Chapter 34 – Reversi
What are you making this time? – being asked by Tanya, Eiji made a wry smile.
Somehow, it seemed that whenever he was working inside the household, it would be associated with him making something new.
Good grief – he thought. Because it was just as she said, there was no space for him to deny; nevertheless, he tried to answer half-jokingly by saying – You know, I do other things besides inventing.
For example, recently I’ve…- while pondering about that, he thought inside as he noticed – Eh, that’s right; I really have been doing nothing but developing products.
I wonder if it will be better to spend a bit more time in the household? No, it should be fine – thought Eiji.
He had been continuously polishing his skills, so focusing more on skinship should be fine.
Once he coughed as if trying to deceive her, Eiji smiled.
That’s because the development this time was something that Tanya will enjoy.
– Today I was thinking about trying to reproduce an entertainment that I know and used to play a bit.
– You mean this board and the round chips that are smeared black on one side?
– It’s a game called Reversi or Othello. It will be easier to have you understand by doing it in practice.
– I’m not that bright, so if it’s something difficult, it will be impossible for me to do.
– Don’t you worry. The rules are simple.
The surface of the Reversi board was made from wood.
There were 64 squares in an 8×8 pattern on the board.
In addition to that board, there were 64 stone pieces.
Just as the name suggested, they were made of a stone consisting of attached black and white stones.
Eiji explained the rules while playing the game.
It is a simple rule, where you turn your opponent’s stones into the same color by getting them between.
Once Tanya, who had never played an enjoyable game, nodded and remembered the rules, she quickly became enthusiastic about it.
And then, they continued to play several times.
– Aaahh! I’ve lost again!
– 34 against 30. It was a hard win.
– You’re only taking the corners, that’s mean!
– No, this is how you play the game.
– You’re mean, mean!
Was it because she lost many times that she felt hurt? While staring at his wife who made a sullen face just like a child, Eiji soothed her. However, his hand was shaken off as if being a bother.
Despite her having an adult and calm personality, seeing how she becomes a child was indeed cute.
Reversi is actually a deep thinking game, which doesn’t just ends with taking the corners. There exists strategies based on middle distributing and taking borders; nevertheless, in order to grasp the concept of a ‘settled stone piece’ which can’t be reversed, taking the corners is the fastest way for that.
– This time I’m going to take the corners and win, you’ll see!
– How do you plan to do that?
– I’m thinking!
Hmm hmm – staring at the board’s surface, Tanya was thinking of her first move.
She was thinking; nevertheless, moving her target left and right on the board, she couldn’t decide where to make her first move.
It is also said that the game may be influenced on whether you make the first or second move.
Eiji watched attentively at her with a feeling of looking at something adorable.
Seeing how his wife got hooked into the game, just as he planned it to be, made him glad.
With such a good mood, Eiji wondered whether or not he could create several of these boards and make the game popular inside the village.
He thought about presenting this little bit of amusement to the village, which never had any type of entertainment besides talking.
Imagining their glad looks, Eiji put a smile on his face.
Placing properly the stone pieces and advancing the game.
The surface of the board was almost dyed in white.
– I’ve lost again!
– Shouldn’t we end this soon?
– One more, one more time!
– Will this really be the last? We have been doing this for quite a long time.
– I know!
Tanya continued to lose, getting irritated at the end.
Despite Eiji going easy on her to some extent, he still was unskillful in dealing with games, in which he had to lose deliberately.
– Lost again!
– The next challenge will be tomorrow. I’m going to sleep.
– No! Let’s do one more time.
– If it’s a night challenge, I’ll do it as many times as you want.
The snow continued to fall.
On such a day, farm works, as well as lumbering, were suspended by everyone.
At least, the labor would be limited to outdoors works, such as snow shoveling.
Even the villagers would probably endeavor in making finished leather goods as their side job, or mend their households.
After each of the executives, who gathered inside the tribal chief’s house, finished the discussion, a Reversi board was placed on the table and everyone sat facing each other.
Reversi was accepted in no time among the villagers and enjoyed.
Because there were not enough of them for the entertainment purpose, a system of mass production was quickly adopted, making each household now possess one.
Shaving off stones and attaching them to each other took quite much of time; however, nobody would expect everyone to be that enthusiastic about the game.
That alone was probably enough for enduring the boredom during winter.
Mike and Eiji faced each other while enjoying the game.
Taking a quick glimpse, it seemed Mike’s black pieces were dominating.
Mike’s pieces covered 8/10 ths of the board, whereas, Eiji’s had almost none.
Trusting in his victory while being totally immersed in a superiority complex, Mike smiled toward Jane sitting next to him.
However, one can’t tell until a game over.
Reversi is a game where big turn-arounds are possible with the last move.
Eiji confirmed with prudence the squares on the board, which he could use.
– No, indeed it’s an interesting game.
– That’s true. Because it’s simple, it’s easy to memorize. Therefore, anyone ranging from children to elderly can play this, right?
– Good grief, I’ve long since been thinking about using my knowledge for making something like this. Isn’t it, wifey?
– You, even though you didn’t come up with this, you’re saying some bold things aren’t you?
– Hey hey, I’m enjoying myself, so don’t stare at me. Well, with this, I gained control over two of the corners, so it is my victory for sure….. Wha, wha?!
Just right after Eiji placed his piece, the situation took a sudden change.
Clap clap clap – the stone pieces were reversed; what’s more, it was a situation which couldn’t be reversed back.
It was a technique called ‘C hitting’, in which you place your own piece at the furthest side of the ‘border’, after letting the enemy deliberately take the corners.
Mike’s triumphant face distorted into a vexed one immediately. Seeing that, Jane meanly burst into laughter.
– Because you’re dumb, you shouldn’t have been careless till the end.
– S-shut up, I’ll turn this around again.
– Heh? I’ve got the feeling like your lost is settled, but oh well.
– The left side is still not settled. Once I take the remaining two corners, I’ll turn this around.
– Well, at least you’re doing your best. But, Fernando, you too, are strong ain’t you? Just a while ago, I couldn’t win against you no matter how many times I tried.
– That was accidental. Still, I’ve got the feeling like I can somehow grasp its rules.
Fernando was shrugging his shoulders while being modest. On the other hand, Mike, who was about to lose, raised a hoarse cry.
Shut up – As Jane swung down with her clenched fist; she too, seemed to sustain a certain loss.
– We will be changing opponents soon. Jane, I’ll let you know you who among the spouses is better.
– Aside from having hunting and tanning skills, you’re completely useless. If you think you can win against me, you are going to have a painful experience.
While collecting their pieces, Jane and Mike moved to their seats.
It’s fine to watch them, still, should I look for an opponent myself? – Eiji thought.
He looked at Fernando, who lost his opponent as well.
– Shall we give it a try?
– No, somehow, just the fact that you spread this game makes you look strong. I’ll hate losing to you, so I’m going to pass.
Fernando was one of the quickest people to deeply grasp the principles of this game.
Til now he had been victorious, so hee probably didn’t want to stop that winning streak.
Spectating from the side is also interesting, so should I wait ’til other people are done? – thought Eiji.
Both Bona and Philip were immersed in the game without uttering a single word.
The state of the battle was even for both, with Bona having a bit more of an advantage.
Bernard and Giorgio had a social conversation about things, such as ‘I wonder if it will be sunny tomorrow’, while having only their sight focused on the board.
– Alright, well then, Jane. If I win this time, I’ll have you make me an additional course for dinner.
– As you wish. However, if I win, I’ll have your side dish.
– Keep dreaming!
Betting their dinner, both of them became increasingly enthusiastic.
I wonder whether they ain’t too hooked?
Eiji thought so; nevertheless, there would be no excuse in hindering people having fun.
However, the first step toward shaking the whole village was certain that moment.
A problem that was yet to arise will be become later the topic of discussion.
– Gambling activities?
– That’s right. At first they were adorable things, such as side dish or a single egg, but recently the number of them has increased like a joke. It is no longer a problem at an individual level.
Haa – Having Bona, who exhaled deeply, in front of him, Eiji too didn’t feel like doing it.
So it’s gambling?
He didn’t have much of experience in gambling.
Even during his university years, he would try horse betting and pachinko once or twice; nevertheless, he wouldn’t get addicted.
Mahjong was as well fun, however, as soon as the money was involved, he would withdraw.
Eiji liked challenges, but once he realized his personality of getting too zealous into games, he withdrew before he would cross the line and destroy himself.
Even though he heard about there being people who sustained great losses due to gambling, Eiji could only think whether he too isn’t partially responsible.
Nevertheless, he felt guilty for having introduced Reversi, at the same time, giving the foundation for gambling.
– For you to say that there was a great loss incurred, certainly, there was someone behind those huge bets. Who won them?
– It’s Fernando.
– Isn’t he one of the village executives? …Can’t you just forcefully tell him to return the goods?
– Perhaps if I say it strongly, he will yield, but it might leave a bad aftertaste for him. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that he won’t be aiming for another gamble while causing us risk.
– That’s well… indeed it’s true that people, who are bad at losing, will remain bad losers.
– Saying that, we will counter gambling with gambling.
– And therefore, you came to ask me.
– Yes. It seems that you and Fernando still haven’t fought each other.
– Yea, that’s because I was refused the previous time when I tried to ask him.
– I probably won’t become a challenge for him. I’ll set the table, so will you agree to take him as your opponent?
Somehow, Eiji had the feeling that he wouldn’t gain much from this.
Originally, he would prefer to have his reward by using his own bet to win.
However much of a request it is, is there really a need to return everything back? And how about a probable risk of losing?
Even for this kind of problem, Bona prepared a satisfactory answer.
-If you lose, I’ll take the responsibility and pay. After that, I’ll completely ban any gambling. In case Eiji wins, I’ll have you pass me everything, but, I’ll make sure that you get your rightful part when we distribute the rations.
So in the end, it’s the tribal chief who will take the responsibility?
In that case, winning doesn’t seem to be half bad. – he thought.
– Understood. I’ll do it.
– Sorry for that. Had I won that time…
– So you challenged him too?! What’s more you lost.
It was the harshest type of retort in one’s life.
– I was joking.
Seeing the old woman’s adorable wink, Eiji became unable to complain back and dropped his shoulders with a collapsing sound.
The stage was arranged at the tribal chief’s house.
The people who lost the bet and the other executives gathered in the house, watching the match between two people as the spectators.
Hearing that the bet consisted of the total amount, Eiji felt tension unintentionally, despite him knowing he held no responsibility.
It also seemed that there was no other option than for the tribal chief to take her part in solving this problem.
Despite saying so, there was even someone who bet their yearly portion of bread.
Just how on earth did that person plan to eat? – he wondered.
– Eiji-san, are you fine?
– I’m quite nervous. I don’t plan to lose, but…
– You haven’t lost ’til now, have you?
– Tanya-san has become quite skillful, right? It seems that the day for me to lose is close.
– If it turns out like that, It will be truly nice, but…
Sitting in the chair, Eiji confirmed the number of stone pieces.
The number of the stones stored inside the box was without doubt 32.
Taking one, two deep breathes, Eiji felt his heart calming down and gazed at the front.
Having a continuous winning streak, Fernando probably believed in his victory, as he fiddled with a stone while putting an expression full of confidence on his face.
Two of the pieces were placed in the middle. The preparation was set.
Do your best! – Hearing the support coming from Tanya behind his back, Eiji became overflowing with motivation as he commenced a battle of words with Fernando.
-You have won way too many times, haven’t you? Had you withdraw in the right moment, you would have kept that nice memento.
– I will win this one, so there should be no problem with that.
– I wonder if you can say the same after it’s finished.
– Right back at ya’.
The first move was decided by a stone tossing.
Once the stone was flipped with a thumb, it revolved in the midair while being indiscernible to one’s eyes, and then, it fell into Eiji’s palm.
– So it’s black, isn’t it? Well then, please go ahead. —I’ll show you the taste of defeat.
The first stone piece was placed with a clap on the board.
Reversi is a game where the more it progresses, the less choices there are.
Presently, not all of the patterns applied by the best players, known as ‘The divine moves’, have been clarified; nevertheless, there existed an established tactic for those who begin their first move as second.
Eiji remembered a popular tactic like that.
Even the names were easy to remember, such as ‘the horse tactic’ or ‘the tiger tactic’. Lots of them were named after animals.
The key factors in learning a tactic were: observing how the first stage of the game progress in accordance with the tactic, and being able to place pieces without the need of forcing oneself.
– Your placements are quite fast, aren’t they?
– That’s because we have just started.
Fernando asked suspiciously; nevertheless, Eiji dodged his question.
Starting from four middle squares, the board continued to be covered with ovals. The game entered the middle phase.
Fernando is strong. Indeed he has grasped the foundation of the game. – thought Eiji.
Were he to play it normally, he would probably be unable to beat Fernando.
Eiji felt that directly.
In Reversi there existed a firm strategy.
Such as reducing your opponent’s choices and increasing your own, and then, luring your opponent into placing on the desirable squares.
Because of that, however many pieces there are in either the first or middle stage, it won’t matter.
The best form of displacement is the one where the enemy’s stones surround your own.
Such a basic technique also exists by the name of ‘middle displacement’.
It is also important to create such a state, where your enemy has to pass, making it easy for you to place.
The current situation on the board was exactly like that.
– Hey….Hey… just when did you–?
– Well, what will you do?
– Give me some time for thinking.
– Go ahead.
After muttering while being taken aback, Fernando began to focus on the board.
He was probably reading 2, 3 moves ahead; nevertheless, it didn’t seem to contribute much to the game’s development.
Soon he had almost no choices remaining. At such a situation he could do nothing but take disadvantageous moves.
– Damn, one of the corners was taken.
– The game won’t end with one corner being taken, but…
– Just say it!
Once Fernando, who had shown a rare and rude tone, contemplated again, he immersed himself deeply into reading the movements on the board.
Drinking an herb tea, Eiji awaited the next move from Fernando. While doing so, one of the spectators, Mike, spoke.
– Hey, how is the game progressing?
– I took complete control over the bottom right corner. With the opposite corner and the top right one still being not settled, there’s a high chance for me to subjugate the bottom left one.
– Honestly, the level is way too high. I don’t get what kind of reasoning you apply while placing the stones, but do your best. I too have lost some high-grade leather, made from Sable.
Tapping Eiji’s shoulders, Mike returned to his original place.
Was Fernando done with thinking? While smiling prominently, he placed the stone on a certain point.
– Should I aim for X hitting…?
– What’s that?
– You place a piece on the C square next to the corner and create a slope which is known as X hitting.
– Heh? I didn’t know about that.
– Still, this is…
‘ X hitting’ is a high level move where you can aim for a sudden change with a single hit by placing a decisive piece next to a corner, which you let your opponent gain control of.
The more you read into a game, the more it becomes a free-for-all fight, where the outcome can’t be predicted.
That’s weird – thought he, as a while ago he was still predominant.
He could feel the surrounding of his stomach being firmly clutched.
Calm down – Eiji told himself while maintaining his deep breathing.
He wiped the sudden sweat that gushed out with his hand.
Unlike before when he had more room for thinking, this time Eiji couldn’t help but to further focus on the board.
Clap clap – each time a stone piece was place, a little bit of a blank atmosphere was accompanied.
Without time to crack jokes at each other, the two of them concentrated on the board.
Before one could notice, the inside of the tribal chief’s house turned into a silence where only the breathing of two people was heard. In addition to that, a tense atmosphere was felt in the air.
Shifting his eyes from the board, Eiji looked around.
Bona nodded at him deeply.
If he loses, a large amount of assets will be lost.
When it comes to a yearly food provision, it will be an even more serious amount.
Despite him being told of not having to take responsibility, it still wouldn’t make the burden on his back any lighter.
Behind Eiji, Tanya put her hands together while praying.
Even though he said he was confident in winning, it still wouldn’t mean that he was going to win.
Tanya, who was a spectator, could only wish for the best outcome for him.
There’s no reason for him to lose; nevertheless, it was a situation in which he couldn’t be certain of the victory.
Every time a piece was placed, the victory lead would shift back and forth, just like in seesaw game.
Will he win? Or perhaps lose?
The progress of the game was extremely dangerous.
As soon as the game entered the last stage, the board created the situation of taking each other’s ‘borders’.
Once they reached this part, the settled pieces were placed one after another, making the progress become more clear.
Eiji made a difficult expression; it was the same for Fernando.
Both of them were drenched with sweat on their faces, which didn’t make it seem like it was winter.
It felt as though the result can’t be predicted.
However, with each pieces being placed, the game was soon to conclude.
Finally, the outcome arrived.
– 33 to 31? That was a narrow margin, wasn’t it?
– To think that it would end with such outcome….
The top of the board was buried with all 64 pieces.
At first glance, the pieces looked equally distributed.
There is no doubt it was a close contest. The opening stage was dominated by Eiji, whereas, the middle one belonged to Fernando.
It was a level where both of them displayed their full potential.
– It’s your win———–Eiji-kun.
– Thank you. Nevertheless, I’ll restrain myself from playing you the next time as I’ve had enough. You’re truly strong.
– I too, will be taking a rest. My head feels exhausted……*sigh*, I thought I would be making a wild merrymaking, but guess things don’t go smoothly, do they?
Fernando took Eiji’s hand and raised it high.
Woahhhh – voices were raised as the spectators approached them both.
It seemed that even the people who had their debt cancelled due to their loss were glad.
Anyway, I’m tired – he thought.
Eiji wondered when the last time he amused himself while exerting his knowledge to this extent was. He didn’t seem to remember.
– Good job. As expected, my husband is an incredible person.
– It seems that I managed it somehow. Its fine as long your grandmother is content, but she had put quite a trouble burden on me, hadn’t she? Also, she will fulfill her promise, so let’s look forward to that.
– Thank you Eiji. I’ll treat you with a stew this time.
– And me, with beans. (Bernard)
– I got my bread back! I too, won’t bet anymore, or at least I think I probably won’t do so……
Tanya, who smiled at him, gave Eiji a cup of wine together with a wet towel.
He drank the wine and wiped his face clean from the sweat.
His heart felt nervous; nevertheless, seeing Tanya’s glad look, it felt as though the tension loosened.
– My goodness, I’m dead tired.
– Once we return, let’s play it together.
– No, I don’t think there will be again chance for that.
– *disappointed*, do you intend quit while being ahead?
After that, gambling with goods was forbidden, and those, who were spotted, would be punished and forced to return the bet to the losers. With that, the Reversi gambling incident concluded.
By the request of the majority, Reversi was allowed to be played at home using chips that were adorably designed.
Later on, there would be other incidents occurring, such as the daifugou incident and the Poker incident, however, that is a story for the next time.
Eiji and Tanya would receive river fishes, dried meat, and a small amount of wheat bread on a daily basis and distribute that small happiness between each other.
The outcome of their later competitions would remain untold by the villagers.
Translator and reference notes: