NEW YORK (AP) _ David Richards will succeed Frank Rich in the influential position of chief drama critic for The New York Times, the newspaper announced Tuesday.

Rich is becoming a columnist for the newspaper's op-ed page. As the newspaper's chief drama critic for the last 13 years, he was seen by many in the theater world as having the power to make or break a new play.

Vincent Canby will take over for Richards as Sunday drama critic, and Janet Maslin will take over for Canby as chief film critic, Executive Editor Max Frankel said. The appointments will be effective Dec. 1.

Richards, 53, has been Sunday drama critic for the Times since 1990. He was a theater critic for The Washington Post and The Washington Star before joining the Times. He is also the author of ''Played Out: The Jean Seberg Story,'' about the late actress.

Canby, 69, became the Times' chief film critic in 1969 after working for the newspaper as cultural news reporter. He has also worked as a reporter and critic at Variety and other publications and is the author of ''Unnatural Scenery,'' a novel published by Knopf in 1979, and three plays.

Maslin, 44, was a film editor and critic at the Boston Phoenix newspaper and a critic at Newsweek before joining the Times in 1977. She has also contributed articles to Rolling Stone magazine and other publications.