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Unorthodox Openings #9: The Syrian Sidestep

By Mark Berch

Originally Appearing in Diplomacy World #47


Not long ago, a postal gamemaster, Dick Martin, commented in the garme notes "in all of the games I've seen, this is the first time I've ever seen a move to Syria in Fall 1901." As it happens, I moved Army Smyrna-Syria in Fall 1901 of my first postal game as Turkey. It's a move which can make a lot of sense.


The setting is a Turkey with no ambitious goals for 1901, but who wants to remain flexible for 1902. Perhaps neither Austria nor Russia will commit himself to a plan of attack for 1901, and Turkey does not want to go it alone. So Turkey concentrates on diplomacy and defense.


Spring 1901 sees a standoff in the Black Sea, along with Army Constantinople - Bulgaria. Fall 1901 has Fleet Ankara - Constantinople. Winter 1901 will be the season of decision. If the push will be north, Turkey will build Fleet Ankara; if west, Fleet Smyrna.  He will then be able to move with two fleets in either direction. But where can the army be ditched?


Unlike all other powers, Turkey has only two non-supply center provinces in her imperial borders. Parking the army in Armenia is likely to be viewed by Russia as hostile. Even if not, he will be unlikely to commit himself to an anti-Austrian campaign with a Turkish Army Armenia on his back border. So, if you want both Ankara and Smyrna left open for the build, the army must take a sidestep to Syria. Note that this requires that Army Smyrna Hold in Spring 1901. In Spring 1902, the army can either dart to Armenia, or can slide over to Smyrna for convoy duty. And note that the early presence of the army so far south may deter Italy from trying a Lepanto opening (Fleet Ionian - ­East Mediterranean, Fleet Naples-Ionian in Spring 1902).


The plan can be varied slightly to provide for a pro-Russian opening where you do not entirely trust Russia, and want to guard against a Fall 1901 surprise. Here Fall 1901 would see Army Bulgaria - Serbia/Greece, Fleet Constantinople – Bulgaria (south coast). Again, to keep Smyrna open for your intended build, and Ankara open in case Russia grabbed the Black Sea in Fall 1901, dally in Damascus. You'll be glad you did!!