CHENGDU, China - The Mahjong International League (MIL) makes strategic moves to access a vast majority of mahjong players in China playing so-called Sichuan Bloody Mahjong (血戰到底) rules, top Chinese local style.
When I and mahjong enthusiast Matthew Shim from the USA (he is running www.mahjongtiles.com, Mahjong Tile Replacements & Museum) were invited by the MIL to China, we had no idea what would it be about. Presentations, opening ceremony, playing a new mahjong style in a real tournament - all that comes from a mahjong type of a trip. From the cultural prospective we enjoyed pandas in their natural environment, a face-changing Sichuan opera, and very spicy local food.
According to research conducted by the MIL from both online game platforms and from offline questionnaires at thirty-five Chinese cities, Sichuan Bloody Mahjong is the top mahjong style in China. That "opportunity window" has been perfectly matched by MIL by offerring Sichuan Bloody Rules Grand-Prix -- twenty independent tournament days during a two month period followed by the finals on November 4-6, 2016.
Bloody mahjong refers to the fact that the game does not end when one player declares mahjong, but instead the game continues until three players have declared mahjong and only one player remains as the ultimate loser.
Sichuan Bloody Rules (SBR) are a bit unusual for two main reasons: there are only 108 tiles in the game (three full suits), and a deal is played until three players have declared mahjong (unless the wall is exhausted). With only 108 tiles to play with, the walls counts only 13 or 14 tiles in a row instead of 18, yet the game is still played on a standard sized table. Playing with so few tiles, it's common for the size of the tiles to be even larger, in fact really huge, literally like bricks.
Basic rules are relatively simple though their ‘competitiveness potential’ is the key to understanding SBR. This rule set may be good as a quick game alternative or even as a starter for complete beginners, perhaps.
Both Matthew and I learned how to play only one day before the tournament from MIL staff and its chief referee.
There were five playing sessions per day, with the player's total score being compounded from their best of four results. Being an open tournament, anybody could play, so seating was determined by drawing lots.
The game itself was very unusual, though some general ideas of completing a hand helped.
The whole event was perfectly organised by the MIL staff, and was supported by team of referees. Special thanks to Mr. Li Wenlong, General Secretary of Mahjong International League.
Overview of the Rules of Bloody Mahjong
The rules as they were presented to Vitaly Novikov during his time in Chengdu, China.
Name of Rules
Name of rules in traditional Chinese writing is 血戰到底, in simplified Chinese -- 血战到底. The English version of Rules is ‘Sichuan Bloody Rules’ (SBR). ‘Bloody’ simply mean ‘playing to the end’, until three players declare mahjong.
Game Set and General Rules
The game set consists of 108 tiles, three suits of 36 tiles.
The wall is built in two layers but with different number of tiles in a row: East and West by fourteen tiles, South and North by thirteen tiles.
Two dice are thrown only once by the Dealer determining the player whose wall to break. However, not the sum of dice count but the MINIMUM of two values is used to break the wall.
The first player to declare mahjong in the current deal becomes dealer in the deal. In case of a draw dealer stays. If a player discards for multiple win then that player becomes new dealer.
A certain agreed number of deals is played.
Comment: At the tournament having automatic tables in Chengdu it was played 10 deals or 1 hour per session.
As for declarations, only "Pung", "Kong" and "Hu" ("Mahjong") are allowed. It is impossible to declare "Chow", however, a complete hand may contain Chow.
Mahjong can be declared only in a hand with one voided suit, i.e., the complete hand must be one- or two-suited. To indicate voided suit each player before the start of the deal must detach a tile from starting hand and place it face down by hand indicating by it also the first discard. In the event of one- or two-suited starting a hand a player calls the judge who gives the card indicating to-be-voided suit, which also is placed face down by the hand.
Whenever player has tiles of voided suit he must discard tiles of that suit prior to tiles of other suits.
Severe penalty of -48 points will be charged to the player who has tiles of voided suit if deals end (either after three wins of if wall is depleted).
Comment: Voided suit ideologically corresponds to the analogue furiten rule in Riichi, providing opportunities for defense since mahjong cannot be declared on voided suit on discard.
General Procedures for Winning
Hands can be of three possible states: (1) complete (mahjong is declared), (2) incomplete, but waiting (tempai) when the wall is finished, (3) incomplete, but not waiting when the wall is depleted.
After the first mahjong is declared, the player turns the concealed portion of the hand facedown. This includes the winning tile if it was self-drawn from the wall. This player is not involved further in the deal until its end.
This process is repeated until mahjong is declared for the second and third time, leaving only one final loser. Multiple mahjong declarations on discarded tile are ALLOWED.
When the wall is depleted without three mahjongs declared, all hands in play are checked for the wait. None-waiting hands do not receive any points. Furthermore, each non-waiting hand must pay for waiting hands as if those hands won.
After three mahjong declarations or depleting of the wall the scoring takes place.
None-waiting hands do not receive any points.
Winning, or waiting hands may receive points.
There are two types of winning points: for mahjong and for Kongs.
Comment: Sometimes points for a declared Kong can offset the losses for discarding into a mahjong.
When mahjong is declared from discard then the value of the hand is paid from discarder to the player(s) declared mahjong.
When mahjong is declared from the wall, the value of the hand is paid by each of the players remaining in the game.
Comment: This rule corresponds to pay-off scheme in MCR (perhaps that scheme came to MCR from Sichuan Mahjong?)
The value of the complete hand is equal to 1 point multiplied by power of 2 according to the number of Doubles.
Winning from the wall counts as 1 point added after application of Doubles.
Tiles in kongs are shown to every player.
Concealed kong can be declared on a player's own turn, and earns 2 points paid by each of the remaining players in the game players. Concealed kong is placed with two tiles facedown and two tile faceup.
Opened kongs can be declared off a discard, and earns 2 points from the discarder.
Promoting an open pung to a kong can be declared during a player's own turn, and earns 1 point from the remaining players in the game. However, to receive points for a promoted kong, the additional tile must be ‘just taken’ from the wall. If the tile is not freshly drawn, then the points for promoted kong are not awarded (although the presence of the kong may increase the value of the hand). Promoted kongs may be robbed (as in other rules of mahjong).
Player do NOT receive points for Kong if: player does not win, has no waiting hand when wall is depleted or somebody has won on discarded by player tile right after the player declared Kong.
The Value of a Hand and Doubles
Complete hand = 1 point, Doubles may be applied
Waiting hand when wall is finished (tempai) = 1 point, NO Doubles may be applied
Self-drawn = 1 point (added after all the Doubles),
All Pungs = 1 Double (*2),
One suit = 2 Doubles (*4),
Seven pairs = 2 Doubles (*4),
4 identical tiles in a complete hand = 1 Double (*2)
Comment: Those 4 tiles may be in a Kong but may be in different sets (like Tile Hog in MCR),
Robbing a Kong = 1 Double (*2),
Winning on Replacement tile = 1 Double (*2),
Winning on discarded tile right after another player declared Kong = 1 Double (*2),
The last tile from the wall = 1 Double (*2),
Last Discard = 1 Double (*2),
Winning with the only on in the hand (four declared sets) = 1 Double (*2).