tiles that will enhance the hand, and it’s still before the 9th draw, where you can really use the extra points to improve your placing in the tournament. After discarding 8m8m mahjong tile, you will have the following hand improvements:

  1. 2m2m mahjong tile (furiten 3menchan)
  2. 3m3m mahjong tile (47p wait, sanshoku)
  3. 4m4m mahjong tile (25m ryanmen wait)
  4. 5m5m mahjong tile (47m ryamen wait)
  5. 6m6m mahjong tile (47p wait, no sanshoku)
  6. 7m7m mahjong tile (furiten 3menchan)
  7. 4p4p mahjong tile (36m wait, sanshoku)
  8. 5p5p mahjong tile (467p three sided wait)
  9. 7p7p mahjong tile (36m wait)

And yes, you will riichi with a furiten 3menchan wait. A kanchan wait for a 3 or 7 and a furiten 3-sided-wait have pretty much the same winning chance, with the latter being more expensive than the former (thanks to the extra han of menzen tsumo). Therefore, if you’re willing to riichi this kanchan, you might as well be prepared and ready to riichi that triple wait!

Bonus Key Point

Reaching your furiten hands actually increases their hand win percentage, as it increases the likelihood other people will step out. A three-sided wait furiten riichi has almost the same winning chance as a middle tile kanchan riichi.

Considering all of the above, I don’t think I fully understand why you chase improvements and yaku that are so out of hand in the mid-game, but then you won’t pursue them when there are so many tiles and possibilities. Please, keep this kind of shape in mind. This could have been the turning point of this game.

As for what happened in the last hand in All Last, I don’t think there’s much you could’ve done to avoid that... there wasn't much of a chance to do anything.


Those were the most critical comments for this game. I believe you were probably very much aware of these things while you were playing when given a chance to think about it you can make the right choices. To improve that aspect, please don’t give up on studying and practicing shapes! Then, after you master the basic rules, you can begin bending them to your will!

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist” ~Pablo Picasso


Thank you for reading! If you liked this mahjong game review, you could get your own game reviewed by pledging in my Patreon and sending me a message with your game. I also keep some premium content in there only for Patrons, and I answer DMs and inquiries. As a professional mahjong player in Japan, I'm on a busy schedule, but I will make time for your questions!

If you can’t, that’s fine, just please share this post with your friends online if you liked it! It helps a lot! =)

Good luck at the tables and see you next time!

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