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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Professor Rice

     Isaac Leopold Rice (February 22, 1850 in Wachenheim, Bavaria – November 2, 1915) was an inventor, chess patron and author.
From 1884 to 1893 Rice was active in the railroad industry as an attorney or director and for a time was foreign representative in London of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. In 1885 he founded the "Forum" magazine, becoming the first president of the Forum Publishing Company. The corporate giant General Dynamics grew out of Rice’s Electric Boat Company, founded in 1899 to build John Philip Holland’s designs for the first U. S. Navy submarine, the Holland VI, which was commissioned in 1900. A year after the launching of their first vessel, the Holland VI, the management team of Holland and Lewis Nixon ran into bad luck and Rice took over in 1899 and renamed the company the Electric Boat Company.
     During World War I Rice’s company and its subsidiaries built 85 Navy submarines and 722 submarine chasers. Long one of the largest military contractors for the Pentagon and foreign governments, General Dynamics almost folded after the end of the Cold War, but regained momentum with the Gulf War and present conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
     Rice arrived in the United States with his mother at age six and attended Central High School in Philadelphia, then studied literature and music in Paris, where he met Julia Barnett, who came from a family of wealth and position. When Rice asked friends what the most common occupation of their richest friends was he ended up going to Columbia University's law school, first as student, then as teacher. He married Julia and they had six children. Family friends included the kings of Spain and Sweden, the Czar of Russia, Madame Curie, President McKinley and Pope Pius X.
     Julia earned a medical degree because she thought it would be helpful in raising children. Isaac’s wealth grew rapidly. His children were raised in an unorthodox manner. At an early age each child chose a lifestyle. Rice would then underwrite almost any interest they came up with. One had a seven-day bicycle racer for a tutor and another a three-cushion billiard player. They all grew up on a daily diet of calculus and chess and spent hours challenging each other with complex mental contests.
     When Dorothy, the oldest daughter, showed a talent for writing poetry, her father founded the Poetry Society of America and set up a salon in the grand ballroom of their 22-room apartment at the Ansonia Hotel. It was regularly attended by Theodore Dreiser, Gertrude Atherton, Richard LaGallienne and Frank Harris, always in white ties and tails. Later, Dorothy and husband Hal Sims became one of the most famous bridge-playing couples in the world.
     When daughter Polly took up motorcycle racing, he built her a garage. Daughter Marion Rice Hart was, at age 74, the first woman to make a solo transatlantic flight. She also wrote a definitive text on celestial navigation.
     Rice was a prominent figure in the US chess world, becoming president of the Manhattan Chess Club. The inventor of the Rice Gambit, he sponsored tournaments where that opening became the starting position of each game. Several chess clubs around the world are named in his honor. In 1902 he received honorary degree of LL.D. (Doctor of Law) from Bates College, a liberal arts college in Lewiston, Maine. Rice published book titles "What Is Music?" which was supplemented by "How the Geometrical Lines Have Their Counterparts in Music." He also contributed a large number of articles to various publications.
     In 1895 he discovered a variation of the Kieseritsky Gambit which then became known as the Rice Gambit. 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 g5 4 h4 g4 5 Ne5 Nf6 6 Bc4 d5 7 exd5 Bd6. He spent $50,000 subsidizing Rice Gambit tournaments. That translates to well over one million dollars in today’s currency.
     Dr. Reuben Fine writing in The Middle Game in Chess said, “Professor Rice, a New York amateur, had this position once and inadvertently left his knight en prise; then later he won the game. He was so impressed with his success that he immediately interested a number of the prominent masters in the move, which was easy enough to do because he had a lot of money. For several years the gambit was subjected to extensive analysis by the leading American masters.”
     In 1903 Mikhail Chigorin defeated Emanuel Lasker in a Rice Gambit match, held in Brighton, England. Lasker had White in all the games and played the Rice Gambit. Chigorin won 2 games, drew 3 games, and lost 1 game. Also in 1903 the Manhattan Chess Club held a Rice Gambit tournament. It was won by Julius Finn.
     On February 22-March 3, 1904, a Rice Gambit tournament was held in Monte Carlo, Monaco. It was won by Frank Marshall and Rudolf Swiderski. In November,1904, a Rice Gambit was held at the Metropolitan Chess Club in London and won by Richard Teichmann (13.5/16). Napier and Leonhardt took 2nd-3rd. Gunsberg took 4th. In 1904 the Brooklyn Chess Club had a Rice Gambit tournament. It was won by Hermann Helms.
     On April 2 to May 14, 1905, a Rice Gambit tournament was held in St. Petersburg. It was won by Mikhail Chigorin. In 1905 Napier defeated Marshall in a Rice Gambit match, held in London. Napier won 2 games, drew 1 game, and lost 1 game.
     After Rice died and the money dried up, masters quit wasting time on the Rice Gambit.  Is it sound? Theoreticians say no.

Recent Article on Rice Mansion


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