For most of us, the week after the seder is spent enjoying leftovers, cleaning all the seder dishes and keeping Pesach – but for mahjong players, it’s time to start memorizing the new card.
Every April, the National Mah Jongg League releases a new card full of new combinations to be played in standard games.
“This is a hard card … but I said that about last year’s one too,” said Judy Menton, while playing with the 2022 card at United Brothers Synagogue, in Bristol. Menton has been playing with a mahjong group weekly for almost five years – which means five new cards.
“Time to start relearning again,” she said.
Changing the card yearly can help level the playing field for players of varying skills.
Another player at United Brothers Synagogue, Faye Dion, said, “I’m used to being able to have multiple hands in my head at once. Now I can only do one until [I] fully learn the new card.”
This year, the National Mah Jongg League celebrates its 85th anniversary. According to its website, www.nationalmahjonggleague.org, the organization was formed when a number of mahjong enthusiasts met in New York City to standardize the game.
The league started with 32 members – and today has over 350,000.
Dion said changing the card adds a new challenge, which can be disorienting, but players “eventually get used to it.”
She said she also plays online, at RealMahongg.com, to help learn the new combinations.
“That’s how you really learn it,” Dion advised.
Miriam Katz agrees. She has a group she plays with on the website. “It was slow going for all of us, and we all felt very tired because the new card required so much concentration,” she said about a recent session.
She added, “We only played five games in three hours … but that was also due to a lot of chatting.”
Katz and her group Zoom together while playing online, so they can see one another. She said she also plays against the computer and random online players when she has time.
“I’ve played so many games that after awhile you start to get tired of it. I’m really ready for something new,” she said. “This new card looks like it’ll be a fun one.”
Leslie Katz, no relation to Miriam Katz, plays with a small group from Barrington and East Providence. They take turns playing in one another’s homes.
“I think that it has some different options, and some good combinations that I’m glad to see again,” she said of the new card.
“In the beginning, you’re constantly looking, and checking yourself, and making sure you’re doing it right,” she said, before adding: “But I’ll get more confident with it soon.”
SETH CHITWOOD (www.sethchitwood.com), of Barrington, is a features reporter for The Standard-Times, in New Bedford. He is also the creative director of the award-winning Angelwood Pictures production company.