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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Edith Price and The Gambit

 
     In 1948 Edith Price won the British Ladies Championship at the age of 76, the oldest player ever to win a national championship. She won the British Women’s Championship 5 times (1922, 1923, 1924, 1928, and 1948). She played in her first Ladies Championship in 1912, finishing second and almost took the title in 1920 and 1921, when she narrowly missed out in the playoffs, after tying for first. She took sixth at London 1927 (the first Women's World Chess Championship) and took second at Folkestone 1933 (the fourth Women's World Chess Championship), both won by Vera Menchik. She was the woman's world chess championship challenger in 1927 and 1933.
      In 1898 she founded the Gambit Chess Room for men only except for waitresses. The club was open every day except for two days in 1940 when it was bombed during a Nazi raid. It was located on Budge Row in London.  You can view a 1946 video of the Gambit Room HERE.
      According to Leonard Barden there were normally around 30 people there, 50 at lunchtime, and Kriegspiel was popular. The policy used to be no female customers, but this was relaxed by the mid-forties and Barden remembered playing Eileen Tranmer in a tournament game in the basement, which was reserved for serious chess. It was also the site of the Britain v USSR 1946 radio match.
      The high point of the Gambit week was the Saturday 'Gambit Guinea'. I find British money rather confusing but I think a Guinea is a value a little over one pound rather than a coin or note. Anyway a Guinea was the first prize in lightning tournaments played at ten seconds per move with the timing done by striking a cup with a spoon. These events came to be quite strong with several British championship players and strong amateurs taking part.
      Eventually The Gambit was demolished by developers who built the headquarters of Legal and General; the building was regarded as an architectural eyesore and eventually was itself rebuilt and as a result Budge Row no longer exists.
      Google lists a book about her at $42!

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