Professor James Moriarty,
Diplomatic and Criminal Mastermind

by Mario Huys,
Henchman and Minion

Moriarty's Misgivings

After more than a century Scotland Yard has finally decided to release to the public the personal diaries from Professor Moriarty that they had taken into their custody. Exclusive first for the readers of the Zine: An account of "the making of" the infamous note from "A Challenge from Devonshire". Being a genius is apparently harder than it looks. This is must-read for those that are attempting to solve the "The Costly Case of the Last Man Standing" riddle, as a careful study may offer valuable clues and tactics.

The plan

People like to think that master minds have it easy, that it is some kind of talent that enables a certain person to make decisions instantaneously, without fault and without effort. I can tell you, nothing is further from the truth. It's mostly hard work, and a lot of frustrations.

Take the innocent prank played on the Calhamer club that the Rotation format offered. It's hard to ignore that Sherlock Holmes is one of their members, what with his frequent appearances in the Zine by that busybody Dr. Watson, who fancies himself a writer. Apparently Holmes considers himself my nemesis. How ridiculous. If I only had him as an enemy, my life would be a bed of roses.

Diplomacy is a game practiced with passion by members of the highest circles. In fact, given their passion for games and other pastimes, it's no wonder this country is so corrupt. Personally I tend to avoid clubs, but I made an exception for Diplomacy, as it provides the perfect setting for backroom dealings.

Once my mind was made up, it was not difficult to make myself president of the Devonshire club. I have heard locals call it the "Devilshire" club, but it's not clear whether that's caused by a dialectical lilt or had to do with my taking over the club. I like to think the latter.

I had a room readied in the basement, from where I conducted my negotiations in the few games that I played to establish my reputation. The room was carefully prepared to impress a visitor, with special lighting to increase the effect. Any opponent called in by one of my servants immediately felt intimidated, generally ascenting quickly to any proposed scheme. Intimidation is half the win. Disappointingly, none of the club's players proved to be a match for me.

With the Rotation tournament came a chance to further my reputation to other clubs. Extermination is my specialty, so I decided it was very appropriate to create a game of reduction and quick elimination. Once I started exploring the board, I quickly established a most ingenious sequence. Looking at the end position, I jotted down a small note that would have been sufficient for an intelligent mind to decipher.

The first note

There was still another year left before the Rotation Game would come to Devonshire. Careful as I am, I had the note distributed among the elite members of my organization. These had been extensively trained in the art of Diplomacy, as it taught them a set of skills that are valued highly in our line of work, like blackmailing, enhanced interrogation techniques, backstabbing, ... The tactical side had been narrowed down to reduction and elimination, like you might train a pilot exclusively on steering and keeping the vessel afloat when planning to hijack and crash an airship into the Tower of London. But that plan would likely have to wait until my friend Count von Zeppelin has constructed a suitable airship.

With the note circulating, I turned my attention to more important matters. The Sultan had been highly uncooperative of late, and it was necessary to remind him that no rule was eternal, not even that of the 600 year old Ottoman dynasty. But more pressing were the reports that the Camorra, the Neapolitan maffia, was trying to gain a foothold on the British Isles. The destruction of the "Pride of Naples", their flagship vessel, would give a clear signal not to mingle in my affairs.

As it was moored in the port of Venice during the Carnival, the blame would go to the Austrians, known for their historic rivalry with the Doges of Venice. And, I reasoned, it would be no one less than Mr. Holmes to inform Interpol of this fact, provided he was able to solve the puzzle as anticipated. For that reason it was of the utmost importance that the solution would be unique, bar some minor variations that didn't change the outcome.

Disruptions to the plan

It was with considerable anticipation that I awaited the first solutions from my elite squad. A few months after the challenge was distributed, finally came the secret knock on my door that announced a solution had been found.

A skinny man came in, and after greeting laid out his final map. But what a disappointment, it was completely different from my own! "Show me your order sheets; if you're wasting my time with a trivial error, it's not going to be your best day." But no, his orders were all correct. "Actually, I hesitated when removing the second German army during the Fall 1902 Retreats, because it may as well be the army in Ruhr that stays on the board."

Russian solution, W1902A

Invasion of Russia solution, Winter 1902
(Click map for a full-size view in a separate window)

We apologize for only showing a single season, but the author seems to have included only key seasons in his notes just to underline his point. Our experts are still busy deriving the complete game flow, which we hope to present in our next issue, if all goes well.

I gave him a stern look before declaring: "Well, you clearly missed the fact that three powers need to be eliminated." "What? The note didn't say anything..." "Well, it does now!", handing him a hastily corrected note. "Now, get out, and inform your fellow club members to check the note written on the blackboard in the room upstairs before bothering me again!" He quickly apologized and scurried away.

The second note

Another month passed when a second knock came. A young man with a daring grin on his face came in and produced his final map. "What an impertinence! You invaded England!" "Yes, and what a choice I had. You see this French and Russian army? I could easily reverse them. I could even land the Russian in London, if I convoy the French army to Edinburgh first."

English solution, after W1902A

Invasion of England solution, after Winter 1902
(Click map for a full-size view in a separate window)

The presence of not one, but even two armies on the remote British Isles gives us hope that we will soon be able to derive a complete game flow. Patience please, and keep reading the Zine.

This wouldn't do. Yet his logic was impeccable. Three powers had been eliminated alright, but I hadn't been fond of that hint anyway, as it had been said in the spur of the moment. Bringing the skinny man's end situation to mind and comparing with the present solution, what stood out in both cases was the prominent role of the French units. I took the original note, erased the former hint and scribbled something else on it, then signaled my secretary to go change the text on the blackboard.

The third note

Then turning to the young man, I said: "You have obviously been given false information. Reread this note and point out your mistake." He looked down and frowned, then grinned again. "An army in Marseilles, eh. How could I have missed that?" "Don't try my patience, young fool. You'd better pretend you never saw another note. Now be gone!"

Three months passed in which events were playing out as well as could have been expected. The Camorra took their loss badly, and were threatening to bring the fight to whoever was behind it. They had to be given the Austrian lead better sooner than later.

To speed things up, I called Colonel Moran, who I had placed at the head of my Special Dips force, and showed him my complete solution. I instructed him to study it carefully with the assistance of a handpicked team and report any small variations.

Some time later the Colonel was back in my room, thumping his chest as he demonstrated the changes he had made to have the English army end up in Paris at the expense of the Austrian, whereas I had used the two French units to destroy two English. I could see the merit in such a plan, as it could imply that Scotland Yard had informed Interpol about the Austrian involvement and that they were heading to Paris to apprehend the fugitives.

Army Paris variaion, F1902

English Army Paris variation, Fall 1902

At that moment we were interrupted by a wrap on the door using the secret signal. It was the skinny man again. Nervously he unfolded the map he was carrying. Shock and consternation! It had armies in all the wrong colors and all the wrong places. The Turks, who I had assumed until then to be a quick kill, had taken on a lead role, assisted by the Germans who had not fared well either so far. It was the world upside down, a demonstration that one could seemingly pick at will any combination of powers and come to a solution.

Austrian solution, W1902

Invasion of Austria solution, after Winter 1902
(Click map for a full-size view in a separate window)

Once again we are left with nothing but a final map. No, this is too much! Even our biggest expert despairs. We may need your help. If you can figure out a possible track for any of these solutions, send it to the redaction so we have something to publish in the next issue.

But wait... "Had I not told you there had to be three eliminations? In your solution only two have lost all their centers." "Aye, sir, but on checking the blackboard I saw that condition had disappeared, so I took the liberty to present you this. I terribly apologize if I offended you." The low demeanor of the scrawny man, coupled with the revelation of his discovery, made the blood come rushing to my head. But I kept myself under control.

Comparing all the diagrams systematically inside my head, I turned to the Colonel: "Forget about the English army. Amend the note such that in the end only three powers remain on the board with two armies each." There, that would cut down on the number of alternatives even better than the elimination hint. I was starting to feel a bit more confident about my own solution again, but couldn't resist staring down hard at Mr. Skinny before waving him out.

The fouth note


A couple of weeks later Colonel Moran stood again at my desk with a startling discovery which would have far reaching consequences: He had been able to move the fleet in Naples to Smyrna, where it could be dislodged by the Austrian and Turk there in the final season. That made the Austrian fleet holding in or even moving to Venice obsolete. Suddenly it became impossible to predict the ownership of either Trieste or Venice, or even whether Austria or Italy had gone to Munich.

Italian F Smy, S1902

Italian Fleet Smyrna variation, Spring 1902

These are some bold allegations. In this variation, can Italy and Austria (or some third party) really take a home center from one another? Or trade Paris and Marseilles?

My first thought was to simply forbid all movement in the Mediterranean, but then it struck me: Moving to Smyrna required three moves and one support, holding in Naples and removing during Winter required no such action. I had already stated that the game should conclude in as few seasons as possible; requiring that the number of non-hold (move/support/convoy) orders were to be kept at a minimum seemed a natural extension.

The fifth note

Little did I know the impact it would have on the situation in the North. As the deadline was approaching, Colonel Moran once again visited my quarters. This time he showed a variation where the Northern fleets and army Moscow converged on Sweden. Dislodging the St. Petersburg fleet there in Spring 1902 instead of in Livonia in Fall 1901 freed up both the Baltic fleet and army Moscow to move about at will, even allowing for a convoy in the first year to Denmark.

Russian A Den, F1901

Russian Army Denmark variation, Fall 1901

But that was not all. Convergence could also be accomplished on St. Petersburg itself, and this solution was far more economical in number of moves than any solution presented so far.

Russian A Mos, S1902

Russian Army Moscow variation, Spring 1902

Something needed to be done to turn the attention to Holland. I was ready to concede there was an army in Holland or reveal that Belgium had been taken, but deciding which one was better was tough.

I needn't have worried. Before the day was over, the Colonel was back with a new spin. This time he had convoyed army Moscow across the North Sea to Belgium. In my solution the plan was to convoy the army in the final season from Sweden to Kiel through the Baltic Sea. That required Germany to survive with two units after the first year. The convoy to Belgium however made the second German unit obsolete, and still ended in the *same* situation as mine, obviously with fewer moves.

Russian A Bel, S1902

Russian Army Belgium variation, Spring 1902

The notes clearly mention a second German army. But how would it have survived and why would it be needed? If we knew this, we could possibly reconstruct Moriarty's original solution, including his exclusive use of two French units to dislodge not one, but two English units.

Not only that, the Colonel proved that by moving the English fleet to Holland instead of Belgium in the first year, Belgium could remain neutral. That made the decision to include Belgium in the list of centers taken a no-brainer. After all, my reputation demanded that a unique solution could be found.

English F Hol, F1902

English Fleet Holland variation, Fall 1902

It was just about that time that the Rotation tournament started. I wrote a fresh note, gave it to a boy and ordered him to deliver it to the Calhamer club.

The sixth and final note

As the boy took off, I congratulated the Colonel upon his various finds, but he waved it away. "I had very little to do with that. Remember the guy that was in your room the other day when we discussed the English army in Paris solution? After his innovative demonstration I decided to add him to my team. And what a prodigious choice I made! It was he who produced all the later variations." "Then bring him here. He deserves recognition."

The Colonel was only away for a short while before running back in, seemingly bewildered. "He's gone! I told him to stay pat, in case you had new instructions, but he's nowhere to be found!"

Then it dawned on me. The hawky nose, the sharp jaw line, the irritating manners... Holmes! But it was too late. The note was on its way. I could still have the boy intercepted, by a bullet if needed, before he reached the Calhamer club.

But no. Let Holmes do his number. We'll see who gets the last laugh.

Professor James Moriarty,
c/o Mario Huys
([email protected])

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