Playing Dip Adequately - 9. Avoiding the Stalemate

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Playing Dip Adequately - 9. Avoiding the Stalemate

Postby rick.leeds » 24 Apr 2011, 19:43

As happens a lot in Dip, chess jargon has been picked up and squashed into the jargon of Diplomacy. Stalemate lines are the result of this. A “stalemate” in chess, of course, is when a player cannot move without putting her king into check; in other words, any possible move is illegal. In Dip it means something different. A stalemate in Dip could be the result of any one of the following:
• a power aiming to take a solo is blocked by other players from doing so;
• one alliance is prevented from breaching the defences of the other alliance, and vice versa;
• no players can – or will – make attacking moves on other players.
In Dip, then, a stalemate is reached when the game can no longer progress towards a conclusion other than a draw. Stalemate lines are important as, having discussed how to end a game in the last article, you won’t be in the position to do so unless you have some understanding of them. What I am not going to do is identify them – too many potential lines and you need to identify the line that could occur in your own game – nor discuss very deeply how to break them.

Stalemates are somewhat controversial. In each definition above it requires players working together to refuse to break their alliance. For example, Turkey has reached 16 SCs but is being opposed by an alliance of France, England and Germany who have, between them, the remaining 18 SCs. To acheive the solo, Turkey obviously has to take two more Centres but she can’t do so without a mistake from one of the other powers... unless one of those powers breaks their alliance; on the other hand, the opposing alliance can’t take any SCs from Turkey. In this situation, should one of the alliance break and change alignment, allying with Turkey, Turkey could take the solo. It isn’t in the interests of France/England/Germany to break their alliance.

The other two situations also require players to break with what they are doing. In the second, where it is two alliances of powers locked in stalemate, it means that no one power will break the alliance. There could be a number of reasons for this; for instance, perhaps players feel that if they betray their allies, they will be attacked by ALL the other powers and eliminated. In the final example, their may be no real alliances in place, but players feel that they cannot do anything effective without the threat of being eliminated.

Stalemates in Dip, then, are the result of players being unable to change the pattern of the game without losing the game. The controversial part should be easy to see, therefore: It means that players simply refuse to play in such a way as to change the situation. Obviously before you can win the solo, you need to be able to ensure no stalemate is possible. If you are unable to do this, the game will end in a draw... presuming the stalemate holds. This means that players don’t make mistakes, don’t NMR, don’t simply give in and float away from the game. Some players will refuse to accept a draw in a seeming stalemate situation simply because they are waiting for the other side to make an error.

So how do you prevent a stalemate forming? Well, here is where the jargon stolen from chess metamophoses into something different for Dip: the stalemate lines. These lines can’t be seen on the board unless you look carefully for them. They are like the equator... it’s there but you can’t see it. Unlike the equator, however, a stalemate line may appear almost anywhere on the board. What are these mysterious enemies of purist Diplomacy?

Very simply, a stalemate line is a line of opposing units that cannot make progress against each other without breaking the stalemate. It will be a line that splits the board into two: one alliance on one side, the other on the other side; or the power attempting the solo on one side and the opponents on the other. So, as the opposing units line up, the frontline of the war, if they cannot make progress against each other, this is a stalemate line. It isn’t the stalemate itself: the stalemate is when the players holding the stalemate line won’t – or can’t - attack their allies on their side of the stalemate. To do so might well mean the attacked player would drop units away from the stalemate line and the line would collapse.

Where are these lines? Some of them can be seen fairly clearly. Look at the board: let your eyes travel across the board from North Africa/Tunis, across the seas of the Mediterranean, land at Tuscany/Piedmont, travel north-east through Tyrolia, Bohemia, Silesia, Prussia; then,pehaps through Livonia, but certainly across the Gulf of Bothnia/Baltic Sea to Finland. This is a line of neutral territories and sea spaces that split the northern/western sphere from the southern/eastern sphere. This could be one stalemate line but it is very far from being the only one.

Simply put, stalemate lines can be almost anywhere. As the game develops players need to be aware of where the stalemate lines are likely to appear. It depends upon the opposing alliance structures, to a great extent. There’s no point on looking to break through the stalemate line around Norway if Russia is on the same side as England. So you need to read the alliance structure and look for the areas of the board were the two, or more, alliances are going to clash. These will be the stalemate lines.

It is important to say that there are two reasons for knowing where the stalemate lines could form. The initial reason is to make sure you can force units past them, before they form. As an example: the Gibraltor Axis is usually important; that is MAO/Por/Spa/WMS/Naf. If you are England, making a move to WMS, for instance would be very advantgeous; if you are Italy, getting a fleet into MAO/Por is definitely useful. So you look for ways to prevent the stalemate line forming. As the game develops, if things aren’t going well, then you may be looking for these lines for a different reason: to build a defensive position, preventing the opposition from breaking through the line: this might be, as Turkey, being able to get units in position to defend Moscow from all oposition.

Some players give stalemate lines a huge importance. They’ll tell you that knowing about these lines is the key to winning the game. Others minimise the importance of these lines, and say that, whilst being aware of them, you should only consider them as the game develops. Whichever position you take on these, it is certainly important to know about them. There is a lot of information about stalemate lines here: http://devel.diplom.org/Online/StalematesAtoY/visual.htm (this is an off-site link). The thing to remember is that a solo will require your units to have broken through a potential stalemate line.
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 9. Avoiding the Stalemate

Postby Cryhavoc » 26 Apr 2011, 19:33

Tell me about it. PCC16 was a solid stalemate. :(
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 9. Avoiding the Stalemate

Postby lannes » 26 Apr 2011, 20:00

While I do not know exactly where they all are, or sometimes where you need to be to enforce them to the tee, I have a vague idea of where they are. More importantly, you should always have 18 as the goal, and be thinking about how to slip past these lines early on, as it is much easier then. Indeed, you can use the board to your advantage. Putting the stalemate on once you have them.

Take a game as France which I am closing in on a solo with right now. My 18 with France usually includes France proper, Iberia, England, lowlands, and Germany, with needing two of the following Tunisia, Rome, Naples, stp. Now maybe you can get moscow and stp but you probably don't have italy then, and it can be forced back. You should have a solid idea of the stalemate line as crossing it to gain tunisia say is much easier early on. Gaining and holding munich can be done earlier on.

For instance, in my current game Tunisia is usually key to me for a french solo. You can force the north once england is out, as russia usually does not have that many fleets, so tunisia is more important than say norway, which will fall eventually if you beat england and germany. If you don't beat them, the solo is out of reach anyways.

Mostly a solo is gained by breaking the stalemate apart before it can be formed. Easier done early on, and if you have an idea of which 18 you will need to win. Which centres can be gained later on, and which can not be forced. Just having a general idea of where stalemates can be forced by certain powers should make it easier for you to target when to aim for those important centres that will make the difference between 18 and 17.
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 9. Avoiding the Stalemate

Postby Dar Krum » 28 Apr 2011, 16:15

I am an advocate of getting over the line first. If the point is to solo, then you must make sure you are in such a position. It has likely been discussed in various places on this board, but three of the most important centres on the board are located on or near St Pete, Munich, and Spain. Controlling two of those three centres is a really good place to from which to think seriously about a solo.

Just my two Canadian cents of course...
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 9. Avoiding the Stalemate

Postby gsmx » 14 Feb 2013, 01:10

I actually find it a little off-putting when players put a little too much focus on the stalemate lines. Yes of course they are quite important but it's not really something you need to start thinking about the first round or even the first few years in. Far too often I find people trying to start fortifying stalemate lines way too early in the game which goes to show they have their eyes squarely on winning through a forced draw rather then shooting for more. Stalemate lines are an end-game aspect and should start coming into consideration in the later parts of your mid-game. That's the point where you are getting your solid growth and want to make sure you're across Munich and/or cracked your way across Naples right before everybody has collectively thrown their attention upon the threat you are and are about to start fighting you back.
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