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The Coast of Moscow

by Allan B. Calhamer




None of us was surprised when Russia ordered the raise of a Fleet in Moscow; but we were when he insisted it were legal. In the ensuing discussion Russia indicated further that he intended to move the Fleet coastwise to Sevastopol; and then, on the understanding that Sevastopol had only one coast, to move it on to Rumania, the Black Sea, or Armenia.

At least it became clear what he was up to. Congestion in the Don River Shipyards being what it was, he hoped to raise fleets twice as fast as usual for his southern frontier, by building them in Moscow.

I think the Northern powers rather approved of the idea. Austria-Hungary was dubious; Turkey, aghast.

"In order for Moscow to have a coast", said Turkey, "it seems either you have to follow one or the other of two theories. Either Moscow has a coast because it simply looks that way on the map, or else it has a coast because it borders on a body of water, that is, the Caspian."

"Sounds like a distinction without a difference" said Italy.

"If we follow the first theory" resumed Turkey, "that Moscow has a coast because it looks that way on the map, then what of Sevastopol? Certainly Sevastopol must have two coasts, because it looks that way on the map. Furthermore, since these two coasts are not named on the board, it may be impossible for Russia to raise Fleets at Sevastopol at all, Raise F Sev being void due to ambiguity.

"If we follow the second theory" Turkey went on, "we have to ask what the situation is if Moscow borders a body of water."

"Topologically" said Germany, "nothing at all borders on the Caspian, since you can't move to it. Therefore, Moscow has no coast."

Russia broke in. "Rule VII. 1. does not say that an unnamed space cannot be a body of water. It says, merely, that `Units may not any location not specifically named on the board.'"

"But is the Caspian a body of water?" asked A-H. "Rule VI. 2.. in the 1971 rulebook, says `The seas are divided into "bodies of water" by light, solid black lines.' There are no such lines in the Caspian."

"Are there such lines in the Black?" Russia challenged.

"Sure," replied A-H. "On the 1961 map, there is a very short black line separating the Black Sea from the Bosporus. The line is not a line from the base map; it's thicker than the coastlines, and there would be no reason for it on the base map."

"But does that line," asked Russia, "`divide the seas into bodies of water' as it says in Rule VI. 2.? It divides the Black only from Constantinople, which is not part of the seas."

"Maybe Constantinople is part of the seas, because Fleets can move through it" offered A-H.

"The trouble is," replied Russia, "Constantinople is clearly called a `province' in Rule VII. 3. a., Kiel and Constantinople. Nowhere does it say that Constantinople is part of the seas. It just says that there is a waterway through it."

"If Moscow borders on a body of water, the Caspian," said Turkey, "then so does Sevastopol, which then has two coasts. Is it then impossible to move a fleet there at all, because each coast is a `location not specifically named on the board', within the purview of Rule VII. 1.?"

"To employ the purview of Rule VII. 1.," said France, "it is necessary first to have a clear understanding of that purview. If `location' should seem merely the name of a province, then, of course, it would be permissible to move there, since Sevastopol is named on the map."

"All that doesn't matter," maintained Russia, "because Sevastopol doesn't have two coasts, because it isn't named as a `Province Having Two Coasts' in Rule VII. 3. b. Furthermore, Rule XIII. 2. says `If Russia builds a Fleets in St. Petersburg, he must specify the coast...'. No mention is made of Sevastopol, hence Sev. must only have one coast."

"Yes," replied Turkey, "but there are two ways it could only have one coast: because the two apparent coasts are one, or because you can't play on the Caspian coast. But if the Caspian is a body of water, then Sevastopol borders on two bodies of water, leading to various difficulties."

Russia answered, "Well, Albania borders on both Adriatic and Ionian, yet it has only one coast."

"Sure," said Turkey, "but Adriatic and Ionian are adjacent. Caspian and Black aren't."

"How do we know that?" asked France.

"We can see it!" exclaimed Turkey.

"Are we back to the appearance theory?" asked England.

"Distinction without a difference," murmured Italy.

"You have to use appearances to determine the mere gross topology of the board," spluttered Turkey.

"Maybe we should have a list of all possible topological links," said Germany.

"That wouldn't be official," England exclaimed. "Then, there's the danger that when you re-state anything, you may make mistakes in the restatement. Third, it seems like you would have to decide this case in order to make up the list."

Then France offered, "We may have a solution in the wording of Rule VII. 1.: `The Fleet may move to an adjacent coastal province only if it is adjacent along the coastline, so that the vessels could move down the coast to that province.' It is sufficiently obvious that the vessels can't get from the Caspian to the Black."

"I's the Potemkin villages all over again," England observed. "They told the Tsar they could build Fleets in Moscow and go down the Volga to fight the Turks. They knew he wouldn't know that there was no way the vessels could get to the Black."

Russia answered. "But we're not talking about a move from one coastal province to another. Sevastopol is one province."

"Then it's like Spain," said France. "We always have to go out from the same coast we went in at."

Russia rejoined, "But it doesn't have two coasts; Rules VII. 3. b. and XIII. 2. It has one coast, and we're glad to go in at any point, and come out at any other point on that single coast."

"What if Russia wanted to build a Fleet in St. Petersburg, on the coast of Lake Ladoga?" asked France.

Russia answered coolly. "The rules clearly state that St. Pete has two coasts, not three. Since they do not mention Sev., we have to assume it has only one."

"Since Sevastopol is not mentioned," said Italy, "it might have six."

"You can see it doesn't have six!" exclaimed Russia.

"Appearances, appearances," said Italy. "You can see it has two."

"Which bolloxes everything as far as raising Fleets in Sevastopol is concerned, if nothing else." added Germany.

"Not quite," said Turkey. "Russia could always escape ambiguity by writing Raise F Sev (Black Sea Coast), invoking Rule VII. 4., `A badly written order, which nevertheless can only have one meaning, must be followed.' Incidentally, his raise last turn was invalid, because he failed to specify the coast. That Fleet should come off."

At this point England remarked that in Hugo's Ninety-Three the Marquis de Lantenac, in a single hearing, ordered one and the same man to be decorated for bravery and shot for dereliction of duty. "In somewhat the same spirit," he said, "I suggest we recommend Russia for a Rusty Bolt, for coming up with the weirdest rule interpretation in many years, while nevertheless, at one and the same time, ruling out any use of the alleged Caspian or its alleged coasts."

And they all agreed, four to two, with one abstention.

Allan Calhamer is the inventor of Diplomacy, as if you didn't know.