Friday 13 May 2016

The Rice Gambit

The Rice Gambit, a variation of the Kieseritsky Gambit, which is a variation of the King's Gambit, was originated by Professor Isaac Leopold Rice around 1895 and he subsequently devoted much of the next twenty years, up to his death in 1915, to researching, analysing, and testing the soundness of his gambit. 

Professor Rice sponsored many tournaments and matches in which only this opening was played and this was probably the most analysed opening variation in the early part of the 20th century. However, it has long since been abandoned in serious play and the whole episode is very curtly dismissed in The Oxford Companion.

Here I am not discussing the moves and analysis of this opening but simply outlining some of the literature on the gambit. Five editions of The Rice Gambit were published between 1898 and 1910 and, unusually, each edition had a different author/editor and a different publisher.

The first of these was The Rice Gambit by Samuel Lipshütz, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1898. This is a pamphlet of 23 pages with a Prefatory Note by Isaac L. Rice and analysis, by Lipshütz and Rice, of nine variations of the gambit accepted and two variations of the gambit declined.

Fifteen pages of analysis of the gambit were included in  The New Century Chess Book by James Mortimer, published by Sampson Low, Marston & Co., London, 1901, and this came to be regarded as the second edition of The Rice Gambit.

An advert for Chess Literature in American Chess Bulletin, volume IV, October 1907 page 209, included 1st, 2nd and 3rd editions of The Rice Gambit for sale, perhaps indicating that the second edition was also published separately. However I have been unable to trace any copies in major collections or libraries and perhaps it was Mortimer's book offered for sale.

Hermann Helms and Cassel Hartwig were the authors of the 3rd edition of The Rice  Gambit which was published by Treadwell, New York, 1903 or 1904. The date of publication is not given in the book and there are discrepancies in the description of this work in various sources. 

Betts 15-8 indicates a date of 1904 and 31 pages, even mentioning pages 27 and 29-31. However, Cleveland Public Library states 1903 and 26 +1 pages. The David DeLucia Chess Library catalogue, published in 2009 states 1903 and 26 pages.

The 4th edition of The Rice Gambit edited by Hermann Keidanz was published as a Souvenir Supplement of the American Chess Bulletin in New York, 1905. This was a substantial work of 111 pages and contained 108 variations of the gambit as well as a record of the tournaments devoted to testing it. Further supplements to the 4th edition, also by Keidanz, were published by American Chess Bulletin in 1909 and 1910, these contained 17 pages and 16 pages respectively. 

The fifth edition of The Rice Gambit was edited by Dr. Emanuel Lasker who also published the book, of 43 pages, in New York, 1910. Lasker gives only a luke warm endorsement to the gambit in his introduction stating that `the gambit will not yield to the first player as high a percentage of wins as the Ruy Lopez or the queen's pawn´ but acknowledges the `beauty hidden in the gambit´ and concludes that `the Rice Gambit will ever be a valuable asset for the analyst, the player, and the student´.

Lasker was secretary of the Rice Gambit Association formed in October 1904 with Professor Rice as president.

A Supplement to the fifth edition by Oldrich Duras was published by American Chess  Bulletin, New York, 1914. 

The only book published in English on a Rice Gambit tournament is Rice Gambit Consultation Tournament by Gustav H. Koehler, New York, 1910. This includes an analytical survey of the gambit, nine games from the tournament with annotations, and portraits of the players.  

 Twenty Years of the Rice Gambit page 372

A year after Professor Rice's death, Twenty Years of the Rice Gambit was published by American Chess  Bulletin, New York, 1916. Edited by Hermann Keidanz, this lavish work is the final monument to Professor Rice's gambit.

The book has 399 pages including over 250 pages of analysis and variations followed by an Appendix of over 100 pages containing biographical articles on Professor Rice, obituaries, resolutions by numerous Clubs and Institutions following Rice's death and results of various Rice Gambit tournaments and matches.

Folded leaf from Twenty Years of the Rice Gambit
                                         © Michael Clapham

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