Tag Archives: Chess

Jew of the Week: Isaac Rice

Chess Master, Musician, Submarine Tycoon

Isaac Rice

Isaac Leopold Rice (1850-1915) was born in Bavaria to a German-Jewish family, and grew up in Philadelphia. At 19, he went back to Europe and studied music at the National Conservatory of Paris. At the same time, he was a European correspondent for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, and regularly wrote newspaper articles. After three years, Rice briefly moved to England and became a music teacher. He was an avid chess player and won a UK chess championship in Manchester. Rice then moved to New York and wrote his first book, the philosophical “What is Music?” He taught music classes for ten hours a day in order to support his struggling parents and siblings, and spent several more hours composing new music. In 1878 he enrolled in Columbia Law and graduated at the top of his class two years later. Rice worked primarily with railroad companies, and over the next decade became the most famous railroad lawyer in America. Meanwhile, he co-founded Columbia’s school of political science, and taught the subject (along with law and economics) for four years. He also established Forum Magazine, and was a regular contributor for decades. Rice was fascinated by electricity and its potential. In 1892 he bought out the failing Electro-Dynamic Company, producer of motors and generators. He then founded the Electric Vehicle Company, and is thought to be the first person in New York to have a car, bringing another dozen motorized cabs to operate in the city for the first time. In 1897, Rice bought the Electric Storage Battery Company and the Holland Torpedo Boat Company, creating his new Electric Boat Company. Rice secured a contract with the US government to build America’s first submarines (designed by John Philip Holland). He went on to supply the US Navy with 85 submarines and 722 submarine chasers, which were instrumental in World War I, as were his 580 motor boats for the British Royal Navy. Rice sold his Electric Boat Company for $2 million several months before he passed away. His companies later formed General Dynamics, today one of the largest military contractors in the world, employing over 100,000 people, and still the main supplier of the Navy’s submarines. (The company’s most famous creation: the F-16 fighter jet.) Rice continued to play chess and host tournaments until his last days. He is credited with playing a key role in boosting the popularity of chess in America. Rice was president of the Manhattan Chess Club, and discovered a classic opening move of chess that is named after him (the Rice Gambit). His large New York home, which he built in 1903, is an official historical landmark, and currently houses a yeshiva.

Amazing Discovery of Biblical Joseph’s Statue in Egypt

Words of the Week

This is a fight for the homeland – it is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road. The Jews of Palestine will have to leave. We will facilitate their departure to their former homes. Any of the old Palestine Jewish population who survive may stay, but it is my impression that none of them will survive.
– former PLO chairman Ahmed Shukairy

New York City is famous for its cabs. It all began with a set of motorized cabs, like the Electrobat on the right (designed by Morris and Salom) – first introduced by Isaac Rice.

Jew of the Week: Susan Polgar

Susan Polgar – Best Chess Player of All Time?

Zsuzsanna Polgár (b. 1969) was born in Budapest, Hungary, the eldest of the famous Polgar sisters who were raised by their father as an “educational experiment” designed to prove that “geniuses are made, not born”. Polgar’s parents home-schooled her, focusing especially on chess. By the age of 4, Polgar won her first chess tournament. In the same year, she composed a novel chess problem, making her the youngest chess composer of all time. By 12, she was the world under-16 champion. At 15, she was the world’s top-rated female chess player. Breaking the gender barrier, Polgar insisted on playing against men. In 1991, she became the first female Grandmaster of chess, and in 1992, the first ever chess player (male or female) that won all 3 types of chess world championships. Among her many other accolades, she was undefeated in 56 Chess Olympiad games, winning 10 medals. Stunningly, she has set a world record by simultaneously playing 326 games (309 of which she won!) She also holds the world record for most games played (1131) and most games won (1112). Polgar was part of the “Chess for Peace” movement, and started the charitable Susan Polgar Foundation. If that’s not impressive enough, she is a writer, too, regularly contributing to various magazines, and has written 6 books. Though most of her family now lives in Israel, Susan remains in the United States and continues to serve on the World Chess Federation.

Passover Begins Monday Night! Click Here to Learn More

Words of the Week

Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because there was idolatry, promiscuity and murder. But the Second Temple, at which time they were occupied in Torah, mitzvot and charity, why was it destroyed? Because there was baseless hatred between them.
– Talmud, Yoma 9b

Jew of the Week: Samuel Reshevsky

Chess Prodigy Shmuel Reshevsky

Szmul Rzeszewski (1911-1992) was born near Lodz, Poland. By age 8 he was easily defeating skilled adults in the game of chess. In 1920, his family moved to the U.S., where the nine year old Reshevsky was supporting his family financially through his earnings playing in chess tournaments. In 1922, he was the youngest ever to compete in the New York Masters Tournament. This caught the ire of the government, since Reshevsky was not attending school. Thus, he gave up chess for 7 years while he zoomed through his formal education (and became, officially, an accountant). Reshevsky returned to chess and immediately won the US Open Chess Championship. He would win the championship an amazing 8 more times in his life. He still holds the record for most championship matches (21), most games played (269) and most games won (127). He was equally successful globally, winning his first international tournament in England in 1935, and receiving the title of International Grandmaster in 1950. Following this, Reshevsky won an 8-game match billed as the “Championship of the Free World”. Most famously was a 16-game match with rising star Bobby Fischer in 1961. Reshevsky would win many more awards over his career, and participated in a record 11 World Championships, defeating 7 world champions. Reshevsky also wrote several popular books on chess. Perhaps most impressively, he was a fully-observant Orthodox Jew, studied Torah every day, and never played a match on Shabbat. He once considered retirement and asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe for advice. The Rebbe suggested to keep playing, for it was a great Kiddush Hashem – sanctification of God. In the Jewish community of Crown Heights where he lived, he would always be known as “Shmulik der vunderkind”.

Words of the Week

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
– Lao Tzu