Sarah's Chess Journal

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         The History and The Culture of Chess


In researching for information concerning the tournament held in Monte Carlo in 1902 I stumbled across a bit of curious information in a most unlikely place - The New Jersey State Chess Federation.

This organization has three issues of it's newsletter from about three years ago archived. One of these newsletters, from the Summer of 2004 contains a marvelous little article written by Lev D. Zilbermints about the first recorded instance of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (played by transposition). Mr. Zilbermints lightly annotated the game and I would encourage anyone interested to read his article.

The game, played in 1896, was played in a simultaneous exhibition given by the then ex-world champion, Wilhelm Steinitz. Steinitz' opponent was Pavel Pavlovich Bobrov. Brobov was a well-known chess journalist who founded the very popular Russian chess journal “Shashechni’tza,” later named “Shakhmatnoe Obozrienie”. He was also the secretary of the Moscow Chess Club and the organizer of the first three All-Russian tournaments in 1899,1901 and 1903. He was also a chess problemist but a player of decidedly sub-master strength.

In this game, contrary to normal simul practice, Steinitz played the black pieces.

The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit originated with the New Orleans player, Armand Edward Blackmar who proposed a basically unproductive opening called the Blackmar Gambit in 1882 - 1. d4 d5 2. e4 dxe4 3. f3.

Since, after 3...e5, black can easily equalize, this gambit quickly lost it's appeal.

Later, in 1932, Emil Joseph Diemer (1908-1990) would improve on the Blackmar Gambit by inserting the move 3. Nc3 and delaying the pawn move to f3 until move four. A typical Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (Accepted) would look like -
            1. d4 d5 2. e4 dxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f3 exf3 5. Nxf3

White's Knight on c3 and pawn on f3 are two identifying features of this gambit. In the 1896 game, Bobrov delays f3 until move 6 and in the meantime trades off his dark-square Bishop for Black's King's Knight.

Bobrov conclusively beat Steinitz who couldn't seem to find the best defense, but Bobrov shouldn't receive all the credit.

Diemer himself credited the discovery of the thematic move, 3. Nc3, to a mostly forgotten master from Lvov (then Poland, now Ukraine) named Ignatz Von Popiel. Popiel had only minor success in chess and generally scored low in major tournaments. He placed 16th in the 1902 Monte Carlo tournament. But Popiel was a good analyst who studied Blackmar's own analysis of his gambit and improved upon it, publishing his findings in the publication, Deutsches Wochenschach, in 1893. Bobrov, also a journalist, was undoubtedly quite aware of Popiel's work. (some less-than-ideal photographs of Popiel can be viewed in these groupshots)

Blackmar was a charter member of the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, but he was a native of Vermont. He was born in the town of Bennington on May 30, 1826. He graduated from the Western Reserve College of Ohio and eventually became a music professor at the Centenary College in Jackson, Louisiana. He became an acquaintance of Paul Morphy when he and his brother relocated their music publishing company that they formed in1858 from Vicksburg, Mississippi to New Orleans in 1860. After "Beast" Butler arrest him for publishing seditious music in 1862, they moved their business to Augusta, Georgia until the end of the New Orleans occupation in 1865. Blackmar, besides being a chess master, was an exceptional pianist and violinist. He named his first born child (in 1861)  Louisianna Rebel Blackmar.

Examples of his seditious music include:

Dixie war song (1861)
God and our rights (1861)
Short rations (1864)
Southern Marseillaise (1861/2)
The Southerons' Chaunt of Defiance (1861)
The Beauregard Manassas Quick-step (1861)
Those Dark Eyes. Favorite ballads of the South (1865/8)
Washington Artillery Polka March (1864)
You Can Never Win Us Back; a patriotic song (1864)

This information on Blackmar came from the Vermont Civil War site

Mr. Zilbermints  also included a reprint of an encyclopedia entry on Bobrov ant's worth repeating:

Russian chess community statesman, journalist and composer. Connected with Bobrov’s name is the publication of the magazine Chess Insight, published at intervals between 1891-1910. Bobrov was the editor of chess columns in many Moscow newspapers and magazines. He played a key role in publishing the chess column in Raduga (Rainbow) magazine, where from 1882 to ceasing of publication in 1897 were published the original chess problems of Russian authors. In this same chess section was organized the first contest of two-move problems, the judge of which was Bobrov himself. An enthusiast of chess art, Bobrov was the secretary, effectively the leader, of the Moscow Chess Circle, one of the organizers of the First, Second, and Third All-Russian Chess Tournaments. Bobrov was a very good problemist; a propagandizer of chess problems; organizer and judge of many chess contests, and author of articles on the questions of chess compositions.