Take a look at this game. Our guess is that it will be totally new to you, in more ways than one, yet the shapes will all look familiar to you. Despite that, you will probably feel instantly disoriented.
The explanation is simple. The colours are reversed. Or are they?
Actually, this is how the game was given by Hayashi Genbi in his book Rankado Kiwa (Go Tales from the Studio of Hayashi Genbi). Or was it?
We mentioned in a previous instalment (#53) that Hayashi Genbi was not above a bit of artistic licence in producing old game records. But the only proven case against him (the Kibi no Makibi game) was never published. There are suspicions about some of the games he did include in the book, but no proof. Apart from those we already mentioned, another example is a couple of games by Chinese players dated 1599. The date straightaway rings alarm bells, because Chinese sources never include dates. Also, the Chinese players (Yang Yuming and Liu Xuanxian) are not known in Chinese sources.
And yet... Genbi claimed to have found the games in a book he picked up in an antique shop in Yanagihara in Edo in 1846. The preface may have provided a date. The games are pretty awful by the standards of the Chinese masters, and may just have been the private record of an unfamous Chinese scholar - his equivalent of "Hey! I played this game last night on KGS. Check it out!"
It would be perfectly plausible for Genbi to have found an old Chinese book in a flea market. He accurately copies games from other old books in Rankado Kiwa. He mentions for instance the known Chinese classic Bugubian (Immortal Games), so he must have had a copy of that. Japan was technically isolated from the rest of the world, but in practice an awful lot of foreign material got through.
So the worst we can say is that there is a little, lingering suspicion about Genbi's game records but on the whole (at least) he is genuine and accurate.
To be even fairer, we should point out that Genbi never actually published Rankado Kiwa. It was clearly intended for publication, being so large and finished, but possibly his death in 1861 prematurely interfered with his plans, and he might even have altered what was to be included had he been able to see it through the press.
The book did not see the light of day until it was serialised in Jiji Shinpo in 1910~11. It was then published in book form in 1914. In this book, however, the game above (252 moves in all) was printed with Black handicap stones and White playing first in the usual way. However, Hayashi Yutaka examined the original MS in the Iwase Collection in Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture, and a handwritten copy in the National Library, and it seems that the handicap stones were indeed White. Almost certainly, the 1914 editors just assumed the manuscript was an error and "corrected" it.
As it happens, there are other games in Rankado Kiwa where White plays first in even games, and one other 2-stone game with white handicap stones. We know from other records that games with White playing first did happen, and if we try to understand why, the most obvious explanation is that these games always involved giving respect - though perhaps not to the players.
Of course, it is easy to point out that many games involving an Imperial presence exist with Black playing first, not least the Castle Games. But were some of these normalised by later hands? Probably not. We suspect there is a simpler explanation, which we will look at next.