The Jutland Gambit

by Edi Birsan

The keynote for German foreign policy should not be sounded on the securing of Belgium, Holland and Denmark in the first year of play. The Germans must take an over view in regard to their actions and play for the following years past 1901. More than any other country, a Germany which starts off with three builds is eliminated in a matter of years. By building three units the first year, the Germans attract too much attention and it also spreads the Germans out too much, forcing them to be defensive in the spring of 1902. Note that all three of their new supply centres border on the North Sea. Thus, England with one fleet can tie down an enormous number of German units. 

The goal for the Germans should be securing steady expansion instead of immediate strength. In line with such a policy, the Germans should position their units to allow for a smooth flow of offensive moves from the beginning of 1901 straight through the early part of the game. This can not be done with the Germans being tied down on defence all along the North Sea. In considering the three most probable enemies, England, France and Russia, the Germans can secure a more promising position against Russia and England than it can against France. By more promising, I mean one that will lead to a quicker realisation of expansion and also allow for a greater degree of diplomatic flexibility. With a Northern game in mind, the German plays the following moves in the spring o the first year: Fleet Kiel to Denmark, A Munich to Ruhr, Army Berlin to Kiel. On the surface, it appears to be a traditional German opening when in fact it is the springboard for an interesting set of German moves in the North. The use of the traditional opening gains time for the German player as it allows him to determine if anything terribly strange is happening in the game, like an invasion by Russia or a fight in the Channel. Meanwhile, the German can continue to negotiate with both the Russians and the English to determine which one will be the object of German aggression. 

If France remains peaceful and the diplomatic climate is appropriate, the Germans can play a gambit by sacrificing the attempted third build for a better position in the North by moving: Fleet Denmark to Skagerrak, Army Kiel to Denmark, Army Ruhr to Holland. The Germans then gain a powerful position in the North. They can evict the Russians or aid the Russians and still have enough strength up North to avoid a double cross. Also, there is the possibility of informing the Russians and the English of you intended move to Skagerrak and spelling out designs against the other. Thus, the English could then see the move as anti-Russian and the Russian player could see it as anti-English. The following builds Fleet Kiel and Army Munich still do no reveal the exact intention of the German High Command and allows even more time to see what is happening diplomatically across Europe before a clash of arms commits the Germans one way or another. In the Spring of 1902, the German can play against Russia or England and move with reasonable chances of success. But note that until the second spring, it is not entirely possible to determine the German intentions by a reading of the units on the board, for the moves give the Germans ample flexibility in deciding on their target. 

Now, should the English object to the German move to the Skagerrak before the move takes place and the German thinks it likely that the English may attempt Fleet North Sea to Skagerrak to attempt a stand-off, then the German can play an interesting variation and gamble for more position at the cost of less flexibility by ordering Fleet Denmark to North Sea. With the English playing to the Skagerrak, the German move to the North Sea will succeed into the North Sea and the English position is exploded. Such a reverse can be rewarded by the rousing of the Russian suspicions towards the English. When the English move to the Skagerrak and Norway, those suspicions will be confirmed and the friendliness of the Germans secured b their commitment in battle over the North Sea. With such an array of moves the diplomatic possibilities increase. 

Thus, the Germans can by delaying greed and playing a “Jutland Gambit” secure a greater position to project and prolong German expansion through the early phases of the game. 

Reprinted from Hoosier Archives No.48 (4 December 1971)