Italian "Alpine" Openings

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Italian "Alpine" Openings

Postby luckythirteen » 30 Dec 2015, 23:11

I am in the process of classifying the Italian openings in Milan. Using the vernacular of the exiting "Standard Diplomacy" Italian openings listed in the Library of Diplomacy Openings, the opening which best matched a true "Western" opening for Italy was the "Alpine Chicken." Additionally, in WW2 the Italian Invasion of France is sometimes called the "Battle of the Alps", so based on this, I decided that a reasonable name for the system of openings in the Milan variant in which Italy opens to the "west" could be named "Alpine" openings.

I'm still working on defining what exactly a true "Alpine" opening would be. An opening to Savoy (SAV) seems to be essential, and it is also likely that F Naples (NAP) - Tyrrhenian Sea (TYS) would be "normal" as well. Thus, a pretty typical "Alpine" opening would be:

A Rome - Savoy
A Milan Supports A Rome - Savoy
F Naples - Tyrrhenian Sea

Based on the 43 completed games of "Classic Milan" (full press, no variants like fog of war or build anywhere), this is one of the more common openings (12%) and is a good representation of the new "Western" options that the Milan variant offers Italy. It enables Italy to become an involved participant in the Western theater, but leaves it in a strong defensive position if things in the west go poorly.

A less common version of this opening is similar. I'm calling this one the "Alpine Opening - Habsburg Variant" (although I'm sure there is probably better name, Papal Variant perhaps? Suggestions?) because it reminds me of the Italian Wars of 1494 - 1559. It looks something like this:

A Milan - Savoy
A Rome Supports A Milan - Savoy
F Naples - Tyrrhenian Sea

If the Diplomatic situation is right, I like this opening a lot. It communicates some trust with Austria and could possibly be seen as pro-German because Italy can support Burgundy from Savoy. It gives Italy the option of convoying Rome - Tunis and building a second fleet in Rome to try and force the Gulf of Lyon and possibly make a play for Marseilles in 1902, or keeping the army home for defense and taking Tunis with the fleet in Tyrrherian Sea. I don't consider this opening a "gambit" because it leaves Italy some solid defense. Austria can't take Milan with his fleet in Trieste, so you can bounce him out of Milan if he (or Germany) moves to Tyrolia and you always have the option of building a fleet in Naples if you feel that the Ionian is threatened. If the Diplomatic situation makes a "Western" opening seem like a good choice, I think I like this better than the move of Rome - Savoy because it leaves you more options.

The interesting thing to me is that the "Alpine Opening - Habsburg Variant" has only been used in 1 game so far (2%). The more common variation of this opening is to send F Naples - Ionian Sea. This has been used 3 times (7%) and communicates something entirely different to me. In fact, I don't understand this opening at all. It almost feels like a "non-decision" to me. Italy either doesn't trust France or just wants to ensure he's involved in the Western discussions because he supported his way into Savoy. If this was just for defense he would have just run the risk of a bounce. Italy isn't making a strong push against France though because he sent his fleet to the Ionian. He can't convoy into Tunis from this position, and he has to vacate the Ionian Sea to Tunis if he wants a build, so it isn't a strong defensive move either. The only advantage I can think of for this opening would be if Italy's trying to negotiate for Greece or something, which would mean that it isn't really part of the "Alpine" system at all. I'm not sure what to make of this. Am I missing something?

A similar opening is:

A Rome - Savoy
A Milan Supports A Rome - Savoy
F Naples - Ionian Sea

This has been used 4 times (9%) and while it still feels like a "non-decision" to me, it at least makes more sense to me than the version sending Milan - Savoy. The way I'm reading this opening is that the Italian is taking a "wait and see" approach, leaving options for 1902. His move to Savoy ensures he is at the negotiating table and can influence things in the West, and because he is influencing both Burgundy and Tyrollia, both France and Germany will probably want him as an ally. I'm not so sure this is a true "Alpine" opening as compared with the system of openings which send the fleet to the Tyrrhenian Sea though. I'm not sure how to classify it. Is it a variant of the "Alpine" system because you are still forcing your way into France, or is it more like a "Turtle" opening of some sort? I don't want to classify it as a Lepanto variant because it doesn't send the army into Apulia or Naples and probably won't feature a convoy so to me it's either a variant of the Apline system, or something else entirely. :|
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