Archive for the ‘Mark Diesen’ Category

Mark Diesen RIP 1957-2008

January 4, 2009

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.

Fabulous 70s: Going Way Back to 1974

December 6, 2007

Pictured are the winners of the D.C. Chess League “B” Division, the one and only “Potomac B” squad!

I will need help with some missing first names from the readers.  (supplied by a timely comment by John Mingos!)

From left, standing: John Mingos, Bob Owen, me, David Matzke. I remember Mingos and Matzke from the JCC Chess Club in Rockville, Maryland – my first chess club! It was a short drive away from my home in Bethesda, MD on 70-S (now named Interstate 270). Of course I was too young to drive and my father had to do the honors.

Seated from left: Bob Adams, Alan Kline, and John Struss.


It was strange but fortuitous for chess development how strong chess-wise the small region was.

Potomac, MD had World Junior Champ Mark Diesen who won it in Groningen, Holland, in 1976 – GM Kavalek (his second) wrote a nice article for Chess Life & Review about it.

Bethesda – Chevy Chase MD area: IM’s me, Steve Odendahl, Larry Kaufman

elsewhere in Maryland: Robert Eberlein, Allan Savage, David Thompson, Larry Gilden

Washington DC: John Meyer, Eugene Meyer

Virginia: dearly departed: Charlie Powell, 7-time Virginia State Champ and hero of the National Chess League.

As the San Francisco Mechanics Institute chess club newsletter wrote in 1995, ” A perennial state champion in his native Virginia, he moved to San Francisco in the late 1970s and played in several Northern California State Championships (Bagby Memorials), but will be best remembered for his friendly manner and good sportsmanship. ”

We also had from Virginia another dearly departed strong player, future IM Richard Delaune (4-time state champ) who also died much too young in 2004 at 49. The USCF writes, “Richard K. Delaune was born December 24, 1954. Rick Delaune was an International Master, Life USCF member, VA state champ in 1974, 1975, 1981, and 1985. Richard’s highest Established over-the-board rating achieved was 2468 (after the 1998-09-13 “Hall of Fame Open” held at the U.S. Chess Center where he tied for 1st place). Rick was also active in USCF Correspondence Chess. He was also one of the nicest, easy-going guys you’d ever want to meet. He was 49 when he died of a heart attack while home with his mother on Saturday, May 29th.”

The Fabulous 70s: Washington Plumbers win the 1976 National Chess League!

November 28, 2007

Before the current day US Chess League, there was the pre-Internet phone matches conducted between various cities in the National Chess League.

Here is a photo of the 1976 season winners, the Washington Plumbers (so named after Nixon’s squad of burglars who broke into the Watergate hotel and started the snowball of corruption that sank the Nixon presidency). The photo was taken at the “It’s Your Move” chess club in Georgetown, Washington DC – this club has long been defunct, the victim of rising rents in popular Northwest Washington.


The 1976 National Chess League Victors, the “Washington Plumbers” (click several times to see details)

Some classic personalities in this photo. Starting from left, masters Sam Greenlaw and Robert Eberlein helped out in key matches. Third from left, very strong master Charlie Powell scored a clutch win (figuring out immense complications in severe time trouble) vs Jack Peters in a semifinal round. Next to Charlie is team captain, BVI’s own Bill Hook. Next to Bill is one of the Meyer brothers, John Meyer. Next to John is senior master Larry Gilden with his hand in the plunger, a player with one of the highest ratings in the country in the early 1970s. As Charlie Hertan writes recalling 1972, “Senior masters were very rare in those days, and except for national tournaments like the U.S. Open or fledgling World Open, you wouldn’t expect to see more than one, sometimes two, at a weekend event. Larry Gilden was usually the top-ranked player, with a “monster” rating of about 2410.”

I still remember Larry showing me a “philosopher’s wheel” (a circular chart he had made with lots of tiny Elliott Winslow-style letters). In the latter part of the 1970s, Gilden suffered a decline in playing strength. Nevertheless, he defeated me in a long up and down game where he was white in a g2-g3 Sicilian Taimonov. After the game, he exclaimed “Thank you!” I looked at him and he said, “You made me feel like a Gilden again.” This is a pretty cool after-game speech.

And next to Larry, second from right, is 1976 World Junior Champ Mark Diesen – he went to Potomac HS, the HS right next to mine (Walt Whitman HS in Bethesda). Finally, on the right, we had our star, Czech emigrant GM Lubosh Kavalek. It also didn’t hurt in 1978 that we were able to play guest star Swedish GM Ulf Anderssen in a match (Ulf was in town losing a short match 1 1/2- 4 1/2 to Lubosh in a Volvo exhibition match). I played on this team in the 1978 season.
For more information on this ancient precusor to today’s US Chess League and some games, click here.

January 2008 Postscript on Larry Gilden

I saw this in the liquor store review blogosphere: (pay close attention to the end of the interview)


I was standing in a nearly empty Pearson’s this evening, just before closing time. A gray-haired gentleman with coke-bottle-thick, black-rimmed glasses looked up from the shelf that he was stocking.

He had no idea who I was.

“How would you have done against Bobby Fischer?”

Without even thinking about it, he replied, “I played him in 61. Beat him head-to-head.”

“I don’t believe you.”

We talked further.

It was the New York Chess and Checkers Club, and Larry Gilden, later named a chess FIDE Master, played Fischer in about 25 games of 5-minute speed chess.

“Beat him once, played him to a draw three times.”

“He won twenty games?”

“Yeah, about that.”

“Was he that good?”

He nodded his head. “He was a genius. It’s a shame he didn’t get the rest of his life in order.”

“Is it true you have a gambit named after you?”

I had heard of the Gilden Gambit.

He denied it. “I’m in the books, but I don’t think there’s anything named after me.”

I think the author of the italicized quote is “Don Rockwell.” At any rate, I have the Ginsburg Gambit – maybe our names are similar and things got confused. 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Bc4!!?? Nxe4 – the Ginsburg Gambit. I wonder if Gilden knows about it? I will post my 1970s analysis on it, on this site, shortly. I did realize Larry worked in a liquor store, now we know (thanks to the blogosphere) which one!   The liquor blog also contained a link to a nice finish in the game Gilden-Jakobsen, World Junior Champ., The Hague, Netherlands, 1961.

The Fabulous 70s Part 11 – US Opens

July 22, 2007

My first US Open was in Fairfax, VA 1976 on the George Mason University Campus. Quite a collection of notable showed up. GM, ex-World Junior Champ, (and at that time also “Father” (Priest)) Bill Lombardy, World Junior Champ-to-be Mark Diesen, loud kibitzer and blowhard Jerry Hanken (he would shush whomever he considered a lesser light), and a whole flock of hopefuls. In a bizarre historical footnote, the very same Jerry Hanken talked loudly and for several minutes near my time-trouble game (ignoring requests to be quiet) a full 29 years later (!) causing me to go wrong in a Las Vegas tournament. Look for that game in one of the Fabulous 00s installments.

One of the amusing events from this US Open was Lombardy blowing cigar smoke into Diesen’s face. That game also featured an amusing adjournment (yes, adjournments as dinner breaks or even to break the game until the next day occurred back then!). If memory serves me correctly (Diesen will have to check me on this) Lombardy chose to adjourn with the unusual material imbalance of a lone King versus King and Rook.

Note 3/16/10: GM Fedorowicz informs me that Father Bill Lombardy went berserk against him (not Diesen) at Fairfax, dropping a piece in time trouble.  I don’t know if Diesen played Lombardy at Fairfax; am trying to locate relevant game scores – readers?

Here is a battling effort vs future IM Calvin Blocker, who hails from Cleveland, OH. Note the bizarre time control.

Calvin Blocker (2260) – Mark Ginsburg (2095)

US Open, Fairfax, VA 1976. Round 7. 50/150. Date played: 8/22/76.

Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind (by transposition)

Future IM Calvin Blocker has always been a seeker of chess truth, expending all his allotted time to find the best moves. He is a tough opponent as well as being a piano maestro (all around nice guy, recently departed GM Igor Ivanov, was also a maestro of the ivories).

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 g6 3. d4 Bg7 4. e4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nf6 6. Nc3 d6 7. Be2 O-O 8. O-O Nc6 9. Be3 a6 Needless to say, I knew no theory at all. 9… Bd7 is possible here.

10. Rc1 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Be6 12. b3 An interesting line here is 12. Qd3!? b5 (?!) 13. cxb5 axb5 14. Nxb5 Rxa2 15. Nc7 Qd7 16. Qb1! Ra5 17. b4 Rb8 18. b5! and white is well on top.

12… Qa5 13. f4! b5 14. f5 Bd7 15. g4! A Theoretical Novelty (TN) from Mr. Blocker. Previously seen was 15. fxg6 fxg6 16. e5 dxe5 17. Bxe5 in a prior game, but here in Prukner-Pecner, Kubin 1978, black played 17…Bc6? missing 17…b4! which is just good for him. For example, 17…b4 18. Nd5 Nxd5 19. Bxg7 Ne3 20. Qxd7 Qg5! and black is at least equal. White is simply better after Blocker’s powerful innovation.


15… b4! The best reaction.

16. g5 bxc3 17. gxf6 Bxf6 18. Bxf6 exf6 19. Qxd6 Qxa2 This position is of course not very appealing for black but he still is in the game. White will need good technique to convert this.

20. Bf3 Qd2! The most effective resistance.


21. Qxd2 Not particularly better is 21. Qxf6 c2 22. Qb2 Rab8 23. Rxc2 Qe3+ 24. Kh1 Rxb3 25. Qf6 Rb6 and black fights on.

21… cxd2 22. Rcd1 gxf5 Another way 22… Rfe8 with the idea of Bc6 hitting white’s weak pawn on e4. In all lines black is slightly worse but has good drawing chances.

23. Rxd2 Ra7 24. exf5 Bxf5 25. Bc6 Be6 26. Rxf6 Rb8 27. Rd3 Rc7 28. Be4 If 28. Rg3+ Kf8 29. Be4 Ke7 30. Rh6 a5 and black retains counterplay. For example, 31. Rc3 Rb4 32. Bxh7 a4 with good drawing chances.

28… a5 29. Rg3+ 29. Rh6 a4 30. Rxh7 Rbc8 31. Rg3+ Kf8 32. bxa4 Rxc4 is equal.

29…Kf8 30. Bxh7 Ke7 31. Rf2 a4 32. bxa4 Rxc4 33. Ra3 Rbb4 34. Bc2 Rb2 35. Bd3 Rg4+ 36. Kf1 Rxf2+ 37. Kxf2 Rh4! A nice defensive resource. Black can now perpetually harrass the h-pawn; so White now jettisons his h-pawn to bum’s rush the a-pawn, but it’s not enough. Black’s program of counterplay (a5-a4) worked perfectly.


38. a5 38. Kg3 Rg4+ 39. Kf2 (or 39. Kf3) Rh4 doesn’t lead anywhere.

38…Rxh2+ 39. Ke3 Kd6 40. a6 Bd5 41. Ra4 If 41. a7 Rh8 and black is safe.

41…Rh3+ 42. Kd2 Rh8 43. Kc3 Kc7 44. Rd4 Bc6 45. Rf4 Rf8 46. Rf6 Rd8! Black realizes correctly that the f-pawn is irrelevant to this position. The only concern is to establish a solid defensive wall on the queenside.The text hurries to do that.

47. Rxf7+ Rd7 48. Rf6 Rd6 49. Rf7+ Kb6 50. Bc4 Rd7 51. Rf6 Rc7 52. Kb4 Ka7! This is the unbreakable formation. Once black’s king nestles here, the game can safely be declared drawn. It cannot be budged from this blockading square. The last thing an inexperienced player wants is to be tricked into defending R vs R&B: there is no way I could hold that, not knowing any theory.


Practically speaking, rescuing inferior positions like this is as important in tournament play as converting advantages.

53. Bd3 Bd5 54. Rf5 Bg2 55. Rg5 Bf3 56. Bc4 Kb6 57. Rg6+ Ka7 58. Rd6 Bg2 59. Re6 Bf3 60. Re5 Bg2


A pretty good defensive effort from the non-openings-knowledgeable expert playing black. Calvin would go on to inflict an unpleasant defeat on me in the last round of the Chicago Open 1979, depriving me of top honors after I had beaten GM Dzindzi in a miniature in the penultimate round.

In the 10th round of this tournament I faced another Ohio Master, Thomas Wozney. This time I demonstrated decent competence in the same opening (as White) – the Maroczy Bind – but frittered away the winning middle game and could only draw a rook ending.

Mark Ginsburg (2095) – Thomas Wozney (2242), Round 10. 50/150.

Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind (by transposition)

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Bg7 5. e4 Nc6 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Nc3 Ng4 8. Qxg4 Nxd4 9. Qd1 Ne6 9….e5?! is the positionally suspect alternative.

10. Rc1 d6 11. b4! A hyper-accurate choice of GM Portisch that had been Gligoric’s Game of the Month in a recent (with respect to this Wozney game) Chess Life magazine. This move sent the popularity of the 9…Ne6 variation way downhill. I was familiar with Gligoric’s column…

11…O-O 12. Be2 b6 The reasonable 12… a5 13. a3 axb4 14. axb4 Bd7 15. O-O Bc6 just had Portisch squeeze his opponent to death after 16. Qd2 Ra3 17. Nd5 Kh8 18. Bb6 Qd7 19. f4 f5 20. exf5gxf5 21. Bf3 Rfa8 22. Rce1 Ra1 23. b5 Bxd5 24. Qxd5 Nd8 25. Rxa1 Rxa1 26. Rxa1 Bxa1 27. c5 e6 28. c6 bxc6 29. bxc6 exd5 30. cxd7 Bf6 31. Bxd5 Kg7 32. Bc4 Be733. Kf2 Nc6 1-0 Portisch,L (2645)-Pfleger,H (2535)/Manila 1974 Interzonal and this was the game featured in Gligoric’s Chess Life column.

13. O-O Bb7 14. Nd5 Qd7 15. Qd2!? Unusual, but not quite a theoretical novelty. 15. Bg4!? f5 16. Bh3 Nc7 17. Nxc7 Qxc7 18. exf5 gxf5 19. c5 dxc5 20. bxc5 f4 21. cxb6 Qe5 22. Bc5 Rfd8 23. Qb3+ Bd5 24. Qb4 axb6 25. Bxe7 Re8 26. Bd6 Qe4 27. Qxe4 Rxe4 28. a3 Bf8 29. Bxf8 Kxf8 30. Rfd1 Bf7 31. Rd6 Rxa3 32. Rxb6 Rd4 33. Rcb1 f3 34. Rf6 Rb3 35. Re1 fxg2 36. Be6 Rb7 37. Kxg2 Re7 38. Re3 Kg7 39. Rxf7+ Rxf7 40. Rg3+ Kf8 41. Bxf7 Kxf7 42. h3 Ra4 43. Rg4 Ra3 44. f3 Kf6 45. Kg3 Ra5 1/2-1/2 Adorjan,A (2560)-Larsen,B (2565)/Hastings 1986 is an example of this line between two good players.


15… Rfd8? A really bad move, wasting multiple tempi and putting black immediately in a lost game. 15…Nc7! is correct to challenge the white knight with two examples. 15… Nc7 16. Nc3?! (16. Bg5 Nxd5 17. exd5 Rfe8 18. Rfe1 e5 19. dxe6?! (19. a3! f5 20. Bh6 Bh8 21. Rc3 e4 22. Rh3 Be5 and white is somewhat better) 19… Rxe6 20. Bf1 Rae8 21. Red1 Qc6 22.Bf4 h5 23. Bxd6 Re2 24. Qd3 Rxa2 25. c5 bxc5 26. Rxc5 Qb6 27. Qb5 Qxb5 28. Bxb5 Rd8 29. Rc7 Ba6 30. Bd7 Be2 31. Be7 Bxd1 32. Bxd8 Ra1 33. Bg5 Bc2+ 0-1 Petursson,M (2350)-Janosevic,D (2455)/Lone Pine 1978) 16… f5 17. exf5 gxf5 18. f4 and white didn’t have much but went on to win in Schinzel,W (2375)-Jasnikowski,Z (2380)/Warsaw 1981. I think better is 15…Nc7 16. Bh6! TN and white has an edge.

16. Bg4! Rf8 Black must make a crawling retreat. His position is critical.

17. Qd3 The simple 17. Bh6 is very good too.

17…Kh8 18. f4 Qd8 19. f5 Nc7


20. fxg6?! 20. Bd4 is winning. 20…Nxd5 (20… Bxd4+ 21. Qxd4+ f6 22. fxg6 hxg6 23. Rc3 Nxd5 24. exd5 Kg7 25. Rg3 Rh8 26. Bf5 Rh6 27. Qe4 Qe8 28. Rff3! Kh7 29. Rxg6 Rxg6 30. Rg3 is crushing) 21. exd5 Bf6 22. fxg6 hxg6 23. Rxf6! exf6 24. Rf1 Kg8 25. Bxf6 forces black to resign. The text is not as efficient, but white is still winning.

20… hxg6 21. Bg5 Nxd5 22. exd5 22. cxd5 is very strong. For example, 22…Bf6 (22… Kg8 23. Rf2 a5 24. b5 Bc8 25. Rxc8 Rxc8 26. Bxc8 Qxc8 27. Bxe7) 23. Rxf6 exf6 24. Qd4 Kg7 25. Rf1 and white wins.

22… Bc8 23. Qh3+?! The simple 23. Bxc8 Rxc8 24. Qe4! Rc7 25. Rce1! f6 26. Re3! keeps a big attack.

23…Kg8 24. Rfe1?! One again, 24. Bxc8 Rxc8 25. Qh4 f6 26. Be3 f5 27. Qg5 Kf7 28. Qh4 Kg8 29. Bg5 Rf7 30. Rf3 Kf8 31. Re3 f4 32. Re6 is winning.

24… Bxg4 25. Qxg4 Bf6 26. Bxf6 exf6 27. Rc3 Re8 28. Rf1 28. Rce3!? was interesting. White has moved out of the clear win category and is now only in the stands better category.

28…Re5 29. Rcf3 f5! 30. Rxf5 Qd7 When the queens come off, black’s rooks will become very active and any white win becomes far off.

31. R5f4 Qxg4 32. Rxg4 a5! 33. a3 axb4 34. axb4 b5! Generating counterplay in a very similar manner to the Blocker game presented above.


35. Rd1 bxc4 36. Rxc4 Ra2 37. h3 f5 38. Rd3 Kf7 39. Rc7+ Kf6 40. Rd7



40… Re1+! 41. Kh2 f4! tries to make a mating net and is a valid winning attempt(!) for black. Then, 42. Rf3! White has to avoid the tempting but highly incautious capture 42. Rxd6+?? which is what black is hoping for. The mating net forms after 42…Kg5 43. Re6 Rf1 44. Re5+ Kf6 45. Re6+ Kf7 and black wins! After 42. Rf3!, 42… g5 43. Rxd6+ Kf5 44. Re6 Rd1 draws.

41. Rxd6+ Kf5 42. Re6 42. g4+ Ke4! 43. Rb3 Ra1+ 44. Kf2 Ra2+ is drawn. The text is also hopelessly drawn.

42… Rxd5 43. Rxd5+ Kxe6 44. Rd8 Rb2 45. Rb8 Ke5 46. b5 f3 47. b6 Rxg2+ 48. Kf1 Kd6 49. Rf8 Rb2 50.Rg8 Ke5 51. Rxg6 Kf4 52. h4 Rb1+ 53. Kf2 Rb2+


A good comeback by Wozney after his terrible opening. Just for fun I direct readers to a Wozney 10-move victory in Ohio.

Of course, immediately after the decent (semi-bungled) game vs Wozney I uncorked another dreadful effort, this time versus former US Championship participant, James T. Sherwin. The readers may remember Mr. Sherwin for some titanic Bobby Fischer encounters as well as a GAF insider stock trading scandal (it made the financial newspaper front page, although Mr. Sherwin’s convinction was later overturned!).   See Table 1 of this web page for Sherwin’s name in a rogue’s list.  Weirdly, when I was living in Switzerland in the 1999-2000 timeframe, playing in the Swiss League versus the likes of Huebner and Andrei Sokolov, so was Mr. Sherwin. He is listed as living there!

US Open, Round 11. 8/26/76

IM James T. Sherwin (2344) – Mark Ginsburg (2095)

Modern Defense 50/150

1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. d4 d6 4. e4 Nc6 It’s a very interesting question for King’s Indian players – can we get the same formation without posting the KN on f6 right away? If we can, we might save some time. That’s why the Modern Defense (no early Ng8-f6) is sometimes seen.

5. Be3 e5 6. d5 Nce7 7. c5!? A very challenging move to strike at the queenside in an accelerated way. Black must be very careful.

7…a6 7…Bh6 and 7…Nf6 are other possibilities.

8. Qa4+ Bd7 9. Qb4 [68] Qb8 [22] 10. Na4?! 10. Nf3 Nf6 11. cxd6 cxd6 12. Rc1 gives white a significant advantage.

10…Nc8 Necessary, but black keeps a good defensive structure here. It might look a little weird, but he has hidden resources that will soon become apparent.

11. Rc1 Nf6 12. f3 We are soon getting to the key position.

12…O-O [32] 13. Bd3 [90] As you can see from the time elapsed, Sherwin liked to think! He had a very serious and somewhat intimidating board demeanor.

13…Nh5?? [36] A critical misjudgment. Black was playing way too quickly. I must act to clarify the queenside; going for breaks like …f7-f5 totally fail to meet the requirements of the position. Correct is the unusual 13…a5! 14. Qa3 (or 14. Qb3) c6! with the point that, e.g., 14. Qb3 c6 15. dxc6 Bxc6 16. Ne2 d5 is reasonable for black. For example, 17. O-O h6! prevents Be3-g5 and black is OK. Even worse for white is 15. cxd6? cxd5! and now if white plays the incautious 16. exd5?? Bxa4! 17. Qxa4 Nxe5 hits the bishop on e3; the d6-pawn falls, and white winds up a pawn down with a lost game. It takes rather advanced insight to see that …c7-c6! is the right break to aim for here. The key is that white directed his QN offside prematurely.

14. Ne2 f5 15. O-O Bxa4?? A positional blunder of the worst magnitude. Black is now dead lost. 15…Nf6 had to be tried.

16. Qxa4 dxc5 17. exf5 Nb6 18. Qb3 gxf5 19. Bxc5 Rf6 20. Be7 Rf7 21. Bxf5! Rxf5 22. d6+ Rf7 23. dxc7 White concludes the game effortlessly.

23…Qe8 24. Qxb6 Rxe7 25. Rfd1 Rd7 26. Qxb7 Rc8 27. Qxc8 Qxc8 28. Rxd7 Bf6 29. Rcd1 1-0

A really poor effort, where I robotically steered for the “King’s Indian Break” of f5 where it made no sense. The moral is to judge each position independently on its own merits. The offside WN on a4 gave black the surprising …c5-c6! plan which I failed to notice.