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CCLA Correspondence Chess

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Picture of Isaac Rice, inventor of the Rice Gambit, on
Isaac Rice

The Postal Warrior
The Rice Gambit, ECO: C39

by Bryce Avery

Seven years after CCLA's predecessor, the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association (PNCCA), begun in 1896, it held what was one of its biggest tournaments ever: a Rice Gambit thematic event (with a prize fund of $250) sponsored by the gambit's namesake, philanthropist Isaac Rice.

Rice was one of the royal game's more interesting people even beyond his gambit. During his career he was a railroad magnate, inventor, businessman, lawyer, and a few other things. At his death in 1915, Hermann Helms published a special section of his American Chess Bulletin honoring Rice and publishing a lot of analysis on his gambit.

For a fee of 50 cents, players in the April 1903 thematic tournament received Mortimer's book containing the latest analysis on the Gambit (also donated by Mr. Rice) and a place in one of 46 five-man round-robin sections to play two games as White and two as Black. The 46 winners, plus 15 more players who tied for first, each played four more games in 13 second-round sections: 11 five-man round-robin sections and 2 three-man double-round-robin sections.

The 13 winners then played a round-robin final for the $100 first prize, which was won by Dr. Palmer Gunkel Keeney of Newport, Kentucky at 10.5 - 1.5. Second place went to George Walcott of Roxbury, Massachusetts at 8.5 - 3.5, who later served as PNCCA's newsletter/magazine editor and figured prominently in PNCCA's remaining history.



To find the following game from the tournament required a trip to the Cleveland Public Library's White Collection, which I took last year and described in The Chess Correspondent. It is by the tournament winner and appeared in Walcott's magazine Corsair, which doubled as PNCCA's newsletter from early 1908 until the group's death in 1911. It may convince you to try the line sometime; the line does appear in ECO — but without any mention of Rice whatsoever.

PNCCA Rice Gambit Thematic, 1903
PGN Viewer courtesy of ChessTempo.

For more biographical information, try Tartajubow's blog on Professor Rice.