Much time has been spent in speculating about the cause of good or ill fortune at the mahjong table. Last year the “seasonal hypothesis” was much favoured. It was stated that players fortunes often underwent a change with the ushering in of a new quarter.
A more recent hypothesis suggests that for the football supporter luck at the table is in inverse correllation to the performance of your team on the pitch. Jaime’s hopes of remaining at the top of the Grand Accumulated Results Table have been accompanied by fears about the erosion of Manchester United’s cushion at the top of the Premiership. Thus although his loss last week was accompanied with some wailing and gnashing of teeth, it was followed midweek by Chelsea’s failure to win at Newcastle and take the Premiership top spot.
Likewise, David’s loss of form in March was matched by Leeds United’s climbing off the bottom of the Championship, while his recent recovery of form has been accompanied by a renewed stuttering of Leeds’ campaign…
For those of us who play both the standard Japanese 4-player game and the Japanese 3-player variation, it seems that victory in one style is but the harbinger of defeat in the other.
With a victory under my belt at the 3-player table last Friday, I headed over to Doctor M’s for this month’s session of 4-player mahjong. Last year, dreadful form at the 3-player game was compensated in some degree by topping form at the Doc’s, so perhaps it was not entirely surprising that I found myself struggling in this afternoon’s game. I completed my fair share of hands, but few of them really cut the mustard.
The first game was won by the two doctors, with myself just below the bar and Mrs M bringing up the rear. I think I was the only loser of the second, so now had 7 Batsu penalties added to my negative score but managed to come top of the third game to claw back some ground.
Dr M jr had been expecting a friend of his, a fellow doctor, to join us, but as he hadn’t yet appeared we began the fourth. Dr M jr won quite a big hand as Oya at the expense of Mrs M. Just as the score sticks were changing hands the expected guest arrived. There then arose a somewhat heated debate (well, “heated” by Japanese standards, anyway), as to whether or not the game should be abandoned and a new one started with the doctor taking Mrs M’s place. It was eventually agreed that the visiting doctor would take over Mrs M’s debt and so he took his place at the table and Mrs M retired.
The visiting doctor enquired about which mahjong conventions were in play and indulged in some self-depreciatory hikaeme, telling us how long ago it had been since he had played, and gave all the appearance of merely bumbling along. Of course, a few tiles later he had completed a nice little hand! The pace of play picked up considerably after that and the visiting doctor went on to win the game!
It appears that the inverse correllation hypothesis may be a cross cultural phenomenon: the more humble and bumbling a Japanese player appears at the outset, the greater his victory is likely to be!
Hopefully, we will be seeing more of the visiting doctor in upcoming games.