Friday, November 28, 2008

Of Malayan Emergencies And Apple Diets

I arrived a little bit earlier than usual at the Docs' last night so Dr. M. Sr. and I entertained ourselves with some cheerful chat about warfare, particularly a somewhat doctored version, if I may put it like that, of what my late pater had been up to during the Malayan Emergency in the mid '50s. In two words, building airstrips, or, in a few more, overseeing the admin involved in building airstrips (for the typewriter is mightier than the Sten gun).

I seem to recall tales of how one benighted pioneer was persuaded that you really could bounce Land Rovers off rubber trees and that the best way to start a cement mixer was to bump start it; of the squadron short-arse being dropped into a firing trench and left stranded; of perimeter guards fearlessly repelling a nocturnal assault by wild boar, and... I could go on recalling tales from the long room of my childhood, but Dr. M. Jr. has just come rushing in so let the game commence.

The first game was quite a swift affair and won by Dr. M. Jr. True to my recent form, I came in fourth, but happily for a game that involves the Batsu/Maru penalty and rewards system, the senior parties were also losers.

The second game was a more extended affair with the players being very cagey and several hands went without result. There were also a few games where two or even three players declared Riichi but the game played out without a winner. What did result from that, however, was that the Junior Doc was Oya during a Ryanshi round, which I went out on when Mrs M gave away the tile in attempting to go Riichi.

At the end of the second game, I had managed to get myself into second place for the evening, with Dr. M. Jr in top spot. By now it was twenty to eleven, which is usually early enough for us to play a third game, but I was keen to call it a night, and catch the tram home - while I was ahead!

The doctors then asked me if I liked apples! Yet another of their satisfied patients had presented them with two boxes of huge apples, far more than they can cope with, so they loaded me up with as many as I could carry - 21 in all - and sent me on my way, so the painful memories of recent losses at the 3-Player game have been somewhat... somewhat... dissipated. This morning I went on an "Asa-ringo Dietto"!

David Hurley


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

A Blazing Good Session...

It was an "Old Foreigners" game last Friday. Two of them, David and Jaime, had bought cuban cigars at Kemby's, or rather at the bar on the second floor of Kemby's.

We were rather hoping to smoke out the Japanese players on the other tables, but when we got to Kodama jansou we found that we were the only party. Another group turned up a while later, but did not stay for long, perhaps due to the volume of smoke that we puffed out.

Wasn't it Kipling who said something about mahjong being just a game, but a good cigar is a smoke? This would not be the moment to contract him. I seem to remember as I blazed away that Jaime did rather well out of his cigar, although the non-smoking Ray won the first game, probably before the smoke got in his eyes.

I seem to recall that things did not go so well with The Poor Little Cypriot. The worse piece of luck for him during the evening was when he dropped his cigar into the water that sits at the bottom of a Japanese ashtray. The Poor Little Cypriot had to chop his end off and blaze away all over again.

It was all very distressing. He was vaguely aware that Jaime, as Oya, had gone Pon on the Haku and Hatsu dragons and that Ray had thrown out a Chun earlier on, but when he sought to preserve his Tempai hand by tossing out another Chun he was caught out by Jaime's (in retrospect) rather obvious Chun-tanki Shosangen wait. What with lighting the cigar and running out of beer all the time, The Poor Little Cypriot really had his hands full.

There was a brief window of lucidity amidst the fug of war when the PLC managed to win the third game, but Ray, the quiet non-smoker, promptly replied with his second win of the evening. It would have been prudent to have called it a night at that point, but we played through four more games, all of which Jaime won, three of them outright.

The result saw Jaime move up into the coveted "Top Gaijin" spot. Ray would have made a new bottom record had not The PLC overtaken him on the way down to finish at the bottom of the table perilously close to breaking into the minus five-hundreds...

Somehow or other, The PLC avoided the ignimony of joining his pals in commiting a Chombo.

And so, at around 3:30am, another blazing good session drew to a close.

Jaime -7, +73, -10, -13, +72,* +39, +21 = +175
Ray +19, -8, -22, +21, -50, +5,* -16 = -51
David -12, -65, +32, -8, -22, -44, -5 = -124

* Chombo

David Hurley

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Nobu was also there...

I don't know about Noda going senile... I completely forgot to mention the presence of Nobu in my previous blog; but there he most definitely was. He even drove me home afterwards!

Nobu is a pretty quiet sort of chap at the mahjong table. He has a disconcerting habit of nodding and smiling when you discard a tile that he doesn't need, which makes you think the opposite is the case!

However, he does give you ample warning when he has something good in his hand because he looks up his hand in his Japanese mahjong rules book. Despite this handicap, however, he finished the evening in the black for the first time ever with a final score of +10!

Well done Nobu (and thanks for the lift home)!
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, November 21, 2008

Of Senility And Arrant Orgiastic Power

Last Friday the Old Guard (Noda, David) and one detachment of the Middle Guard (Jaime) formed up around the corner table of Kodama jansou.

David arrived from a TOEFL class which he terminated early as there was only one student and she raced through the alloted tasks in double-quick time. That meant that he could enjoy his traditional dish of Mama's yaki-meshi setto at his leisure before the commencement of hostilities.

David has been reading Han Suyin's mid 20th century classic Hong Kong novel, A Many Splendoured Thing, and chatted cheerfully to Noda about it while awaiting the advent of Jaime.

There are some fine passages, but this one stands out:

Since we are, each one of us, unequal, and equal opportunity does not exist, I have never been able to understand why one should not accept to do evil as well as good, and with just as much clarity. I have a deep suspicion of philanthropists and do-gooders generally. I believe in relationships between people, devotion to friends, sticking to principle, and the pursuit of the absolute in oneself, not of perfection to impose upon others. I am feudal and a Taoist, and use despotism with enlightenment, for I am a doctor. One has to impose upon the sick one's own will, and anything else is hypocrisy and nonsense. Doctors use power so much and get so much pleasure out of it... This is arrant, orgiastic power, the most corrupting one to the soul: that of doing good. p. 110

Once the game got underway, David continued on his recent point-shedding form, while Noda exhibited signs of going senile to the extent that he could not even remember how to say the word "senile" in Japanese.

The prospect of David and Jaime being able, with clarity, to do their devoted friend Noda the evil of clobbering him while he was wallowing in senility was somewhat called into question when Noda turned over a completed Kokushimusou hand.

There was one bright moment of clobbering Noda on David's part Midway through the evening when David, needing just the 1-Coin to finish declared "Riichi" with the 4-Coins and 7-Coins in his discard pile. Noda, himself now Tempai, pushed out the 1-Coin which led to a spontaneous eruption of joy from David that the Old Devil had just for once fallen into the trap... Of course, Noda had been aware of the danger, but had no better option available. It just makes a change to see Noda given the squeeze!

Then in the last game it began to look like "business as usual" as Noda, second South Oya, began winning hands and racking up 100-tenbou. Noda took his revenge on David for showing overmuch pleasure in that 1-Coin result, and by the time Noda was toppled from the Oya-ship, David's tray had been emptied.

It was during Noda's Oya-ship that David had begun to play with the careless abandon of a lost soul, while expatiating on how when the luck is not with you - ever (as it seemed) - you might just as well take no thought for the morrow and hurl out tiles at random.

Remarkably, it was at that point that David's luck began to turn. Actually, now I think about it, it is often the case that a person's luck has already turned at the moment of most wounded complaint, as with Jaime's oft heard mantra of

"I'm out of luck tonight... Riichi... Tsumo!"

Thus it was that on the last Oya-ship of the evening, the chief luck-bewailer of the night, David, with arrant orgiastic power, made a Last Stand that refilled his tray with Jaime's score sticks, ended the evening top dog, and climbed off the bottom of the Grand Accumulated Points Chart, while Noda crept into the black with just enough points to set a new "best score" record on the same table.

David Hurley

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, November 14, 2008

Foiled By The Malevolence Of Fortune

Friday 7th November was one of those evenings at the games table when the tiles always looked promising to the Poor Little Cypriot and were almost always treacherous.

There was the case of being Tempai after four turns, but on such a dreadful wait that it was pointless to go for it. The Poor Little Cypriot needed the 8-Bamboo to finish, but two had already been discarded by the other players and one was the Mekuri-pai, turned over in the wall. Things were still not so bad since the 7 and 9 of Bamboo were safe to throw... but by the time the Poor Little Cypriot had rearranged - or confused - his tiles, somebody else had completed their hand.

There was the case of being Tempai after six turns with a choice of a safe discard and a two-tile wait, or a more risky 3-Coin discard and a three-tile wait. The PLC wanted to improve his probability of taking the had and threw the 3-Coins, which Noda was waiting for to go out on.

There was the case... well, there were so many cases that it felt like the lost baggage depot of Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

Terminal. A most apt description of the PLC's game. Such was the malevolence of Fortune that by the end of the evening the PLC had dropped four places in the Grand Accumulated Points Table rankings to land on the/his bottom.

Part of the problem, of course, was that Noda had lost the week before and so it was to be expected that he would be on the hunt. Jaime also seemed to want to rise to the minus-200s for the first time in a while.

The year end is drawing nigh and with only a few sessions remaining none of the foreign players can yet be confident of not hitting the bottom, but nor can the PLC be confident of ever getting off his bottom... Our only hope is that Mr Nobu will find some time to play and prove rather rusty...

Noda +62, -20, +50, +7 = +99
Jaime -2, +54, -4, +22 = +70
David -60, -34, -46, -29 = -169

Labels: ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, November 07, 2008

Twilight Zone Mahjong

Kenyon reports on the action at Kodama last Friday. He was the only foreign player up against Noda, Hide and Kiyo...

How did he do?

Friday 31st October
Kodama Jansou

After finding out that Dave was unavailable, Hide contacted me to tell me that he had the day off so he contacted Noda and we got an early game of Mahjong underway.

It started with me, Noda and Hide, with Kiyo joining us later after he finished watching his favorite TV drama, apparently about a "host club". I pressed Hide for more info, but there was none coming. Apparently Kiyo has some interesting hobbies.

Anyways things got underway very quickly, with me flying out to an early lead getting up to Rianshi on my first Oya-ship, after taking Noda's Oya away from him. However Hide dominated the rest of the match to win the first round in strong fashion, with Noda absorbing most of the damage.

Then we started our seesaw battle, with me winning the next two games and Hide taking the brunt of the damage putting me ahead. Hide then won game four to make the game close.

Kiyo showed up for the fifth game which started off in a very unusual way. After the last game ended I slipped off to the bathroom , and they distributed the tiles while I was away. But when I got back and counted my tiles I had only 12, which is a problem, but since I was clearly uninvolved they didn't mind me grabbing number 13. However the real problem was that Noda himself had 14 tiles, picking up a Chombo in quick fashion.

Hide won game five as well, moving back into the lead. Game six was the one game all evening where Noda finished up, with me second and in the positive to take the lead back.

Hide won game 7 to take the lead back, and I took game 8 to move to within two points for the race of the evening and Noda took leave of us, with a rare poor evening finishing on -104, with 7 games in the negative and a Chombo.

With Noda gone Kiyo really got into his groove. He took game 7, but I was well positive on +28, which meant that Hide went from first to -4 all at once.

Kiyo won game 10 to end the evening, and make the results for the evening a reverse of the yearly scores, with me in first and positive, Kiyo second and positive, Hide in third and in the negative, and Noda a distant fourth.

The highlights for the evening were the high number of Rianshi's with Oya's really controlling play, lots of quickly ending hands, and a number of Yakuman Tenpais but no Yakuman finishes.

Here are the scores:

Kenyon: -18, +41, +42, -8, -11, +5, -23, +47, +28, -31 = +72
Kiyo: --, --, --, --, -5, -24, +4, -23, +53, +28 = +33
Hide: +73, -31, -37, +20, +38, -26, +28, +12, -81, +3 = -1
Noda: -55, -10, -5, -12, -22*, +45, -9, -36, --, -- = -104

* Noda's chombo


Thanks for filing the report, Kenyon and well done for recouping all your losses from last week ago and some more!
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Drowning In Beer At The Doc's

My fortunes at standard Japanese mahjong have been rather mixed lately.

I play a short game on some Friday afternoons in what was originally an English class but has, by student demand, morphed into a 90 minute mahjong session, just enough for either a single game played at learners' pace, or a couple of quick games if nobody manages to retain the Oya for long.

One of the students is a complete beginner, and the other is a regular social player.

Yes, there are only three players in our session, but we play regular four-player mahjong with two exceptions. As in the three-player variation, the North tile becomes a bonus and the mekuri-pai is turned over five tiles back from the end of the wall.

It is not a bad way to earn some pocket money between college classes on a Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the monthly mahjong party at the Doc's were resumed last Thursday after a break for the summer. My form in these games has been a bit off recently, and so it was once again last week. Doctor M thinks it is because I sink under the weight of the booze that is served up. He might be right. I do rather drown in beer at the Doc's, but hospitality is always so difficult a thing to turn down. One would hate to put one's hosts out.

I recouped a little mula at the end of the evening by walking along the line of taxis until I found one that charges only an initial fee of ¥560. Taxi fares went up recently due to the cost of fuel, so the standard fare is no ¥610, up from ¥580. So, to find a taxi that only charges ¥560 was quite a surprise.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

His Leaf Also Shall Not Wither...

On Friday 24th October Noda, David, Jaime were joined by Kenyon, who hadn't been around for a while.

Kenyon promptly won the first game on a healthy +67 and went out with Suuanko in one of the early hands, but it turned out to be no more than a subsidy for the rest of his evening!

Each of the other players then took it in turns to finish top, first David, who also went out on a Suuanko hand, then Jaime, then Noda, whose fourth game +72 put him on +5 for the night.

After Noda had left, David strung together a winning streak of three games on the trot, a relatively unusual occurrence late on a Friday night these days. His seat was as a tree planted by a river; bringing forth fruit in due season, and his leaf withered not.

As for Kenyon, it was not so with him. He was like chaff which the Winds scattered from the face of the table. It was he who most keenly felt the injustice of being robbed on Tempai, or proto-Tempai, or even pre-proto-Tempai.

David -49, +66, +2, -24, +26, +57, +32 = +115
Noda -20, -11, -36, +72, --, --, -- = +5
Jaime 0, -25, +50, -5, -3, +7, -22 = -18
Kenyon +69, -30, -16, -43, -23, -64, -10 = -97


AddThis Social Bookmark Button