Daily Inspiration #268 by Karin-Marijke Coen

Skill and Luck

by Coen Wubbels

I admit, I am an addict. A grave one for that matter. You invite me to play almost any strategic board game and I’ll probably leave my wife sitting at the dinner table to beat you at your own game. One of my bedroom walls used to be stacked with a dozens of obscure and ordinary games.

In 2003, my wife handed me a wooden box that once contained two bottles of wine, to be filled with my favourite games. “No more space in the old Land Cruiser” she said as we departed from the Netherlands on what has become the trip of our lifetime. [still is].


I am attracted by board games, especially when they contain beautiful, handcrafted masterpieces. So I couldn’t just walk by and ignore this game of mah-jong in Yunnan. I have always wanted to learn this mysterious game since I once bought an old bamboo set at a flea market. I was invited to sit down and for two days I tried to understand the principles as well as the language of the game. I failed at the latter.

I feel that when people are playing games they are either relaxed and joyful, or very concentrated and unreachable. In both cases they are focussed not on you, but on the game and their mates, and always let you snap some shots.

Ladies playing a game of mah-jong on the streets of Baisha, China. [Sony R1 35mm f/9.0 1/50]

Chinese Chess
After having seen a lot of men playing Chinese chess in China, I managed to buy some wooden pieces and a silk scarf with the board printed on it, with the intent to teach myself this curious game. But alas, you need two to play and Karin-Marijke isn’t fond of chess-like games. I assume it must be gathering dust somewhere in the bowels of the Land Cruiser.
Men playing Chinese chess in Lhasa, Tibet. [Sony R1 24mm f/2.8 1/125
In some countries certain games are more popular than others, and crossing borders may bring completely different experiences. For instance, table football is seen almost everywhere in South America, but I can’t recall ever having seen it in Asia. Checkers and chess are universal and when we entered French Guiana a few months ago, we saw some good, old fashioned dominoes.
Domino domination in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana. [Panasonic LX5 24mm f/2.8 1/100]
To see more of my work, do visit my new photocoen website, or if you want to know more about our Landcruising Adventure, visit our website or facebook page.
Adventurous greetings,

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  1. Thank you all for your replies! My favorite is the guys playing Chinese chess and yes, the mah-jong ladies may not be technically allright [blown highlights, cables], I still like the angle and the trinity emotion that tells the whole story of the one who is loosing, already lost and is winning. The strong line of pieces bring balance and the hand closes the deal. At least that is how I see it. By converting the color image to b/w I kind of hide the blown highlights. I don’t know why that is, but you don’t seem to notice it that a big deal. Is that a common thing to do?
    I have a whole bunch of game photo’s, but since I just started my photo website, I still have tons of images to sort through. And we are still on the road, which makes it even more a challenge.

    Adventurous greetings,

    • Actually by looking at the tiles the two people have, it appears the game has only just begun, or is halfway. Either that or the one on the left is extremely unlucky. The one on the right is already waiting to win on one tile.

      Just thought I’d mention it if no one is familiar with the rules. 🙂

  2. Your mah-jong ladies photo is exceptional.
    It might show an essence of gaming: some win, some lose.
    Whilst this to me it’s technically not your strongest picture,
    it’s a great capture of real emotion.

  3. Excellent pictures! Especially the second one.
    I do agree with Bryan: “Nice change to the regular pictures…”

    Very nice.

  4. Nice change to the regular pictures, quite the daily inspiration. Love your perspective on them. As for mahjong, that’s my game of choice. If you want to learn it, then you’ve got to be prepared to pay your “tuition fees”. It’s only fun if there’s money involved, like poker. I know I’ve collected my fair share from white people myself 😉

  5. To travel like you guys, must be one heck of an adventure, wow!!! I take my hat off to you. Well done, I also do quite a bit of traveling but not to the extremes like you. I just clicked the like button on your FB and looking forward to hearing more about your adventures. Great images by the way…….and good luck.

  6. So lemme get this right; you left Netherlands, took your Land Cruiser brought your wife along then traveled to the Yunnan province in China then continued to South America? Indeed that is quite an adventure.

  7. Great shots. Good composition, the light is beautiful. I still wonder about the quite agressive (to my eyes) sharpening the site provides.

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