In 1976 my cousin (Tony Wheatley) came to visit the family home in St Austell, Cornwall. When my siblings and I asked if he had brought his beloved game of Risk with him (we all loved playing Risk in those days) he said;
No, I have brought a better game. It’s called Diplomacy.
It would be another five years before Tony got to play in his first Diplomacy tournament; Midcon 1981. Midcon was the UK’s National Championship, hosted by John Dodds. It was always fantastic because the top seven were invited to join John for a glass of Champagne at the end of the event. Even with my famously terrible palette for fine wines, Champagne never tasted as good as from John Dodd’s bottle at the end of a Midcon tournament – small finger aloft as one sipped with glee.
ousin Tony joined the UK postal Diplomacy scene in the 1970’s also. After showing real love and passion for the game, he also paid for my first subscription to a UK Dipzine. That was
Watch Your Back!, edited by John Wilman. John’s first Diplomacy tournament was this same Midcon as Tony: 1981. As was the same for Steve Jones, an Australian UK resident who famously became the first UK player to get an 18 centre victory with ALL SEVEN Great Powers in the postal Diplomacy hobby. The start of the 1980’s saw the arrival of UK’s
Olde Guarde on the face-to-face scene, having dominated the postal Dip zine arena throughout the 1970’s.
I once asked Steve Jones (1980’s) if he might have a place in his Manorcon Diplomacy team for me. At the time his response (something like
I am sure we can find a place for you in our ranks) sounded similar to Voldemort addressing Neville Longbottom. By the mid 1990’s (two Manorcon wins and one Midcon win later) most of Steve’s fellow Diplomacy team had joined my team. So I magnanimously found him
a space in our ranks. Lol.
New Boy Jeremy Tullett (who the Italians will remember as the
Old Boy from EuroDipcon 2014 in Rome) would not play his first Diplomacy tournament until the following year; Midcon 1982. But he was very much a part of that original band who made the early 1980’s a great time to join the thriving Diplomacy tournament circuit in the UK.
Skipping forward to 1999, Cyrille Sevin met John Wilman for the first time. John played England to my Russia and Cyrille’s Germany at the London Trophy 1999 tournament. Offering me Sweden if I opened Mos-StP, Cyrille quickly realised that there was more to this
Russia / England friendship than he first realised after I convoyed StP – Swe in the Fall. It became a very colourful game after that (I will never forget Cyrille’s response to that delightful convoy:
I will attack you) and eventually this board was topped by the tournament’s 2nd place player; Geoff Bache as France.
John and I didn’t reveal our long history and friendship to Cyrille until much later in the game, and it just goes to illustrate the point that sometimes you never know who knows who. Beware of the players you have never met before (especially the older ones); some of them are better than you might first think, or have a long-standing friendship with one of the other players on the board.
The winner of this one-round / five-board London Trophy 1999 tournament was Simon Bouton, who played Turkey on another table. Watching his game from time to time, he just attacked, attacked and attacked every turn. Simon’s first victim was Austria; the only one of his neighbours who had any genuine experience. He topped his board with 15 centres and became one of the few players in history to win this highly coveted
London Trophy trophy. This was also the first tournament that Simon Bouton won, though he was to go on to win WDC and EDC (twice) soon afterwards.
Austria on Simon’s table at this London Trophy 1999 tournament was the aforementioned cousin of mine, Tony Wheatley. Tony won none of the 21 UK tournaments that he played from 1981 – 1999, and his last tournament was the elimination from this London Trophy of 1999. But he did come 2nd at Manorcon 1984 (out of 93 players) and then 9th (out of 188 players) at the first World Dipcon in 1988; three places ahead of me, which was far more than I deserved after mis-ordering F(Nap) in Spring 1901.
In so many ways this 1999 London Trophy became a pivotal tournament in history. Simon Bouton’s first tournament win, a strong attendance by no less than eight of our French friends (Cyrille Sevin, Thomas Sebeyran, Tangi Le Dantec, Emmanuel Lorge, Sid-Ahmed, Vincent Boutan, Yann Clouet, Guillaume Gosselin) – which is amazing for a one-round / one-day tournament, the Olde Guarde meeting the new players, the introduction of some new trophy ideas (such as the illustrious
Golden Bone award), one of the best social events in Diplomacy history and all hosted by the tournament’s original founder... Vick Hall.
And the tournament was won by Turkey. Whilst the player himself was great, the strategy was very basic indeed; he just kept attacking everybody every turn. Ok, and he spiced it up with some well-timed bullshit along the way. Without doubt Simon Bouton played this to perfection. Having previously finished second at no less than five tournaments, this was his turning point from being a good player to becoming one of the World’s finest. If you had to pick a moment in history for Simon Bouton, a moment that changed his standing on the World stage, then this was it. As Turkey.
As for Simon’s first victim (Austria) in that tournament; Tony Wheatley died in 2010. Five years before I became World Champion. He would have been very proud of introducing a prospective World Champion, and his youngest cousin, to the Diplomacy hobby. From 1976 to 1986 (my first tournament) he taught me an immense amount about strategy, stalemate lines, alliance structure, stabbing and the game basics. And although at the time of his imminent departure from this World he knew I was quite a player (having won EuroDipCon more than ten years before), Tony never got to see or hear that this youngest cousin who he taught to play had become a World Champion.
Tony once taught me:
If you are playing England then if you can eliminate the Russian and German fleets from the north, all you need are units in Den, Stp and Nwy (or anywhere that can support Norway) and you will have a guaranteed 7 units until the end of the game; send the other four unused units against France.
I followed this advice for the basis of my WDC 2015 top table strategy. And for the first round at WDC 2016, with a very uneasy alliance between A/I (David Hood and Peter Yeargin). It is a very solid strategy. Tony also showed me all the stalemate lines; not just how to form them, but potential ways of breaking them. And he showed me the best moves for Austria too; his favourite country. The scissors, the hedgehog. However, the Albania occupation in Spring 1902 was all my own discovery.
Tony was an alliance player through and through. One-centre stabs pissed him off. He never liked C-Diplo, with its ever-changing fluidity. His view of the games was to pick an ally, stick with them and if there was a chance of an 18 then stab. But don’t do it for a centre or two. This was the
Old Guard way of playing in the UK, my training ground – through the ten years of postal play before my first tournament in 1986. Pick an ally and stick with them. The trouble was, I found fun in stabbing also! It just became a case of getting the balance right. Stab too often and your reputation is in tatters for a few years to follow. So play an alliance game and recover that reputation. There is no right or wrong way to play Diplomacy – ultimately it should just be for fun. Reputations come and go with the wind, so just play how you feel best playing.
What has any of this got to do with playing Turkey?
From the moment I saw the board (1976) until the second day of my first tournament where we had a
friendly and I played Italy (1986), my favourite country was Turkey. Ten years of love for Turkey.
Isn’t it funny how we can remember our first game and our most recent, but not all of those in-between? But not all. Most get lost in the deepest depths of memory, never to see the light of day again. I would guess that the most memorable games are the ones where either something memorable happened (like a great move or strategy) or someone memorable took part, like a great player on the peak of their form. Some great coup we all appreciated as innocent recipients of their mopping up an easy 18. We’ve all given away an 18, haven’t we? WDC 1999 champ Christian Dreyer lost one to me at WDC 1997. In 1998 he returned the ‘compliment’, becoming the first non-UK player to win the UK National Championships at Midcon 1998.
But one game I will never forget was my first, from 1976. As Turkey.
In your first game of Diplomacy you don’t really know what you’re doing. Some new players don’t even see that Stp and Nwy are connected! But they learn fast from this error
It’s normal to be a headless chicken. We’ve all done it. But that doesn’t stop us from having a desire to rule Europe.
For this first game I only knew the rule basics. There was no
box, but I had written my orders, handed them in and needed to go to the toilet. The excitement of a nine-year-old I guess.
I came back and they were all reading my orders. “Toby is doing this, Toby is doing that”. And so they planned their counter-attack accordingly. I was furious.
I genuinely can’t remember much else about the game. Just the part about kicking the board over in disgust and making every unit fly. The others (my siblings, cousin and family friends) looked through past orders to rebuild the current position; I remember that part by being disappointed in their eventual success. And one thing I clearly remember from this game was my determination at the time; one day I will show them all. One day I will be back to beat them all. And it would be more than ten years before my “favourite country” would change from Turkey.
Here’s what the great Andrew Goff has to say about playing Turkey:
Con - Bul; Ank - Bla (by agreement); Smy - Syr. The intent is to make a statement to Italy that under no circumstances do they gain any centres in Turkey WITHOUT raising a threat of aggression against Italy. While Smy h is tactically identical, there's a psychological benefit to Syria - both as a defensive declaration to Italy but also as a pro- Austrian move - this army is not attacking you. The strategic principle is that you have laid the groundwork to break up an R/A/I alliance before it kills you... And without a concerted attack Turkey lives... And when Turkey lives, it usually breaks out of its corner and has a good game.
I totally love the move to Syria, and saw it for the first time by Per Westling. We all laughed at the time. It was like a “protest move”, and it remains that way. A way to say “don’t mess with me”. From memory the game where Per played this had Cyrille as Italy, Bruno Andre-Giraudon as Russia, Vick Hall as Germany, myself as Austria and Gihan as England. Bruno “Borged” Turkey, swallowed him up completely. It doesn’t always go that way. Andrew’s idea is a great one to consider. Personally I love the Syria opening. Turkey is often an early target, so stand firm and show the others you won’t roll over easily.
Previous Dip articles have referred to Turkey as the
armoured duck. Truth is, no matter who you are, getting
out of the box can be a challenge. Even harder if your past results have been good, making you a target of concern.
The most common opening move in Diplomacy is A(Con) – Bul. I have never seen anything different in 40 years. Even NMR’s (No Moves Received) from the old postal hobby, and more modern internet hobby, don’t happen in Spring 1901 because the GM usually finds a replacement in the first year. So an alternative opening just doesn’t happen.
Occasionally players like ‘fun’ or ‘silly’ openings, like the Yorkshire Pudding. And if statistics are to be believed, the Double Pudding opening has a 100% success record of winning Diplomacy tournaments. So why not try it sometime. But Turkey not opening to Bulgaria? Really? Can it be done? I think there is a way, a method, a crazy logic to it.
If you don’t open to Bul then any half-wit Austria will order A(Ser) – Bul in the Fall.
uite often Turkey loses Bulgaria in 1902 anyway, so goes down to three units. Why wait until 1902? Why not just concede the centre in 1901? You would be no worse off. So perhaps it is better to shuffle your units in 1901. A(Con) – Smy, A(Smy) – Ank, F(Ank) – Con. The Turkish Pudding. Ultimately (usually, rather) Turkey needs a long game to do well, so why rush? Why not take it easy, start slowly, have some fun... try The Turkish Pudding.
So here I am, writing a Diplomacy article on Turkey... Well, where to go? Even if (or maybe because) Turkey is a so strong defensive country, I never really had the opportunity to make a really crazy game with it, like my 11-11-11-0 with Belgium neutral for a perfect Western triple when you are one of the 3. Or a
petit train with Italy. The most adventurous with Turkey was maybe a Juggernaut, it can be terribly efficient but also is seen easily and there is a huge inherent danger at the beginning.
First concerning the basics: always open to the Black Sea (as I said, unless Juggernaut is foreseen), and keep doing this until you are there. The fact is that the Black is much more important to you than it is to your neighbour Russia. Circumstances in the game might of course change this (this is the beauty of Diplomacy) but really, in case of a slight doubt, just go to the Black... even if once by chance there you will unfortunately have to think much more about what doing with this fleet. I once played a 7-year C-Diplo game that I won having played 14 times F ANK-BLA ;-)
Following this, I could speak about the opening to Syria, but I heard this writing option has already been taken. So I will now let the other details of the opening moves to the other little hands contributing to this article ;-)
And I believe I finally found a subject of expertise... I do think I am indeed the World most experienced player in playing Turkey at a WDC Final board. (T.H.: this is as sure as Fonzie is cool)
Indeed on my 6 WDC Final boards, I was awarded Turkey twice randomly (1997 and 2006). I also played France twice (2008 and 2011), but the second time countries were chosen. The 2 other WDC final boards I played Russia (1995) and Germany (2001).
From those two WDCs with Turkey (1997 and 2006), I will concentrate on the 1st... but not (only) because I won then, but also because it was a classic Final board (where the Final Board of 2006 was crazy, I let it for the conclusion). I will also elaborate on the Final board of 2001 (T.H.: Cyrille played Germany at this WDC final) where Turkey nearly won the WDC by topping the final board and with the biggest score of the convention...
So the Top Table of Gothenburg in 1997 (WDC VII). I was new in the hobby, and it was actually my 2nd tournament abroad. The 1st one had been the EDC in Namur couple of months before, also my first international win actually, and at this occasion I met a couple of British and of course of Belgian beers... sorry I meant British and Belgian guys ;-). I was still student and living in France at this time (but making a PhD in a private company so with flexible holidays), and went to Sweden as it also gave me the opportunity to visit on the road an old French friend of mine living in Denmark. At this time I was a playing machine with some maybe 10 tournaments a year, and my play was somehow more aggressive than nowadays. The scoring system was the C-Diplo, the only one I knew actually, and the game-format (7 years for the qualification rounds, and I believe the Top table was also 7 years) was also usual for me. So only one goal: top the board as usual, and no worries concerning the stalemate lines (which I had never heard about at this time). Also advantage of this short-game format: nearly all alliances are possible... even if it would be unsustainable on the long term. Also I knew nearly none of the international players, only a few I had crossed at the WDC 1995. From the final board, I only knew at this time Sid-Ahmed Sedjai playing Germany.
So the Final board was adjudicated and I then got Turkey, with Borger Borgersen from Norway playing Russia. In Austria and Italy were Edi Birsan (1st time I played this old guy, with his buddy Larry Peery I already played in the rounds before) and Jean-Louis Delattre, a Belgian policeman BUT also a very adorable person... just at this time I wasn’t aware of that ;-). Jean-Louis was the organizer of the EDC couple of months before. I never played it by then and hardly talked to him as well, but of course as I won in Namur he knew me. The very interesting thing is that actually Edi and Jean-Louis just had played the game before a really powerful Italian-Austrian alliance and crushed the board. As it happens from time to time, this very interesting thing totally displaced the usual schemes even before the game. So everybody on the board was afraid of this alliance-to-be, and Russia offered me an alliance and asked me to go ANK-CON, while he would seat in SEV with his fleet.
At the same time, both the Belgian policeman and the old American guy (lol) told me that they were not going to play together anymore... and I believed them! And with a Russia offering you the Black, well, I didn’t hesitate and took ARM and BLA in the 1st turn. As it turned out, Edi in Italy worked with me as agreed –remember an IT alliance is really possible in C-Diplo short games- and I finally won my 1st WDC with some margin. 9 SCs to the (T.H.: 7 centre) England of Roger EDBLOM from Sweden, thanks to the World Diplomacy Database to remind me all this. The 3rd was Borger, who recovered from my attack with help of the German SCs ;-) Also in the end I needed him to contain England.
Funny thing is that players ranked 4 to 8 were not all on the final board but all had more points than me. The ranking system was such that only the top two scores were taken into account for the final ranking, so this made it easy also. Of course it was decided before the tournament began that the top 3 shall be issued from the Top Table. Of course, a certain Harris (Toby as 1st name) was gloating a lot, saying he had actually more points than the winner (which was indeed true) and so he would have deserved to be World Champion. Since that day they usually give a huge bonus to the top table, in order to avoid this disagreement when looking at the score, but it was also not done in 2001 ;-)
(T.H.: Soon after WDC 1997, Cyrille and I played in an email game with Vick Hall. In an attempt to encourage a stab on me in Spring 1901, Vick’s opening to Cyrille was:
Toby thinks he is a more worthy World Champion than you because he got more points at WDC. It was such a powerful line from Vick (yet untrue – I never said it) that I never lived it down. More from Cyrille later... on with the article)
1997 was my best WDC result at the time, and with more
poang (as they say in Sweden) than Cyrille, but there was no denying this worthiest of winners. Earlier in the year at Jean-Louis Delattre’s EDC in Namur, not only did Cyrille win that too, but the whole European hobby had found new friendships. 1997 was the European Hobby’s
Golden Age I think. For friendships, for creativity, for international recognition of the petit train, the UK’s introduction to C-Diplo, and for a new way forward of playing Diplomacy... the game of Diplomacy had now embraced the internet at last.
This is a
Turkey article of course, but just to make a small point regarding my first strategy article (Austria), this 1997 WDC was the tournament where I had no sleep, drunk to oblivion, was totally crazy, and played nothing more than A(Tri) – Alb and F(Gre) – AEG in Spring 1902 of the 5th round to eventually get an 18. You don’t need energy or skill from that point; you just need a
homing pigeon style of strategy. i.e., remember your basics after the Alb / AEG Spring 1902 thing ;-)
So I got 4th place, Best Austria and Best Diplomat that year. Three great trophies. I was so pleased.
Back to Cyrille later for his second and third ways to play Turkey. Now we skip forward two years to 1999 and the first Email Worldmasters Tournament. Never heard of it? This was the BIGGEST (and probably always will be the biggest) Diplomacy tournament of all time. Round one had 79 boards, 553 players. The brainchild of the UK’s Emeric Miszti and the USA’s Ray Setzer. Two amazing characters.
Face-to-face Diplomacy was thriving, but the postal hobby (with all the postal Dipzines) was dying.
I loved both media to play the game, but now was the birth of a chance to pile bullshit through the internet for the first time. I put so much effort into marketing this event and begged every friend I ever knew from Diplomacy to play. There will never be another war like this one! This was the tournament where (for example) we first met the Irish; Fearghal Fitzbrian and Brian Fitzfearghal.
The tournament structure was brutal, with just three rounds. The
Best 49 from the initial 79 games will go on to the
7 boards of 7 players semi-final, from where the board-toppers will go on to a final.
So that means you have to “win and win big” in round one. With 79 boards in round one, and just 49 places for round two, that means that THIRTY of the boards would see nobody progress to the second round! As you might expect from 553 players, and the internet / email forum, there were a lot of weak players and numerous 18-centre results. The tournament structure (just 49 places for the second round) also encouraged more 18’s than would normally be expected. From memory I think there were about 40 18-centre results, with the few remaining places in the semi-final being mopped up by others with lesser 17 and 16 centre results. What I do recall quite well was that 50th place (and just missing out on the semi-final) went to tournament organiser Ray Setzer with a paltry 15 centres.
The board allocations were random, as was the quality of some of those first-round games.
But despite Cyrille’s greatness as Turkey as described above, there can be no greater achievement in a Diplomacy tournament than getting 18 centres as Turkey as quickly as 1906. It was only as a result of an error on my part that it took that long; up to 17 centres in 1905 and a 50/50 guess for the 18th. There are two types of 50/50 guess, and my guess was not the good type! So it could have been 1905. The games (for all rounds) lasted until 1912, so after my game had finished in 1906, I sat back, enjoyed a nice cool beer and watched the other boards develop at my leisure. The centralised press page for the tournament buzzed for a couple of turns, with comments like
how the f*ck did he get an 18 Turkey in 1906?. In many respects, this was my greatest achievement in Diplomacy; not so much the 18, but the conclusion that I now had a proven track record in playing by post, face-to-face and finally email.
So here is the
BEST TURKEY award from the BIGGEST Diplomacy tournament that ever took place...
Fantastic camera work, making this award have a natural sparkly gleam.
The trophy comprises two engraved, black metal plates adhered to a solid wooden base of approximately 2cm thick and dimensions 25cm by... wait for it... ‘18 centre’ metres. Lol.
Wooden shields have been historically commonplace at Diplomacy events, so there are quite a few wooden trophies on my shelf. But this one is the largest. Larger for sure than any WDC 2006 Moisi Bear.
Particularly impressive is the engraving, outlining the country border and provinces, along with the starting units.
Definitely one of my favourite Diplomacy trophies of all time.
Jim Burgess was Austria and we agreed to get up to 5 centres each in 1901; he opens Budapest to Rumania and supports my A(Arm) – Sev. He trusts Italy, who heads west, and takes Greece for himself.
In 1902 I took Mos and War, whilst Jim attacked Venice and took Serbia. 7 centres each.
move up to Tyr/Boh Jim, my friend, and I will move into Sil to help you against Germany. A(Ukr) will need to move via Gal to come up to the front line as well. Jim had also secured ION with my support by this point, so he was to move to TYS and allow my fleet in behind to ION. Italy’s units had gone too far West against France by Spring 1902 to put up any reasonable defence.
Jim did his part of it and (in the Spring) so did I. But come the Fall of 1903... STAAAAAAAAAAB!
A(Sev)-Rum, A(Bul)-Ser, A(Gal)–Vie and F(AEG)-Gre, with my other three units in good follow-up positions too. A(Mos) hold, A(Sil) s Austrian A(Boh)–Mun, F(EAS)-ION. 11 centres.
Then came the
ok, I will keep you alive line (
I gave you Mun!). Stab again. 1904 saw my centre count grow to a criminal 14 with Budapest, Trieste and Berlin bagged up. Berlin came with the support of my Austrian ‘ally’, who I was ‘keeping alive’. By this time, the others were starting to give up caring.
Taking the Italian homeland in 1905 I grew to 17. 18 was there for the taking. Wrong guess over Tunis! And then 18 centres in 1906. Possibly one of the fastest in history? 1905 would have been better.
A unique game with that 1903 stab chance. These opportunities are rare, so take them when you can.
So the Top Table of Paris in 2001 (WDC XI). I was indeed coming back to Diplomacy, having not played in 2 and a half year following a severe car accident I have had in 1998 and my move to Germany where I was living and working since 2000. I had no sequels from my accident luckily, and was then again pretty hungry after such an absence. The final board was a really strong one, as it shall be for a WDC. It was no surprise, with so many players and among them so many foreigners. I got to play Germany then, with Edi Birsan in France, Doug Massie in England, Pierre Malherbaud in Russia, Thomas Sebeyran in Italy, Mark Wightman in Austria and finally Brian Dennehy in Turkey. As opposed to Gothenburg, I made two very interesting tactical decisions in this game, reason why I still remember them. The 1st one was to knowingly concede Munich to Italy – after he went to TYR anyway - already in 1901 and informing him about it, in order to launch him after against Edi in France. It helped me to then consolidate BEL, HOL and DEN, while giving MUN. The 2nd move was, couple of years later, once I have gotten rid of England, with help from Russia and France which I kindly helped back against Italy ;-), to stab my Russian ally... and then to move back from Russia without having taken anything, despite a guaranteed take of Warsaw. This did let Russia face Brian Dennehy in Turkey, and also gave me the win eventually, thanks to Russian armies, sorry I mean thanks to Russian’s vote ;-).
The fact is that actually this WDC was the 1st (and probably the last) where the mechanism to decide on the winner in case of draw on the Final Board was... a vote of the remaining non-eliminated players. There were 3 of them, Pierre in Russia, Thomas in Italy and Edi in France. I knew Russia would have voted for me and Italy would have voted for Brian, but for France I was not sure. Edi then took the lead, did organize the votes based on several criteria so that the votes would be unanimous... and in the end I was elected.
Funny thing again is that Brian did actually have more points than me before making it to the Top Board, so actually once again I got Champ with fewer points than the 2nd, despite the bonus given this time to top board players to avoid the Gothenburg effect. At the same time, Leif Bergman managed a probably unique triple at this level, being elected best diplomat, best strategist and best tactician.... But he didn’t make it to the Top board ;-)
Many thanks Cyrille. Yes this was a truly unique WDC top table because with Germany (Cyrille) and Turkey (Brian Dennehy) sharing equal supply centres at the end of the game, the surviving three players had to vote on the eventual winner. I am very sad to say at this point (for those that didn’t know) that Doug Massie who played England in this WDC top table died a few years ago. From what I understand, his clothes were found on the beach and his body later recovered. Likely suicide. He had a very funny, dry sense of humour making his character very memorable. He played in 44 Diplomacy tournaments (including 6 foreign tournaments) from 1998 to 2010, but only ever won two: OxCon 2003 and OxCon 2004. So this WDC top table position of 2001 was probably his greatest Diplomacy achievement; WDC top tables are not easy to win a place at. This WDC of 2001 had 118 players, and in 118th place was the historic World Champion of 1994 Pascal Montagna. 118th because he only played in one round (the last round) where Chetan Radia got the only 18 centre result of the tournament.
Whilst the WDC 2001
vote as to who would be crowned the winner (Cyrille or Brian) was taking place in private, lots of spectators discussed who they thought might win the vote. I recall this discussion very well, because the following comment was made:
Cyrille will probably get the vote because it’s easier to do cartwheels with Germany. With Turkey there are no opportunities to do cartwheels. It is a harder country to demonstrate any flare with.
Too true. Two such cartwheels that Cyrille has already explained are (1) Letting Italy into Munich whilst sealing Hol / Bel / Den and (2) not taking Warsaw when he could have, therefore allowing Russia the freedom to slow Turkey down. But what cartwheels can Turkey ever do?
There is one beautiful cartwheel as Turkey that I will never forget, and it took place during the EDC 1998 top table. The creator was Mark Wightman, who Cyrille just mentioned as playing Austria at the WDC 2001 top table. Mark is really a very talented player, whose name we don’t hear so often.
The basic principal is not so difficult. Turkey rarely gets an easy game at a top table, so it has to create a war amongst the neighbours. The usual 1901 thing happened; Russia (Henrik Larsson) took Rumania, Austria (Bruno Andre Giraudon) took Serbia and Greece, Italy (Chetan Radia) convoyed to Tunis and Mark Wightman as Turkey took Bulgaria. Then there was no movement in the Balkans for the next few turns. Mark got his fleet build into AEG, but beyond that there was no prospective future development for him. Mark knew how dangerously skilful BAG (Bruno) was, so he looked for the ‘key’ to his game. In this case it was a very green Chetan Radia. Sure, Chetan is brown (being one of the famous Best Asians) but his Diplomacy skill at the time was quite green; having played just four boards of tournament Diplomacy before at two past OxCons, a London Trophy and one round at WDC 1994.
To uncork the bottle, Mark offered to guarantee Chetan a convoy from Tunis to Greece by cutting Serbia and supporting him in from AEG. Ha, another reason to keep that Austrian army in Albania from Spring 1902! So Chetan took Greece. From behind his well-concealed fumes, BAG could see that the badly-concealed sneaky grin on Mark’s face made him the master of this plan. It changed the game. BAG then gave Greece to Mark, offered him a way out of his box and a longer-term alliance. The game was starting to unfold in the north; France (which was me) and Russia (Henrik) were working together to take out both England (Steve Jones) and Germany (Sid Ahmed), who eventually ended the game with one and two centres respectively. So Austria gave Turkey a chance to help them both stand a chance for the game-end and EDC title. Not quickly enough; 6 centres each at game-end, Italy eliminated, Russia on 9 and France on 10. Maybe if Mark had pulled off this Turkish cartwheel a year sooner (1902 instead of 1903 or 1904; I forget the exact year) the end result may have been better.
As Turkey, probably the best alliance you can muster is with Austria. Better than the Juggernaut in my opinion, because the Juggernaut can (should) face a retaliatory block by A/I in the south and Russia should get crushed in the north by E/G. Whereas an alliance with Austria has real power potential.
A good Austria should demand that Turkey builds no armies for the duration of the game. And in return, Austria promises to build no fleets. A good Turkey should demand this as being a fair offer. Ultimately, one army is sufficient to cover the Con / Bul area (best in Con, leaving a DMZ in the entire Balkans) and the other heads towards Moscow with support from the Austrian armies. Turkey gets Bul, Sev, Mos and (in time) Greece with a fleet before annexing the Italian centres. Austria takes Ser, Rum, War, Ven (and Greece initially) and moves onwards to Mun/Ber. Towards the end game Bur and Pie become targets for the Austrian armies, coinciding with the Turkish fleets sailing through the Med, to coordinate an attack against France.
The Austro-Turkish alliance is very powerful if played correctly, but there are two key areas to watch out for; either to stab your ally (when the timing is right) or to defend against the stab.
The first key area is the Adriatic Sea. This alliance should see a natural flow of Turkish fleets passing through the Ionian Sea and onwards; initially against the Italian centres, thereafter against France. Turkey doesn’t need to perform any cartwheels against Italy. Despite what you may think or hear, setting up a long convoy to Apulia isn’t essential. Sure, it has some notable value (like the obvious point that an army in Apu can also attack Rome which a fleet cannot do), but you only have two armies if you are working with Austria in this way. These two armies have a critical position on the map! They are far better placed as stated above; one in Russia (heading towards Moscow), the other guarding the Con/Bul area. Naples will fall easily enough if you get the fleets around the centre, and Austria should be helping you once Venice has fallen their way. Just keep those fleets flowing through ION and beyond.
The key for Austria is the Adriatic Sea. A sneaky Turkey should encourage that Austrian fleet out into the front line. Help it through ION and onwards to TYS, or even give Austria Rome. For the time being at least. A clever Austria should be keeping that fleet back, and ultimately parking it in ADR. That way it can not only help with the capture of Venice, but thereafter it can sit back and wave at the passing Turkish fleets to the South. If you can coax the Austrian fleet away towards TYS/Rom then the Adriatic Sea will always be open for one of your fleets as a walk-in. That’s the easy part of the stab on Austria because you should always have a fleet passing through ION and (if you and Austria are keeping your word about your builds) Adriatic will be vacant for you.
As with all good alliances, you only get out of it what you put in. Or to quote Pascal Montagna:
I do somesing for you, you do somesing for me. And where the Balkans are concerned (once you’re A/T alliance is flowing) the demilitarization will be as complete as you want it to be. If you keep your army in Bulgaria then don’t expect Austria to vacate Serbia. In fact, it could be considered rude even to ask.
So the preferred way to do it is for Turkey to move Bulgaria back to Con, and leave it there. Then Austria has no further cause for any armies in the Balkans. Serbia can at last head north towards the Barren Zone. Y’know, that string of non-supply-centre territories from Piedmont to Livonia... otherwise known as the scenic route of the petit train. The thing about the Barren Zone is that it can absorb a lot of Austrian armies (possibly as many as six!) before Austria gets a build from this enterprise. You’re sat happy with A(Mos) blocking the English from coming South from StP, and Austria’s A(War) should fill the gap in Livonia. So they will ‘need’ to use A(Ser) on the front line. At least, that’s what you say to Austria. Make the first move – put A(Bul) back into Con. What have you got to lose? All being well you will still have F(BLA) and can always use that to kick Austria back out of Bul if they stab you. And once in Bul you can tell Austria (and keep your word) that BLA and Con will self-bounce in Bul whilst they move Serbia North. With the possible exception of a Turkish fleet passing through Greece on occasions (no direct threat to Austria), the Balkans are now completely vacated.
So, the timing of the stab. Ideally you need at least one of Rum or Gre to be Austrian by the mid game. That at least gives you something to stab at as they roll their 6th army into to Barren Zone and well out of your hair. Convoying Con – Rum is always nice. Or simply moving Con-Bul again will start the ball rolling. Coupled with ION-ADR (and maybe Gre-Alb as well) the stab commences.What kind of a ‘stab’ is that? Moving to ADR, Alb and back into your own centre of Con?
Yes, technically it takes no supply centres in the first move. But that’s the point; you don’t need it to. You are playing for position. Once you are threatening MAO and the French Southern flanks, you are creating a two-player tactical battle with you and Austria. As with Chess, you don’t need to be a pawn up to have the advantage. Position is everything.
So, the thing to do is set up the board as it might typically look after the mid-game has concluded and you are rolling up towards a natural stalemate line with your ally. Over to Olde Faithful...
The thing to do is play the position from here (Austria owns Rum and War); Turkey makes the first stab, then Austria responds with a ‘best defence’. Who will win? Remember builds and disbands as you go. Assume one thing: pull back a little from France to give them space to make an attack in the north.
And now some last words about a 3rd way of playing Turkey in a final board. It was in 2006 in Berlin. I played Turkey and achieved a fantastic result of 9 SCs... My only problem: I was too far from Nicolas Sahughet playing France who totally crushed the board with 16 SCs... with a Demis Hassabis overwhelmed as Germany. Actually Demis totally misjudged the reaction of his former ally Vincent Carry (future WD Champion in USA) playing England when he stabbed him, and this led to the result mentioned. It is actually especially funny when one considers this nowadays that Demis is CEO of the Google entity dealing with Artificial Intelligence ;-) Demis and his team recently achieved what was judged impossible before years for a lot of specialists: their AI beat the best world player in Go. Well, I believe we may conclude that it just means that Diplomacy is superior to Go ;-)
T.H.: Many thanks Cyrille for your great pieces. Actually I remember this WDC 2006 top table very well, as I played Russia to your Turkey. The game began with a Germany / England alliance against me because Demis and Vincent were worried that (because they knew us to be friends) they might face a Juggernaut. And they kept attacking me (which was ok) but did not do as every child says to the hero during a pantomime...
look behind you! (which was not ok). Behind them was of course the big, bad, bear-grabbing NicSo Demis stabbed Vincent and the game cracked open. Nicolas made his move. Rather than stabbing Cyrille, I punished my aggressors in the North, and Cyrile gave me some breathing space to do that. When to attack or not to attack (as Turkey) is a very interesting dilemma. You don’t have to attack just because the opportunity is there. Turkey should never say “there was nothing I could do about England – I was playing Turkey”. There is always something; if you want to slow England down then give Russia some space so that Russia can do that job. And attacking Italy frees up France. as France who eventually took 16 centres, eliminated Demis completely and left Vincent with 3 centres.
Turkey (Cyrille) played a massive part in influencing this game. At least up to the point of no return for Nicolas’ huge centre count. As Germany and England headed towards Warsaw and StP, Cyrille made some progress in the South. Nicolas had not yet made his lunge for victory of course. And there was a point in the mid game where if I (Russia) crumbled too quickly then Cyrille would possibly become unstoppable as a run-away Turkey. I spent a lot of time explaining this to Demis;
stab Vincent now and I will attack Cyrille with everything I have got.
So Demis stabbed Vincent and the game cracked open. Nicolas made his move. Rather than stabbing Cyrille, I punished my aggressors in the North, and Cyrile gave me some breathing space to do that. When to attack or not to attack (as Turkey) is a very interesting dilemma. You don’t have to attack just because the opportunity is there. Turkey should never say
there was nothing I could do about England – I was playing Turkey. There is always something; if you want to slow England down then give Russia some space so that Russia can do that job. And attacking Italy frees up France.
Once this top table concluded was one of my lowest points in Diplomacy. The final was really well played, intense at times, deserving winner by Nicolas of course. But it just felt that I could never win a WDC, that I would always find a top table an impossible challenge. Demis was really disappointed afterwards too; he thought that his genius chess mind should have been enough to win. What he didn’t factor in was the diplomatic element though; so that the best moves are not always the best.
Ok, final chapter. There’s no need to write a section on working with Russia; the Juggernaut is a well-tested, well-known alliance. All I would say on that subject is to consider the Con / Sev swap in 1901. But beware of this opening because the aforementioned duo from the EDC 1998 top table (Chetan Radia and Mark Wightman) once tried this manoeuvre. As the Fall 1901 orders were read out, the words
Sorry Chetan could be heard at the nearby tables. It was quite funny actually.
As Cyrille rightly said earlier, in a short (1907 / 1908) C-Diplo game, there is no long-term threat of working with a country like Italy. You don’t need that many centres; you only need to top the board.
But what about the UK / USA style longer games, especially where there is no game-end limit? Personally I still think the Turkey / Italy alliance is a great one.
So let’s start with the one thing that is going around the heads of every Italian or Turkish player at the start of a prospective Italy / Turkey alliance: but the alliance cannot work in the long term – one of us will have to stab the other. Let’s kill this off immediately.
Before even considering the centres beyond the stalemate line (Mun / Ber / StP), if Italy heads West and pushes through France and on towards England (which in itself has great merit and potential for Italy), Turkey could be left to grab everything East of Italy. Perhaps with a little support from Italy too. That’s a total of 13 centres for Turkey. When you check the last WDC (USA, no game end limit) there were 51 games. In only 10 of those did a player get more than 13 centres. That’s just under 20%. And half of those were 18’s. So that means that even in no game-end games, 80% of the time this Italy / Turkey challenge about having to stab each other just isn’t going to be a problem. And of the 20% of games where more than 13 centres are likely, hey, why not help Turkey into Ber and Mun. Kie too. And pull them into Stp from the North, once your fleets get up there. So that’s 17 centres each. It can be done.
The alliance structure is quite straightforward. Italy has to start a campaign to the West from Spring 1902. No convoying to Tunis; Rom-Ven, Ven-Tri or Tyr is a good start. But it also requires helping Turkey out of the box a little; against Austria. And in return Turkey doesn’t bring any fleets into AEG, and in time Italy keeps ION a DMZ too. This pressure from Italy on Austria is enough to give Turkey the leverage it needs. Austria should have enough on their player with Turkey to worry about an Italy who has switched direction and is now heading west.
In teaching me the game, Tony Wheatley once said:
you know you are doing well as Turkey as soon as you have captured Serbia. And that’s the plan. As Turkey you have to ask Italy to move to Tyr or Tri in the first move, follow up from Rome and put that fleet into Tunis. In return you need to promise not to build any fleets. It’s a lot to ask, but if Italy does their part, you should genuinely consider the benefits of an army-only Turkey. If Italy is keeping Austria tied up on their northern flank, then you are free to attack either Austria or Russia. Hopefully with some help from the other.
Italy’s attack on France (possibly Tun-WES in Spring 1902, coupled with Ven-Pie) should really be in tandem with an assault by Germany or England. That way Italy gets to make some progress and stands a reasonable chance of breaking through MAO. An Italy heading west is just what Turkey needs. Why spoil it by building fleets? Does Turkey really need a second fleet to get 18 centres? Does it really need the Italian centres? Surely the German ones would be better, supported in by the Italian fleets in the north? This whole concept may sound crazy to some, but there is absolutely no reason why Turkey and Italy shouldn’t split a 17/17 if they want. All 17/17 splits are vulnerable to a stab by the other wanting to grab an 18; this alliance is no less vulnerable. But a 17/17 can be done.