Sherlock Holmes,
Consulting Diplomat

by Eric Pederson
Master Aenigmatist

Solution For The Case of the Lethal Alliance

Mrs. Hudson came in with morning tea, toast and eggs. Holmes settled into his meal ravenously while I remained at the playing board trying to puzzle through what had happened to the disappearing Russian. After spending much of the night at the jail sipping coffee and consuming whatever it was they were selling at the street stalls in those hours, I had no appetite. This case (The Case of the Lethal Alliance) apparently could be solved and Holmes had run me through several of the initial steps in that process. Now that I both knew the case and Holmes’ initial reasoning, it seemed appropriate that I try to solve the rest of the case. Besides, Holmes was busily engaged in eating and had begun to read The Times, so I was left to my own devices anyway. Holmes had laid out the timeline of events and had explained that the case would be solved by deducing the moves of the various units from their end positions after Fall 1902. We had discussed the Italian army in Holland and the curious disappearance of the Austrian fleet, but the larger mystery of the forced disband of the remaining two Russian armies in Spring 1902 remained before me. Accordingly, I set to work re-examining the board and end positions.

Holmes had said that it would not be difficult to find a space from which a Russian army could be forced to disband in Spring 1902. This did indeed appear to be correct. For example, I could see how a unit in Livonia attacked by Germany from Prussia would be disbanded if Warsaw supported the action while the Austrian moved to Moscow and the other Russian unit was then in St. Petersburg. However, how then could the unit in St. Petersburg also be forced to disband? It could not have moved to St. Petersburg from Finland or Moscow, for then it would not have been dislodged that same season. So it would have needed to hold (without supporting Livonia!) in which case it also could not have been dislodged. In fact, since a non-Russian unit could not have occupied St. Petersburg, I excluded the possibility of a Russian unit in Moscow or Livonia. Since no foreign supply center had been occupied by Russia in Fall 1902, this left Armenia, Silesia, Prussia, Ukraine, Galacia, and Bohemia as possible locations of the Russian armies going into 1902.

The first three of this list also seemed fairly straightforward. Armenia, that is a Russian army in Armenia which had started the game in Moscow, could have retreated to Syria as no units on the board could have blocked that space and ended in their current position by Fall 1902.

Silesia could have retreated to Berlin or Prussia, as units could not have been occupying both of those spaces at the end of Spring 1902.

Prussia could have been attacked by the German army from Berlin ending up in Silesia with support from F Baltic. However, nothing would prevent a retreat to Livonia except 1) a Russian unit in Livonia, which itself could not have been required to disband or 2) a bounce in Livonia between a German army WAR-LVN and a Russian army STP-LVN the latter of which I had also already determined could not have been disbanded.

The remaining three spaces on this list of candidates were more complicated. Each seemed viable:

The Ukraine was similar to Silesia in having many places of retreat: An army could retreat to Moscow or Warsaw, but both retreats could potentially be blocked. Warsaw might well have remained occupied by the German army ending up in Silesia. Moscow would have needed to be prevented by an Austrian unit moving SEV-MOS (and then moving back again to SEV in Fall 1902).

As for Bohemia, there could have been German units in MUN and SIL, a French army in TYR, and Austrian in either VIE or GAL. However, both VIE and GAL would need to have been occupied and only one Austrian unit was on hand. This left the interesting possibility that the newly built Austrian army attempted VIE-GAL and bounced with BOH-GAL, rendering VIE unavailable for retreat that Spring. This army then moved to BUD in the Fall, while the French army moved to VIE.

Alternatively, the second Russian army could have been in (or moved to) Galicia in Spring 1902. However, if that second unit had been in Galacia, it could have retreated to BUD unless prevented by an Italian or a Turk, but those units were clearly otherwise engaged, so I eliminated that alternative.

Another alternative had the Austrian build in BUD and bounce with France in VIE. SIL-WAR would have needed to bounce with another unit, presumably UKR-WAR

At this point in my deliberations, Holmes joined me at the game board. Apparently he had also shaved and dressed after breakfast without my having noticed his absence. "So Watson, have you resolved the case?" I shook my head and explained how each of Bohemia, Galacia, and the Ukraine seemed reasonable candidate locations for the final Spring of the Russian units. Holmes smiled at me, "In that case, we should demonstrate that the Austrian fleet necessarily disbanded in Fall 1901 and then we can consider each of your potential locations for the Russian units in turn."

Holmes sat down in his arm chair and pointed to the board with a pencil as he spoke. "Let us first eliminate the possibility of a 1902 disband of the Austrian fleet. If it disbanded in 1902, it must have been a forced disband as we have already established that there had been no retreat periods that year. The only position the fleet could have been forced to disband would have been Greece in the Spring of 1902. While a Turkish army could not have successfully attacked Greece and still reached Rumania by Fall 1902, a Turkish army in BUL could have supported an Italian army from Albania into Greece (SER-GRE would not have prevented the fleet retreating to Albania). The two Turkish fleets then entering the Ionian and Aegean seas would have prevented a water retreat, but they could not have supported an attack on Greece (that is an Italian army ALB/SER – GRE) as they needed to move into those positions in order to reach TUN and ION by Fall 1902. So far we have a reasonable hypothesis.

"However, note that an Austrian army in Albania at the end of 1901 is rather peculiar. The only reason for an aggressive Italian army to move to Albania in Fall 1901 would be if SER was unavailable or contested. Since an Italian army in Trieste could not be given a supported attack, Austria would have had A SER in Fall 1901. This combined with the Austrian F GRE and the Italian army in ALB instead of TRI where it more sensibly would be, provides Austria with two acquired supply centers with no loss of home center. This would have entitled Austria to two builds in Winter 1901, which could not have been waived given Masters’ house rules and two vacant Austrian centers available for building. Even with a forced disband of the fleet in Greece in following Spring 1902, the final Austrian position is a unit short. And clearly," Holmes glanced up from to board at my face and then stared back down at the board before I could respond, "there is no other way for another Austrian unit to be forced to disband. Also, as we shall later see, had so many Austrian units been involved in the Southern Balkans, it would have been impossible for the forced disband of the Russian armies. So we may safely conclude that the Austrian fleet indeed disbanded before the end of 1901.

"Now we can consider means of the Austrian Fleet disband. Since we cannot fit a 1902 forced disbanding of an Austrian army into our story as well, we cannot assume that Austria controlled more than three supply centers at the end of 1901. Most solutions you might care to come up which eliminates the Russian armies and results in this map position will require an Austrian unit in a foreign supply center at the beginning of 1902. For example, an Austrian unit moving SEV-MOS in Spring 1902. It follows on those scenarios that Austria must have lost a home supply center in Fall 1901. The only viable candidate for that is Trieste, which is consistent with our need to have the fleet starting in Trieste dislodged that same Fall. However, the Fall 1901 attack on Trieste would have needed to be supported to dislodge a fleet still docked there. France could not yet have reached Trieste from Marseilles. Perhaps German moving or supporting into Trieste was possible, you might wonder. If a Russian unit is in Galacia or Bohemia (as you propose) then Germany may not have a unit in Tyrolia at the beginning of Spring 1902 lest that Russian army have a possible retreat to MUN, SIL, or WAR. Therefore no non-Italian unit could have support Italy into Trieste in Fall 1901.

"How then might an Italian have supported himself into Trieste? Obviously, the Italian fleet could not have been available -- we find it in Smyrna by Fall 1902. This requires that both Italian armies attacked Trieste. However, as you yourself pointed out Watson, it is a minimum of four seasons travel from Italy to Holland, so the Italian army ending up in Holland could not have expended a season in the attack on Trieste. Therefore, the fleet could not have been dislodged from Trieste!

"Indeed, the only way for the Austrian fleet to have been dislodged is with French support on an Italian army. This support could only have come from Piedmont, which requires that the Austrian fleet moved TRI-VEN in the opening season of the game and was then dislodged from Venice. This clearly suggests that the enmity between Italy and Austria apparent in the final board position got off to an early start and that France and Italy had an alliance by sometime in 1901. Austria therefore lost no home supply centers in 1901 and he must have had three centers exactly by the end of 1901.

"This disbanded fleet brings us to an important general point concerning this game: Austria can have made no territorial conquest of any supply centers in 1901. Any hypothesized positioning of units at the beginning of Spring 1902 will need to reflect this.

"Returning now to your analysis of the Ukraine, we note that it requires an Austrian unit in Sevastopol at the beginning of Spring 1902. This is fine in and of itself as that supply center needed to be taken from Russia anyway. However, this would again force us to grant Austria four centers at the end of 1901, which we have just ruled out.

"Accordingly, for Sevastopol to have fallen, it must have been to the Turkish army moving SMY-ARM-SEV in 1901 (ruling out a nonsensical Russian convoy of a Turkish army into Sevastopol of course). However, as you correctly pointed out, in Spring 1902 SEV-MOS would have needed to succeed to block a Ukrainian retreat. In such case, the Turkish unit would have been unable to return to Armenia by Fall 1902. Therefore, only the Austrian we see in Sevastopol at the end of 1902 would have been available to move SEV-MOS in Spring 1902, but that, as we just said would have been impossible since Sevastopol could not have belonged to Austria at the end of Fall 1901. So we can safely rule out the Ukraine as location of the final stand of one of the Russian units."

At this point, you may wish to reconsider the disappearing Russian units. Can BOH and GAL indeed have been the last positions of the Russian armies? If you resolve this, you may move on your own to a final solution to the case. Otherwise continue reading like everyone else.

Holmes busied himself with his pipe for a few minutes while I examined the board to confirm the truth of what he had just said. "But Holmes," I worried, "if the Austrian units had not occupied any foreign supply centers in 1901, where on the map were they?"

"A good question indeed Watson! A BUD-SER-ALB or some such 1901 pair of orders would have been ridiculous, so we can assume that the unit finally in Greece was the one built in Winter 1901. An Austrian could have been in Tyrolia in Fall 1901, but then it would have supported the fleet (or cut the French support of the attack) and prevented the dislodge and loss of Venice. Since we have an Austrian unit ending Fall 1902 in Sevastopol, we know that at least one Austrian unit ended 1901 in Budapest, Galacia, or the Ukraine. There was nothing to prevent Austria from taking Serbia in 1901, so we can only assume that Austria was convinced to move one or both of his units northward -- or at least to not move them Southward. Since we know that Austria was at war with France and Italy, Austria must have been coordinating some larger plan with either Turkey, Germany, or both which required him to give up territorial gains in 1901."

Holmes frowned for a minute and emptied the ash from his pipe on a clean piece of white paper and examined it with his left index finger. He then blinked, cleared his throat, and continued, "Yes, then, well, the Austrian agreement. Let us start with Sevastopol. We now see that Turkey obviously took Sevastopol and must have planned or at least hoped to in Spring 1901 when he ordered SMY-ARM. Obviously, he would need support from Austria for that. The usual arrangement is that Austria would support from Rumania, but in this case, Austria apparently held off on taking Rumania. Indeed, Turkey possesses both Bulgaria and Rumania by the end of 1902. So a likely strategy (and we shall confirm this when we have accounted for all of the unit movements) would have needed to have an Austrian army in the Ukraine by the end of 1901. Austria would only agree to this if offered Moscow or Warsaw the following year. Indeed, Turkey would want an Austrian in the Ukraine to move north or east to remove the threat that it end up taking Sevastopol -- as ironically it later did.

"As an aside, if there is an Austrian army in the Ukraine and we also assume a Russian army in Galacia, then Turkey must have had a unit in Rumania by the end of Spring 1902 to block a retreat GAL-RUM. Whether it held there from Fall 1901 or moved there from Bulgaria or Serbia, it would have given Turkey the fifth supply center necessary to achieve the unit count on the final board position while still allowing F ANK-CON-ION-TUN. Thus, we would assume that the Turkish end position units A BUL and F ION were the units built in Winter 1901."

Holmes paused for a moment, closed his eyes and smiled. "Returning to the possibility of a Russian forced disband in Bohemia and Galacia, note that your plan requires a French unit in Tyrolia at the end of 1901 in order for that unit to reduce the available retreats with a bounce in Vienna. However, since the French unit was supporting the Italian reclaiming of Venice in Fall 1901, it could not have reached Tyrolia until the end of Spring 1902. With one Austrian army in Ukraine, another moving toward Greece in Spring 1902, there is only one available Austrian unit to prevent the southern retreat of both of the Russian units you hypothesized were in Bohemia and Galacia. That unit could have been in Budapest and was ordered BUD-VIE which bounced with TYR-VIE (this would block a retreat to VIE). However, then TYR would be unavailable to support the attack MUN-BOH to force the dislodge of the Russian from Bohemia in the first place.

"So my dear Watson, I fear we must now rule out Bohemia, Galacia, and the Ukraine as the final resting spaces of the Russian units. You yourself clearly ruled out Silesia, Prussia, and Armenia. You also started your deliberations by pointing out that the other powers could not prevent a retreat to St. Petersburg from Moscow or Livonia. Where then does that leave us?"

I winced and stared at Holmes. "Are you saying that the board position is actually impossible?"

"Not at all. Rather, I shall suggest that your account concerning St. Petersburg, while correct, is incomplete. If the Russian units were in Moscow and Livonia, one of them could have retreated to St. Petersburg unless those units themselves had participated in a bounce in St. Petersburg. The German fleet could have been adjacent to St. Petersburg in the Gulf of Bothnia at the beginning of Spring 1902, which would have threatened St. Petersburg. On the other hand, Russian units in Moscow and Livonia would have been ill-advised to risk retreating further back to St. Petersburg to block BOT-STP while they were under such a heavy assault on both the Western and Southern fronts."

"A beleaguered garrison defense!" I practically jumped from the chair I was sitting in. "Russia would have attempted to bounce both units in St. Petersburg from Livonia and Moscow to protect it from the German without risking moving one of the Russian units there."

Holmes smiled at me in an almost fatherly way. "Exactly Watson and it was indeed a reasonable tactic on the part of the Russian. As fate would have it, the German did not attempt BOT-STP, but rather used the fleet to unexpectedly support an attack on Livonia instead. This, coupled with Turkish support SEV S UKR-MOS as per Austrio-Turkish agreement, allowed both of Russian units in Livonia and Moscow to be dislodged with no opportunity for retreat."

You may wish to determine the full set of orders of the Austrian, German, Russian and Turkish units involved in the Russian campaign. This may even suggest a solution to the case!

Holmes demonstrated the fate of the Russian units on the board in front of him. As he spoke, his hands pushed the units across the map with increasing speed. "As you see, these are only orders that can result in this elimination of all Russian units within our timeline and with the given disposition of units a season later. Note the importance of Spring 1902 SIL-WAR to prevent Moscow’s retreat to Warsaw.

"I can scarcely imagine what Germany and Turkey offered Russia to convince him to open with two holds. However, the beleaguered garrison in St. Petersburg was a fair enough defense against an overwhelming number of units. Unfortunately, Austria and Germany had agreed to attack LVN and MOS instead of STP and MOS."

I was beginning to understand how the puzzle could be solved. I enthusiastically contributed my own observation: "Clearly Germany, Austria, and Turkey needed to carefully co-ordinate their joint attack in Spring 1902. It would have been complicated and involved a selection of coordinated moves from a number of alternatives. This means that the three of them would have been in conference for a lengthy time and that none of them could be the murderer!"

"Nor the victim," Holmes reminded me with a chuckle. "Now suppose you turn your attention back to the West. Does this new information suggest that anything is particularly odd about the German army in the Ruhrgebiet?"

I puzzled over the board for a few moments. I was beginning to get a bit of a headache, but I knew better than to suggest to Holmes that we should recess. "It seems to me, Holmes, that a number of possibilities exist. It could have moved from MUN, KIE, BUR, BEL, or HOL. Although obviously not from Holland if the Italian army had been moving from the Ruhr to Holland." I closed my eyes for a few moments. "Actually it could have been built in any of the German home supply centers and still reach the Ruhr in two moves. So we don't actually know anything about it's movements!"

"Quite right! Very good Watson! I see that you are starting to understand this case! The exact movements of this piece are indeed undeducible. So then, what does the simple existence of the unit tell us?"

At this point the reader may wish to determine the source and implications of the German unit ending in RUH. Perhaps this will suggest a solution as well. If not, then continue.

I looked at Holmes somewhat impatiently. "Well," I thought out loud, "the German must have moved the army in Berlin from Prussia after it supported the Munich army through WAR and LVN to counter the Italian threat. This means that the army in the Ruhrgebiet must have built in Winter 1901."

"Indeed it was, Watson. But didn't you say that was impossible?"

This was a truly baffling comment. "Err...not that I recall."

"Yes, you distinctly said [in the last installment of this solution] that the Italian moved VEN-TYR-MUN and so forth on its way to Holland by Fall 1902. Does that not mean that Munich was an Italian territory going into the adjustments in 1901?"

"Quite right Holmes! So that means that the German army could not have been built in Munich! If it had been built in Kiel -- which is surely more likely than BER -- then the Italian army probably did not move KIE-HOL, but moved via RUH." I was beginning to feel somewhat refreshed again!

"No Watson. An Italian in Munich in Fall 1901 means that the German army could not have been built anywhere! We saw how the only way for all the Russian units to have been disbanded required a set of movements from all of the German units such that Warsaw was their only gain in supply center that year. If the Italians had taken Munich in the same Fall, then the Germans would have had no build at all. But since the German clearly has four units, he must have made a build. Therefore, Army Venice did not travel as you suggest."

"But Holmes," I exclaimed, "there are no other four-space routes between any Italian supply center and Holland."

Holmes continued after relighting his pipe. "Certainly this overland route is the most probable route to Holland on the face of it, but remember, once you have eliminated the likely possibilities as impossible, the remaining possibility, no matter how improbable, is the truth. In this case, the Italian army must have been convoyed. "

At this point the reader may wish to determine the correct route to Italian Army Holland. Perhaps this will suggest the solution as well. If not, just keep reading as usual.

"But Holmes. This is too much! There is no fleet in the North Sea nor in Helgoland Bight, so a convoy to Holland in Fall 1902 was impossible!"

"Quite true, so the unit must have moved up from Belgium. The question then is how the Italian army was convoyed to Belgium in the Spring of 1902 — which you will note is again the critical season for our investigation. As with the Russian campaign, there is fortunately only a single solution." Holmes began moving fleets rapidly before him. "England needed to occupy the Channel and the Mid-Atlantic by the end of Fall 1901 and France needed to occupy the Western Mediterranean.

"Where then did the army convoy from? Various possibilities suggest themselves. Note however, that the Italian fleet in Syria at the end of Fall 1902 indicates that it could not have been in TYS or LYO in Spring 1902. Therefore, the army must have convoyed up from Tunis, having claimed that as an Italian center via a Fall 1901 convoy NAP-ION-TUN (having moved A ROM-NAP and F NAP-ION in the opening season). This is the only location from which an Italian army could convoy to BEL in Spring 1902 which does not require an Italian fleet in TYS or a second French fleet, which would have still been docked in MAR prior to movement Spring 1902.

"You can see from the current position that all of the fleets could have been in exactly the needed position in the Spring of 1902. Incidentally, this convoy fits perfectly with the explanation of how the Austrian fleet was dislodged. The convoy also explains the minor puzzle of why the Englishman failed to build in Fall 1901.

"With A PAR obviously having taken the Iberian peninsula, and with the movements of A LVP irrelevant, we now have a full account of the movements of essentially all of the units on the board. A few minor variants exist, for example the exact route of the new Austrian army to Greece, but everything of importance can be deduced backwards from the final position and the time of death.

"Clearly for England to have agreed to not build in 1901, the Italian, Frenchman, and the Englishman must have come to some longer term agreement as they orchestrated an alliance culminating in the elaborate three power convoy of Spring 1902. Since the three of them must have spent a good deal of time together in a conference room during that season’s diplomacy, they too each escape being murderer or victim -- although I am certain France might wish to say otherwise after England's nasty little Fall 1902 stab of F MAO - BRE."

Holmes smiled again and leaned back from the playing board. "So, through rather painstaking elimination, we have determined that there were two conferences of three players each to the exclusion of our hapless Mr. Whipple, who we now know played Russia."

What is Holmes suggesting? Who killed Mr. Whipple? The solution should now be obvious!

"But Holmes!" I ejaculated. "Surely you are not suggesting that Whipple committed suicide during their absence!"

Holmes smile grew wider, "Not at all. Russia's position going into conference for Spring 1902 was grim, but not yet worth actually taking one's own life. After all, he did not know that he would lose all of his units that year. No, our Mr. Whipple did not meet with anyone in conference that fateful season. Rather he sat nervously at the board with our honorable General Masters, while they knew the enemies of Russia conspired in two of the conference rooms (presumably not including the pantry). I'm sure that at a moment like this Whipple would gladly have accepted a strong drink, perhaps a bitter gin, when Masters offered one.

"It was obvious from the outset that the case could only be solved if none of the players was the culprit. Even if one conference room held five players (which is most unlikely), we would still be uncertain which of the other two was Mr. Whipple and which his killer! No murderous player could ever be accused without at least knowing which power Whipple was playing. So my task was simply to see whether there was any evidence that Masters had been alone with one of the players during the critical period and that there had also been no pairs of players in lengthy conference at the same time. If this had been the case, then the case could have never been solved."

Holmes began replacing the playing pieces in their storage case with one hand while languorously waving his pipe with the other. "The interesting irony of the case was that the alliance against Russia was indeed lethal. It eliminated the Russian units in the fastest possible way, but in so doing, unwittingly set up the conditions for the player of Russia to be eliminated as well.

"What was it you said Watson? 'Why don't we leave professional decisions to the experts?' Since the police have already arrested Masters and will undoubtedly charge him with the murder in the absence of any clear alternatives, I have decided that you are indeed correct. I shall leave such decisions in their hands. A pity about Whipple though: I believe this game would have finally taught him the importance of a proper opening! As it turned out, he still retains Moscow by the end of 1902 and was entitled to build there."

The reader may now wish to return to the board and determine a set of unit orders for the two years which results in the end position. With the exception of minor variants (like A LVP-YOR-LON vs. A LVP-WAL-LON) most units had only one route to their current positions. A reasonable reconstruction is provided.

Author's note:

This group of players reconvened a year after Whipple's death as a memorial tribute to finish the game without a GM and with Whipple's eldest son filling in for Russia. After W02 Build A MOS, Whipple Jr. avenged his father by gaining a solo in 1922!

General Masters established a Diplomacy club "The Backstabbers" for both prisoners and staff in the prison to which he was sent. For undocumented reasons, Masters was released from confinement during a game in which the warden achieved an Italian solo in 1913. While reports of his activities occasionally surface, nothing is known of the General's current disposition.

-- Dr. John H. Watson

via Eric Pederson

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