16 July 2014

Small Errors

McDonnell -- De La Bourdonnais 1834

Down 4-2 plus three draws (not counted), Alexander McDonnell continued his losing streak in the tenth game (see "Two Losses" for games eight and nine). His response to the Queen's Gambit gave him a difficult position, but one where he might have held. Alas, Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais continued to give him small problems to solve and he eventually found himself a pawn down in a knight ending.

De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe -- McDonnell,Alexander [D20]
London m1 London (10), 1834

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3

Modern databases contain very few games with this position that precede the McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais matches. 3...b5 appears as early as Greco, and likely precedes him. 3...e5 appears in two games between George Atwood and Philidor. Although the Queen's Gambit had been long known, it was essentially a slightly unorthodox opening in the 1830s.


McDonnell offers a line where the queens come off quickly and both sides get pawn majorities.

4.dxe5 Qxd1+ 5.Kxd1

La Bourdonnais accepts the offer of a queenless middlegame, and then outplays McDonnell. It is our task to identify where McDonnell might have improved his play.

5...Nc6 6.f4 Be6 7.Bd2

This game is the only one in ChessBase Online that contains this move. The other thirteen games with the position after Black's sixth move are between class players. Black has done well. But play has been far from optimal in this small sample of games between relatively weak players.

7...Bc5 8.Nf3

Black to move


Preventing the knight's move to g5 is part of the effort to maintain the pawn on c4.

He might have tried 8...Rd8 9.Ng5 Bg4+ 10.Kc1 (10.Be2 Bxe2+ 11.Kxe2 Black's queenside majority balances White's central/kingside majority) 10...b5.

9.Nc3 Rd8

Threatening e3 by pinning its defender

10.Ke1 Nge7?

10...a6 merits consideration, as it may have been the last chance to avoid a one pawn deficit.


Black to move

White increases the pressure on c4.


11...a6 no longer saves the pawn. 12.Ne4 Bb4 13.Bxc4.


Both of Black's c-pawns are under attack.

12...Bxd2+ 13.Nxd2 Rd7 14.Bxc4 Bxc4 15.Rxc4

Black to move

White has a clear advantage

15...0–0 16.Nf3 Rfd8 17.Ke2 Nd5 18.Nbd4 Nxd4+

18...Na5 does not seem to help. 19.Rcc1.

19.Rxd4 c5

This move drives the rook back this moment, but it also creates a permanent weakness on d6.


Black to move


White's central pawns are stronger after 20...b5 21.Rhd1 Kf8 22.e4 Nb6 23.Rxd7 Rxd7 24.Rxd7 Nxd7 25.Kd3 Ke7.

21.a3 Rxd2+ 22.Nxd2 Nc6 23.Nc4

This knight prepares to occupy d6, athough the usefulness of this square is not entirely clear.


23...Kf8 24.Rd1 Ke7 25.Rxd8 Nxd8 26.g4 or Kd3 as in the game, and White still has the upper hand.

24.Rd1 Rxd1 25.Kxd1 Kf8 26.Ke2 Ke7 27.Kd3 Ke6 28.Ke4 Ne7 29.g4

Black to move

White's pawns now dominate the center of the board

29...g6 30.a4 f5+ 31.exf6 Kxf6 32.Ne5

The knight is placed even better on e5 than upon d6.


White to move

33.Nxg6! Nc8

33...Nxg6 34.f5+ Kf6 35.fxg6 Kxg6 36.h4 with an easy win for White.

34.f5+ Kd6 35.h4 Kc7 36.Ke5 Nd6 37.f6 a6 38.Ke6 b5 39.axb5 axb5 40.f7 Nxf7 41.Kxf7 Kd6 42.Nf4 c4 43.g5 hxg5 44.hxg5 b4 45.Ne2 1–0

It seems to me that McDonnell was strategically lost before move fifteen when he lost a pawn. The eleventh game is discussed in "Losing Takes its Toll".

No comments:

Post a Comment