Galician Gambit

(A Bud – Ser; A Vie – GalScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 11.38.12 am.png; F Tri – Alb)


The Galician Gambit is, perhaps surprisingly, only the second most popular opening for Austria and ranks 14th for all countries). Given the perceived ubiquity of it the fact that is less common that the Slovenian Gambit is worth noting when playing Austria’s neighbours.

Part of the “gambit” family of openings that are based on the premise of the Fleet in Trieste moving to Albania (and then Greece) while risking the defence of the home centres, this move eliminates the chance of a successful 1901 attack from Russia but opens up some catastrophic problems if Italy has attacked, particularly if Vienna gets into Galicia.

The strength is that if all goes well Austria finishes 1901 in a dominant position: building two more armies thus creating a strong attacking position against Turkey or Russia and a positive relationship locked in with Italy. The risk does lead to some excellent reward.

Historical Discussion

The Gamer’s Guide To Diplomacy applauds the “gambit” aspect of the opening and goes on to describe the Galicia move as anti-Russian:

Here the object of distrust is Russia. The moves defends against (A War-Gal) which would threaten Vienna and Budapest. If (A Vie-Gal) succeeds, it may still defend Vienna or Budapest (if Italy slips into Trieste). More importantly, it offer the anti-Russian option of (A Gal-Rum, A Ser S A Gal-Rum). If Turkey is friendly (F Alb-Gre) may still succeed. Austria thus has the possibility of 3 builds! The Fall 1901 moves (A Gal-Ukr) is also possible. It’s devastating for 1902.

The player’s guide is more defensively oriented for Vienna and recommends Galicia as the first priority to defend:

Vienna’s first priority is to cover Galicia if you have any doubts about Russian intentions whatsoever. Losing a centre to Italy is bad enough, but having a hostile Russian unit move to Galicia in Spring 1901 can prove fatal.

Richard Sharp considers other options before declaring the Galician Gambit the best of the family (though not his favourite overall):

Much better than either of the above, and growing rapidly in popularity as they decline, is the Galicia Variation of the Balkan Gambit, in which the Vienna army goes to Galicia. This is demonstrably better than the Budapest Variation, since if Russia doesn’t try for Galicia then Austria again has two armies against Rumania (with the additional chance of Warsaw), and if Russia does try for Galicia, then it’s a damned good job Austria did too! Like the Budapest Variation, it is only to be risked when you are reasonably sure Italy is not going to attack; it is seen at its worst when Italy moves to Trieste and Venice and the move to Galicia succeeds for now Austria has to guess right to avoid the humiliation of losing two home centres to Italy. However, if you are correct in your estimate that Italy is an idiot, this is a very good opening with excellent winning chances.

The historical literature is strong on the opening, and yet it remains at most only the second most popular throughout history, occasionally lapsing as low as fourth!

Modern Theory

An interesting paradigm exists around the Galician Gambit: the perception is that if you don’t make this opening then you’re not a good player (unless your other move is spectacular). This has the interesting effect that the vast majority of intermediate to good players will use this opening nine out of ten times, while the best players tend to be more varied in their Austria openings (and, of course, new players tend to make some more random moves).

Toby Harris is a fan of the Hedgehog (F Tri – Ven) as a defensive mechanism, Andrew Goff is known for A Vie – Tyl; A Bud – Gal, and many of the best American players regularly avoid arranged bounces in Galicia. The message to take from this is that there are situationally better moves than the Galician Gambit, with the skill resting in knowing when to deviate from the norm.

Still, for new players or when playing against new players this opening is the go-to option. While losing Trieste can be ugly, keeping the Russian out of the fray in the first year is a sure way to guarantee a playable, if not positive, 1902. And, when Italy doesn’t attack, the opening has laid a strong foundation for an aggressive, Eastern Europe dominating, Austria.

Notable Continuations

There are many continuations for this opening, but the most significant are as follows:

  1. The Galician Double Gambit (A Ser s Alb – Gre; A Vie – Gal; F Alb – Gre.)
  2. The Autumn Reversal (A Ser s Alb – Gre; A Vie – Tri; F Alb – Gre.)
  3. The Sound Of Music Opening (A Ser s Alb – Gre; A Vie – Tyl; F Alb – Gre.)
  4. The Delayed Suicide Opening (A Ser s Alb – Gre; A Vie – Boh; F Alb – Gre.)
  5. The Bulgarian Attack (A Ser – Bul; A Vie – Tri; F Alb – Gre.)
  6. The Rumanian Attack (A Gal – Rum; A Ser s Gal – Rum; F Alb – Gre.)
  7. The Bulgarian Support (A Ser s Rum – Bul; A Vie – Tri; F Alb – Gre.)
  8. The Rumanian Support (A Ser s Bul – Rum; A Vie – Gal; F Alb – Gre.)
  9. The Polish Foxtrot (A Gal – War; A Ser s Alb – Gre; F Alb – Gre.)
  10. The Double Standoff Defence (A Vie – Tri; A Ser – Gre; F Alb – Tri.)
  11. The Ukrainian Foxtrot (A Gal – Ukr; A Ser s Alb – Gre; F Alb – Gre.)
  12. The German Foxtrot (A Gal – Sil; A Ser s Alb – Gre; F Alb – Gre.)

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