A Long Good Friday: 8 Games, 3 Yakitori, 4 Changes of Fortune.

We supposed that it must have been pay day at Mazda because shortly after we started playing at Kodama tonight the place filled up with salary men and then with smoke. Nor were there so many of the usual crowd but various geezers who we had never seen before – perhaps they were staying at the hotel over the road. At various moments through the evening one or other of these fellows was screwing his head around to observe the incredible sight of gaijin playing mahjong!

Noda was the starting Oya in the opening game and was obviously trying for kokushimusou. David thought he would be able to get away it when he declared Riichi on a two tile wait, hoping that Noda would be forced to break up his hand. Instead, the second or third tile David drew after declaring was Hatsu. He threw it and Noda cried “Ron” and claimed 48,000 off David. In other words, David’s tray was empty and he owed Noda 4,000 points within the first five minutes of play! It was that one hand that sank David for the evening, and also, as it turned out, kept Noda’s head out of the water until the fifth (Noda’s final) game…

David spent much of the rest of the evening digging in as a miserable array of tiles passed through his hands. Jaime seemed determined to outdo him and at one point had sunk to -88.

For much of the long middle of the evening it was Kenyon who appeared to be confirming his return to form, albeit he was heard to utter one or two “freakin”s in the trying first game. Once the crisis had passed, however, it seemed that he was forever flourishing his fingers as he counted up his score.

Talking of fingers, the foreigners seemed particularly ham-fisted tonight and yet there had seldom been a more sober evening… Kenyon was honing the art of knocking tiles off the wall and David demonstrated his prowess in dropping score sticks and tiles on the floor. Jaime went in for a bit of tile-bowling and sent one unwanted piece on its way with a beautiful top spin into the opposite wall and onwards towards Kenyon’s hand. Jaime’s most spectacular performance however, occurred early on in the evening when he managed to squeeze his row of tiles until and send them crashing in a heap onto the table. He swiftly gathered them up before anybody could get a good look at them and held them in the palm of one hand like a nest of hatchlings while he carefully sorted them back into some semblance of order.

Even Old Noda managed to “lift the skirt” as they say when he knocked over his end tile only to reveal it to be a precious Red 5-Coins. This he promptly discarded and went on to complete a reasonable hand.

Fortunately, none of these antics occurred when the other players were rubbernecking to see what we were up to.

Next week sobriety will return as David will be back on the booze. No more cola for him thank you very much! Observe what sobriety did to his game: Beers 0, final score -47! Well, OK, if it hadn’t been for that early Kokushimusou… but still, hardly an inspiring evening. Less Wallenstein in Germany, more Percival in Malaya and Singapore. Wait a minute, Percival didn’t build any defences whereas The Poor Little Cypriot spent a long session digging in (games 2 and 3) so that comparison rather flatters Percival, I should say.

There was a Singapore moment in The Poor Little Cypriot’s play, however, when, fearing an attack from the right (Jaime, who was Oya) and seeking to defend against it (and also to avoid double Ron) he threw the 6-Bamboo. Now, he had sat there and analysed Kenyon’s hand – Kenyon had gone Riichi – and was muttering about how highly likely it was that Kenyon was waiting for it… but seeing as every other tile appeared to be doubly dangerous, he threw it. Kenyon, temporarily cast in the role of The Lion of Malaya (gen. Yamashita) went out (for the umpteenth time, as it seemed) on a big hand – in short, the trenches had been overrun and The PLC was fleeing like Gordon Bennett who sailed away from Singapore in a sampan. (In the PLC’s case, however, the game had taken so long that the last tram had sailed away by the time it was over…)

Kenyon had peaked, however, on +77. The wind changed again and this time in Jaime’s favour. Jaime now went on to win the next three games. His first two victories took Noda down into negative single figures, which means that Jaime still shares with Noda the distinction of highest number of accumulated points.

[Note: The calculation is made at the end of each session of play, not after each game within a session!]

By the time Jaime’s winning run had run out of steam he had recovered all his losses and taken the lead.

The favoured hand for 3/4 of tonight was Chinitsu, with Honitsu coming a close second, and mostly with the Coin suit too – or so it seemed.

The last part of the evening was reserved to David who had sunk to -118 at the nadir of his fortunes, but he won the last two games of the evening – not enough to recover his losses but enough to cut them in half and more.

During the course of tonight’s long session each one of the three foreign players found himself at the end of a game with his Yakitori tessera still on the table. Until tonight both David and Jaime had had clean sheets on this front. No longer.

The jansou was still lively when Noda left. Then, even after a couple of Japanese groups had left and Mama had drawn the air-raid curtain across the door, the place again filled up as a couple more groups came in.

[Note: Mahjong parlours are supposed to shut at midnight. The air-raid curtain serves the all important purpose of keeping up appearances on the outside that the parlour has shut… but, rather like a pub lock-in, on the inside it is business as usual deep into the night. In Kodama’s case, however, the door is not locked!]

In short, we had had a very entertaining night. Play continued until it was time for Jaime to head off and watch Manchester United attempt to beat lowly Sunderland and thereby put pressure on Chelsea. However, as we now know, Sunderland held them to a draw: their best result of the season. Sunderland needed to win to stay up, but merely by drawing 0-0 Sunderland seemed to have gained some pride: I wouldn’t be surprised if they win a game or two before they go down!

Jaime -15, -22, -51**, +73, +56, +35, -32, -4 = +40
Kenyon -14, +41, +50, -15, -11, -1, -11, -24** = +15
Noda +63, -17, +1, -20, -35 = -8
David -34, -2, 0, -38**, -10, -34, +43, +28 = -47

David Hurley