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Louis Charles Mahe De La Bourdonnais vs Alexander McDonnell
"Big Mac and French Fries" (game of the day Mar-15-2010)
La Bourdonnais - McDonnell 4th Casual Match (1834), London ENG, rd 4
Queen's Gambit Accepted: Central Variation. McDonnell Defense (D20)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Mar-15-10  kevin86: A great pun on a great matchup.This was the Ali-Frazier of the 19thC chess world.
Mar-15-10  patzer2: Black's 22...Nd4! offers up an unusual discovered attack. Except instead of discovering an attack on a piece, this move discovers the threat on a critical square (i.e. d1) after 23. b4? Rd1+ while simultaneously threatening 23. Bc4 Nxf3+! as in the game continuation.

Technically, I suppose 22...Nd4! could be classified as a simple double attack. However, since the most effective discovered attacks are quite often double attacks and the move 22...Nd4! definitely discovers the threat 23. b4 Rd1+ or 23. Rxg7+ Kf6 24. Rg1 Rd1+ on the critical d1 square, I think I'll keep it in my discovered attack collection.

Also, my double attack collection is getting quite large and I think this classification will help me to remember this tactic (discovered attack on a critical square) a bit easier in the future.

Mar-15-10  Quad Fifties: when I see the dates of these old contests it makes the game itself all that more fascinating to me. pure chess. ahhh,the old days
Mar-15-10  patzer2: For my tactical game collections, the Queen sham positional sacrifice 13...Nxd5!! is in my "positional sacrifices" collection, 14...Ne3+! is in my "in-between move" collection and 22...Nd5! is in my "discovered attack" collection.
Mar-15-10  Edeltalent: <In one of his epigrams, Adolf Anderssen said: "Once get a Knight firmly posted at King 6 and you may go to sleep. Your game will then play itself". I presume that Anderssen was thinking on this game when he made that statement.>

Anderssen vs Staunton, 1851 comes to mind as well - although that one probably played itself even before the knight on e6 :-)

Apr-06-11  dumbgai: 15. Qxe3 fxe3 (or Bxe3) 16. Bxd6 gives White a better chance to hang on, I think.
Jun-25-11  Llawdogg: Wow! McDonnell's Immortal! 13 ... Nxd5!! Great move. Amazing queen sacrifice. All kinds of tactics. Great game.
Feb-01-12  Knight13: I do not understand 20... b5 at all. Otherwise, an outstanding game by Black!
Jun-15-12  ForeverYoung: 20 ... b5 was played to open the path for the rook on c8. I took a look at this game today on my board and pieces and was thoroughly impressed! I recall giving back some loot to break Black's initiative was discussed in Larry Evans' column in Chess Life & Review in the early '70s.
May-22-13  vajeer: I wonder if 16. Rxd6 would have given White some counter play.
Sep-27-13  Rii the Wordsmith: I'm not very well-versed in chess...why does the game end here? Why does white resign? I can see that the black rook has cornered the white king to one row of movement and the black knight could easily be used to threaten the king...but was it truly a hopeless game for white now? How might it have played out for white's downfall? I'm afraid I can't see it from here.
Sep-27-13  Jim Bartle: Rii: the white king cannot move. All black needs to do is give a check and protected against the queen check on f5. 36...Ne3 does both. It Covers f5 and threatens mate with 37...Ng2. If white plays Kh3, then Nf5 is checkmate in two.
Premium Chessgames Member
  paulalbert: Black is threatening Ng2 which is checkmate! To prevent that white would have to play a move like Qxg6ch or some other move that would lose his Q, leaving the position totally hopeless for white. The position is truly hopeless for white, thus his resignation.
Sep-27-13  Rii the Wordsmith: Okay. Okay, I think I see it now.


Jul-23-14  kereru: 13...Nxd5!! isn't the engine favourite at first, but it grows on it. By ply 25 it is Stockfish's first preference, though not a forced win. White could have defended better of course, but even a modern super-GM would struggle to find all the right moves at the board.
Oct-06-15  The Kings Domain: Brilliant game by McDonnell. At first his queen sacrifice seemed like a hard sell but as the game progressed he outpointed la Bourdonnais move by move. The Irishman's masterpiece and one for the ages.
Oct-03-18  Howard: This game, if I recall correctly, appeared in some old book called British Chess. That was the first time that I ever saw it...over 45 years ago !
Oct-03-18  Howard: This game, if I recall correctly, appeared in some old book called British Chess. That was the first time that I ever saw it...over 45 years ago !

And wasn't this the game where Larry Evans stated around 1977 that games like this one were considered "downright ugly" because the loser didn't put up enough of a defense?

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <And wasn't this the game where Larry Evans stated around 1977 that games like this one were considered "downright ugly" because the loser didn't put up enough of a defense?>

I can't believe Evans said anything so foolish. And if he did he should be compelled to make 500 copies of Mr. Cronhelm's poem that <sneaky pete> so gallantly shared with us.

Sep-22-22  MaczynskiPratten: In earlier anthologies (e.g. Chess with the Masters) it was stated that 9 Kxf2 would have failed to fxe4! One line is 10 Bxf6 Qc5+ 11 Ke1 exf3 12 Bb5+ c6 and Black seems to recover the lost piece with initiative. I wonder if 10 Nd2 is the answer, defending the loose B on c4. If Ng4+ (apparently winning the g5 Bishop) 11 Qxg4! seems to work. Anyone with engines looked at these lines?
Sep-22-22  MaczynskiPratten: Agree with dumbgai that 15 Qxe3 looks the best chance in view of what then happens to white. But then we would have been denied this beautiful game!
Oct-15-22  Marcelo Bruno: In a certain way, the present Queen sacrifice appeared relatively similar in Bobotsov-Tal, Varna 1958 Bobotsov vs Tal, 1958
Jan-12-23  generror: Together with the 16th game McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais, 1834, this is one of the most famous games of this first proto-World Championship match.

It's opening is already interesting. So far, La Bourdonnais had played the Old Variation <3.e3> in their 14 Queen's Gambit games, and after winning the first 11 of these, McConnell finally chose another variation, winning 2 games and drawing a third. Here, La Bourdonnais tries the "Center Attack" <3.e4> for the first time. McDonnell answers with <3...e5> (D), which is named after him and was long thought to refute the Center Attack, with White playing <3.Nf3> to prevent <3...e5> before playing <3.e4>. However, today's theory says that <3...e5> is slightly dubious because Black has trouble equalizing after <4.Nf3>. La Bourdonnais' <4.d5?>, however, gives Black initiative and a slight advantage after <4...Nf6>, but McDonnell immediately gets over-agressive with <4...f5?>.

click for larger view

McDonnell continues to be quite inaccurate, and after <7...Qe2?>, White would have been significantly better after <8.O-O fxe4 9.Ng5 h6 10.Ngxe4 Bd6 11.Nxf6+ Qxf6 12.Qh5+ Qf7 13.Qxf7+Kxf7> (D).

click for larger view

However, White plays <8.Bg5?!>, and Black now plays the flashy <8...Bxf2!?> and gets the upper hand after <9.Kf1?>. Actually, White would have retained the initiative after <9.Kxf2 Qc5+ 10.Ke1 Qxc4 11.Nxe5 Qa6>.

<10...f4!?> is interesting; to me, it looks great, cutting off the bishop from the king's defense, thus giving Black the dark squares next to him, plus shutting in the white queen. But Stockfish prefers the more tactical <11.fxe4 Nxe4 12.Bf5>. Also, it's quite untypical for McDonnell to favour this positional approach.

Jan-12-23  generror: The most interesting move is, of course, <13...Nxd5!?>. This is also Stockfish's initial choise, but from depth 19 on, Stockfish begins to increasingly favour <13...Qf8>, its line being <14.h3 Bxf3 15.gxf3 Nbd7 16.Bxf6 Nxf6 17.Nxb6 axb6> (D) with Black being up two pawns, but White having some compensation with the strong bishop and Black's messed-up queenside pawns. (Even so, crazy Stockfish seems to like castling queenside with Black in this position; but the king turns out to be quite safe on b8.)

click for larger view

After <13...Nxd5!?>, White plays <14.Bxe7?>, which may be the decisive mistake in this game. Instead, White should have played the great zwischenzug <14.Bb5+!> (D), which to me refutes the famous queen sacrifice, because now there seems no way for Black to keep up its attack. After <14...Nd7 15.Bxe7 Ne3+ 16.Qxe3! Bxe3 17.Bxd6>, Black is essentially just a pawn up; <14...Nc6 15.Bxc6+ bxc6 16.Bxe7 Ne3+ 17.Ke1 Kxe7> also doesn't give Black a significant advantage; and other responses lead to nearly equal positions.

click for larger view

After <14...Ne3+>, White is essentially lost, even though Stockfish's evaluation gives only about -2 (but getting more and more negative with every move). Black not only has this terrible outpost, but also an even more terrible attack, and if McDonnell is good at one thing, then it's getting at the enemy king. He keeps putting pressure on White, and La Bourdonnais defends himself well. Although he does make mistakes like <17.Rd2?> (<17.h3!>) and <17.Rg1?> (<20.Kf2>) and <22.gxf3?> (<22.b4!>), McDonnell also strays from the path with <20...b5?> (<20...g6!>) and <22...Nd4?> (<22.Bxd2+>). But his pieces really work together wonderfully, and the evaluation keeps getting worse for White.

White's fate is sealed after <23.Bc4??>, where <23.b4!> once again would have been the correct move. <23...Nxf3?!> is a bit inaccurate, Black would have been up 8 points of material after <23...Bxd2+ 24.Kf2 Nxc4 25.bxc4 Be3+ 26.Kg2 Bxg1> (D), and recapturing the Bishop would be a huge mistake because of <27.Kxg1?? Rb8> which is probably a forced mate.

click for larger view

Jan-12-23  generror: The battle still rages on, and after <29.Qb1?!>, the white queen is finally free, White suddenly seems to have counterplay, even threatening mate via <30.Qg1+ Ng2 31.Qxg2+ Nh6 32.Qh3+ Kg5 33.Rg7+ Kf6 34.Qh6#>. But McDonnell finds the wonderful refutation <29...Bb6!> (D), and now <30.Qg1?> is be countered by <30...Ng4++!>, which also cuts off the White rook from helping out his king, and now it's White that can be mated in 9.

click for larger view

Actually, <29.Qb1?! Bb6!> seems to allow Black to force mate whatever White does, and after <31.Qa2> (again threatening mate via <32.Qe6+ Kh5 33.Rxh7+ Kg5 34.Qh6#), it's actually a forced mate in 11 for Black. <29.Kf3 d5 30.exd5+ e4+> (a pawn move blocking check and giving check at the same time!) <31.Qxe4+ Rxe4 32.Kxe4> might have prolonged the game a little, although all this is theory; White could just as well resign, and he finally does, ending another truly epic battle.

What was especially interesting here to me was that, first, Stockfish wasn't very impressed by this famous Queen sacrifice (it doesn't think it's bad though), and this again shows how human chess differs from near-perfect engine chess. Stockfish's refutation *is* hard to find, and I guess that La Bourdonnais was just totally surprised by this sacrifice, and as CG keeps telling me, "An player surprised is an player half beaten".

Second, I was surprised to see how well McDonnell handled this attack, ever so slowly increasing the pressure on White. He *definitively* was extremely good as attacking, even if there's no quick and clearly winning way. I still have to see him play well when he's not attacking.

This game also is very instructive in showing how well-coordinated minor pieces can outweigh a queen. An epic battle and a deserved classic!

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