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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Franz Gutmayer and Emil Joseph Diemer – Loathsome Men

      Franz Gutmayer, a mediocre player, (December 18, 1857 – May 13, 1937 in Vienna) was an Austrian chess writer. His chess books were in the first half of the 20th century popular because they suggested casual players could become masters with little effort by learning to play brilliant games. In his books he emphasized the importance of tactics, often comparing them to military tactics. His idol was Paul Morphy and he criticized as "cowardly" the games of the professional chess player of his time. Gutmayer played in various minor German tournaments from 1883 to 1886 and 1898 to 1911, doing respectably but not standing out.
      His particular hatred was Jewish players and he railed against them in hias chess books with anti-Semitic tirades that exceeded those of Bobby Fischer. Richard Reti and Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch were favorite targets. The Fireside Book of Chess says he wrote a book called How to Become a Chess Master, although he himself was never able to earn the title. That probably came originally from Réti, who made the same comment in an article very critical of Gutmayer.
      According to historian Raymond Fauber it was Gutmayer who inspired Reti to write his classic Modern Ideas in Chess. Fauber wrote, “During 1921 Réti also became infuriated by the writings of a chess hack, Franz Gutmayer. Gutmayer, who never achieved master rank, had the cheek to publish a book on how to become a master. Books flowed from his pen and cash flowed into his pocket. It was more than Réti could bear silently. He set out to blast Gutmayer’s idiocies sneering that ‘this Gutmayer who might in perhaps fifty years time be so far advanced as to comprehend Steinitz … has at present achieved this much at least – a partial understanding of Morphy.”      
      Gutmayer wrote about two dozen chess books, most of which expounded his “racial theories” and eventually became the basis of Nazi attitudes towards chess. According to Gutmayer, real chess is anti-theoretical and romantic, as epitomized by Morphy. This chess was standard, he says, in the years before Jews perverted the game. Steinitz and Lasker were particular targets and Gutmeyer called them all kinds of crude names. I will not print any of his racists remarks because they are so vile that they do not bear repeating.
      It was a sign of the times in the Austro-Hungarian Empire that, according to Lowenthal (Chess Player’s Chronicle, 1852) an attempt to form a chess club in Vienna had placed all the authors of the proposal under the surveillance of the police. This phenomenon was not unique to Austria-Hungary. The Saint Petersburg chess club was also very controversial, and the banning of that club in 1862 was considered a very important political event. As far back as the 1840s, the choice of chess locale in Vienna was determined by politics. Liberals played at one café and conservatives and military officers would never enter it.      
      The revolutions of 1848 had a major impact on chess in the empire. Of the three great Hungarian players, only Szén stayed, while Löwenthal fled first to the United States and later to England, and Grimm converted to Islam and moved to the Middle East. Ernst Falkbeer had been a journalist for a Vienna newspaper; when it was closed by the censor, he left for England and Germany.      
      In 1857, the Vienna chess club was founded, and the high fees kept the club membership confined to the upper-class, but relatively liberal laws which had been passed regarding restrictions on Jews and the rise of a few important Jewish chess patrons meant the club had a wide range of political views, and became a central point for political discussion as well as for chess. As a reaction to the influx of Jews in the 1880s and ‘90s, anti-Semitism in chess (and in Vienna in general) increased dramatically. Steinitz, who remembered a relatively tolerant Vienna from his student days in the early 1860s, was shocked at the anti-Semitism displayed in the 1890s.
      In Germany, the chess association restricted tournament play to members of German birth or nationality. In Vienna, chess was divided into three groups. The national club excluded Jews. The worker’s chess movement, founded in 1909, saw chess as a form of class struggle. By the end of the1920s this explicitly socialist club had more than 1,200 members. The Jewish club was formed as a response to the national club. The Jewish club was a popular spot for GM simuls, not only with Jews such as Lasker and Rubinstein, but later for the anti-Semitic Alekhine. Matches were held between the clubs, but feelings ran so high that matches involving the Jewish club had to be held on neutral territory. Given the circumstances prevailing in that day, it must have been particularly galling to Gutmayer that he lost to many Jewish players.

      Emil Joseph Diemer was born in 1908 in the German town Radolfzell, in Baden. In 1931, he was out of work and joined the German Nazi party, where he became an active member. He was present at all important international chess events and became the "chess reporter of the Great German Reich": his articles appeared in Nazi publications. In 1942-1943, he played correspondence and tournament games with Klaus Junge. After the war, he continued his chess journalism, sold chess books, and gave simuls, but the stigma of his Nazi past made it difficult to support himself. His successes in chess were few.
      In 1953, he was expelled from the German chess federation, whose officials he had accused, in a press campaign, of "homosexuality and corruption of innocent youth". It was not until 1956, in the Netherlands, that Diemer finally enjoyed real success, winning the Reserves Group of the Hoogovens tournament and later the Open Championship of the Netherlands.
      He became less interested in chess, and increasingly interested in Nostradamus, the famous 16th century French clairvoyant: he claimed to have cracked Nostradamus's secret code, and over 25 years, is said to have mailed over 10,000 letters on the subject. In 1965 he was committed to a psychiatric clinic in Gengenbach. The clinic's director, believing that chess was excessively stressful for Diemer, banned him from playing the game. In 1971, however, this ban was rescinded, and Diemer's membership in the German chess federation was also reinstated. Diemer now played first board as member of a German chess club team. Still lacking financial independence, however, he continued to stay in Gengenbach as a semi-residential patient of the hospital until the end of his life.
      Diemer played many unorthodox openings, like the Diemer-Duhm Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.e4 e6 3.c4) and the Alapin-Diemer Gambit (1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Be3), but is most famous for his refinements to an old idea by Armand Edward Blackmar (1. d4 d5 2. e4 dxe4 3. f3), commonly known as the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (1. d4 d5 2. e4 dxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f3).
      Like Gutmayer, Diemer was highly anti-Semitic and wrote many hateful tirades. Although he was initially a Nazi Party member and anti-Semite later he became even more obsessed with homosexuals in chess than Jews in chess. His theories on Jewish vs. German chess were German chess was romantic and good, while Jewish chess was risk-free, defensive, and evil.
      There are several books devoted to Diemer, which may seem surprising for a non-GM but most of them were written by the cult following his gambits. The most significant book though is Emil Joseph Diemer: Ein Leben für das Schach im Spiegel seiner Zeit (Emil Joseph Deimer: A Life for Chess in the Mirror of his Times) by a Diemer disciple named Georg Studier. Studier freely discussed Diemer’s unrepentant pro-Nazi views. Strangely, Diemer seems to have remained on good personal terms with many of the Jewish chess masters he knew.
      Studier described Diemer’s admiration for Hitler and his approval of the brutal 1934 elimination of Ernst Röhm and other SA officers, which Diemer regarded as a triumph of good over evil. At the same time Studier relates Diemer’s special bond with Nimzovitch, a Latvian Jew, recounting how Nimzovich’s death in 1935 hit Diemer hard.
      Regarding Nimzovitch, Studier describes an incident Diemer witnessed in Germany some time in 1934, soon after the Nazis had come to power. Though petty compared to their later atrocities, it was still malicious. Nimzovitch, apparently in Nuremberg to observe the Alekhine-Bogoljubow World Championship match, had in a moment of impulsive generosity invited more or less everyone else of importance attending the match, including Nazi officials, to be his guest at the Café Habsburg. Anti-Semitic Reich policies, though not nearly as harsh as they would later become, were already causing many Jewish businesses to close. As the Habsburg was the last café in Nuremberg still run by and open to Jews, Nimzovitch assumed few if any non-Jews, especially Nazi Party members, would attend. To his surprise and chagrin, a large number did, not because they desired his company, but so that they could stick him with the bill! Nimzovitch, never a man of means, had to pay a tab he could ill afford.
      Under the Nazis, it even became policy to rename any opening variation given to a Jewish player, and to try to erase Jewish players from the chess history books, or at least represent them only by their lost games. Studier wrote that in the early 1930s, with regard to chess journalism, the party bosses announced “We take no notice of Jews.”

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