The Diplomatic Pouch

The Dynamic Stalemate

Robert Bryan Lipton

Last year I received a letter from Douglas Reif, dated 8th October 1973.

In it, he outlined a position he believed used a novel concept for stalemates. In his position, certain units must be active, as opposed to static, to maintain the stalemate. Within a few weeks time, we agreed to call such positions "dynamic" in contrast to the other "static" stalemates in which all units hold or support.

A few weeks later, I spoke with John Beshera about Doug's letter.

He said he assumed dynamic stalemates are rather obvious. When I pointed out that I was only recently aware that there were generalized rules for formulating stalemates, he said, "Well, if you don't know about them, it is possible that almost no one does." We then discussed the situations under which dynamic stalemates occur.

The basic idea is somewhat simple. Normally, stalemates are achieved by units being in places the enemy may attack and by being capable of supporting those units, if necessary, with sufficient forces to prevent dislodgment. In actuality, it is not mandatory to occupy the spaces; merely preventing the enemy from doing so is sufficient.

Consider for example this static stalemate:

Position 1

Position 1

Ank, Con, Por, Spa, Smy, Tun. (6)
A Arm, A Con, A NAf, A Por, A Spa, F Wes. (6)

By ordering A Por and F Wes S Spa, this line holds when there are no enemy fleets in the Mediterranean or Black Sea. To become dynamic, assume Arm, Con, NAf, and Spa are vacant with the supply centers still owned by you, and remove those units; add F Lyo, A Smy, A Syr and A Tun. By ordering A Por and F Wes S Lyo-Spa(sc), A Tun-NAf, A Smy-Con and A Syr-Arm, the same spaces are controlled with the same number of units retaining the stalemate. Obviously, whenever the enemy fails to oppose a dynamic unit, the unit reverts to the static ((in its new position --- Mark Berch, Diplomacy Digest 10--11 (April-May 1978). )). In this dynamic example, either F Lyo-Spa(sc) or A Tun-NAf must succeed.

Often, the criteria for a dynamic stalemate are these: Look at each unit in a static stalemate that is holding. If, behind the stalemating power's lines, there is a vacant space bordering on the holding unit, then the holding unit is placed in that adjacent space, leaving the space vacant. The unit then moves to the original space and, if necessary, is supported by the units supporting the original position. Thus, multiple active units may be engaged in a dynamic stalemate.

Another type of dynamic stalemate is obtained in this manner:

Position 2

Position 2

Edi, Lvp, Lon, Por (4).
F Mid, F NAt, F Por. (3)

Assuming that there are no opposing forces in the West ((huh? Surely he moves North/East, as he is utterly vulnerable there --- Mark Berch, Diplomacy Digest 10-11 (May-June 1978). )). When F Por is removed with F Eng and F Iri added, a different type of dynamic position is created because four units instead of three are required to maintain the same spaces. The orders are: F Mid-Por, F Eng and F Iri S Nat-Mid. ((Once again, if an opposing fleet is present in Gas, Mid can be taken --- Mark Berch, Diplomacy Digest 10--11 (April-May 1978). ))

In the preceding dynamic stalemate, the discovery process involves looking for units in static stalemates that border a single enemy unit. If the unit it is supporting is bordered by two unoccupied spaces behind the stalemate line, remove the unit on the front line facing the single enemy; order the supporting unit into the now vacated space; then move in another unit with support sufficient to standoff enemy forces attacking the vacated space. Thus, this type of dynamic stalemate evolves. In example 2, it is interesting that when F Mid is transferred to F Eng, the same spaces are again impregnable with three units.

The totality of dynamic positions is not something apparent to one skilled in the refinements of tactics but are a labor of love -- with a bit of luck and a lot of persistence.

((John Beshera wrote an addendum to this. He says that "in unique situations when the support of an opposing unit is capable of being cut" a dynamic situation can require fewer units than a comparable static position, but gives no examples. I wonder, though: If the dynamic move is unopposed, and thus the move succeeds, the new static position will requite the extra unit. What if you don't have one right there? Does the line then crumble? Beshera also states that there are positions where the stalemate must be dynamic. The example he gives is that of Western Stalemates Position 3, where an enemy fleet in Berlin requires A Kie-Ber. --- Mark Berch, Diplomacy Digest 10-11 (April-May 1978). ))

Reprinted from Graustark 316, 24th August 1974.
Retyped for email distribution by Mark Nelson (, June 1994.
Converted to HTML by Matthew Self (, December 1995.