Sherlock Holmes,
Consulting Diplomat

by Manus Hand & Mario Huys,
Master Ænigmatists

Solution to "The Chain-Links Case"

In the previous episode Holmes and Dr Watson have taken it upon themselves to reconstruct a very particular game in order to save the face (and the employment) of the staff at the Calhamer Club, who had prematurely cleared the board while the players were taking a break. In this game all powers except two have been eliminated in a mere two game years. It is now the phase after the Fall 1902 retreats, with the pieces of the eliminated powers still on the board. All the pieces, both of the remaining and eliminated powers, are positioned such that they form a single chain, every piece adjacent to no more than two other pieces. While the players are celebrating the remarkable feat that they have accomplished so far, the room-attendants, a Mr Fitchett and Mr Clenshaw, have been eavesdropping on them to gather more clews with which Holmes and Watson have gradually gotten closer and closer to a full reconstruction. The chain itself has steadily become longer and longer, their last attempt containing 26 pieces, just two shy of the theoretical maximum. The final new clew, however, has left them stumped. The chain, which they so far had believed to have a start and end, is in fact unbroken. It loops upon itself, meaning that every piece has exactly two neighbors. Time is pressing, as the players are ready to resume their game. Will they find their board the same as they left it? The clock is ticking as we rejoin Dr Watson's narrative of events…


Chain 26, After Fall 1902
Chain 26, After Fall 1902
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We would, alas, never get the time to explore all our options. Before long Fitchett rushed back into the room, declaring that our time was nearly up. The Game Master had informed him that he and the game's players would be returning to their seats before the clock struck again, because he had a schedule to keep. Some of the players had already gotten up from their chairs, eager to continue.

My spirits low, I was ready to admit defeat. Holmes, however, simply continued to pull from his pipe. After a brief pause spent in thought, he began to chuckle. After a short time, his chuckle grew into a full-throated laugh. For a moment I thought that my friend had left his senses.

'Holmes!' I exclaimed, 'Why do you laugh so? These men's livelihood are in jeopardy if we fail. Which we are bound to do, since we did not fulfil all the conditions. There is still a gap in our chain, and even though it is a single space I see no way to fill this gap without letting at least one other power survive.'

Remaining fast in his seat, eventually Holmes reined in his laughter then said, 'Fitchett, my good man: the doctor and I are most grateful for the assistance that you and Mr Crenshaw have provided during our efforts this afternoon. You may now safely wean the gentlemen in the dining room from the teat of complimentary cocktails. They may return to this hall at their chosen time, for here they will find their game-board awaiting them, ready for the two survivors to continue play, their pieces properly positioned.'

When Fitchett had once again left the room, Holmes looked at me and, as I was still trembling, he spoke to me softly.

'You see, my dear Watson, we may have assumed too much. We were informed that each piece neighbors exactly two other pieces. With that we have naturally sought to construct a single, continuous chain. But did we not perhaps jump to a false conclusion there? What if, indeed, there are two such loops, each in itself unbroken, each independent of the other, at least one space apart where they are closest to each other?'

With that, Holmes rose and walked again to the table. Admiring the board, he again started rearranging the pieces, and quite soon a broad smile came to my face.

Try it for yourself. Make two loops by changing the position of just a few pieces. Of course, you must still be able to prove that this position can be reached in two game years using the normal rules of Diplomacy. You figured it out? Then smile.

...and when you are ready to continue, click here....

— Dr John H. Watson
via Mario Huys ( and Manus Hand (

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