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Louis Charles Mahe De La Bourdonnais vs Alexander McDonnell
La Bourdonnais - McDonnell 1st Casual Match (1834), London ENG, rd 1
Center Game: Accepted (C21)  ·  1/2-1/2



Annotations by Paul Morphy.      [30 more games annotated by Morphy]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Nov-18-08  desiobu: Morphy says in the annotations that 46. Nxe7 was also drawing for white, but how?

If the white king tries to race across, black's h pawn promotes. If it takes the h pawn the black king wins the race.

Feb-22-09  thebribri8: in the annotations, who is "we"?
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Morning: <thebribri8>, "we" in this context is sometimes called the "Royal We." Morphy uses the Royal We instead of simply writing "I." Supposedly, English monarchs have been saying things like "We are not amused" for centuries.
Feb-22-09  thebribri8: That's sort of pretentious on Morphy's part, isn't it?
Feb-22-09  MaxxLange: It's also called the "editorial 'We'", and Morphy was writing this for a newspaper. It may have just been the expected style; prose from the 19th Century often sounds stilted to our ears.
Feb-24-09  thebribri8: <desiobu> That's not true. The king can take the pawn and make it to the a-file in time.
Jul-12-09  WhiteRook48: 46 Nxe7 Kxe7 47 Kxh5. king can defend at a1
Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: We think Morphy's vocabulary is magnificent. Anyone here ever *ameliorate* a position?

Sigh. A Great courtroom lawyer lost to chess.

Sep-08-10  twin phoenix: domdaniel yeah i loved the use of ameliorate also! alas, i have done it far too many times!
May-03-11  squaresquat: re Domdaniel: Not just lost to law, but lost to the diplomatic corps. Putting Morphy on the Southern diplomatic front, might have secured European recognition for the Confederacy. Victory for the South would have meant the end of the evils of big federal government. Slavery is not economicly viable in a prosperous society of small businesses. If what capitalism says about itself is true, slavery would have died out without the sacrifice of half a million men and boys. But without the great rebellion of the south and the funds generated through war profits our system of railroads would have remained unbuilt
Feb-01-12  Knight13: GM Znosko-Borovsky half-disagrees with Morphy about 2. d4. In <How to Play the Chess Openings>, he points out its flaws and recommends the reader not to play it.
Jan-06-14  Oliveira: Hmm, I would have gone 25.♖xb7, a typical wood-pusher's move. And after 25... ♖ad8 26.♖xa7 e2 27.b4 ♘d3 28.♖b1 ♘c1 29.♔f2 ♖d1 30.♖xc1 ♖xc1 31.♘e1 h6 32.a4 ♖e4 33.b5 ♖f4+ 34.♔e3 ♖xe1 35.b6 ♖e4+ 36.♖xe4 ♖d1, I would have blundered a perfectly drawable position. Yep, La Bourdonnais and I are different in that aspect.

click for larger view

Position after 36... Rd1

Apr-22-14  dernier thylacine: If after the 28th white move, instead of losing a tempo with 28...h6, Black had immediately played 28...b5, the saving continuation of White was no more possible: after 29.Rd4?! (29.Rc7 is now better but does not save the day after 29...Nd3...)29...Rxd4 30.Nxd4 Nd3 and if 31.Re2? Nf4! and the fork is lethal.

In fact, White was lost after 28...b5 (or 28...Nd3), but Mac Donnell had to see better the chessboard than at the end of the secund game: so it seems he could win the three first games in a row instead of only drawing them!

Nov-27-14  Knight13: <<If 48. Kxg6?? then 48... h4 49. Kg5 h3 50. Kg4 h2 51. Kg3 Ph1=Q 1-0. I like this game.> <aw1988: Knight13, no one chases after a pawn when their king is outside of the square. It looks like the knight comes back in time to stop that pawn.>> 48. Kxg6?? h4 49. Nc5 h3 50. Nd3 h2 51. Nf2 Kd7 52. Kf5 Kc6... and Black wins the a4 pawn, then march his King to the Kingside, take White's Knight and promote the pawn. 52. Kg5 Kc6 53. Kg4 Kc5 54. Kg3 h1=Q 55. Nxh1 Kb4 56. Nf2 is no better.
Nov-27-14  sneaky pete: <Knight13> In that last line you give, after 56... Kxa4 57.Nd3 ... it's still a draw. I'm afraid that Morphy patzer is right this time. Where have you been all these years?
Nov-27-14  Knight13: <sneaky pete> I missed that note by Morphy somehow. It was not my intention to argue against him as if I knew better. Thanks for correcting me.
Feb-18-15  Oliveira: <tcooke: Referring to tpstar's comment above: Cary Utterberg's annotations on this game from his book also indicate (wrongly) that 48.Kxg6 h4 loses for White, stating that "the knight cannot hold against the king and pawn on the kingside." This is somewhat surprising, as Utterberg knew about Morphy's annotations, and could have consulted an end-game database (which confirms the draw).>

That a fact? I've been meaning to buy Utterberg's book for a good while, but honestly, am not sure now. Anyways, it must be just one more proof of the abyssal gap there is between immortals like Morphy and commoners of the chessboard; a rapid sideway glance must've been enough for him to be sure it was a dead draw.

Feb-18-15  Oliveira: <dernier thylacine: If after the 28th white move, instead of losing a tempo with 28...h6, Black had immediately played 28...b5, the saving continuation of White was no more possible: after 29.Rd4?! (29.Rc7 is now better but does not save the day after 29...Nd3...)29...Rxd4 30.Nxd4 Nd3 and if 31.Re2? Nf4! and the fork is lethal.>

<Position after 28.h3>

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Had McDonnell spotted the winning move, the game might have continued: 28... ♘d3 29.♖b1 e2 30.♘e1 ♘f4+! 31.♔g3 [31.♖xf4? ♖d1] ♖d1 32.♖cc1 ♖d4. 33.♘f3 ♖de4

<The battering ram is all set up>

click for larger view

Feb-18-15  Oliveira: Now, would somebody please explain me why the heck is this very game included among La Bourdonnais's notable games on this site?
Feb-19-15  heuristic: <La Bourdonnai's notable games>

the term "notable" is defined here:

Chessgames Help


Premium Chessgames Member
  dernier loup de T: Not to buy Uttersberg's book because some mistakes in his annotations, Oliveira?? Please, do not do that!! Mssakes like this one are seldom in his serious and giant work, both personal and a compilation: generally he's no NOT neglecting Morphy's annotations, believe me!! Nor the ones of Saint-Amant and of Staunton;

Maybe Utterberg is not a GM, but his work is lovely and deserving a lot of respect; not using a computer was too an interesting choice, at least I think so; and if if you suspect my opinion is unfair, get any other pieces of information before taking your decision; and, additionally said, don't forget the annotations of Morphy are covering only the two first matches;

at last, consider nobody is an all knowing genius; God doesn't exist, Oliveira, hoping I d'nt offend your religious sensibility by saying it, LOL; for instance, even Morphy oversaw that La Bourdonnais could win the 13th game by playing 68...Bg2 (or 68...Bb1, or even 28..Kg4)...

And in the present game, he oversaw too that 28..h6 was a terrible tempo wasting! Sorry for my bad english, but using french would be less effective, I guess...

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <bigpawn: I'm currently working on a "Histrical Players, Places and Games" category on my blog at Theres going to be stories and bios about the old timers and places and whatnot. You guys are for the most part intelligent, so come on a post something if you want.>

Thanks for the heads-up, <BigPawn>!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Diademas: <bigpawn: I'm currently working on a "Histrical Players, Places and Games" category on my blog at Theres going to be stories and bios about the old timers and places and whatnot. You guys are for the most part intelligent, so come on a post something if you want.>

Intelligent or not, the link is no good.

Jan-10-23  generror: So this is the first "world championship" game, and after my sobering analyses of chess games 19th century chess games (especially Captain Evans vs McDonnell, 1827), I feared that this might be another blunderfest.

However, both players turn out to actually play really fine. The biggest mistake, at least according to Stockfish, would be <5...Qf6?>. Morphy, whose annotations are consistently confirmed by Stockfish, does contradict himself here: he says that move is "the best play on the board", yet White does indeed gain a "superior position" after <8.Bb5>. However, Stockfish prefers a typical engine move, <8.Na3!? Bg4 9.Qb3 Qe7 10.Bf4 Qd7> (D), giving White a significant development lead and pressure on the Black position.

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White goes on to play a series of weak moves (10 to 12), resulting in giving Black the initiative and a strong passed e-pawn around which most of the remaining game will revolve.

Stockfish completely confirms Morphy that <16.Bc2?> is a mistake. Now White gets the initiative and Black will have to defend the d-pawn. Both players do fine on the next moves. <27.Rc4?> gives Black the d-file, which isn't a good idea in view of an eventual <...Rd2>; <27.Re2> would have ultimately won the pawn, Black can manage a pawn majority on the queenside, where the fight would continue.

<28.h3??> nearly loses the game, but Black misses <28...Nd3> which would have kept up the pressure and lead to a winning endgame where Black is up two pawns: <29.Rb1 e2 30.Ne1 Nf4+! 31.Kg3 (31.Rxf4? Rd1) Rd1 32.Rcc1 Rd4 33.Nf3 Rde4 34.Ne1 g5 35.fxg6 hxg6 36.Rc3 Kg7 37.Rbc1 g5 38.Kf2 Rh8 39.Re3 Rxe3 40.Kxe3 Rxh3+> (D). (<28...b5> apparently would also be winning.)

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The final mistake is <29...b5?>, which ultimately loses the e-pawn and leads to a drawn endgame (<29...Rd1> should have been played). After <35.Kxe3> (D), Black is still a pawn up, but it's neither passed nor advanced, and White's central king makes the Black advantage really minimal. The game goes on for quite a while, and despite a few inaccuracies on both sides, both manage to keep it drawn, which is pretty impressive as it isn't the most trivial endgame.

click for larger view

So while there still are a fair share of theoretical mistakes here, and I feel that a modern master would have been able to exploit them, this was actually a really decent game, and I'm looking forward to dissecting a few more games of this epic match that, in term of number of games played, approaches the Karpov - Kasparov rivalry.

But maybe the most noteworthy thing about this game for me is how accurate Morphy's annotations are. Although he clearly was the strongest player back then, they show that he maybe was the first player who actually did play on a master level, and I'm looking forward to his games!

Premium Chessgames Member
  dernier loup de T: ...28...Cd3 29. Td4 est la variante qui montre le plus clairement l'inconvénient du temps perdu par les noirs au 28ème coup du texte: ici ils ont le temps de faire la fourchette mortelle du C sur f4: 29...Txd4 30. Cxd4 Cd3 31. Te2 Cf4+ 32.Rf3 Cxe2 33. Rxe2 a6..etc...
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