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Buffalo Born IM Mark Diesen 1957-2008

Ron from Albuquerque in a comment on the prior post brought up the following question:
"On a somber note, Mark Diesen, "native of Buffalo New York" passed away at age 51 on Dec 10th, 2008. He was World Junior Champ in 1976 (among other things). Obit appears on Susan Polgar's blog and TWIC. Though perhaps born in Buffalo, he may have grown up elsewhere. Does anyone know if he played chess while in Buffalo?"
The link to GM Susan Polgar's blog's post is at:
and a chess puzzle from one of his games, also from GM Susan Polgar's blog, is at:
A link to see 51 of his games is at:


  1. I have been in the Buffalo chess community for 33 years and can say without a doubt Mark Diesen never played here. I used to follow his play in the mid seventies back when Barry Davis,Jerald Meyers and Dr.Erich Marchand ruled the roost in the Buffalo chess community.

  2. I got a chance to play Mark on the icc as "Diesen" we had some interesting games and some brief conversations,a chess lover no doubt and im sure he will be missed by many ,most unfortunate.

  3. Thanks, Doug.

    Looking at the USCF rating-list archives in Chess Life (old issues available now on CD), we can place Mark Carl Diesen in Potomac, Maryland in his HS (and earlier - as early as 1969) chess years. At the same time, there was a Carl Diesen also active in Potomac. Flipping back, we can place Carl E. Diesen in the Buffalo area in the 50's. The first rating list in Chess Life appeared in 1950 (Nov 20, 1950 issue of Chess Life p. 3) with Carl Diesen already with a rating of 2055 at that time from Oregon, Wisonsin. By the Oct 5, 1951 list he was listed from Buffalo, NY (and in the next lists alternatively from Buffalo or Tonawanda). He wrote a letter to the editor in the Mar 20, 1952 issue (p.4) suggesting that chess clubs should be listed under "chess" in the phone books, instead of something like "Queen City Chess Club" since a new resident would be less likely to guess the correct name. (Chess clubs were listed in the phone books back then?) In that letter he identified himself from North Tonawanda.

    The dominant local chess force at the time was the waning veteran Roy T. Black, Sr. (T for Turnbull), then living in Williamsville (sometimes described as from Buffalo). Roy Black was born in NYC (Brooklyn) in Feb 14, 1888 and had his greatest chess successes while in Brooklyn (not sure when he moved upstate). He played Capablanca 5 times, including a win in a 1911 masters tournament in NYC. He was NYS Champ in 1914 and tied for 1st in the Manhattan Chess Club Championship with David Janowski in 1921. When USCF first instituted the "Master Emeritus" title in 1952, Roy Black was one of the 12 original title holders. Of course, Erich Marchand came down from Rochester in those days too, trading blows from time to time. Roy passed away in July 27, 1962 accoriding to Wikipedia.

    -ron (Albuquerque)

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  5. This is very sad news to see on my return from vacation with my family in NJ! Except for Larry Christiansen, Mark Diesen was the vanguard of the 1970s juniors, and Yasser Seirawan was the only other of us to become World Junior Champion. He defeated me en route to second behind Larry at the 1975 US Junior Championship (I got my revenge in a May 1976 open in NYC), and we drew when I placed 3rd at the 1976 US Junior while he and Michael Rohde shared first.

    What I remember most about Mark was his mild-manneredness, amid a raucous ego-and-teen-hormones-driven crowd. What also made him seem mature beyond his years was that (like Seirawan) he played in an advanced positional style. My mother also remembers him being genuinely nice after my aforementioned win---I recall his genuine surprise that my quasi-forced sac of Q for R+N+P proved so quickly effective.

    Mark was one of 10 top high-school players who toured Sweden and Norway in summer 1975, in a trip organized by Eric Moskow, whose condolences are here. From the Nov. 1975 Chess Life & Review article "Innocents (?) Abroad", "Diesen was a pleasure to watch. In one game he mated his opponent's Queen by a sacrificial attack just as if it were the King." He scored 17.5-2.5 in a 10x10x2 blitz match against the Swedish team. A scene that should have been filmed was us playing chain-multiple bughouse on the dirt/grass floor of the "Speiderhuset" (Boy Scout House) which was our original digs in Sandefjord, Norway. In the Nordic Open there, Diesen was the only American to jump out with the leaders, until Rohde passed him and tied for first with Mark a half-point behind (8-3, 5 wins + 6 draws---indeed, it seems Mark did not lose a non-blitz game during the whole trip).

    IM Mark Ginsburg, who grew up with Mark in the DC area of Maryland, will write his reminiscences as he notes here. At Mark's Knoxville News Sentinel (daughter's home) obituary page, there is a guest book sign-in page, which I will do after this is posted. Besides his key win over Rohde from the 1976 US Junior, let me link this solid draw as Black against Korchnoi from the 1979 Lone Pine tournament. As a religious believer, I hold that more of us survives than our games, and as an information theorist, I believe memories and actions are persistent---so I am happy to help in this where I can, and offer empathy with the surviving Diesen family.

  6. Ken I think you beat Mark Diesen in the 1975 Amateur Team Championship in New Jersey - see
    the amateur team memories page.

    Just to affirm things, yes, Mark Diesen grew up in Potomac MD next to me in Bethesda MD. And IM Steve Odendahl was the next town over from that, Chevy Chase MD.

  7. Hi, Mark (Ginsburg)---I see you've written an initial portion here.

    I knew about my 1975 win when I wrote my piece---so maybe his win later in 1975 was the "revenge"---but the game in the US Jr. Ch. was the more prominent memory. I think our overall score was 2-1-1, then. If my vague recollection of the US Amateur Team matchgame was correct, I strolled my King to the center to "consolidate" a nice advantage, but walked it a bit too far, and in a time scramble he missed some blows.

  8. There appears to be a game here in 77 Diesen Vs Regan where he wins after playing an interesting endgame. Dr. Regan is this one of the games you were referring to?

    -josh rofrano

  9. Wow, I hadn't known about the 365chess site! It has a different subset of my games from others. I had forgotten about that game, so it means that in games I know about, we had 2 wins apiece plus a draw.