Mahjong is a tile-based game developed in China. Mahjong is commonly played with four people, although there are some versions designed for two or three people. The game has spread steadily throughout China and Asia, and is now played by people all over the world. There are many variants to Mahjong, but official competition rules are set by the World Mahjong Organization in Beijing. The WMO publishes the Chinese Official Rules, also known as the International Tournament Rules,. Most championships follow these, although other organizations have tried to create international tournament rules as well.
Mahjong is played by four people who face each other around a four-sided table, rather like bridge. However, unlike bridge, mahjong players do not play in teams. Each person is looking out for himself. Where you sit in mahjong actually has bearing on the game. Although which spot you get is chosen randomly, the four sides are called East, South, West and North. These do not correspond to real directions. If you have the East seat, you go first, drawing the first four tiles. Also, your seating determines your “seat wind”. Different tiles are associated with different winds. If you are able to match three identical tiles (a pung) or four identical tiles (a kong) in your wind, this means extra points. Players rotate seats after each game.
There are 81 “fan”, scoring combinations, in official Mahjong tournament rules. Sets of three or four matching dragon tiles are called the Big Three Dragons, and are worth 88 points, the highest. Any hand in which you have four kongs is also worth 88 points. Other high-scoring hands are the 66-point Little Three Dragons, two pungs or kongs of dragon tiles plus a third pair of dragons; and the 48-point quadruple chow (three suit tiles in sequence), which consists of four chows of the same suit in the same number sequence.
The object of the game is to create a mahjong, four sets of tiles and one pair of other tiles. Some variations of Mahjong allow players to go out and win immediately once they possess these four sets and a pair. However, international tournament rules demand that a player have scored at least eight points from them before being able to win. This means players jockey to create higher-scoring combinations as quickly as possible. One of the easier ways to do this is the make a mixed shifted chow, which allows players to score eight points while concentrating on only a few tiles.
Mahjong Club: Rules
World Mahjong Organization: Rules
World-class Mahjong With World Champion Mai Hatsune: Mixed Triple Chow