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A short biography by GM Hans Ree

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Those who think that all chessplayers are mad, will not change their opinion after studying the life of Emil Joseph Diemer...

Diemer was born in 1908 in the German town Radolfzell, in Baden.
Already at a young age he was a passionate chessplayer, but it was not until 1932 that he had a game published. Until 1956 his greatest success was a first place in the blitz championship of Baden. In his best period he could be considered a mediocre master.

Very strong Diemer certainly was not. Nevertheless, in the fifties and sixties he had a flock of disciples in Germany and also in the Netherlands. He was the prophet of relentless aggression in chess.
"Play the Blackmar-Diemer gambit and mate will come by itself!" he wrote. "The Blackmar gambit changes the whole man!" In this he was completely serious.

In 1996 the German Manfred Maedler Verlag published a biography of Diemer, written by one of his most faithful followers, Georg Studier: Emil Joseph Diemer. Ein Leben für das Schach im Spiegel der Zeiten [1] (A life for chess in the mirror of time) The biography has 280 pages.
Some world champions are still waiting for such homage.

Studier has great admiration and sympathy for Diemer. He calls him a man of unusual genius. Diemer's simul tours are described as triumphal processions. Still the book has not become a hagiography, because there was too much in Diemer's life which is repulsive and which Studier couldn't and wouldn't suppress.
[Diemer cartoon]
cartoon by Eric Petit

In 1931 Diemer was out of work. He had been fired from a small job at a publisher's house. He was not fit for a job. Like many other malcontents he became a member of the NSDAP, the German Nazi party, and was thrown out of the house by his father the same day.

Diemer was never well able to take care of himself, but as a Nazi it was easier than before. Not that he had become a party member out of opportunism. He was a fanatic, in everything he did. He was a relentless agitator for the party in the years that the Nazi's romantically called the "Kampfzeit," the years of struggle before they took power. Diemer made new friends and now it was possible for him to become a professional chessplayer. He became the "chess reporter of the Great German Reich," was present at all important international chess events and sang the praise of "Kampfschach," chess as a struggle, in the Nazi newspapers and magazines. He did not earn much money and even then he was dependent, as he would be till the end of his life, on admirers to support him in his penury.

After the war it became more difficult. Diemer wrote in countless little magazines and papers, sold chess books, gave simuls, but often he was hungry. He was simply not strong enough to be a chess professional. And in 1953 he lost an important part of his small income because he was expelled from the German chess federation. In a rabid press campaign Diemer had accused officials of the federation of homosexuality and corruption of innocent youth. For Diemer, who later told his biographer Studier that he had never physically loved a woman, homosexuality was a great and threatening evil. He did not only abstain from love but also from drinking and smoking. He played chess.

Success he had not, but there were disciples who wrote passionate polemics about the merits of the Blackmar-Diemer gambit, 1. d4 d5 2. e4 dxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f3. For one year, from 1955 till 1956, Diemer published his own magazine, Blackmar-Gemeinde (Blackmar-Community) [2], that he had to close down when his creditors became too impatient. Everyone of importance in the chess world was bombarded by Diemer with letters that contained endless analyses of his gambit. He found recognition, even in the Netherlands, where the company Ten Have published Diemer's German-language book Vom ersten Zug an auf Matt! (From the first move going for mate) [3].

It was in the Netherlands that Diemer in 1956 finally became successful in chess. He won the Reserves Group of the Hoogovens tournament and later the Open Championship of the Netherlands. In the same year he played in the Swiss Championship (after being banned from the German federation he had become a member of a Swiss club) and shared second place.

These successes were not to be repeated. After a disappointing tournament in England, Diemer discovered in a German women's magazine the cause of his bad score. Biorhythm. After that his chess friends were bombarded with biorhythmical calculations and graphs. Furthermore, Diemer discovered Nostradamus, the famous 16th century French clairvoyant. In a period of 25 years he sent about ten thousand letters on Nostradamus. They contained calculations hard to follow for the outsider. By means of a simple system, a=1, b=2 etc, he had cracked the code of the great clairvoyant. Even well- meaning friends found it strange that the code would be hidden in the German translation, instead of the original French text.

Nostradamus was to dominate Diemer's life, even more so then chess. On the streets he accosted unsuspecting pedestrians. He disturbed a funeral by shouting: "A living one is buried here!" He lamented that the river Rhine would run dry and that nuclear bombs would fall on Heidelberg. The authorities of town and province loathed the ringing of the phone, in fear that it might be Diemer, announcing the apocalypse.

In 1965 he was committed to a psychiatric clinic. The director found that chess was too much of a strain for Diemer's nerves and he was not permitted to play anymore. But six years later a miracle happened. In 1971 a young admirer brought about the cancellation of both the clinic's interdiction and the expulsion from the German chess federation. Diemer could become a member of a German chess club again and his young admirer had seen to it that he got first board on the team. Diemer was given the new dentures that had been promised to him in 1952 by a rich admirer. He was playing again and his board was always surrounded by young disciples who were delighted by his attacking style.

His strength in chess had suffered, but he did not mind. One day he might become the best player in the world, he said, but more important to him was the Nobel Prize that he expected for his investigations on Nostradamus' works.

He died in 1990. He had not played chess during his last five years.
In Fussbach, the site of his clinic, the villagers had seen him stumbling through the streets, tall and thin, with prophet's beard and half-blind, and they had respected Diemer, because they had heard by rumor that this man once had been a great chessplayer, maybe the greatest of all.

That he was certainly not, but a remarkable player he was, with his glaring one-sidedness, always looking for the attack and for nothing else. Here is Diemer's last tournament game, played in 1984. Studier gives it in his book "without distracting commentary" and he is right to do so, because one should not clinically dissect an amazing game (Diemer-Heiling - noted by author) like this.

Hans Ree - adapted by Stefan Bücker

[1] G. Studier: "Emil Joseph Diemer. A life for chess in the mirror of time", Dresden, 1996
[2] E. J. Diemer: "The Blackmar-Community", own publisher, 1955/56
[3] E. J. Diemer: "From first move going for mate!", own publisher, 1956, later four editions with titel
     "The modern Blackmar-Diemer Gambit", volume I

Author's supplements:
  1. Surely not his last tournament game, because played in 3rd round of that tournament, look Europa-Rochade nr. 3, 1985, p. 8
  2. Not his last tournament, but his last international appearance, look [1], p. 277
  3. His last international appearance? 3rd Open Nürnberger Schachtage were delivered in October 1984 - look [1], however Diemer also played 2nd International Open Griesbach, delivered from Oct. 6th till Oct. 14th 1984 - look Europa-Rochade nr. 12, 1984, p. 33...
  4. Under reference to [3]: not in own edition, but with W. ten Have in Amsterdam, 1956

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