Sherlock Holmes,
Consulting Diplomat

by Chuck Carroll,
Master Aenigmatist

The Solution to the Riddle of the Mirrored Openings

I wasn't sure which brother amazed me more. Mycroft, for his insane claim that he picked up three centers in 1901, despite having failed to submit Fall orders, or the great detective, for his statement that he knew the position of every unit at the end of 1901, from the little information we had given him.

"" I managed to sputter out.

Holmes looked up from his book, with just the slightest trace of impatience, it seemed. "It's really quite elementary. In Spring 1901, you moved your fleet to Albania,..."

I cried, "That's right, I did! But how did you know? How did you even deduce which power Mycroft and I played?"

"Perhaps I should take it more slowly." He set aside the book, drew on his pipe, and slowly exhaled. "You will recall from The Double Elimination Conundrum that there are only three powers which can be eliminated in 1901: Austria, France, and Germany.

"The only way Germany can be eliminated in 1901 is if the German fleet is involved in convoying a foreign army to Kiel; otherwise, no foreign unit can reach Kiel in 1901. But as you fell into Civil Disorder in the Fall, you could not have been eliminated that way.

"You cannot have been France, either, for you stated that each of the other six powers picked up two neutral centers in 1901. But no power other than France can take Spain and Portugal in 1901, unless convoyed by a French fleet. Thus, you must have been Austria."

"Yes, I guess that is simple," I admitted, "but the entire board position! Really!"

"The simple application of logic is all that is required," explained Holmes. "Let us begin with some simple facts. First, which powers must have occupied which neutral centers? All twelve were taken after 1901, two each by the six other powers. Only France can have taken Iberia, and only Italy can have taken Tunis. Further, note that the Italian fleet must be involved in capturing Tunis -- either directly, or by convoying, and given that, Italy cannot have taken Greece in 1901 (since the Italian fleet would also be required for that). The only other neutral in Italy's range is Serbia, taken by a Key Lepanto-like sequence of Venice to Trieste to Serbia.

"Since Italy did not take Greece, Turkey must have done so. Turkey thus took only one of Bulgaria and Rumania, with Russia taking the other; we will leave the determination of which gets which for the moment. Of Scandanavia and the Low Countries, Russia took one center, Germany two, and England two. Likewise, we will leave this for the moment."

Holmes emptied his pipe and got up to pour himself a drink as he continued.

"Let us turn our attention then to the units that participated in your elimination. There are only four units that can occupy Austrian home centers in 1901: the German army in Munich, the Russian army in Warsaw, and the two Italian armies. The Italian army which starts in Venice, as I have already pointed out, must proceed to Serbia, so the army in Rome must take Trieste; the German army must take Vienna, and the Russian army must take Budapest. Warsaw must therefore have moved to Galicia in Spring 1901, and Munich to either Tyrolia or Bohemia.

"We then analyze what we know of Mycroft's game. The position was the same as in your game after Spring 1901, with Mycroft also playing Austria; yet he managed to pick up three centers despite the Civil Disorder that he also suffered in the Fall moves."

"But how can that be possible?" I blurted out.

"Really, Watson, I am surprised at you," chided Holmes. "Have you forgotten that there is a phase between movements and adjustments? Since Austria (or any power, for that matter) cannot occupy three foreign home centers or neutral centers in Spring 1901, his units which were not so placed after the Spring moves must have been helpfully dislodged by other powers, in such a way that they could retreat into those centers."

"You will recall," added Mycroft, "that the business on Dartmoor did not take long, and we returned in time to retreat our dislodged units."

"Fat lot of good it did me," I mumbled.

Holmes sipped at his drink and continued. "The army in Budapest can take Serbia or Rumania easily enough in the Spring; but the army that starts in Vienna -- which cannot in a single move reach a supply center that would gain the Austrian a build -- will have to be dislodged in the Fall. This also applies to the Trieste fleet for the following reason: because we know that Italy's Venice to Trieste succeeded, Trieste cannot have taken Venice in the Spring. Additionally, we know that the fleet cannot have been moved to the Adriatic, since there cannot be two fleets adjacent to dislodge it. So it must have gone to Albania.

"But then, which two units did dislodge the fleet in Albania, so that my brother could take Greece in the Fall? We know there is an Italian army in Trieste which can move into Albania (in fact, the army must vacate Trieste to ensure that Mycroft gets three builds). But which unit supported it? The only possibility is the Italian fleet -- which must therefore have been in the Ionian, and not the Tyrrhenian, after Spring 1901."

"Astounding, Holmes!" I exclaimed.

"What, then, of the army that started in Vienna in Mycroft's game? Where did it go in the Spring?" Holmes asked rhetorically. "Galicia and Trieste are both occupied by other units. It can go to Budapest, but the only units that can possibly dislodge it from there are the armies in Galicia and Trieste, and we have already seen that the army in Trieste was acting in Albania. We know, then, that the army cannot have been dislodged from Budapest and thus, it must instead have been moved either to Bohemia or Tyrolia. (Recall that we know from your game, Watson, that the German army in Munich must have occupied the other of these two spots.) From either of those locations it might have been dislodged to take a foreign center.

"That is all we need to learn from Mycroft's game, and we now return our attention to yours..." began Holmes.

But I had to interrupt. I had been trying to think ahead to see where Holmes was going, but I had run into a wall. "I can see how you might determine the actions in the North, since I did mention the odd Spring 1902 moves there, but how will you possibly deduce the French moves from what we've said? There are several different ways by which France might take Spain and Portugal!"

"Quite right," replied Holmes, "except that you mentioned that you had been invaded by four other powers in 1901. We have seen that Italy, Germany, and Russia each took one of your home centers. But while Turkey is considered a close neighbor to Austria, the fact is that Turkey cannot reach any Austrian province in 1901. The only other power that can do so is France, by moving Marseilles to Piedmont and then to Tyrolia. In fact, from this we can deduce that you moved to Bohemia and Germany to Tyrolia, and not vice-versa. All other units adjacent to Tyrolia -- the German army and two Italian armies -- were otherwise occupied in the Fall, and cannot have supported a French attack there. Given that Marseilles moved east, France must have moved Brest to the Mid-Atlantic and then to Portugal, while Paris moved to Gascony and then to Spain."

"What about my army that started in Budapest?" I challenged. "You still haven't figured out whether I moved it to Serbia or Rumania."

"Au contraire. To whichever of the two you moved, your army must have been dislodged, since you did not survive 1901. The Italian army in Trieste moved into Serbia; but this could not have been a supported move, since the Turkish army in Bulgaria had, in your game, to moved to Greece. Therefore, you moved to Rumania. Since the Russian army in Galicia took Budapest in the Fall, the two units that dislodged you were the two fleets; the Russian in Sevastopol, and the Turkish in the Black Sea. The Turk supported the Russian, and not vice versa; otherwise, the Turk would either have picked up three neutral centers or Bulgaria or Greece would have remained untaken; both of these are contrary to your statements about the game. Additionally, you stated that all units of the other six powers had taken leave of their home countries by the end of the Fall moves, so Sevastopol could not have simply supported the attack.

"And thus we return to the Low Countries and Scandanavia, which we neglected earlier. Recall that Russia will take one of these, and Germany and England two apiece. You did mention the unusual Spring 1902 moves, wherein England supported Russian attacks on Kiel and Holland. How can such a situation have arisen? The Russian army that starts in Warsaw is now, as we know, in Budapest. So the northern Russian fleet and the army that starts in Moscow must be the units involved in the attack on Germany. Now, an army can be convoyed, but a fleet cannot, so the Russian fleet must be adjacent to either Kiel or Holland after Fall 1901. The only way this can happen is if it is in the Baltic Sea."

"I admire your use of five consecutive two-letter words starting with i," I teased Holmes, "but aren't you neglecting the possibility that Russia might have built an army in St. Petersburg, and used it in one of the attacks?"

"Not so. If such an army were to be convoyed into Kiel, it would have to be via a Russian fleet in Bothnia and a German fleet in the Baltic; but since the German army in Munich took Vienna, the German fleet must have occupied a neutral centre at the end of 1901. Conversely, were the army to be convoyed to Holland, it would have to be via the Barents Sea; but the only unit that might be there is an English fleet, and we know that both English fleets had to have been involved in taking neutrals in the Fall (meaning they could not be present in the Barents Sea at the commencement of the Spring 1902 moves).

"Since the Russian fleet was in the Baltic, the northern neutral obtained by Russia had to have been Norway, taken by the army that started in Moscow. The only remaining unit that can have reached Sweden is the German fleet.

"The German army starting in Berlin cannot have reached Belgium, so England must have taken it; England and Germany thus split Denmark and Holland. From this we can conclude that England's fleets moved into the Channel and the North Sea in Spring 1901. Holland or Denmark had to be taken by the English army, since the North Sea fleet stayed there to convoy the Russian army into Holland the following Spring, and the Channel fleet moved to Belgium."

"But which was it Holmes?" I asked, goading him, "Denmark or Holland?"

"Denmark, of course. You stated that England supported Russia into Holland and Kiel in Spring 1902. The North Sea fleet was convoying, so the Belgium fleet provided support into Holland, and the army in Denmark provided support for Russia's fleet move into Kiel. When you say that England supported Russia into Kiel, I take that to mean a successful support; if the army had been in Holland, its support would have been cut by the convoyed attack of the Russian army from Norway."

"Quite incredible!" I praised Holmes, "Not only do you know the entire board position after the Fall moves, as you claimed, but after the Spring 1901 moves as well!"

But Holmes merely said, "Hmm..." and after a moment went on.

"Still, Watson," he admonished, "in spite of my brother's success with it, I would hardly call Trieste to Albania, Vienna to Bohemia, and Budapest to Rumania 'a reasonable enough opening.'"

But at this point Mycroft, Sherlock's older brother (and, according to my friend, the more intelligent of the two, although I confess I have never been able to tell the difference) interjected. "He's not the only one who's been exaggerating. After all, you stated you could tell us 'what the board looked like at the end of 1901.' Now of course you cannot deduce the builds from what we have told you...."

"I shall call that 'the beginning of 1902,' not 'the end of 1901,'" objected Holmes.

"Semantics," said Mycroft. "But even so, you do not know the state of the board following the retreats, for Watson may have retreated his dislodged unit either to Galicia or Ukraine."

"You have me there," conceded Holmes with an amused grin.

Click here for the Mirrored Openings

As for me, I was furious with myself for not realizing that Mycroft could capture centers in the retreat phase and for not conducting any diplomacy to cover the possibility of Civil Disorder. I did not delude myself into thinking that I would have done as well as Mycroft, but at least I might have survived a few years. I vowed to do better in the future, both at playing and at analyzing the cases on which Holmes' assistance was sought.

The former I did the very next week at the Calhamer Club, joining in a two-way draw in 1914 with a fine chap by the name of Steven Kucera* (although neither of the brothers were playing at my board). I had a chance at the latter several months later, in an adventure known as The Case of the Remaining Border....

-- Dr. John H. Watson

via Chuck Carroll
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* Steven Kucera also submitted a complete solution.