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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)
London m4 ;HCL 18 (1834), 04, rd 50
Queen's Gambit Accepted: Central Variation. McDonnell Defense (D20)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  mjmorri: One of the early masterpieces.

McDonnell is often dismissed as a light weight, but in this game, his positional sacrifice of the Queen for two minor pieces is one for the ages.

He shows great restraint in not giving up his beautiful e3 Knight for the Rook on d1, the mark of a true master.

Feb-13-09  Chachaman: If you think about it, White got two minor pieces, two pawns, and great positional plusses for the queen. After 15...Kxe7, black has two minor pieces and two pawns. Plus, he has the bishop-pair, a great outpost for his knight, and superior development. Later on, he gets another outpost, and more plusses. White's extra queen had no bearing on the situation; it just sat there. The queen rook sat undeveloped. Eventually, white had to give back material to stay even, and then black won. Great game by McDonnell, making a deep positional sacrifice. But if you think about it, the plus in positional factors made it not a sacrifice, but a trade in his favor!
Feb-23-09  theagenbiteofinwit: Kf1 just pains me. That bishop goes on to cost white a rook!
Aug-09-09  birthtimes: Lasker comments on White's 18th move: "But here White errs. To develop his force he should offer a sacrifice by 18. Rf1, so as to rid himself of the oppressive Knight on e3.

If then 18...Rac8 19. Bb3 or 18...Ba5 19. Rf2. The [b3] pawn move only weakens his position [by giving Black mastery of the c-file, especially c2]. La Bourdonnais had not recognized this clearly. The theory of Steinitz, explaining these points, was not evolved until fifty years later."

Lasker's Manual of Chess, 1960, p. 246

Mar-15-10  patzer2: Black's 13...Nxd5!! offers up the Queen as a sacrifice for positional advantage. Following the expected 14. Bxe7, the key in-between move 14...Ne3+! and the followup 15. Kxe7 give Black two minor pieces and two extra pawn for the Queen.

Under many circumstances, that might be considered an even trade based on the point values of the pieces. However, in this case, Black has much better pawn structure, control of space and better coordinated pieces to justify his investment.

Initially, Fritz 10 shows the position as near equal or only slightly favoring Black after 13...Nxd5! However, as the position plays out it's extremely difficult to find a saving resource for White and the evaluations begin to slowly increase in Black's favor.

Don't know if it's a forced win, but Black has the initiative and the attack with little danger of losing. Also it's a lot more fun and forcing than something like 13...Qf8 .

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: I think I'll get a value meal combo for lunch...
Premium Chessgames Member
  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.

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