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The Bulgarian Gambit


Doug Beyerlein


Hoosier Archives #120


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Probably the least contested 1901 gain is Turkey's taking of Bulgaria. A Con-Bul backed up by an additional army and a fleet, and Bul is guaranteed Turkish in 1901. Or is it?

There is one set or orders, when used against an unsuspecting Turkish player, which will leave Turkey with only three centres at the end of 1901 and no future. This is the Bulgarian Gambit.

The required orders are simple; the diplomacy difficult...For Spring 1901, Russia sends F Sev-Rum and Austria opens with A Bud-Ser, F Tri-Alb. Turkey is guided to a western attack with A Con-Bul and a follow up into Con with either A(Smy) or F(Ank). If F(Ank) goes to BLA, it’s time for a re-think! In the Fall, Turkey is enticed to move A (Bul)-Gre or (at Austria’s beckoning) A(Bul)-Rum, so that it cannot be supported in place. The opposition strikes with F Rum-Bul(ec) and AUSTRIAN A(Ser) S RUSSIAN F Rum-Bul(ec), F Alb-Gre. The Russian fleet takes Bul, the Turkish army is annihilated or retreats to Con and the Turkish player fails to build.

Now for the difficult part: the diplomatic set-up of Turkey. Russia must convince Turkey to go west, usually by promising a Juggernaut) while feigning a northern attack. Thus in S01 Russia will at most send A(War)-Ukr. This is a definite gamble on Russia's part. Austrian diplomacy in the spring is relatively simple. Therefore the burden and the gain lies with Russia. It is all or nothing.

Assuming that S01 went according to plan, we now come to the fall. Here Russia has an easy time diplomatically and Austria must pull a fast one on Turkey. Turkey with units in Bul and Con may be content to hold with support. Gre can be attacked, but if Austria does A Ser S F Alb-Gre, the attack is worthless without Italian support (which is usually very unlikely). So, to get Turkey to move A(Bul) and therefore guarantee Turkey's loss, Austria must make some encouraging noises in Turkey’s direction. Austria should say that A(Ser) is supporting A(Bul)-Rum whether or not Turkey makes the move. This leaves Turkey (or so the Turkish player thinks) with 2 options: 1) stand off F Alb-Gre, or 2) take the unsolicited support and attack Rum. Then, when the A01 orders are published, the damage is done and Turkey is dead.

The only remaining problem is who gets Rum after the Russian fleet moves out. Either Austria can take it in return for the possible stand-off in Gre so as to have at least two builds, or the Russian A Ukr can have it. This should be worked out well in advance. Finally, Russia builds F(Sev) and Austria builds armies. Then it is only a matter of time.

This subtle blitz has its risks, however. Russia, with only a maximum of 2 units in the south, can be hit hard by a combined Austro-Turkish attack. I have seen it go both ways and have been fortunate enough to have been on the right side both times. In every case, diplomacy is the key and the gambit is doomed to failure without it...