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The thought behind this starter-set

The ruleset of MCR (Mahjong Competition Rules) defines 81 different scoring elements (aka fan's pinyin: 番). MCR is short for the Mahjong Competition Rules (aka Chinese Official) worldwide standards.  The standards are described in the MCR Greenbook (pdf format) and outlined here, not only describing them in detail but also in various samples and contexts. 

For the enthusiasts who are starting to learn the MCR ruleset, 81 different scoring elements is in fact an intimidating number. Perhaps a suggestion is to learn a smaller subset of the total.

One of the base principles within MCR (win as fast as you can), kind of naturally directs us towards a subset based on the most frequently played / occurring scoring elements. Based on proven statistics, the composition of this starter set makes it a manageable learning objective. Once the enthusiast has familiarised themselves with the game mechanics across the breadth of mahjong playing variants are more or less the same. Of course as an assisting tool, one might want to consider using our infamous cheatsheet.

All other scoring elements are simply harder to achieve. On the standard overview page you'll be able to dive in to all of them. On that overview page we present several groupings for your convenience. The first by type, the second by element number (descending), thirdly by score amount, which ever suits you best.

Whilst on my personal journey of learning to play Mahjong NTS and later on MCR, and my natural drive to structure and analyze data, the following question kept coming up: "are there some elements that are more frequently played than others?" What do most people do (I consider myself one of "most";-)? and next what does the more experienced player do, what would the best players do?... would the numbers be the same or perhaps different?

There's undeniably an element of luck in the regular MCR game (btw Duplicate MCR aims to mitigate the luck factor to some degree!), which is for a lot of people one of the attractive features of the Mahjong game (regardless of the ruleset used). 


The ambitious player will look for strategies to beat their opponents. In essence, this translates to making deliberate choices, based on the known facts that unfold during the game.


Right from the very start, when each player has to make their initial move after receiving their initial set of tiles the players evaluate their chances and formulate a plan/strategy, based on the 14 tiles available when it is their turn to discard. And during the game, the unused discarded tiles become knowledgeable about what possibilities are left to play..

For the most frequently played set of scoring elements a distinction can be made between what one could consider being Primary Base scoring elements and Primary Supporting scoring elements. 

Primary Base scoring elements are generally those scoring elements that are a good base to start with, mostly because they are already worth 8 points (the minimum for going out) or 6 points.

The 6-point Primary Base Elements can be combined with (frequently occurring) Primary Supporting scoring elements, which in fact support those Primary Base elements that require additional points to achieve the minimum of 8 points.

The above strategy gets more context when you combine it with knowing the frequency for any of the 81 scoring elements in actual registered online games. 


Perhaps not surprisingly the scoring elements with a lower score are on average most frequently played when looking at registered online game statistics *). In fact, the scoring elements with a score of 6 points are most frequently played on average, compared to those that score 8 points or more.

With the previously described characteristics in mind, the MCR Starter-set is comprised of 7 Primary Base scoring elements and 13 Primary Supporting elements! That is about 1/4 of the 81 in total!  Surely this must be a less intimidating number for most beginners.

If you plan for the possibility of higher frequency primary base elements in the starting stage of the game and primary supporting elements in the endgame you influence the amount of luck you need.

Note: the frequency is expressed as a percentage, for easier understanding the percentage (of the base sample) can be expressed as an occurrence integer of once every x deals (@nn).

*) Source:

The statistical numbers used here are obtained from the site at some point based on over 500,000 recorded hands. Many thanks to Vitaly and Alexander for making online mahjong happen on their free platform. 


Primary Base scoring elements are those with:

  ① a relatively high frequency and

  ② a minimum of 6 points.


These characteristics make each of these elements a "plan-worthy" target and often provide sufficient flexibility for alternative strategies while the game develops.  The more experienced player may have an extended list or primary scoring elements adding scoring elements with 6, 4, or even 2 points.


Based on the initial layout of your initial 14 tiles, one could choose to go for a "difficult" less frequently played, heavily leaning on luck, a beautiful high score hand that in fact may never see the light of day, because someone else beat you to it with one of the top four Primary Base scoring elements, complemented with one or two supporting elements worth at least 2 points in total to tilt up a hand towards a valid hand worth 8 points minimum.  In MCR the winner takes all.

Below are the 7 Primary Base scoring elements of the starter-set.

Primary Supporting scoring elements are those with

  ① a relatively high frequency and

  ② a value that supports the scoring elements of 6 points or less.  

Obviously, the 2-point scoring elements in this list are "plan-worthy" to complement the 6-point primary base scoring elements. But.. please do not forget the 1-point supporting scoring elements, two of these combined might do the trick as well.

Some of these supporting elements are natural companions of some of the primary base scoring elements listed above. 

Notably, the occurrence frequency of some of these is well above some of the most frequent primary scoring elements listed above.


Did you know?  Few people realize that the Self-drawn tile that promotes your waiting hand to the state of HU! occurs on average once in every 5 played hands, about 20% of the time? 

Below we outline the 13 Primary Supporting scoring elements of the MCR Starter set.

The two concepts of Primary Base and Supporting scoring elements are a great starting point.

One might think that having some concept denoted as being "Primary" begs the question of whether there are perhaps also concepts like "secondary base" and "secondary supporting" scoring elements.

In fact, yes one can identify a "Secondary" concept by simply looking at the statistical occurrence frequency.


Some scoring elements that you will see (less frequently) are basically less "plan-worthy", the element of luck simply comes into play to quite a larger extent.  But hey you might get lucky!

Below are the 6 Secondary Supporting and 7 Secondary Base scoring elements, which are not part of the starter set.  We list them here to illustrate the difference in frequency.  You will encounter these but realize more luck is involved, if you do encounter these additional supporting elements, they will be good candidates to complement some of the Primary Base scoring elements worth only 6 points.

The more experienced player, as mentioned before, will likely have the Lesser Honors & Knitted (1:54), the Chicken Hand (1:106), and Reversible Tiles (1:140) as extra "weapons" in the arsenal of possibilities and therefore be able to maximize that chance of winning even more, just because they have readily available knowledge and experience to identify alternative plans.

Likely the experienced play might have different (better!) stat numbers on some of the elements because they have a better eye for the opportunity that presents itself.

And yes there's an even longer list of scoring elements that depend on an even larger amount of luck, that we do not even consider them to be tertiary, just label them to be "very lucky" or "extremely lucky" or virtually never played even! 


For the purpose of this page, we do not even list them on this page.  The full list of scoring elements can be accessed here.

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