Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Lost Games of Ernst Rasmussen

Today I was pleasantly surprised by a phone call from an old friend, Ernie Rasmussen, of Port Townsend, Washington. An old friendship, I say, and it's true, even if only by phone and correspondence and playing over many of his BDGs. Ernie was looking for the score of a game he played years ago, and thought I might have a copy. Ernie's filing system needs work. A few years ago I supplied him with a copy of another of his games, a win over Mr. Simultaneous, Jude Acers. Hübsch Gambit

Ernst Rasmussen - Jude Acers Simultaneous Exhibition Tacoma, Washington, 1971
  1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. e4 Nxe4 4. Nxe4 dxe4 5. f3 exf3 6. Nxf3 g6 7. Bc4 Bg7 8. O-O O-O 9. c3 Nd7 10. Ng5 e6 11. Qf3 Nf6 12. Qh3 h6 13. Nf3 e5 14. Qg3 exd4 15. Qxg6 Nd5 16. Qg3 Ne3 17. Bxe3 dxe3 18. Rad1 Qe7 19. Nd4 c5 20. Ne2 Kh8 21. Rf3 b5 22. Rxe3 Qf6 23. Rf1 Qb6?

24. Rxf7! Rg8 25. Rxg7! Rxg7 26.Re8+ Kh7 27. Bd3+ Rg6 28. Bxg6+ Qxg6 29. Re7+ 1-0

Today Ernie was on the trail of another game. He remembered his opponent and the opening, but was a little vague on where or when it was played. Thanks to the magic of ChessBase we were able to chase it down in my database. I think it's nice, even if it's not a Blackmar-Diemer.

Pirc, Austrian Attack
Rasmussen,Ernst (2050) - Eggers,Paul (2165) Puget Sound Open, 1988
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bc4 c5 7.e5 Nfd7 8.e6 Nb6 9.exf7+ Kh8 10.Bd3 cxd4 11.Ne4 Bf5 12.Neg5 Qd7 13.0-0 Nc6 14.Qe1 h6 15.Bxf5 Qxf5 16.Nh4 Qxc2

17.Qe2! (A nice deflection sacrifice.) 17. ... hxg5 18.Qxc2 gxh4 19.Qxg6 1-0

Ernie is an admitted octogenarian, so we can forgive him for a lost score sheet every couple of years.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Ryder Gambit

In his book, Vom Ersten Zug an auf Matt, Diemer concentrated on the variation 5.Qxf3, which he called the Ryder Gambit, or the "classical double-pawn sacrifice." If the BDG is rare in "serious" chess these days, the Ryder Gambit is almost never seen. Here's an exception from a couple of years ago. BDG / Ryder Gambit Ribicic,M (2204) - Solic,K (2135) Open B Djakovo CRO (5), 03.05.2006 [Purser,Tom] 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Bf5 3.e4 dxe4 4.f3 exf3 5.Qxf3 Arriving at an unusual form of the Ryder Gambit in the BDG. 5...Qc8 6.Bc4 Nf6 [6...e6 7.Nge2 Nf6 8.h3 Bb4 9.0-0 Nbd7 10.g4 Bg6 11.g5 Nh5 12.Ne4 Nb6 13.Bd3 0-0 14.c4 Be7 15.N2g3 Nxg3 16.Qxg3 Bxe4 17.Bxe4 Nxc4 18.Qd3 Nd6 19.Bxh7+ Kh8 20.Bd2 g6 21.Bxg6 fxg6 22.Qxg6 Rxf1+ 23.Rxf1 Nf5 24.Rxf5 exf5 25.Bc3 Bb4 26.Bxb4 Qg8 27.Qxf5 Re8 28.d5 Qh7 29.g6 Black's flag fell 1-0 Mantia,T-Andreas,P/1456 Ohio Congress, Sept 1991/BDG WORLD 56] 7.Bg5 [7.Bf4 c6 8.Nge2 e6 9.0-0 Be7 10.Ng3 Bg6 11.Nce4 Nbd7 12.Nd6+ Bxd6 13.Bxd6 Nb6 14.Bb3 Qd7 15.Be5 0-0-0 16.c4 Ne8 17.Rfd1 f6 18.Bf4 Nc7 19.a4 Rhe8 20.a5 Nba8 21.a6 Nxa6 22.Rxa6 bxa6 23.Ba4 Kb7 24.d5 exd5 25.cxd5 Qe7 26.Bxc6+ Kb6 27.Qb3+ Kc5 28.Rc1+ Kd4 29.Qc4# 1-0 Talbot,R-Pryer,W/0843 England? 1973/BDG WORLD 41] 7...Bg4 8.Qe3 Nbd7 9.h3 Bh5 10.g4 Bg6 11.0-0-0 Nb6 12.Bb3 Qd7 13.d5 0-0-0 14.Nf3 Qe8 Concerned about Ne5, but he doesn't know the half of it. 15.a4 a5 16.Nb5 Nfxd5 17.Bxd5 Rxd5 18.Rxd5 Nxd5 19.Qa7 Qc6?? [Finding the worst possible move. 19...f6 was required.] 20.Qa8+ Kd7 [20...Kd7 21.Ne5+] 1-0

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A. E. Blackmar

By Anders Tejler and Tom Purser
Although born in Bennington, Vermont on May 30, 1826, Armand Edward Blackmar became a Southerner by choice. From 1852 to 1855 he was professor of music at Centenary College in Jackson, Louisiana. In 1860 he and his brother established a music publishing house in New Orleans. However, the city was captured in 1862 in a naval attack led by Farragut, and occupied by Union forces. It became necessary to publish music for the Confederacy elsewhere. Armand's brother, H. C., opened a publishing house in Augusta, Georgia, where he continued to publish patriotic music. Armand continued business in New Orleans, where he died on October 28, 1888.
Armand was a very good violinist and pianist, a chess expert, and a charter member of the Chess, Checkers and Whist Club of New Orleans. In 1882, in the July issue of Brentanos Chess Monthly, he introduced his gambit to the chess world. In that issue he commented that he had been playing the gambit for more than a year, that he had never found it in any book or published game, and that White's second and third moves constituted the new gambit. (We emphasize the last point, since we still see 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4-with f3 never played--referred to as the Blackmar--or worse yet, the Blackmar-Diemer--Gambit). In the August/September issue of Brentanos another example of Blackmar's gambit appeared: A. E. Blackmar - Love New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club Other examples of Blackmar's gambit are Blackmar - Lapeyre, Blackmar - Farrar, and Maurian - Daponte. These games are also in Diemer's book, pages 148-149.
There are still more of Blackmar's games which have not been as widely published, and with which readers may not be as familiar. The 1884 edition of Cook's Synopsis of Chess Openings contains a supplement, called American Inventions in the Chess Openings, which contains five pages of Blackmar's analysis of his openings. The introduction notes that "Mr. A. E. Blackmar, of New Orleans, sends to the editor the following analysis of winning positions in two interesting gambits invented by him, and which he has been playing for four years. The second gambit is not played much, because few make use of the Hollandish Defense... (Blackmar's thematic f2-f3 is also found in a line in the Staunton Gambit against the Dutch Defense (1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.f3). This line, which often results in BDG-like positions, is referred to, appropriately enough, as Blackmar's second gambit. But that is another story, of which we will have more to tell in a future issue.
It is interesting to note that many of the thematic moves in the BDG (such as the routine attacking sequence Qd1-e1-h4) were already appearing in Blackmar's games. A. E. Blackmar - L. S. Atkinson Correspondence, 1884 A. E. Blackmar - D. Daponte. Still another game by Blackmar appeared in an article by Jacques Le Monnier in the February 1981 issue of Europe Echecs. The article has a number of errors (1.d4 d5 2.e4 as the Blackmar Gambit, Blackmar's first name as Abel--a mistake Diemer also made in his earlier writings, but corrected in his book), but does provide several interesting games. A. E. Blackmar - W. H. Lyons New Orleans, February 6, 1884.
So much for Blackmar's own games. But what happened to his gambit between his death in 1888 and Diemer's rediscovery of it in 1932? In his book, Diemer credits von Popiel for the pioneering work in the development of the zwischenzug 3.Nc3. Von Popiel's analysis appeared in Deutsches Wochenschach in 1893, and as Diemer notes, a reference there to the Blackmar Gambit indicates that von Popiel was familiar with Blackmar's analysis. Although Diemer reprinted much of von Popiel's analysis, we have few examples of his games.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Letter from Diemer

When E. J. Diemer was in his prime during the second half of the 1950s he gave many simultaneous exhibitions. In his second book (Band 4 in the Schmaus BDG series) Alfred Freidl mentions several of Diemer's successful exhibitions during this time. For example, during November and December of 1957 Diemer scored +89, =7, -7 in a series of exhibitions in East Germany. Several years ago a friend--I believe it was Anders Tejler--gave me a copy of a letter which Diemer wrote from Genht, Belgium, on May 28, 1958. Diemer noted that in the past eight days he had played four exhibitions, with a score of +61, =4, -3. He included the following reizende (attractive) game from one of his exhibitions (the note and exclamation points are Diemer's): BDG, Teichmann Defense E. J. Diemer --- Anonymous Belgium, 1958 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bh5 7.g4 Bg6 8.Ne5! e6 (We arrive at the almost identical position after 5...Bf5 6.Ne5! e6 7.g4 Bg6 8.Bg2 c6 9.h4) 9.Bg2 c6 10.h4 h6 11.Nxg6 fxg6 12.Qd3 Qd6! 13.Qxg6+! Ke7 14.Rh3!! Qxd4 15.Be3! Qxg4 16.Bc5+ Kd8 17.Rd1+ Nbd7 18.Rxd7+!! Kxd7 19.Qf7+ Kc8 20.Nb5!! etc. 1-0.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More Diemer Tidbits

I'm sure there are many anecdotes to illustrate Diemer's eccentricity. Here are a few more which, I believe, came to me from Gerard Welling.
  • In one of the Beverwijk / Wijk aan Zee tournaments Diemer created a stir by tumbling down from the player’s podium in the excitement of making a move. He hurt his head and was put in the hospital, from which he was allowed to play his next three games. He won them all.
  • In another Wijk aan Zee event it was difficult to find him a place to stay. As a last resort he was given access to an old, cold tower with some sort or portable heat, and an enormous key. He was appointed Schlossherr Diemer (man of the castle), and despite the crude accommodations, was quite content.
Diemer played in several Hastings Chess Congresses, winning the Major A tourney two years running (1935/36 and 1936/37). A complimentary remark on Diemer’s strength in combinations, made by Alekhine at one of the Hastings Congresses, still made Diemer as happy as a child, even as an old man. This was particularly true since he so admired Alekhine, whom he had first come to know while helping with the publicity for the world champion's 1934 match with Bogoljubov in Baden Baden.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Precisely the blunder...

To say that E. J. Diemer was an eccentric would be a bit of an understatement. In fact, that statement itself is probably an understatement. In this article from BDG World 43, January 1991, an international master who himself played some pretty BDGs in earlier days provides an illustration.

By IM Gerard Welling

At the Hastings Chess Congress in 1937 Emil Josef Diemer created a stir in a game with an English gentleman. Diemer had a bad position, but after a move by his opponent he replied quickly, then jumped up, and to the chagrin of his opponent exclaimed: "Precisely the blunder that I have been expecting!" Well, in a tournament as venerable as Hastings this was seen as an act of bad manners, but I am sure it was not so intended.

In a conversation in the mid-1980s Diemer told me about the ability to predict future events. He was very much absorbed in deriving mystical meanings from words and the relationships of letters in them. To him words did hide the essence of past and future... Diemer also talked and wrote about a sixth sense he had in anticipating his opponents' moves. He could not explain why, but he was sure that a perceptive person could sense good moves, and perhaps even his opponents' moves, beforehand.

It is a well known fact that Dutchmen do not believe in fairy tales, so I was very skeptical about this occultism. But quite recently I found this game, published in a Russian magazine in 1974. The strange Black moves are a complete success, as White seems to play completely into Diemer's hands.

Hammargren - Diemer, E. J. [A04] 
Stockholm 1974

1. Nf3 f6 2. e4 c6 3. d4 Qb6 4. c4 e5 5. d5 Bc5 6. Qc2 a5 7. Nc3 Na6 8. Na4 Bb4+ 9. Kd1 Qc7 10. Be3 d6 11. Bb6 Qe7 12. a3 Bc5 13. Bxa5 f5 14. Bd3 Nf6 15. Bb6 O-O 16. Nd2 Ng4 17. Bxc5 dxc5 18. Nf3 b5 19. Nb6 Nb4 20. Qe2 Nxd3 21. Nxa8 fxe4 22. Rf1 bxc4 23. Nb6 cxd5 24. Nxc8 Rxc8 25. Ne1 Qd7 26. Qc2 Nxh2 27. Rh1 Qg4+ 0-1

  Did Diemer play 1. ..f6 and 2. ..c6 and other uncommon moves because he knew what his opponent intended to do? I don't think so. Diemer's play has always been sharp and provocative, and in my own practice I have seen that it is not uncommon to overreact to such an approach by an adversary. The number of plausible moves is not that extensive. I can imagine that a person of Diemer's romantic nature might look for a more mysterious explanation. But still I think it is worthwhile to play through this game, and to admire the originality of Black's conception...

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Life for Chess

Gunter Müller, a well-know German player of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, was a finalist in the First BDG World Correspondence Tournament. He wrote this article for the May/June 1985 issue of BDG World. Diemer lived for another five years, until October 10, 1990. This article provides a brief overview of Diemer's career. 

The BDG is a controversial and disputed opening, condemned by many, but held by its supporters to be the non plus extra. That it is under discussion at all is largely due to one man: Emil Josef Diemer. Born in 1908, Diemer began to play chess at the age of twelve. In the 1930s he participated in several international tournaments, where his aggressive style created a stir. During this time he discovered for himself the gambit (l. d4 d5 2. e4 dxe4 3. f3) of the American Master Armand Edward Blackmar (1826-1888). (EJD's first games were reprinted in Vol I, No 5, of BDG World.) Diemer's great service is that having recognized the danger of the strong reply 3 ... e5!, he decisively strengthened the White play with the insertion of 3. Nc3, and then 4. f3. Because of this, the designation Blackmar-Diemer Gambit is correct.

The Early Years 
He attempted his form of the gambit next in correspondence tournaments, playing his first such game in 1934 against an opponent named Bernards. In 1936 followed his first game in an international tournament in Bad Podiebrad. His first BDG against Bogoljubov came in 1948 in an Open in Constance, from which the Bogoljubov Defense, an important variation of the BDG developed. Diemer developed into a feared opponent in international tournaments. In 1935/36 and again in 1936/37 he took first place in the Premier Reserve Major Tournament at Hastings.

Success in the 1950s 
After the war years, Diemer won the Baden Cup in 1951 and 1953. In 1952 he was first at the Swiss national tournament in Zurich. Then in 1956 came his most successful year. He won the Premier Reserve tourney at Beverwijk, the Open Championship of Holland in Kampen, and an international tournament at Rapperswil in Switzerland. In addition, he finished second at Thun in the international Swiss Championships, and took the same place at Gent behind Grandmaster O'Kelly. There were more, if not quite so convincing, successes in 1950s, but then during the next decade, Diemer essentially withdrew from chess. Diemer returned to chess in the 1970s, and in 1976 he won the Senior Master tourney at the Baden Chess Congress. Today he still achieves good games, even though he must overcome a great handicap: he is almost blind, and as a game progresses it becomes more and more difficult for him to recognize the pieces. But with his distinguished features and long white beard, he is always the attraction of the tournament hall. He still plays team matches for the Chess Club Umkirch in the Black Forest, and is frequently in open tournaments. There he defrays his expenses through book sales and contributions from his supporters, for he does not stand very well financially since his residence in an old age home at Fußbach in the Black Forest. But his unflagging vitality will not permit his assignment to the scrap heap-again and again, to the joy of his supporters, he breaks out and plays as the Alterspräsident, the oldest player of the tournament.

A Personal Encounter 
Personally, I had the opportunity to sit across the chessboard from EJD at Biel in 1975. The game evolved into a critical variation in the Studier Attack in the BDG, in which I was Black. Naturally, each of us wanted to win at any price. There were chances, but the game finally came to a conclusion that EJD, who plays from the first move on towards mate, certainly did not enjoy-it was a draw.

An Endearing Eccentricity 
There is one side to Diemer which does not please every one of his supporters. He is a highly intelligent and well-studied man with many interests, among which are the prophecies of Nostradamus. On this basis he has more than once predicted the precise end of the world (thank God that it didn't occur), the bombing of Dresden, or the destruction of the Berlin wall. Contrary to many others, I regard this as an endearing eccentricity, and not as an indication that EJD, who once in his life was in a sanitarium, is somehow returned to that period. Howsoever: over the chessplayer Emil Josef Diemer let us hope that we can celebrate for a long time yet. It is only sad that because of his handicap he cannot leave the chess world additional books-this task his students must assume.