Saturday, October 28, 2006

Friday 27th October: Hurled Down With Hideous Ruin & Combustion...

This was the game that almost didn't happen - and somehow I wish it hadn't although the evening was certainly diverting.

With Jaime absent and nobody seeming to be able to fill the gap at the table I called off the game at 5:30pm. Then at 5:31pm Eri mailed me to say that she'd like to play. Eri, your timing is atrocious! Nevertheless, the game was rescued, with Eri, Noda and David playing the first game, and Kenyon joining us for the second.

Everything appeared to be going to plan as Eri fumbled around after a long absence from the table and finished her first game on -65. David was contemplating a return to the positive end of the table when Eri declared "
Riichi" and David rather casually chucked out the tile she was waiting for.

From that point in the evening everything went haywire and David felt himself to be in a situation similar to that of Old Nick himself, so recently aspirant of great height and suddenly finding himself

Hurled headlong flaming from th' ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire...
Eri and Noda bowed out and Hide slotted himself into Noda's seat for the next six games. The pattern then went something like this: either Hide or Kenyon would finish in the black. Sometimes they would both finish in the black. David, luxuriating on his lake of fire, ordered more beer.

By the end of fifth game Kenyon was top on +66 and had reached +101 for the evening. David's
Yakitori was stuck on the table. From that point on the top player finished on a higher and higher score, with Hide winning the sixth on +70, Kenyon the seventh on +81, which put him on +141... But then Hide replied by retaining the Oya for eight rounds and on for Parenchan (which meant that he could go out on anything the other players threw without needing a Yaku). David was able to prevent that outcome by declaring Riichi with a 3-Yaku combination of 3xTon and Honitsu with a 3-6-9 Coin wait which temporarily replenished his tray with a fresh supply of scarce Tenbo.

Hide eventually won the game on an amazing +162, mostly at the expense of Kenyon, who was the second player to be left with his Yakitori stuck on the table after a valiant last gasp Riichi declaration went awry as Hide completed the final hand to finish on one of the highest scores for a single session of play.

Hide --, --, +22, -39, -14, +70, +2, +163 = +204
Noda +57, -15, --, --, --, --, --, -- = +42
Kenyon --, +31, -7, +42, +66, -41, +81, -132,** = +40
Eri -65, +5, --, --, --, --, --, -- = -60
David +8, -21, -15, -3, -52,** -29, -83, -31 = -226

Best wishes to Jaime and his family were sent in by the whole assembly.

David Hurley
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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Friday 20th October: David Top But Noda Breaks Another Record!

An eventful evening. For now, here are the results:

David +32, +56*, -14, -34, +47 = +87
Noda +14, -8, +74, --, -- = +80
Hide --, --, --, +8, -20 = -12
Kenyon --, -19, -47**, +26, -27 = -67
Jaime -46, -29, -13, --, -- = -88

* Chombo: David went out on an open hand with just one Yaku (Chun) during Ryanshi.
** Yakitori.

The result of all this was that Noda broke 900 points on the year, setting another yearly record high score.

Congratulations to Simon & Hiromi Smith on the birth of their daughter.
Congratulations also to Paul & Miranda Bradbury on the birth of their daughter, Hannah.

David Hurley
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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Friday 13th October: Change of Season Confirmed by David

An interesting result tonight inasmuch as Jaime came top but what sticks in the mind (several memory-clouding days later) is "the luck of the Noda" (as P. G. Wodehouse might have put it). As in any endeavour in this mortal life of ours, the best player creates his own luck, but sometimes Fortune simply throws an extra favour or two into his lap.

Take for example Noda's declaration of "Riichi" on his first discard as Oya... Jaime, who had to play next, surveyed the scene and observing that nothing was safe and that the Mekuri-pai was East, and furthermore, that he had a second such tile in his hand, he reasoned that, though not safe, it was a safer bet than any other tile - certainly than any suit tile... And so he threw it.


Noda: Double Riichi, Ippatsu and I forget how many extra Yaku or Dora. David never got to play a single tile.

Then there was the case of Noda declaring Riichi while Jaime was Oya and going out with Suuanko Tanki on the 9-Coins at the very end of a hand.

Then there was the case of Noda once again declaring Riichi. This time it was David who had no safe discard and who, surveying the scene, spotted a 3-Coins lurking with malicious intent in Noda's discard row. The malicious intent was only revealed when David threw the 6-Coins.


When we contemplate these things, particularly the memory of Jaime handing 24,000 points over to Noda after that Suuanko Tanki, it comes as quite a shock to peruse the scoresheet and observe that it is Jaime who emerged as the clear winner this evening with Noda finishing second and in the black on a modest +22.

When I mentioned all that guff about Fortune throwing her favours into a chap's lap I omitted to mention that a chap can just as easily tip it out again.

It so happens that over the last several months Noda has had Jaime toil away in his behalf to secure a golfing holiday in New Zealand for a greatly discounted price. Now, you may not think that such a difficult task when you consider that any golf club outside of Japan simply doubles or trebles its fees whenever one of the Glorious Sons of Nippon hoves into view, but I can assure you that the negotiations were long and protracted, particularly on this side of the water. I have sat back and observed them on several a Friday evening. However, now that the deal has been done it was time for Jaime to receive his reward, and his reward was free beers for him and me throughout this evening, with Noda matching each of our beers with a glass of that dodgy Japanese alcohol known as shochu. We come to the nub of the gist and if we now peruse the records for this evening we might espy a few noteworthy trends concealed within the statistics.

Item. Observe how Noda's score rises with the first few glasses of shochu. It is common knowledge that Noda's game is fuelled by shochu, but everything reaches a point where it turns into its opposite and that occurred to Noda with his fifth or sixth shochu somewhere in the fourth game. In short, Noda lost the plot and never recovered.

Item. It will be noted that Jaime's game recovered after the third beer.

Item. David's form got less worse the more he drank.

Jaime +29, -31, -37, +47, +24, +34 = +66
Noda +8, +59, +56, -41, -22, -38 = +22
David -37, -28, -19, -6, -2, +4 = -88

David Hurley
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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Friday 6th October: Hide's First Win Secures an All Japanese Victory

Noda had once again been dominating play by the time Hide arrived for the second game. Jaime staged a second game recovery to bring him within 3 points of parity and David staged a recovery in the third.

However, in the last game of the evening Hide suddenly emerged from relative obscurity to storm into first place.

With Hide as Oya, about six or seven discards into the game, David threw a tile and Hide went out without having declared Riichi. The common term we use for that situation is "traffic accident". Unfortunately for David, he suffered three consecutive traffic accidents in a row at the hands of Hide, each one more expensive than the other as the accumulating Hyaku Tenbo were making each loss more expensive...

The last Oya of the evening was David, who was by now reeling, ruffled, tired and drunk! Still in with a chance of a recovery, he began to claim any open Pon that came his way. Alas for him however Hide was doing likewise and looking far more threatening. Hide's first open Pon claimed a discarded 5-Coins. The Dora indicator just happened to be a 4-Coins, so there were three Dora points plus a fourth for the Red Five on show already. Then Hide picked up a fourth 5-Coins (the other red one) and went Kan so he now had FIVE Dora points showing - but worse was follow when he turned over ANOTHER 4-Coins to give him TEN DORA.

By then David's Toitoi hopes were in tatters as he was not even Tenpai despite having only four hidden tiles left - and not one of them was a remotely safe discard. Jaime was also holding some dangerous tiles but had most of his hand available to him and steered clear of trouble. By now David was resigned to a big pay out and with a fatalistic air tossed the East tile, and pretty much as he'd expected, the inevitable cry of "RON!" was heard from Hide's side of the table.

Hide --, -17, +7, +113 = +103
Noda +68, +13, -16, -28 = +37
Jaime -49, +46, -29, -17 = -49
David -19, -42, +38, -68 = -91

So Hide and David exchange positions on the Grand Accumulated Results Table while Noda extends his lead and Jaime sinks to a new all time low!

David Hurley
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Wednesday 4th October: Doctors Down

Now that the autumn term has begun I have had to shuffle my schedule and am no longer able to spend a leisurely Wednesday afternoon teaching Doctor M "German History in English" prior to an extended session of mahjong with him and his parents. However, by shifting his class to a Thursday evening I was able to rush by train from the Red Cross Nursing College up in Ajina to Hiroshima and leg it up to the Doctor's parents' place in time for a session of Wednesday afternoon mahjong.

The first thing this tired and dusty teacher received on crossing the threshold was a cold, refreshing beer!

Mrs M informed me that she had been "studying" mahjong and indeed for most of the game she kept a mahjong book close to hand.

In the first game I seemed to be able to do no wrong as attractive hands came together and completed themselves effortlessly. At times like these one is reminded of Bernard Hollander's observation in his book on hypnosis:

We flatter ourselves that it is we who are thinking;
whereas the thinking is within us and goes on all the time.

Doctor M senior got caught several times discarding a Coin that I was waiting for. I had discarded the 5 and 8Coins and so he deduced that the 2Coins might be safe - which it wasn't! It was especially dangerous because I had declared Riichi and on going out I turned over a 1Coins under the wall to give me three extra bonus points - a considerable tally for the Oya in the four-player game.

Dr M also came to grief on the 9Coins, seeing that all the 8Coins were out he tried his luck with the 9Coins - but once again, I was ready and waiting! That happened twice in the same game to the Doctor, and then once to me, this time with the roles being reversed!

Anyway, by the end of the game I was the only winner and comfortably ahead with a nice six "Maru" bonuses to my name.

The second game went was going quite well too but then Dr M junior made a stand as "Oya" finishing "Tenpai"
about three times in a row whereas I was reduced to breaking up hands and found my stock of score sticks to be gradually diminishing without anybody winning a hand...

Despite his stand, the junior doc seemed to be having no luck with going out. Several times he declared Riichi and picked up a string of useless tiles while everybody else discarded any tile but the one he needed.

Still, something must have gone right for the doc because he was top in the second game and I was on zero which game me a single bonus "Maru" while the seniors were both in the red.

However, in the third game Mrs M's studies seemed to bear fruit as she emerged to win the game convincingly and with a score high enough for her to leap into top place for the evening. I came in second-and-in-the-black and the two doctors were in the red.


I returned the next evening for Doctor M's history lesson. Tonight's reading from Steven Ozments "A Mighty Fortress" was about Beethoven and Goethe, which just happened to coincide with another book that I began reading earlier in the week: Walter Kaufmann, "Discovering the Mind - Kant, Goethe, Hegel". Also, that same day I had finished reading George Sorel's "Reflections on Violence". Both volumes were called upon and their insights were stirred into the pot. Kant the static structuralist was contrasted unfavourably against Goethe the dynamic creative genius. At one moment Sorel was found to have quite a lot in common with Goethe since neither was a system builder and both were fine examples of autonomous and often unpredictable but never gratuitous development.

In his brief treatment of Beethoven, Ozment mentions his Ode to Joy as representing a reassertion of the great ideal of the brotherhood of man, but one which is kept firmly in the realm of imagination after the abandonment of Enlightenment ideals by all the post revolutionary European governments beginning with Robespierre's Terror.

Utopian optimists such as Robespierre martial the force of the state to bring about the brotherhood of man by force, killing off anybody who does not appear to be sufficiently committed to the project in the process. Sorel, who is misrepresented as a Jacobin over on Wikipedia (unless I get around to editing that page), was a great prophet of tragic pessimism. In Reflections on Violence he writes:

The pessimist regards social conditions as forming a system bound together by an iron law which cannot be evaded, as something in the form of one block, and which can only disappear through a catastrophe which involves the whole. If this theory is admitted, then it becomes absurd to attribute the evils from which society suffers to a few wicked men; the pessimist is not subject to the bloodthirsty follies of the optimist driven mad by the unforeseen obstacles that his projects meet; he does not dream of bringing about the happiness of future generations by slaughtering existing egoists.

David Hurley
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Saturday 30th September: 3-Player Mahjong at the Nakanos'

I popped into Bizenya for a bowl of "yasai ramen" and then headed across Peace Park on my way to play mahjong with Mr and Mrs Nakano. They had heard about me from a former student of mine and Mrs N had contacted me by e-mail to arrange a game of mahjong which we played last autumn. A whole year passed before I had opportunity to take up her invitation to go and play a second game.

Unfortunately the fourth player pulled out so we had to play 3-player mahjong. Mrs N had never played the 3-player game before and Mr N was not so keen on it as on the standard 4-player game. Their old and well used mahjong set also does not have enough score tallies for the three player game. (In the three-player each player starts with 45,000 points, whereas in the standard four-player game each player starts with 25,000 points.) We agreed to begin with 35,000 points with a break-even level of 40,000 points and make the best of the scoring as we went, with Mr N working out the scores from the standard four-player game. The result was that some hands were scored too highly but still the game worked out well enough.

Mr N won the first game, Mrs N won the second and I won the third. Mrs N stole the second really (!) by going out on Suuanko Tanki which sent me into the red. However, in the third I ended up with most of the score tallies in my tray and the final score was:

Mr N +36
David +36
Mrs N -72

I don't quite know how I managed it because Mrs N and I spent most of the last game gossiping about a mutual acquaintance of ours who goes by the name of Mr Crowfield and who was a member of my Thursday morning class at Ajina Dai until he took it upon himself to undergo a training course for some form of gainful employment... His manifold exploits in the field of chivalry were celebrated.

Good luck Kurasuda-san and if you have chance sometime in the future, please come back to our class on Thursday mornings!

David Hurley
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Friday 29th September: Gaijin Win - David Back in the Black...

A refreshing change to the proceedings tonight as Noda stumbled and bumbled in the first two games of the evening, setting up David and Jaime for a profitable evening. In the second game Noda gave away the 8Coins to Jaime twice in a row...

Kenyon joined us for the third game and the dynamics of play shifted back in Noda's favour mainly at Kenyon's expense. The game finished at 11:10pm so David bailed out in order to catch the tram home while ahead of the game. The evening's result saw David creep back into the black and as play stood when he left it looked as if he might steal second place in the "Grand Accumulated Results Table"

Hide took his place for the last game of the evening in which Kenyon staged a come-back to preserve his position in second place and in the black in the Table. Noda recorded his first significant loss for some considerable time but his place at the top of the table remains secure at the end of the third quarter...

David +30, +13, +2, -- = +45
Jaime +5, +51, -14, 0 = +42
Kenyon --, --, -68, +79 = +11
Hide --, --, --, -21 = -21
Noda -35, -64, +80, -58 = -77

David Hurley
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