New Game

The China State Sports Commission gave official recognition to mahjong in January 1998. This lead to international mahjong rules being established and finally these rules were adopted for various international tournaments. This was a good thing for mahjong as there are many rules and variations of the game that are played all over the world, though it originally a Chinese game.

The rules for international mahjong are now governed by the World Mahjong Organization and they are sometimes referred to as Chinese Official Rules, World Mahjong Contest Rules or Official International Rules.

When it comes to playing international mahjong, the game play is similar to the Chinese classical version of the game. So, if you know how to play Chinese classical mahjong, you are at an advantage. The structure of the winning hand in international mahjong is the same as Chinese classical mahjong — a player needs to get 4 sets and one pair. However, there are other winning hand combinations that are accepted in international mahjong.

International mahjong is played with 144 tiles. There are three suit tiles comprising of bamboo tiles, character tiles and circle tiles. The tiles are numerical tiles, running from 1 to 9. There are 4 copies of each of the suit tiles. The tiles numbered from 2 to 8 are known as Simples, tiles 1 and 9 are referred to as Terminals.

The next set of tiles is the honor tiles. These tiles are made up of wind tiles and dragon tiles. The wind tiles are the four cardinal directions, namely East, South, West and North, while the dragon tiles are red dragon, green dragon and white dragon. Just like the suit tiles, there are four copies of each honor tile.

In international mahjong, there are 8 bonus tiles. These show the four seasons and four flowers. The season tiles are numbered from 1 to 4 and represent spring, summer, autumn and winter respectively. The flower tiles are also numbered from 1 to 4 and represent the plum blossom, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo respectively. The bonus tiles are not part of the actual game play. They are not used to make sets or pairs. Rather, they are used to increase a player’s score. They are usually set aside. If they are drawn, they are replaced. These bonus tiles add the luck element to the game.

Just like traditional Chinese mahjong, the international version is also about forming sets and pairs based on the scoring patterns. A player has to have 4 sets and 1 pair to complete a mahjong. The sets can be three identical tiles, which are known as pong; four identical tiles, which are known as kong; or consist of three suit tiles in a numerical order. The three suit tiles should belong to the same suit; and this set is referred to as chow or chi.

When it comes to making the pair, it can be made with any two tiles that are identical. If you have bonus tiles, you can use them to form your set or pair. In fact, it is advised that the moment a player draws a bonus tile, he should set the tile aside and immediately draw another tile to replace it. If you collect the bonus tiles, you will win additional points at the end.

The game is played between 4 players, who do not work as a team. Each player plays for himself, and the playing order is always in the counterclockwise director. So, the player seated at the East wall will start the game.

The game starts with the shuffling of the tiles. Then the tiles are arranged in a square. Each wall of the square will have 2 X 18 tiles. This square is known as the Wall. After the tiles are arranged, each player draws 13 tiles. The East player draws 14 tiles, as he will begin the game. He then discards the first tile. Once a tile is discarded, the next player can claim the discarded tile as long as certain rules are met, or draw a tile from the Wall. This player also discards after picking a tile and the game continues in this manner.

The player who gets a mahjong hand comprising of 4 sets and 1 pair has to say Hu. Once this word is said, the game stops immediately. The winner is paid depending on the points he has in hand. In international mahjong, just the winner gets the points and the other players do not exchange points, as what is done in Chinese classical mahjong. Once the game finishes, the seating arrangements are rotated.

You can find this version of mahjong by visiting

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