Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Friday 25th April: Noda's Hat-Trick

Mark this date down for posterity; on the feast day of St Alda, the 117th day of year 2008 Noda secured the Hiroshima Cock-Eye 3 Player Mahjong title with (spookily) a winning total of +117. His lead is such, that only a biblical disaster along the lines of Noah and the Great Flood will prevent his inevitable third consecutive title. The race for the basement position and runner up is the only one left to be run. At the end of this night’s play, Noda’s lead is but a trifling 626 points over Kenyon in 2nd place. The fat lady has broken the glass and retired for the year. The contest is done, dusted, finished, over, it has ceased to be, it has shuffled off its mortal coil… it is an ex-competition.

It was a particularly painful night for Jaime, who once more followed a victory (last week) with a crushing defeat. Sometimes as a player you have to accept it is not your night. The Gods, the Ides and the banshee in the wind has decided that this night one's fate would be be a pitiful one. You have to accept that this comes with the territory of playing games. What is unacceptable however is just not concentrating on what is happening in the play. Just like last week, Jaime made two dumb
chombo that combined with his abandonment by Erebus, led to a very expensive night and has sunk into the bloody red of defeat in the overall grand table.

It was a night that no matter what the circumstances or state of play, Jaime could confound the odds and either start with bugger all and no chance of a hand or brilliantly choose the precise tile needed by another player to complete their gargantuan hand. Sometimes you just have to role with the punches….

Kenyon, making an appearance from his home in the wilds of Miyoshi, was more fortunate and followed minor triumph with respectable defeat. He, although still in the red has jumped to 2nd place after Jaime’s Dieppe Raid like calamity, which relegated to him 3rd, wedged above Dionysus (Hurley’s protector) who cleverly has avoided the skirmish of the MJ baize and rests comfortably 17 points adrift.

Six games were actually played and Noda was top in three of them, Kenyon the remaining three and Jaime, failing even to reach the black at all, -1 being the ceiling to his heights.

A theory proposed originally by Jaime, predicted that a player’s mahjong total was in direct opposite the result of his own beloved football team. Thus, Hurley victory on the Friday night was the sealing of Leeds Utd’s doom come the Saturday’s match. If Jaime is right, and frankly it can be the only shred of comfort to be taken from tonight’s debacle, then the thumping manner of his own defeat should be turned into a brilliant victory for United in both the league game against Abramovic FC and the European Cup semi-final against Barca on Tuesday. Please let it be so…he needs something to wash away (preferably in beer) the lightening of his wallet through mahjong defeat.

As of Monday morning that theory seems to be up there with alchemy and intelligent design in the pantheon of scientific accuracy...

Noda +39, +7, +38, -26, +62, -3 = +117
Kenyon +8, +45, -29, +27, -19, +31 = +63
Jaime -47,** -52, -9#, -1#, -43, -28 = -180


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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Friday 18th April: 4-3-2-1

Only three players met at Kodama last night, Noda, Nobu and Jaime.

The night lasted four hours, saw three chombo, two games and one yakitori. Amazingly Noda did not finish as top dog, but no surprise in him still eking out a finish in the black. Nobu, unfortunately took the blunt of losses. He is still very much in the infancy of his MJ gaming and this was clearly highlighted when he made his only chombo of the night by declaring tsumo with only one yaku on a ryanshi hand. However, one can hardly blame him as this was his first foray into playing MJ without a fourth person hovering around to guide him. But four players seem to be somewhat of a luxury at the present.

Jaime was responsible for the other two chombo of the night, both ludicrously stupid mistakes. The first time he forgot to tsumo on a discarded tile and the second, a little distracted by Nobu’s phone calling him away from the table, he changed his hand, went riichi and hen realised that he had royally screwed up. When your discard row reveals all three tiles you are waiting for, something has plainly gone amiss.

Only two games were played, both lasting two hours and both involving players achieving ryanshii. Noda streaked off into a lead, Nobu hovered around parity and Jaime dived like Russian nuclear submarine. Yet by the end of the both games, Jaime had claimed top stop, Noda finished just slightly up and Nobu looked like Rocky and the end of all of his movies.

Nobu’s phone was also the source of much consternation during the first game of the night. Four times its rather annoying American pop song ringtone took Nobu away from the table. All Nobu would say, was that there was “a big problem” at work. This I suppose could be quite worrisome considering he works for the local energy company and we could have been at any moment plunged into some electrical meltdown. Yet once the first game ended, his phone was a distraction no more, so they must have been able to find the spare battery after all.

The first game also ended with a little orange sparrow glued like a Thai gecko to the table just in front of Nobu. For a man who throws some blatantly lethal tiles, he manages to survive without extinction more than the odds would favour. He was though unlucky to finish with a yakitori, having been tenpai for much of the south round, but that is how the MJ Gods wish to toy with us mortals.

So that was the night that was, 4 hours, 3 chombo, 2 games and 1 yakitori. Jaime yo-yos again, Noda treds water and Nobu takes the lift down to the basement.

Jaime +39#, +46# = +85

Noda +18*#, -6 = +12


Nobu -57, -40 = -97


# Chombo

Filed by: Jaime

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Saturday 12th April: A Ghostwritten Game of Go

I had expected to squeeze in a little bit of mahjong in April, but it is not to be, neither in April nor during Golden Week as the Great Spotted Hostage-To-Fortune is off on a study weekend and the Poor Little Cypriot is to be left to hold the jolly old fort and keep an eye on the Lesser Spotted Hostage-To-Fortune. The latter is not yet of an age at which the finer points of the game of mahjong are fully appreciated. Mahjong is about more than knocking down walls. 

The PLC anticipates a return to the tables on the second Friday of May, at least as things stand at the mo', things which are notable for not standing still for more than a passing day or two without drilling a hole in ones anticipations.
Poland, October 20th 1939
But if mahjong is in abeyance due to circum- stances beyond our control, the noble game of igo has resurfaced on the Saturday afternoon agenda after a long period of submersion beneath the exigencies of pedagogy, or rather the exigencies of imminent poverty caused by, among other things, playing late and poorly at mahjong on a Friday night, which then required several hours of pedagogy on a Saturday to redress. Just now, not only has Friday night mahjong been curtailed but so has Saturday afternoon teaching as the "academic" year at DEH finished a couple of weeks ago. It appears that the services of the PLC might not be needed any more, in which case the bitter cup of imminent poverty may be sweetened with a regular dose of victory over that old cove Ardle at the igo board in a certain coffee shop in Hiroshima of a Saturday afternoon. 

The hymn-writer, Cowper, put it a little differently, but the intention is similar in all essentials and proves that the sentiment of Schadenfreude is compatible with the sensibility of a good Christian:

"His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower."

It actually resembles a game of igo
Unfortunately, however, it cannot be said that Old Ardle's purposes ripen very fast at all. It takes him about an hour to unfold his next move and place a stone on the board. When he does move, he moves in a mysterious way and leaves me wondering about his performance. 
Germany, April 1945

Take last week's game in which Ardle was white and the PLC black; think of Poland circa October 20th 1939 and you shall have the situation in a nutshell. (Ardle = Poland).

This week's game had a more promising look about it at the beginning - in the sense that it actually resembled something approximating a game of igo such as you see being played by the wizened old geezers who hang around the gents bogs in Peace Park, Hiroshima. This time, Ardle was black, which meant he was Germany, but by the time we reach the last photo, i.e. about six hours after hostilities had begun, we will more quickly grasp the situation if we think "April 1945." Roosevelt has just died of boredom and the Volkssturm are strapping their Panzaerfausten to their Fahrrade.

Fortunately, I had turned up well equipped to cope with the procrastination of Old Ardle, videlicet, armed with a copy of David Mitchell's GhostwrittenDavid Mitchell, Ghostwritten link, which, I must confess, I am only now, nine years after it was first published, poking my beak into. 

And as beak-pokings go, a jolly spiffing poke of the beak it was too. Old Ardle could fiddle as much as he liked as far as I was concerned, because I was thoroughly enjoying a book I had not expected to be my cup of tea at all.

So who is this David Mitchell chap?

David Mitchell was, once upon a time, in the years of our careless bachelorhood (a frolicsome time in which any foreign bachelor in Japan worth his salt would consider himself a thoroughgoing dokushin-kisoku), David Mitchell was, I say, a fellow toiler at the chalk-face here in Hiroshima, one of an innumerable and indifferent host of foreign idlers whose conceit is to dream of writing some fascinating tome or other and breaking into the world of publishing, but who find it more convenient, or necessary, for the time being, you understand, to earn their bread "teaching" English in the sanguine expectation of something turning up. 

Incidentally, David Mitchell would never write a sentence like the previous one. His sentences, at least if we are to take the first chapter of GhostwrittenDavid Mitchell, Ghostwritten link as representative of his oeuvre, are pared down and go more like this:

  • I lay down and wept.
  • The rat in the box had died.
  • My sword I keep drawn.
  • My palms have become sundials.
  • Cars rusted in the sweltering heat.
  • I turned around and blew a raspberry.
  • I did it again.

Anyway, when news broke a few years ago that an English teacher based in Hiroshima - in Hiroshima! - had just published a book, no, not merely a book but A NOVEL no less, and one that was getting rave reviews, the reaction among many in the know about the Hiroshima scene was as incredulous as Nathaniel's when he swung around and said,

Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?

Apparently, it can.

David Hurley

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Friday 4th April: The Battle of Kodama

I knew it was going to be one of those epic nights at the mahjong table when I received this photo from Jaime. It shows the hand that Noda went out on at Nobu's expense. It is a beautiful hand. Of course, Noda was Oya at the time and won 49,000 points! 

Nobu is a recent recruit to the Cockseye Mahjong Club and is serving his apprenticeship as Noda's stooge. I mean, anybody who has played with Noda for any amount of time would take one look at his discard row and keep all his bamboo tiles locked safely away in his hand. 

Noda went out on Ryuisoh, which scores Yakuman (48,000 for Oya). His hand also happens to have Tanyao, Honitsu, Sananko (although it looks as if it was "open"), but they are not scored because of Yakuman.

Ryuisoh is a relatively uncommon Yaku, at least in our games, consisting of "green tiles"only, that is, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8-Bamboo and the Green Dragon (Hatsu).

Anyway, here is Jaime's report from, sent in straight from the front:

Saturday 5th April 2008

On an unseasonal warm spring morning ninety years ago the 2nd Battle of the Somme’s guns embraced silence and the carnage, misery and despair of a hideous war started its slow creep towards its own demise. It was therefore slightly appropriate that on the 90th anniversary of such a miserable day, further destruction was inflicted ad memoriam on the green baize of the mahjong table. After the false ceasefire of the late winter months, the behemoth returned with a savagery rarely witnessed in living memory. Noda had returned, his Persian training regime of the last two months honing a poisonous ability to inflict pain at his opponents weakest point. Nobu, Ray and Jaime embracing Pantites, Aristodemus and Leonidas at Thermopylae, held the breach gallantly, but like Cnut on the shore, they could not prevent the tide from claiming its right.

For over six and a half hours the protagonists struggled, only once when the battle was lost a brief respite hard won stopped the hemorrhaging. In the five games played, Noda (like Xerxes) destroyed all that opposed and forgave none that dared entered the fray. True to historical myth, Pantites (Nobu) committed mahjong suicide, Aristodemus (Ray) suffered some small permanent loss, but managed to stand as a survivor. Leonidas (Jaime obviously), led the attack bravely, but ultimately was doomed as his resistance could not hold back the mechanical onslaught with his bare hands alone. He fell, not once drinking from the chalice of victory.

In the 3rd game of the night, Pantites championing his heritage was riichi. Xerxes too prowling in the shadows (as oya) was reading himself for the pounce, as Aristodemus was taking a breather (yet again!) from battle; it was left to brave Leonidas to stem the rivers of blood. He tried gallantly, cuts and abrasions severely restricting his movement, he readied himself for the inevitable. Twice tiles were thrown with deep suspicion that Pantites would pounce (calculating that would be less painful than Xerxes), yet somehow through the fates of the Gods, Leonidas prevailed. Pantites then threw a bamboo tile of green and his doom was sealed. Xerxs, showing no mercy smashed Pantites with furious venom and claimed a yakuman hand with Ryuisoh. 49,000 points were handed over and Pantites fought for breath. Only then did Leonidas, thinking what could have been, notice that Pantites had in fact commited ritual suicide. The previous tile to the one that had skewed him, a non-descript 2 of coins, would have been enough to claim a pyrrhic of Leonidas, alas the fortunes of war!

After five vicious, brutal encounters, the night drew to a close, the broken spirits of men and beast littered the blood flooded planes of the mahjong table. Xerxes marches forth, can an ancient mythical hero be found to stop his megalomaniac march?


Noda +4 +34 +181 +40 -5 +254

Ray +35 -24 -11 +13 -27 -14
Jaime -39 -13 -18 -48 -1 -119
Nobu --- +3 -152 -5 +33 -121


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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Thursday 20th March: The Doc Gets Clobbered But Comes Through

There has been nothing to report of late at the Cockseye Club as spring holidays, the travels and the preoccupations of the various members have lengthened out the spring holiday recess. I had thought that April would bring in both a return of a relatively busy teaching schedule and Friday evening mahjong. Well, up to a point, but what April also brought in was news that Mrs H has been promoted and is now a Great Professor of Sickness and Health or something. 

Now, as I was accustomed to understand it, promotion = do less and get paid more. Apparently not. It seems that I was misinformed. Promotion to the lofty post of GP of SH seems to involve little in the way of extra lolly but a lot more of boning up on the mysteries of disease.

This has brought with it two unfortunate consequences. The first of these is that the house is filling up with a library  of books full of ghastly photos of diseased bits that The Mrs pores over with the rapt attention of one of the Desert Fathers. 

The second unfortunate consequence is that The Mrs has to disappear on study courses or lectures or something a couple of weekends this month, and that means that The PLC will be responsible for providing vittals for the Little "Uchi Benkei," and that, in short, means no mahjong for me for a couple of Fridays this month. Old Eliot knew what he was talking about when he observed that "April is the cruellest month."

Anyway, the PLC did manage to squeeze in one game of mahjong at the Docs' during March. Happily, Dr M sr was back in good form and eager to play. As we had scheduled our game for the Spring Equinox holiday we agreed to start at 2 p.m. and played a solid eight hour session, during which the PLC gradually sank under the weight of Kirin beer and provender. 

However, he did enjoy one bright moment, which sustained him for the rest of the afternoon, when in the first game his hand started with nine end tiles, winds and dragons. Now the PLC is not one of the chief pursuers of Kokushimusou, but on drawing a tenth tile for the hand, he decided to stick with it and ended up Tempai waiting for East, and with two already thrown it was reasonable to hope that anybody who picked up the third would promptly discard it. That honour fell to Dr M jr, who looked up in shock - and then dismay - when the PLC went out and revealed his hand. Sadly, the PLC was not the Oya and so had to make do with a 32,000 point pay-out, which greatly augmented his coffers while the hand burnished his rather tarnished image as a mahjong player!

It was the first Kokushimusou we've seen at the Docs' - but it was also the last hand of any great moment for the PLC, who finished a little below the bar, largely due to Mrs M's mid-game recovery; it had nothing to do with sinking under the weight of the Kirin.


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