The Diplomatic Pouch

Introduction to the Stalemate Position

Mark L. Berch

What follows are, I believe, most or all of the major stalemate positions. I cannot guarantee that they are all there, and I would appreciate people informing me if some important ones have been left out. I especially cannot guarantee the accuracy of these positions. I have no special skills in this area. I have spotted a few obvious errors, and have inserted my corrections or comments with the traditional double parenthesis. By and large I have stuck with the same format as was used in the original articles, with occasional variations for my own preferences (like Tyo for Tyrolia) or to squeeze things into fewer lines on occasion. ((All of the stalemate positions have now been converted to a common format for ease of reference. --- Matthew Self, The Diplomatic Pouch (December 1995).))

The three major presenters of listed stalemate positions are all represented here: Lipton, Beshera and Verheiden. While only one Beshera article has been reprinted, this is not a reflection of lesser output, but rather his request that only one reprinted article be used.

There is one significant omission. Elsewhere Eric Verheiden states that there are for all practical purposes no stalemate positions which fail to control either all of England or all of Turkey. John Beshera writes me that he has discovered eight positions which control part but not all of England. I attempted to persuade him to release these positions, but I did not succeed. Mr. Beshera indicated to me that some additional work needed to be done on it, and that his involvement in the hobby is right now quite minimal. Further, he implied (but did not state) that he had a prior commitment to John Boardman. Finally, I have never claimed to be the most persuasive person in the world, but I cannot believe that the hobby is better off with these things kept secret.

Some of you are going to look at this mass of boring material, shrug and ask: What for? Who needs it? When I get near a position, I can figure out the details then of that particular position. First, have a good luck at the two "Practical Considerations" articles by Verheiden for a good overall view of the strategic implications of stalemate lines. Second, such complications as these have considerable use far before you actually get to one and even if you never meet one. For example, lets suppose it's Spring 1903 and you're one part of the A-T alliance. The West is in disarray -- for the moment. There's a goodly number of potential stalemate lines that the West is capable of constructing against you, depending on such factors as how soon they get their act together, and the health of Italy. Rather than focusing entirely on the acquisition of supply centers, a sharp eye must be kept on getting to those positions sooner than the West does. If you are quite close to the position in one area (e.g. Russia) but quite a distance away in the Mediterranean, it behooves you to concentrate in the Mediterranean, for if you're blocked there, an extra center or two in Russia is going to be of little value. Third, the knowledge that you're ahead of a stalemate position should have a liberating effect on your strategic planning. If you know that a given attack can at worst only lose a center or two, but that you have a line to fall back to, then the attack can be quite feasible and sensible, even if it does not have a high probability of success. Finally, it can be of value if you are planning on shortening a draw. Suppose you decide that a troublesome minor ally does not deserve to participate in the final draw, but are afraid that the opposing alliance will take advantage of the situation and try to roll over you both. An examination of the various stalemate positions should allow to evaluate the risks involved. Likewise, if you're the minor power, you want to maneuver yourself onto one of the essential supply centers of a stalemate line, not a dispensable one, as the former will make it more difficult or even impossible for you to be dispensed with.

Knowing where the stalemate lines are is, I imagine, a little like knowing where the bridges are in a real war. They're not so important in and of themselves, but you do want to get there before the other side does.

Reprinted from Diplomacy Digest 10-11, April-May 1978.
Retyped for email distribution by Mark Nelson (, June 1994.
Converted to HTML by Matthew Self (, December 1995.