The Iberian Gambit
by Chris Warren
The history of French openings reads with two sets used overwhelmingly, both
set for A Par-Bur and F Bre-Mid. One is the "Maginot" opening A Mar S A Par-Bur,
and the other is known simply as the Burgundy opening with A Mar-Spa. Both these
openings offer defense against a German strike into Munich and the easy
opportunity to pick up both Iberian supply centers in 1901.
The third opening provides A Mar-Spa, F Bre-Mid, and A Par-Pic, known as the
"Picardy Opening." This is subtly pro-German, as it hints to an accomodation
over Burgundy while still giving the French player a voice in Belgium. This can
be a very good thing, as F/G alliances, while hard to set up early, can offer
wonderful late-game stability, and explosive growth once England is dispatched.
However, the French player is often caught declaring his intentions in the fight
for Belgium in Fall 1901.
By this time, England knows how to position its build for defense, and the
lone French fleet is away in Iberia, a full 2 years from an English supply
center. I propose an opening known as the "Gascony Opening", but that I like to
call the "Iberian Gambit." The Iberian Gambit opens A Par-Gas, F Bre-Mid, A
Mar-Spa. While leaving Burgundy open, this is no weaker defensively than the
Picardy Opening, as Gascony borders all three home centers. Of course, this is
best used with good German relations. In Fall 1901, A Spa continues on to
Portugal and A Gas goes to Spain, capturing both Iberian centers, and leaving
the French fleet free to move. Anti-English options are to move the fleet to the
English Channel, Irish Sea, or North Atlantic, while the threat of going to the
Western Mediterranean as an Italian blitz also exists. While not as devestating
against Italy as England, the opportunity to do so is very important. It means
that the Iberian Gambit can be promoted as a strong Western Triple to England,
or as just an Italian blitz, pushing England toward Russia (and ideally, a fleet
in the Barrents Sea at the end of 1901). With a fleet already in English waters,
and a second fleet built in Brest (and possibly a third in Marseilles) the
French can get a quick early leg up in the fight for the British Isles.
Of course, a "gambit" entails risk, and this is of course true. While this
opening is as safe defensively for 1901 as the Picardy opening, it is not as
strong as the Burgundy or Maginot. Of course, if you have a strong German ally,
this is hopefully not a problem. What can be a problem, however, is the fact
that both your armies are in Spain and Portugal come 1902. Even a good German
ally can only take so much temptation. This is why I reccomend 1901 builds of F
Bre and A Par. A fleet in Marseilles, while more immediately useful, will have
to work its way around Spain to get to a useful position in the Atlantic,
trapping the Portugese army for yet another year. Of course, in the case of
friction with the Italians, or an Italian who will acquiesce to you moving F
Mar-Lyo, this becomes more palatable.
In short, the Iberian Gambit is France's best method for immediately
projecting naval power north, and probably the most potent weapon a
Franco-German alliance has against England. Its defensive shortcomings are
minor, especially when compared to pro-German variations, and it's a surprising
move. Furthermore, it doesn't get bogged down in the fields of Belgium. If only
Napoleon had known.
Reprinted from Diplomacy World 81