18 July 2014

Losing takes a Toll

McDonnell -- De La Bourdonnais 1834

Alexander McDonnell won his first game with the White pieces in his first match with Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais. After that success, however, he lost nine and had one draw with the White pieces. All the rest of his wins were from the Black side. Game ten can be found in the post, "Small Errors".

In game eleven, White was already worse after ten moves.

White to move
After 10...Rb8
Black's forces are better mobilized and his king is more secure. How did White get himself into such a position?

McDonnell,Alexander -- De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe [C33]
London m1 London (11), 1834

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 g5 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.d4

6.Nf3 is playable, but McDonnell's move seems more popular and is sound.

6...d6 7.Be2?!

This retreat or redeployment of the bishop seems out of character for the King's Gambit. It appears to be unique to this game. Perhaps McDonnell experienced a moment of panic as a consequence of losing a string of games. Perhaps this panic put him in a defensive mood. If he did, he bounced back two moves later, but not in a way that was helpful to his cause.

7.Nf3 would be played by Anderssen and others. Anderssen's score from this position, however, is less than enviable. Black's set-up appears to have neutralized the King's Gambit.

7...Nc6 8.e5 Nge7 9.Nb5?

This move strikes me as a premature attack. Black's queen and pawns are capable of doing damage on the kingside. White should drive the queen back and bring the rest of his pieces into a battle for the center.

9...0–0 10.Nxc7 Rb8

We reach the diagram position above. White has gained back the sacrificed pawn. But Black's forces are better mobilized and his king is more secure.


11.exd6? Bxd4

11...Qh6 12.exd6 Nf5

White to move


I might have tried 13.Kg1. However, Black is clearly better after 13...Ncxd4 14.c3 Nxe2+ 15.Qxe2 Qxd6 16.Nb5 Qb6+ 17.Nbd4 Nxd4 18.cxd4 Bxd4+ 19.Nxd4 Qxd4+.

13...Ng3+ 14.hxg3 Qxh1+ 15.Kf2 fxg3+ 16.Kxg3

It is beginning to appear that g3 is McDonnell's favorite square for the White king. Perhaps he needs an opening where he gets a chance to castle.

16...Qxd1 17.Bxd1 h6

White to move


McDonnell eems to have the idea to secure the pawn on d6. However, I think that this is another weakening move.

I might have tried 18.d5 Na5 19.Ba4 a6 or 18.Be3 f5 19.Bb3+ Kh7 20.Kh2 f4 21.Bd2.

18...b5 19.Be3

19.Ba3 b4 20.cxb4 Nxd4

19...f5 20.d5?!

Perhaps 20.Bd2 was best.

20...f4+ 21.Kh2 fxe3 22.dxc6 g4

White to move


At first glance, 23.d7 looks strong. However, after 23...gxf3 24.Bxf3 Bxd7 25.cxd7 Bxc3 26.Rc1 Black's material advantage is greater than it was in the game.

23...Be5+ 24.Kg1 Bxd6 25.Ncxb5 Bc5 26.b4 Bb6 27.Nd6 Bxd4 28.cxd4 Rxb4 29.Nxc8 Rxc8 30.d5 Kf7 31.Bb3 Ke7 32.Kf1 Re4 33.Ke2 Rf8

White to move


Black also should win easily after 34.Rf1 Rxf1 35.Kxf1 Kd6 36.Ke2 h5 37.g3

34...Re5 35.Re1 Kd6 36.Rxe3 Rxe3+ 37.Kxe3 h5 38.Ke4 h4 39.Bd1 h3 40.gxh3 gxh3 41.Bf3

Black to move

41...h2 42.Bg2 Rf1! 0–1

La Bourdonnais illustrates how to convert an advantage gained through anemic opening play by one's opponent. Continue reading about the next game of the match in "Weakened King".

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