Pouch Deposits

The Editor and the Readership

Here We Go....

Just a couple of things, this time, before we get to the mail. In the last issue, two articles in particular inspired no letters (at least none that I will print here), but did inspire action in the readership. Tony Nichols' description of the coming Elo-inspired rating system has got a lot of people excited, thinking that with a chess-like system, the hobby will perhaps have "arrived."

Second, Kevin Worth mailed me to say that an e-mail game was started using David Norman's variable length rules, presented in last issue as a way to limit the length of a game without adversely affecting the play of the participants. I myself am quite taken by the scheme, and can see it becoming the worldwide standard (wouldn't that be nice?!) method for face-to-face tournament play.

Another thing I'd like to mention here is that Brian Kieslich's "Black Spy" story, "A Cryptic Postcard," generated one of the highest response totals. So I feel like I owe it to the readership to say that the solution to that puzzle will be published in the next issue. I feel bad about delaying it, but well, I just plain ran out of editing time.

And now, with no further ado, on with the letters.

Mail Received Concerning Caissa at the Diplomacy Table

From An Anonymous Reader:

I just read your article, "Cassia at the Diplomacy Table" in the latest issue of DipPouch and I found it to be one of the best articles I've ever read. I played tournament chess and a lot of Diplomacy about 20 years ago, but life intervened and I have only recently come back to the gaming fold. (I still don't have time for chess tournaments). I am playing an e-mail Dip game with some friends and I find myself using the strategic analysis that you mentioned -- particularly the notion of tempo. I am playing England and am attempting to ally with Germany against France. France only had one build in 1901 and so is behind in development. Austria and Turkey have started an attack against Russia. But, Italy stabbed Vienna. The Turkish attack will get no further than Sevastopol. My key argument to Germany is that we can take out France before T/A can take out Russia, and then turn eastward. But even as we do this, I am keeping up good relations with Austria so that I can enlist him in a stab of Germany after 1904.

You are correct that few Dip players bother to think beyond the year. I always try to think what effect my current move has on the "shape" of my forces. Pawn "shape" is another useful concept from chess, although it is harder to use in Dip, given the terrain differences.

Anyway, thanks for a great article.

Author's response: Thank you for the compliments. Glad to hear that my thoughts hit home with a fellow chess player. It makes me think one or two of them might actually be right. I like the way you are using whole board tempo analysis in the game you described. Sounds to me like you're on the path to victory (but watch out for those knives!).

Funny you should mention pawn structure. I agree that it has application to Dip as well. I had tried to develop a section of the article on that concept also, but I just couldn't manage the translation from chess terms to Dip concepts. Maybe someday . . .

No time in my life for chess tournaments either, but there are many thriving chess communities on the web. If you haven't looked for them, go ahead and give it a try. The level of competition at many of them is very good.

From Brandon Clarke (bjc@stevensons.co.nz):


Easily one of the best written articles I've ever read at The Pouch. There was one a few issues back that rivalled...something by some guy who thought you should approach negotiations in Diplomacy like you approach negoatiating a legal contract...

Keep up the good work, Paul. Another super effort.

[Author's response: I am blushing, and honored by your generous praise. Not sure what else to say.

Ah, now I know: a mentor of mine once told me, "Paul, one of your biggest faults is that you have no idea how to handle a compliment. The appropriate thing to do is smile and say 'thank you.'"

So , and thank you.]

From Chris Martin (TremewanC@worldnet.att.net):

Again, an excellent, well thought out article! As a "Garden Variety Chess player" myself, I found your insight into the similarities of the two games quite intriguing. I am a profesional ballroom dancer, and it was my experience in the competitive aspects of that profession that led me to many of the same conclusions, which I employed quite handily at WDC8!

Fascinating how good thinking lends itself to many different fields. If you are looking for good games, with intelligent players who don't take things for granted, please allow me to recommend the e-zine The Old Republic, run by Tim Richardson, keeper of the Face-to-Face Section of The Pouch.

I would be interested in discussing this, and other Diplomacy matters at greater length with you. Do you play Face to Face?

Again, an excellent article.

[Author's response: Wow! Compliments and an invitation to play from the world champ? My wife is suffocating in my bloated ego right now.]

From Andrew Someone (neon@eskimo.com):

I read with interest your article about applying chess principles to Diplomacy. Being a long-time, if somewhat out-of-practice chess player myself, I noted with interest that you repeatedly referred to Germany "sacrificing an SC."

However, since it was not really Germany's SC at the time, I was surprised to note that you didn't mention Tartakover's axiom that "it is always better to sacrifice your opponent's pieces"...

[From the author: Heh heh. Good point. You're right, I should have remebered that one.]
Anyhow, thanks very much for a great article, which I'll have to remember when I start playing in serious e-mail games... or, at my next ftf game next weekend, assuming that the game doesn't die around 1906 from the stabbed players whining excessively... You didn't mention the best way to deal with a piece behind your lines...convince your opponent that he'd be better off attacking a common neighbor, then get him to allow you to disband it...it worked as Turkey; a three-unit Italy was getting pounded by Austria but managed to get a fleet to Syria. Actually, it was he that suggested that Italy stab Austria, but...and then Austria quit because he wanted to play Starcraft...of course, his real mistake lay in giving up Greece in 1901 without any argument whatsoever...
[From the author: An excellent point. I tried to remember to tie the tactics into diplomatic strategies, but it can be hard to remember to do that all throughout a tactically based article. Naturally, if the piece behind your lines can bury you, the thing to do is look for a diplomatic solution rather than a tactical one. That's superior advice.]

From Ed Somebody (Elaglar@aol.com):

Thank you for a most enlightening and thought-provoking article, sir. Much of what you said has shed new light on some problems I have had in the past. I was pleased, however, to notice that the section regarding strong and weak pieces is something I had figured out on my own. There is yet hope for this humble beginner! May the gods of dipdom continue to smile upon you.
[Author's response: And may they smile upon you, as well. I'm pleased that you found value in my efforts and grateful you took the time to write.]

From Konrad Scheffler (kschef@bigfoot.com):

Hi. I've just read your excellent article "Caissa at the Diplomacy Table" in the DipPouch. Being a chess player myself, the mode of thinking you describe is the natural and instinctive one for me -- what I found really instructive was the fact that you indirectly highlight how (most) other Dip players think, and how to approach the task of getting one's own 'chess-like' thought patterns across to them. Finally, also, an article that discusses real strategic thoughts by means of concrete examples -- I wish I had access to this when I was a newbie.

Keep up the good work!

[Author's response: Thanks for the compliments, Konrad. I'll pass this along to Manus at the Pouch, too. Never forget to thank the publisher!]

Mail Received Concerning Seven Embassies for Seven Dippers

From Troy Bettinger (troyb@spectralogic.com):

Father Hand, I come before you to confess my sins mortal and venial. It has been two months since my last confession.

Today, with full knowledge, complete understanding, and willful intent, I did use your world-class web site "The Diplomatic Pouch" for work during work hours. I confess that I knew I needed to find out some information on the international employment laws. I was advised to seek the websites for the embassies of both Germany and England/Great Britain/United Kingdom/whatever-they-call-it-now. I remembered an article reviewing the web efforts of the Diplomacy countries ("Seven Embassies for Seven Dippers" by Larry Peery), so without any shame or hesitation I found the article, surfed over to the aforementioned embassies and got what I needed, all on official company time.

Yes, Father Hand, I got paid for making an official work visit to The Pouch. I know that it isn't supposed to be like that. I know that I should have used a search engine. I confess my trespasses, and I ask forgiveness, promising never to use The Pouch for work again.

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa.

[From the publisher: Go forth, my son, and sin some more.]

Mail Received Concerning Scoring Draws

From Manus Hand (manus@diplom.org):

David's article is interesting, but I believe that in the last sentence he exposes his own problem without knowing it. He says in a three-way EIR such as he describes it, Italy would be better off allying with one or the other of ER and calling it a two-way...unless each "alliance" was equally rewarded. So he concludes with the decision that each "alliance" should be equally rewarded. By this same logic, each of the five powers in the alliance against France in the six-way is better off declaring himself to be his own alliance than he is to admit to being part of the anti-France coalition. Unless there is some set way to determine who is actually in an alliance with other powers even if they don't want to admit it (and I don't think this is necessarily all that easy, but maybe it is), the fact is that all games would break down just the way they are now -- each power in a six-way would get equal credit. Just like Calhamer wanted.

Mail Received Concerning World DipCon VIII Reports

From John Quarto (jcq@Mindspring.com):

I have been having a ball reading commentary from WDC in the latest issue and boy! am I glad that I decided to hold off on commentary. There are a few things people need to hear about from my games that directly affects others' comments from this issue!

(The most interesting so far is that Chris Martin has pegged me as playing Austria in one of the games he was in. I will accept the compliments graciously, but I probably do need to tell him that John Quarto did not play Austria the entire weekend nor was he ever in a game with Chris that weekend!)

[From the Publisher: Consider him told, and the record hereby corrected. ]

From Chris Martin (TremewanC@worldnet.att.net):

In response to a number of e-mail messages from apparently concerned individuals, the World Diplomacy Champion would like to note that the contents of the article "Why People Hate the World Dip Champ" -- published in the Previous installment -- were entirely humorous, and that all the ribbing that went along with it was totally good natured. Thank you.

And One of the General Ego-Feeding Messages

From Don Williams (wllmsfmly@earthlink.net):

Hello, there ... finally had the time, inclination, and address present all at the same time to visit The Pouch ... of course, it's wonderful for an old hand like me to bang around in here, especially after hearing so damn much about it.

Anyway, within a few mouse clicks of hitting the Pouch, one simply must visit the Registry to see if one is listed. To my surprised delight, I'm already in there! Thanks for being so on the ball with everything!

Well, there you have it. Another Deposits column. Yep, it sure is.