Mark Diesen RIP 1957-2008

Kenny Regan alerted me to the shocking news of the untimely demise of IM Mark Diesen (World Junior Champ 1976) in December 2008 – Conroe, TX.

Mark Diesen grew up in Potomac Maryland (the next town over from me in Bethesda).  He was part of a strong group of players including Larry Kaufman, Larry Gilden, Eugene and John Meyer, Robert Eberlein, Richard Delaune, Robin Spital, and others.

I played him a couple of times OTB and knew him very well since the 1970s.  He was only two years older than me.


Mark Diesen pictured along with the other victorious Washington Plumbers (National Chess League) May 1976.  Mark is standing second from right; GM Lubosh Kavalek (Mark’s coach at the World Junior Champs that Mark won) is at right.  If you’re wondering about the team name, Google it – it harkens to the fantastically evil Nixon era.

I used to have a great action photo (that I misplaced) of 16 year old Mark Diesen playing 16 year old Larry Christiansen in the US Junior Championship, San Francisco, 1973.  The caption read “they battle to a draw in a Pirc.”  I think it was a Koltanowski article in the SF Chronicle.

Mark Diesen playing Black favored defensive and counter-attacking schemes as black in the Pirc, Alekhine’s, and Sicilian Scheveningen.  He had noticeable positional superiority over most of his peers as he ascended in the mid 1970s. I posted games and memories Part I (there will be a 2nd part) on the US Chess Online site.

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14 Responses to “Mark Diesen RIP 1957-2008”

  1. KWRegan Says:

    I’m so glad you thought to scan that picture!—and this looks different from the CL & R cover version. One other thing to note is that Bob Eberlein’s mother, Patricia Eberlein, was a professor in my department and my next-door office neighbor, until her death from cancer in 1998.

    This news clipping was directly from the newspaper. No doubt CL&R had something similar.

  2. vajda Says:

    how did he die?

    I don’t know. I can’t find any details.

  3. Amy Diesen Says:

    My father was staying at my house and getting sick throwing up all over, but refused any medical attention. My father died of heart failure in my arms on December 9th. The EMS didn’t arrive in time to save him, but i know i’ll always be daddy’s lil girl and he’ll always be my best friend and hero!

  4. alfred b. carlin Says:

    I knew Diesen when he lived in new orleans in the 80s and early 90s.We played in several tournaments over the course of those years and he beat each time we played.I loved playing him becouse he such a great player and a true genleman of the game!I will always remenber him as a nice guy! Alfred B. Carlin 2/28/09

  5. Douglas L. Choate Sr. Says:

    Sad to hear the passing of Mark Diesen. I can remember giving him a ride
    home from a tournament in either New York or Philadelphia in the early 1970’s. Those were the days of the Silver Spring chess club still alive with Fisher fever. Fun days ! Condolences to his family. D.L. Choate Sr. 3/3/09

  6. Bharat Vij Says:

    I came to know of his death just today and am really shocked. Mark was my best friend at both Tennessee Wesleyan College and at the University of Tennessee.

    I offer my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and pray to God to grant peace to the departed soul.

  7. Richard Easton Says:

    I was very sorry to hear about Mark’s death. He defeated me in the first round of the 1973 Baltimore Washington chess championship. It was an exciting game.

  8. Randy Kimmett Says:

    I am sorry to hear about Mark’s death. My prayers go to his family.
    I played Mark in a simul at the catonsville chess club, near baltimore, around 1976-7. He had won the world junior about then. I was just 17 years old myself and was one of only 2 to get a draw, he beat 25 others. I was only rated about 1600!! He signed my scoresheet and was very kind and polite.

  9. Amy Says:

    any questions about the Mark Diesen e-mail me at

  10. Christopher Wong Says:

    Mark had been my son’s coach for nearly five years when my son was in middle school. He was a kind and patient person who taught my son a lot of chess skills. We felt very sorry for his passing. To Amy, you got a great father, you should be proud of him! He will be sorrowfully missed even after so much time has passed.

  11. Fred Cuellar Says:

    Mark was a genius. I was blessed to have him as a friend and teacher. I will miss him. He knew how to take a tempo and turn it into a tital wave!! 🙂

  12. Quayle Johnson Says:

    Mark Diesen was a gentlemen chess player who was generous with his chess knowledge.

  13. Sam Greenlaw Says:

    Hi, Amy.

    I’m the tall ugly guy at the left edge of the Ed Albaugh article’s picture. The little dog is “Nin.” The cat owned Bob Eberlein, the fellow standing next to me. Those two got along perfectly.

    Your Dad and Kavalek were the reasons that we won that national championship, along with a remarkable run by Bob Eberlein.

    Really, your Dad was in a different chess world from us weekend players. Brilliant, but always even more interested in the pleasures of conversation and life.

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