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Strategy Article


The Octopus


Richard Sharp


Dolchstoss #48


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This is the name I give to the opening I regularly play as Russia, which is very little favoured by anyone else - out of 5 recorded oases so far, 3 are mine. It's a distant cousin of the Austrian 'Hedgehog' discussed in that it involves the same apparent wild lashing out in all directions; no doubt it will stir the same strong revulsion in the peaceful breast of Roy Taylor. I can claim no great success with it so far, though at least in NGC 191 P it's made a better start than previously - better, indeed, than it's meant to! But I still think it's sound, and that the two bad results I've had with it would have been a bit worse without it.

The moves are:

F(StP)(sc)-GoB, A(Mos)-StP, A(War)-Gal, F(Sev)-BLA.

The reasoning is as follows:

  1. Turkey's best chance of winning, and most active opening, is A(Con)-Bul, F(Ank)-BLA, A(Smy)-Arm - it's also by far the most popular, accounting for over a third of all Turkish openings (all such details are from 1901 as usual, with the usual grateful acknowledgement to Nick Bullock). This means that unless one has a weak link playing Turkey, the move to BLA is mandatory. Turkey, of course, will be informed in advance and asked to allow the move to succeed - he can do this in perfect safety, of course. Other countries will not at first be sure whether Russia has stabbed Turkey or not, a big advantage. Without surprise value, Turkey's attack on Russia becomes weak, though admittedly still bad for Russia - witness BW 77C, where Tony Ball of all people decided to go through with the attack despite being told I would go to BLA; result was Turkey 1st out, Russia 3rd out
  2. Perhaps the most important ally for Russia is Italy, at least in the early stages. Italy has more to gain than anyone from friendship with Russia. A move to Galicia is the surest way to gain Italy's confidence ... and of course you can take the precaution of telling Austria about it if you like.
  3. Early on, Russia is such more likely to be involved in heavy fighting in the south, not the north. The north should be used, I reckon, to gain 1 or 2 easy, non-contentious build. for use in the south. Sweden will depend on Germany's good will, and Germany is likely to be more amenable if Turkey and Russia don't seem too friendly. I have no way of checking, but I bet Russia is more likely to be allowed Sweden when opening to BLA than when opening to Rum (unless, in opening to Rum, he is stabbed by Turkey, in which case he's in trouble anyway). Germany, whose arch-enemy is always England, is again more likely to be friendly if Russia moves to StP, threatening Norway - this is excellent for Germany, since it provides a possible friend in the event of a Franco-British alliance, and a possible target in the event of an Anglo-German one
  4. England may well be persuaded to look kindly on the idea of letting Russia have Norway. If England is going to attack France from the start, a promising line, the presence of a Russian army in Norway is reassuring and harmless. It guarantees that Germany will not keep Sweden very long if he does get it, and will thus offer Germany encouragement to help England's attack on France.

That's the case for the defence. Note that Russia has retained maximum flexibility by sending each of his 4 units towards a potential gain - compare the unaccountably popular Mos-Sev, War-Ukr, Sev-Rum variation, where Russia cannot possibly gain more than 2 builds, and consequently may well gain none at all. Of course, Russia doesn't want four builds - that’s asking for trouble - but he does want to keep the options open until it becomes clear who his friends are.

The attitude of England is critical, of course. If he is adamant that he wants Nwy for himself, there is something to be said for abandoning the Octopus in favour of the quite sound War-Gal, Mos-Ukr, Sev-BLA, still the most popular of all Russian openings. But now Italian aid against Austria is going to be vital, because gains, in the north are limited, and a conflict with England is virtually certain.

Postscript: Spring '02 moves in NGC 191P show Russia, still at war with Turkey, being stabbed by England and Germany, while Austria has joined Turkey and the vital Italian ally has an NMR ! Looks like another short game for Sharp, and further proof that all articles on Diplomacy tactics are basically meaningless, since the game depends mainly on personalities.