Friday, February 26, 2010

Two Ladies Join The Lists

On Friday afternoons I play mahjong with two Japanese ladies, one of whom was a complete beginner a few months ago. Mahjong has replaced English conversation, except inasmuch as I offer advice and game analysis in English.

We play 4-player Riichi-style, but with elements of 3-player Mahjong thrown in. For example, the North tile is used as a "Dora" bonus tile, and we use the convenient scoring method of 3-player mahjong.

Last Friday, with Jaime back in Blighty whacking balls around St Andrews, and with Nobu's nose firmly attached to the grindstone, it didn't look as if Noda and I would be able to play mahjong that evening until I hit upon the idea of inviting the ladies, Hatsue-san and Aimi-san, to join us.

Happily, they agreed.

So, Aimi, Hatsue and I spent the afternoon on an intensive 3-Player MJ training session. Our party broke up around 5pm and we arranged to meet in town at 8pm.

It was a beautiful day, so I hopped off the train at Yokogawa and strolled along the river bank into town, negotiating my way across three branches of the delta until it brought me close to the entrance of Kemby's bar.

It was too early for a quick snifter so I headed past and went for a good old soak in the middle of town. There is nothing quite like relaxing in a hot spa in the middle of a city teeming with sweating multitudes. The closest anybody has come to it was that chap who took pleasure in observing from his casement window a storm-tossed barque toiling upon a stormy sea while he was sat warm and snug in front of a cosy fire in the upper room of a secure stone tower.

I recovered from the heat of the bath and sauna by ordering okonomiyaki and beer from a decent little teppanyaki restaurant called Hana-chan, located between Chuden-Mae and the river.

While I was there, Hide-san called up to ask if there was a game...

I arrived at Kodama Jansou via a quick snifter at Kemby's and told Mama there would be five of us. She said something or other and I popped out to meet Aimi and Hatsue.

When I returned with my charges, Noda had arrived, and so had a steaming dish of yaki-meshi and a cleansing beer to wash it down with. It seems that Mama had thought I'd ordered dinner as usual. Well, it would have been rude to have left it, so down the hatch it went while Noda, Hide and the ladies played the first two games.

Aimi-san is an experienced player of "standard" 4-player Riichi mahjong and I think she had a fine time of it at the table because whenever she needed a tile the wall seemed only too pleased to oblige.

Hatsue-san coped well but was especially impressed by the pace of the game and the speed with which hands were made during the third game when all three regular players were involved.

The funniest moment of the evening was when Hide-san was exchanging pleasant chat with Hatsue across the mahjong table about playing golf and it was quickly established that they both were familiar with a certain golf course in the area.

Hide: "Do you work there."

Hatsue: "I am the owner."

At this point Hide's eyes turned into saucers and there was a loud "CLANG" as his jaw dropped onto the table.

Hide represented himself as a "tada no sarariman" - just an ordinary employee - though I can't say that I've ever thought of him in those terms. However, I hear that his charm had a positive effect upon the evening.

There was quite a scrap in the third game with all three regular players looking for a big win. In the end David came top after winning a couple of "okake-riichi" competitions (as Oya) with Hide. Noda finished in a strong second place.

The ladies left after that game. Aimi-san finished on +63 and so enters the lists in third place. Hatsue-san finished on -82, sandwiched somewhere between Nobu and Jaime.

No sooner had the door shut than Hide claimed "Ron" off David's North Dora tile and revealed Kokushimusou (as a "ko" player, for 32,000 points). Funnily enough, David finished the fourth game on exactly -32,000 points and Hide was not able to build on the result even though he came top because David fought a rearguard action and Noda only shed 5 points.

However, the result was enough for Noda to extend his lead by a few points over David at the top of the table.

The final results of an entertaining evening were:

Noda -30, +36, +41, -5 = +42
Aimi +49, +14, --, -- = +63
David --, --, +63, -32 = +31
Hide -2, -34, -55, +37 = -54
Hatsue -17, -16, -49, --, = -82

David H

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Has Nobu Found His Bottom?

Two weeks ago Nobu achieved his first positive result for 2010 by finishing on +1 for the evening. The result was achieved by finishing "second-and-in-the-black" in the first and third games.

There was a moment in the opening game when the gap between Nobu and Jaime narrowed to fewer than fifty points as Jaime found himself in the middle of yet another "opening game disaster" complete with a Yakitori grilled and served on his plate at the end of the game.

Apart from Nobu's first game result, the first two games were a one-way street for David, who began to harbour hopes of knocking Noda off the top spot again.

Indeed, Noda did the honours in that regard in the third and final game of the evening, but the loot flowed Jaime's way as he made his customary "end of evening recovery" to get back from -81 to -25 for the evening and keep some space between himself and Nobu.

So, Noda stays on top (just)... but the question is, has Nobu found his bottom? If so, will he be able to get out of it?

David +54, +49, -12 = +91
Nobu +13, -22, +10 = +1
Jaime -64,* -17, +56 = -25
Noda -3, -10, -54 = -67

* Yakitori

David H.


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Friday, February 12, 2010

Neil's Birthday Mahjong Bash...

Neil, a former Lang Education Center English language teacher who now works as a roving Japanese translator and resides in the nether regions of Kyushu, emerged from his self-imposed exile and returned to Hiroshima to celebrate his thirty-somethingth birthday with a night of mahjong at Kodama jansou.

L to R: Nobu, Neil, Jaime, Noda

Noda held on to the starting Oya of the first game long enough for David to finish his chow and take the fourth seat. Noda rampaged through the first game scattering all opposition.
Nobu joined us in time for the second game, which Noda also won while Neil seemed to be suffering from mahjong collywobbles and turned into a serial tile-snatcher and then forgot which tile he'd taken out of turn and was awarded a special birthday Chombo.

As well as bringing along his 2009 Mahjong Duck Nobu had got himself a natty plastic miniature year-of-the-tiger tiger in a "lucky" sake box which sat on display alongside the duck on the corner of the mj table for the duration of Nobu's game (see photo above). Nobu declared his determination not to end 2010 on the bottom...

So how did Nobu do?

  • Nobu finished the first game with his Yakitori tessera stuck firmly to the table.
  • Nobu finished the second game with his Yakitori tessera stuck firmly to the table.
  • Nobu broke the "lowest score" record for the year so far.

Meanwhile, Tim joined us and  he and David (who sat out of the second game) chewed the fat about the virtues of the Amazon Kindle.

Noda won again and called it a night on +152 - the best result so far this year.

Seats were reallocated for the third game, and with all parties in the mire it seemed an appropriate moment to present Neil with his birthday present, supplied by Jaime. It was a Carp baseball team official's happi jacket, reputed to bring good luck to the wearer. Or was that what we told Neil to persuade him to try it on? Anyway, he popped it on and began to concentrate on getting lucky (see photo)...

Happi Birthday Neil!

The result was disconcerting at first as he pretty quickly managed to commit a second Chombo for the evening. He didn't carp and from that point on his luck was markedly happier, but just as the old text says that it is better to give than to receive,   

beatius est magis dare, quam accipere...

and that the ox should not be muzzled as he tramples out the grain,  

non alligabis os bovi trituranti...

so it proved tonight as Jaime grazed to his heart's content for much of the rest of the evening.

The chief victim was Nobu who bore up well for the most part, but was gutted to get trapped with a single tile wait - I mean he only had one tile left in his hand after ponning all the triples - only to see Jaime win another big hand at his expense!

Nobu grimaces at his unhappi luck.

David also completed his worst performance so far this year so Noda goes back on top, with David still in the black on +19 for the year so far. Neil came in on a creditable -9, while reduced his deficit and opened up a gap of 109 points between himself and bottom-placed Nobu.

Noda +99, +53, --, --, --, -- = +152
Jaime -34, -12, +63, +23, -16, +25 = +49
Neil -27, -12,* +31,* -5, +37, -33 = -9
David -38, --, -39, +1, -21, +8 = -89
Nobu --, -29,** -55,** -19, --, -- = -103

* Chombo
** Yakitori

David Hurley

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