31 August 2014


McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1834

In game twenty of their first match, Alexander McDonnell sacrificed development for material gain. Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais took advantage of this error to launch a decisive attack against White's vulnerable king. McDonnell (1798-1835) was the top player in England in the 1830s. La Bourdonnais (1795-1840) had been France's strongest player for a decade. They met for the match at the Westminster Chess Club in London.

Chess Skills has an ongoing series featuring all of the games in the first match. The series begins with "Three Fighting Draws". My comments on game 19 are in "After a Long Drought ...". My annotations on these games are an element in my own chess training. I am not using chess engines to check my analysis, and make only very limited reference to the work of other commentators.

McDonnell,Alexander -- De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe [C33]
London m1 London (20), 1834

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 d6 5.d4 Bg4

5...g5 was La Bourdonnais' choice in other games.


I prefer 6.Nf3.


White to move


Employing a tactic that appears in some of the oldest chess books, McDonnell seizes the opportunity to win a pawn or two.

7.Nf3 might still be worth playing.

7...Kxf7 8.Qb3+ Kg6 9.Qxb7 Nxd4!

Offering the rook may have been a surprising move to the British player.

9...Rc8 10.Qxc6 with a one pawn advantage for White.

10.Qxa8 Nf6

White to move

White has won the exchange, but most of Black's pieces are in play.

11.Na3 f3 12.g3

12.Nxf3 Bxf3 13.gxf3 Qh3+.

12...Bh3+ 13.Ke1

13.Nxh3? Qxh3+ 14.Ke1 Qg2.
13.Kf2 Ng4+ 14.Ke1 f2+.

13...Qg4 14.Be3 d5 15.Qxa7

15.Bxd4 loses the queen. 15...Bb4+ 16.c3 Rxa8.

15...Nc6 16.Qxc7 d4

White to move


17.Nxh3 does not seem better 17...dxe3 18.Nf4+ Kh6 19.Qxc6 f2+ 20.Kf1 Qf3.
17.Bf2 may hold 17...Qxe4+ 18.Kd1.

17...Qxe4+ 18.Kd1 f2 19.Nxh3 Qf3+ 20.Kc1 Qxh1+ 0–1

McDonnell will win the next game.

1 comment:

  1. "Offering the rook may have been a surprising move to the British player"

    Ah, you found the face-saving explanation, probably true as well.

    Joseph Blackburne would later sac the Ra8, and do king walks, and win games in his sleep like this, except that the "Black Death" would sac much more material than this. The QxRa8 plan is so dufferish now, that this game is only inspiring because of Labordannais' absolutely beautiful finish.