Saturday 01 October 2016

A Mahjong Curse

I warn you, dear reader: reading this column may influence your results on the next mahjong tournament, and the next, and even the next after the next.
But there is also a chance that, as a result of this, the tiles will be with you for always.
If you have a clear conscience, then you have nothing to fear. So in that case, read on - and perhaps you can even help me.

Long ago, when I was just learning the Game of a 1,000 Intelligences, I used a rack to put my tiles on. It helped me to arrange the tiles easily, and to see them quite well. Since tiles always were the bone and bamboo type, and thus had rounded back, it was quite convenient to use those racks. It was hard enough to build a solid wall; the slightest touch could cause the tiles to drop on the table.
After that, I learned that bone and bamboo tiles may be beautiful, but not exactly fit for a good mahjong game. So I bought some plastic sets. Since, at the time, I preferred to play Hong Kong mahjong, the motto was: the bigger the better. The tiles did not need a rack anymore. They were simply too large for them; besides, they could stand up quite well on their own. In fact, in Hong Kong mahjong there is a rule called ‘all up’: going out with a concealed hand, in other words: all tiles were still standing.
I learned a lot about mahjong later. E.g. that racks are out and rulers are in. Rulers are, in fact, just simple rulers, but they are made to facilitate the game. You can easily make dead straight walls. You can set your tiles in an impeccable row. You can quickly build a wall for another player who is doing the calculating or fixing the drinks, and move it fast to him.
Rulers became indispensable for me. So I was very happy to buy a nice set of rulers when in Hong Kong. Four black rulers, made of black plastic. One of them, for East or, in my case, for me, had a Chinese character in a circle. I think it depicted the first character of ‘mahjong’.
That particular ruler I used in the Second China Championship in Hong Kong, in the Second French Championship in Paris, in the first European Riichi Championship in Hanover, in the Second Open European Mahjong Championship in Copenhagen. In Chengdu, during the second World Mahjong Championship, I played against a Chinese called Li Li. He looked jealously at my ruler and said: ‘Cool’. Unfortunately, it did not make me win and half a day later, Li Li was the new world champion.

And now it is gone. My fine black ruler. Someone, I do not know who, now has it, and I miss it very, very much.

Last week, I took the ruler with me to the Second Belgian Open Championship at Temse in Belgium. On Saturday, it served me as ever. That night, in my hotel room, I looked for it in vain in my mahjong bag.
The next day, in the venue, it was not there as well.
So, somewhere out there, is now playing mahjong, using my ruler.
What does he think? That a fine ruler, which served me all over the world in games against so many famous players, would now serve him?
This will not happen.
The ruler is cursed in the hands of someone else. I have burned a mahjong candle, I have drunk mahjong tea as I spoke my curse:
May the mahjong winds blow forever bad for this person. May the tiles be against him always. May anyone who knows where my ruler is but has not spoken, never again draw a winning tile from the wall. May the words hu, tsumo, ron and mahjong be unspoken forever for this person. May the Nine Gates never open for him anymore. May the Thirteen Unique Wonders turn their back on him forever.

But then, I got pity on this poor player who has made such a minor mistake. And I thought there could be forgiveness. So I sipped my tea and I continued:
May the Green Dragon, the Red Dragon and the White Dragon accompany the player who regrets his mistake and sends my ruler back to me. May the Four Winds send him their blessings. May mahjong, again, mean friendship forever for him.

I think I made myself clear. Send me back that %$#@ ruler, and send it back immediately!


To contact Martin Rep, just This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.l

Comments (1)Comments are closed
1Friday, 22 May 2009 12:12
Alan Kwan
In the World Series of Mahjong in Macao (in which I acted as head judge), we supply mahjong rulers to the players. In the first year, many players forgot and subsequently lost their rulers. In the second year, the judges took special care to remind the players to take their rulers when they leave the table, but still one or two were lost.

I'm sorry that I can't help Martin here, but a suggestion to all those who are bringing your prized rulers to any tournament: label (preferably engrave) the ruler with your name! Or even tie the ruler to your pants with a long piece of string. Unless it's a cheap $2 piece you don't mind losing, don't count on your own memory for ruler retrieval!
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