07 July 2014

McDonnell Strikes Back

McDonnell -- De La Bourdonnais 1834

After his loss in the fourth game, Alexander McDonnell had an opportunity with the White pieces. The Irish player outplayed Louis-Charles Mahe De La Bourdonnais and evened the score in their match at one win each.

McDonnell,Alexander -- De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe [B21]
London m1 London (5), 1834

1.e4 c5 2.f4

This opening, popular in the nineteenth century, again would become hot among amateur players after a handful of British players adopted it in the 1990s.


The first time I had this position was as Black in an email game. I had recently taken up the French and my opponent was a devotee of the Grand Prix Attack. I played 1...e6 then 2...c5. As with this game, the resulting position had elements common to the French Defense.

I find myself in this position with some frequency in online blitz, including the game that ended with the position in my blog's header. 2.f4 is a popular weapon both against the Sicilian and against the French.


3.Nc3 is viable, as is 2.Nc3 and 3.f4.

3...d5 4.e5 Nc6 5.c3

Black to move

McDonnell had this position twice in his match with W. Fraser three years earlier.


Would be played 13 times by La Bourdonnais, with eight Black wins, four White wins, and one draw. Fraser played 5...Be7.

5...Nh6 is worth considering.

5...Nge7 has been played by and against Hikaru Nakamura 6.Na3 Nf5 7.Nc2 and here Seirawan played 7...h5 Nakamura -- Seirawan, Saint Louis 2012. Two years earlier, Nakamura played 7...d4 Stripunsky -- Nakamura, Saint Louis 2010. Nakamura went on to win both games.

6.Na3 Nh6 7.Nc2 Be7

7...Qb6 would be La Bourdonnais' choice in subsequent games. This move is an improvement.

8.d4 0–0 9.Bd3

Black to move


I find the strategic idea behind this move suspect. Black is aiming for a queenside pawn storm after gaining a tempo against the bishop. However, White's greater board room gives his pieces better mobility and coordination. Black's play on the queenside is too slow.

9...Nf7 might have been worth considering.
9...fxe5 may have been best 10.fxe5 Nf5 11.0–0.

10.Be2 Bd7 11.0–0 b5 12.Ne3 a5 13.Kh1 fxe5

13...f5 might have done more to slow White's plans on the kingside, and thus equalize.

14.fxe5 Nf5

Black helps bring White's kingside pawns forward and ends up helping White's "bad" bishop get into the game.

15.g4 Nxe3 16.Bxe3

Black to move


Having committed to a course, perhaps it is best to strike with 16...b4.

17.Qd2 Bg6 18.Ng5 Bxg5 19.Bxg5 Qd7 20.h4 b4 21.Kh2 bxc3 22.bxc3 a4

22...Be4 was an alternative.
22...h6 is interesting 23.h5 Rxf1 24.Rxf1 Be4 25.Bh4.


Black to move

The decisive pawn thrust. White gets a clear advantage

23...Be4 24.h6 g6 25.Bf6 Rab8 26.Bg7 Qe7

White to move


A blunder was possible: 27.Bxf8?? Qh4+ 28.Kg1 Qg3#.

27...Rxf1 28.Rxf1 a3 29.Rf6 Na5

Black proceeds with a plan that has guided his game at least since move 9.

30.Bd1 Nb3 31.Qf2

31.axb3 cxb3 32.Bxb3 Rxb3? 33.Rf8+ is horrid for Black. This unplayed line offers more evidence that's Black's plan from the outset deserves reconsideration.

31...Nc1 32.Ba4 Nd3 33.Qf1

Black to move


This move prevents White's g-pawn from coming forward. However, it also creates another weakness.

34.Bc2 Nc5?

This move cannot be good.

Black might have tried 34...Bg6 35.Bxd3 cxd3 36.Rf2 d2 37.Rxd2 Rb2 when his original plan starts to look plausible. White maintains positional superiority.

34...Nf4 seems a better square for the knight, although Black appears much worse after 35.Bxe4 dxe4 36.Qxc4 e3.

35.dxc5 Bxc2 36.c6 Ba4 37.c7 Re8

37...Qxc7 38.Rf8+ Rxf8 39.Qxf8#.


Attacking the target created five moves ago.

38...Qxc7 39.Qxg5 Bc2 40.Bf8+ Bg6

White to move


41.Rxg6+ fails 41...hxg6 42.Qxg6+ Kxf8.

41...Qd7 42.Bd6 d4 43.Qf4 Qc8 44.Qxd4 Qc6 45.Qa7 1–0

La Bourdonnais's chief error seems strategic. He improved his ideas in this opening before the next opportunity. Up to this point in the match, McDonnell has shown play that is slightly superior to that of his opponent. See "McDonnell Takes the Lead" for game six.

1 comment:

  1. 34.Bd7! is winning on the spot. 34...Bf5 35.gxBf5 QxBd7, 36,fxe6 Qe7, 37.Kh3! threatening 38.Rf7. Yep, I do believe this ole boy has still got it (for one position, anyway). hehe. An amazing game by both players.