THE BOHEMIAN CRUSHER:
I recently played Germany in a standard game, USAZ Kyl, and I was surprised and delighted by an opening executed by the Italian, whom I know only as Mr.jadddiplomacy . When I wrote to him to express my admiration, he informed me this was called the Bohemian Crusher. I promptly did 3 things. First, I checked the DipPouch's Library of Diplomacy Openings, where I learned that the term was coined by Aron Ambrosiani. It is, strictly speaking, a particular Fall 1901 move following the common Spring 1901 move of A VEN-TYR; A ROM-VEN; F NAP-ION (the Obrieni Opening). Second, I checked the DipPouch's Strategy and Tactics archives and determined that none of the many articles on Italian Openings touched on the subject. Third, I entered a new game as Italy specifically to try this out myself. Based on my experience in that game (USAK Xp000005) and USAZ Kyl, and recognizing the dearth of literature, I have the temerity to offer these thoughts on this exciting opening.
What It Is
The Crusher is a Fall 1901 anti-Austrian Italian Opening. It defers immediate gratification for positional advantage which reaps greater rewards in later years. It presumes the success of the aforementioned Spring moves. With armies in TYR and VEN, and a guaranteed build from F ION-TUN, most Italians would attack TRI or VIE depending on circumstances. You are probably not assured of a second build, but it's worth a try. Thus, everyone will be surprised when you exercise self restraint and instead move A TYR-BOH and A VEN-TYR.
The success of this move is assured because no one expects it, because nobody else has reason to go to BOH, and because both Austria and Germany will be too concerned about protecting themselves to worry about BOH or TYR. You needn't do a lot of diplomatic work. After a build of A VEN in the Winter, you begin 1902 in a very strong position. In both of my sample games, this superior position led to 2 Italian builds in 1902 and 2 builds in 1903. In both games Italy entered the mid-game as the dominant player. And that is all one can ask from an opening strategy!
Diplomatic Work Before Spring 1901 — Austria and Germany
As I mentioned before, A VEN-TYR, A ROM-VEN, F NAP-ION, is not uncommon. The literature says it is, in fact, the most common Italian opening. To succeed, one must assure through diplomacy that neither Austria or Germany attack TYR and to assure Austria doesn't attack VEN. In dealing with Austria — lie your ass off. Say anything to keep him out of TYR and VEN. Promise a Lepanto. Whatever.
Germany is a different problem. In the long run, you want him neutral. You want him to trust you enough so he can focus his efforts against E or G. Make no particular mention of TYR. If he presses you to agree to DMZ TYR, go ahead and agree.(If he starts giving you the Anschluss line, about how Austria is his dear cousin and an attack on A is an attack on G — this may not be the game you want to try the Crusher). Secure TYR first, and beg forgiveness later. That's what happened in Kyl, where I was Germany. Italy's move to TYR pissed me off, but I knew he was truthful when he assured me he was attacking Austria. I covered MUN, of course, and resented that my other plans were thwarted — but I got over it. We left each other alone. Don't tell anyone about your plan.
Diplomatic Work Before Spring 1901 — France, Russia, and Turkey
France will almost certainly want to DMZ PIE. Agree, and add WES and NAF. You and France will have to be enemies eventually; but delay that moment as long as possible. Sow suspicion between E, F,and G. A French-English war is best. A French-German war would be almost as effective. One of the best things about this opening is the liberating sense of making things happen, rather than the traditional Italian role of waiting to see what happens. This also translates into a lot more freedom in your relations with Russia and Turkey. Of course, you want to encourage R to attack GAL in the Spring. It's best if he succeeds, but there's no problem if he fails. Of course you want to encourage a bounce in BLA and otherwise sow dissent between R and T. Even if these diplomatic efforts fail, however, there is no real harm done. Because when they smell Austrian blood in the water in Spring 1902, no one will remember what was said in 1901. Don't tell anyone about your plan.
Diplomatic Work After Spring 1901
Affirm your friendship with F. Apologize to G for A TYR and assure him your target is Austria. Apologize to A for A TYR and assure him your target is Germany (he won't believe you, but you have to try). Tell R that T is out to get him. Tell T that R is out to get him. Don't tell anyone about your plan.
Diplomatic Work After Fall 1901
Affirm your friendship with F. Apologize to G for A BOH and assure him your target is Austria. Apologize to A for A BOH and assure him your target is Germany (he might believe you — after all, you didn't attack TRI, just like you promised). Convince R and T that you are entitled to the lions share of the Austrian carcass. That is, you get TRI and VIE. They'll go along with it, because they're already smacking their lips over BUD and SER.
1902 and Thereafter
In both my sample games, Italy succeeded in all the 1901 objectives. The fate of Italy differed in each game as time went on; but there are striking parallels in the first 3 years.
In both games, France and England went to war. In both games, Russia and Turkey went to war. Where I was Italy, I encouraged these things, but I really don't think I made them happen. Mr. jadddiplomacy may have been more influential. Maybe we were just lucky. Or maybe the move itself encourages such a dynamic. In any event, these are good things for Italy.
In both games, Italy took VIE in Spring 1902 and TRI in Fall 1902. In both games, Italy eventually took all of Austria and the Balkans to the exclusion of R and T by Winter 1905. In both games, Italy maintained neutrality towards F and G through at least 1903. In both games, Turkey proved a tough nut to crack.
The Mid-Game Fleet Dilemma
It is possible to get 18 centers without including MAR, SPA, or POR. But even if you forego those centers, you still need to protect yourself in the Mediterranean. By the end game France will be trying to break through and spoil your solo. Sooner or later, you will have to divert fleets westward, whether to secure a stalemate line, or to secure your final SCs. It makes sense to delay that moment as long as possible. The Crusher Opening commits to a land campaign. You'll build armies. The handful of fleets you build will be needed to subdue T. And the Turkish campaign may be quite protracted. So long as F can be kept occupied fighting in the North, the 2 of you should be able to maintain a DMZ agreement over PIE-LYO-WES-NAF. I'll say no more about this mid-game dilemma, as it's outside the scope of this article.
In my (limited) experience, the Bohemian Crusher has proven to be a very promising opening. I'm surprised we don't see it more often. Among its appealing features is the ability to "go it alone". There is not a great need to rely on an ally. The move is sufficiently ambiguous that you can spin it differently to different players. It assures certain destruction of Austria and almost assures 2 Italian builds in 1902. It gives Italy a chance to influence events at an early stage of the game.
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the envelope above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.