[The Zine] [W1998A]


Sherlock Holmes,
Consulting Diplomat

by Graeme Ackland
Master Aenigmatist

The Case of the Absent Professor

I had just seen a messenger away from Baker Street with my texts recording the solution to The Strange Case of the Confederation of Neutral States and the solution to The Cultural Exchange Puzzle, when Holmes admitted to a surprise that, despite all my writings concerning his Diplomacy-related adventures, I had yet to devote ink to our very first encounter with Professor Moriarty.

I admit that it had completely left my mind, but my friend's recollection brought the episode to the forefront of my own memory, and I decided to record it at once.

Not many of my readers are aware of the fact that I had the misfortune to become acquainted with Moriarty before my friend Holmes did so, and that this meeting took place at the Calhamer Club. The man I would later come to regard as the most dastardly of villians entered the club one afternoon and registered for membership as a complete stranger, and he and I faced each other over the board that very evening.

I am not certain whether at that stage Holmes had heard tell of the Professor and his scheming and cunning ways and his complete lack of decency, but Moriarty showed me those very traits that night.

I had had a very successful evening. I had allied with Rev. Codlington, and together we had swept the board until only a five centre Moriarty remained against us, with each of the other four powers having been completely eliminated. My fourteen units gave me an edge on the reverend's smaller forces (though he had more than one army himself), and, although we had respected each other's centres throughout the game, my mind now turned to the possibility of a winning stab.

At this point, like the cad we now know him to be, Moriarty abruptly took his coat and left. Club rules state that his abandoned pieces go into civil disorder, so Cuthbert and I agreed to race to eighteen centres. After several fruitless years, we found that we could neither hurt one another nor eliminate Moriarty by working separately, so we decided to cooperate for a two-way draw. This proved impossible, so on losing the toss of a coin Codlington agreed to assist me to a solo win. But even this proved impossible, and finally we left the club in frustration after recording the game result with the club secretary: a three-way draw that included the absent Moriarty.

When I returned to Baker Street after the game, I expected sympathy from Holmes when I told him of the new member of the club and his rude behavior. Far from being sympathetic, Holmes seemed much amused by the story. Indeed, Holmes commented that this wily newcomer, while rude in the extreme for his manner of exit, was surely a man of great and devious intelligence, and Holmes seemed almost eager to make his acquaintance.

To my surprise, Holmes' smiling response to my lingering anger with Moriarty was, "Well, Watson, it is obvious to me which power Codlington was playing, and how many armies he had on the board. I must say that had I been in this fellow's position, which if I'm not mistaken had him owning these five supply centres" -- (Holmes pointed to the board) -- "and with units in these locations" -- (pointing again) -- "and if I had felt that your alliance with Rev. Codlington would not permit me an opportunity to do any better than the present situation, I may well have left the club as well. Although I, of course, would have properly excused myself, and prevented you and the vicar from needlessly continuing."

Can you, as Holmes did, determine which supply centres were owned by Moriarty? And the locations of his units? And which power was player by Reverend Codlington? And how many armies the reverend had? Mail your answers to The Pouch.

I was astonished that Holmes had correctly deduced Moriarty's situation, simply from the spare data that I had provided to him. However, as I have learned in my years with Holmes, one should never be amazed at his powers of observation and deduction, for there seems always to be yet more that he holds in reserve. This was true in this case as well, because no sooner had the shock of his demonstration hit me, than my friend continued his remarks:

"Yes, the fellow who constructed this stalemate line is a clever man indeed. From his strange and uncouth behaviour, his is apparently a personality of such order that it may prove wise for me to make some inquiries as to his occupation and intentions." Musing deeper and walking away from the board, Holmes (more to himself than to me, it seemed) added, "I wonder if he sees that a stalemate line can also be constructed using one fewer unit than you and Reverend Codlington allowed him. Such a line would guard the same centres, and would stand against the same number of enemy units located in the same places as in this game (though not in all cases the same types of units). Of course, he could not have left the club as he did, though...."

How about it? Can you do it with one fewer unit? Mail your answer to The Pouch.

-- Dr. John H. Watson

via Graeme Ackland
([email protected])

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[The Zine] [W1998A]