The Postal Warrior - The Rice Gambit
The Postal Warrior

The Rice Gambit

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. P.G. 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.

Smith - Keeney

PNCCA Rice Gambit Thematic, 1903


1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 Nf6 6.Bc4 d5 7.exd5 Bd6 8.0-0 Bxe5 9.Re1

These moves were prescribed in all games.


One of Keeney's opponents as Black in this group gave the piece back immediately by 9...0-0?!, but most played the text, making White work a bit harder to regain the material.

10.c3 Bf5 11.d4 Nbd7 12.Bb5?! 0-0-0 13.Bxf4 Nh5 14.Bxe5

Just as White manages to regain his piece, Black finishes things off by giving him another one to digest.

14...Qxh4! 15.Bxh8 g3 16.Qf3 Nf4  0-1  (Black mates in two [or gives up the queen with 17. Qxf4 - ed].)

Game on this page as pgn

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