The life and games of Emil Josef Diemer: The Madman of chess! [Part 1]

The life and games of Emil Josef Diemer: The Madman of chess! [Part 1]

ThePawnSlayer
ThePawnSlayer
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Genius and madness are sometimes not far away from each other. Indeed, looking at world-class players like Bobby Fischer, Wilhem Steinitz and Paul Morphy (allegedly...), all of which were brilliant players, that would sadly end with them going crazy. An outsider to the game would likely attach the stereotype that all strong chess players are insane. The life of Emil Josef Diemer will not change your opinion... This player was crazy over the board and also in real life:

Alongside this blog I have also provided video commentary on some of his best games on my YouTube Channel. Make sure you check it out and subscribe for future updates of my chess videos!

In part 1 of this blog, we will have a look at the early life of Diemer, his affiliation with the NSDAP, and some of his greatest miniature games with his famed gambit that would eventually be named after him:

Early life
Born in 1908 in the German town of Radolfzell, Baden, Diemer, at a young age was a very passionate chess player. However, he would not start off his chess career as a young prodigy. In fact, he would not have a published game till the age of 24. Here is the first game I could find on the chessgames database. A correspondence game which shows some of Diemer's brilliant attacking play:

In 1931, at the age of 23, out of work, he decided to join the NSDAP, also known as the German Nazi Party.

Diemer, throughout his life, was naturally obsessed in everything that he did. Indeed, being part of the Nazi Party meant he became a relentless fanatic for the party during its early years. This period of time for the Nazi Party was known as the Kampfzeit, "The years of struggle," and Diemer wanted to ensure its political success.

As a member for the party, Diemer took the role as a chess reporter for the German Reich which meant he could travel around Europe to all important international chess events thus allowing him to become a professional chess player:

Some pictures of what Diemer would pronounce as  Schachkampf - "Chess struggle."

For excellent commentary on chess playing in Nazi Germany, there has already been extensive research done by Edward Winter (a chess historian) on this topic: https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/frank.html

In 1933, Diemer had the opportunity to play Efim Bogoljubov in a simultaneous exhibition beating him in only 14 moves using the very unorthodox Englund Gambit:


A year later, Diemer would have similar success against Alexander Alekhine. In a very tactical position, Diemer comes out on top against the world champion:

I have not provided analysis on either games. I'll be honest with you, both games are complete blunder-fests, probably due to the fact that there were simul. games...
Diemer was a great admirer of Alekhine and in a tournament played in Hastings in 1937, Alexander Alekhine made a complimentary remark about Diemer's strength in combinations. A remark that stuck with Diemer, according to his biographer, for rest of his life:
The Results table of the 1937 Hastings tournament. Alexander Alekhine would outright win the top section. Meanwhile, Emil Diemer would outright win his section: Major A, two sections below Alekhine.
Diemer was indeed a genius when it come to tactical play and throughout his life he delivered some stunning quick wins. This next game is a small miniature he played, later in his life, against Heinz Krebs:
A new life after the WW2
After WW2, Diemer would struggle as a professional player. With the Nazi party gone, Diemer had to write many chess articles and play against players in simuls. In 1953, he would be banished by the German chess federation when he accused the federation of homosexuality and the corruption of young players. According to his biographer, whilst he never physically loved a women, he believed homosexuality to be evil and corrupting.

In 1955 Diemer would attract a following of players. This was due to his analysis on the gambit, at the time, known as the Blackmar gambit. He produced many beautiful games with this gambit, where his surname would end up being attributed. In 1948 he produced a wonderful game against a player known as Portz:

This concludes Part 1 of this blog. Join me for Part 2 soon which will focus on the rise and eventual fall of Emil Josef Diemer. 
References: 
- http://www.belkaplan.de/chess/bdg/diemer/diemer_biographie_en.html - An excellent summary of Diemer's life as a chess player
- http://bdgpages.blogspot.com/ - A blog that focuses on the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit which includes many stories about Emil Diemer
- Georg Studier: Emil Joseph Diemer, ein Leben für das Schach im Spiegel seiner Zeit: Georg Studier was a long-time admirer of Diemer and his biographer