Chess

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Indy Lifestyle Online
We have listened to Schubert's music; we have visited the Hiroshige exhibition at the Royal Academy; but there is another man whose bicentenary falls this year who has not been properly celebrated yet.

Louis Charles de la Bourdonnais was the strongest chess player in the world from 1821 until his death in 1840. He established himself as the unofficial world champion in a series of matches with Louis Deschapelles and John Cochrane - the best players in France and England. Deschapelles, as the acknowledged champion, gave the other two men odds of a pawn, but Bourdonnais beat him 6-1 while defeating Cochrane 7-0.

Those matches caused Deschapelles to retire from chess, leaving Bourdonnais unchallenged as the best player in the world. He confirmed his supremacy in 1834 in a long series of matches against the great Irish player Alexander McDonnell. They played 85 games, of which the Frenchman won 45, drew 13 and lost 27. It was the first formal match in which a record of the moves of all the games was kept.

They began play each day at noon, and the absence of chess clocks meant that play was liable to go on for six hours or more. During the games Bourdonnais, according to a contemporary account, "talked and laughed a good deal at intervals and swore tolerably round oaths when fate ran counter to his schemes." After each game, Bourdonnais would dine, then return to the board to drink large amounts of Burton Ale Beer while taking on all comers for half-a-crown a game.

Here is his finest victory from the match, which offers a good example of his strategic superiority. White's 5.Nxc6 would have seemed natural at the time, exchanging rather than waste time retreating the knight. Yet the move gives Black a permanent advantage in the centre. Just admire the final position to see the ultimate effect of that!

White: A McDonnell

Black: L de la Bourdonnais

1 e4 c5 20 Rac1 f5

2 Nf3 Nc6 21 Qc4+ Kh8

3 d4 cxd4 22 Ba4 Qh6

4 Nxd4 e5 23 Bxe8 fxe4

5 Nxc6 bxc6 24 c6 exf3

6 Bc4 Nf6 25 Rc2 Qe3+

7 Bg5 Be7 26 Kh1 Bc8

8 Qe2 d5 27 Bd7 f2

9 Bxf6 Bxf6 28 Rf1 d3

10 Bb3 0-0 29 Rc3 Bxd7

11 0-0 a5 30 cxd7 e4

12 exd5 cxd5 31 Qc8 Bd8

13 Rd1 d4 32 Qc4 Qe1

14 c4 Qb6 33 Rc1 d2

15 Bc2 Bb7 34 Qc5 Rg8

16 Nd2 Rae8 35 Rd1 e3

17 Ne4 Bd8 36 Qc3 Qxd1

18 c5 Qc6 37 Rxd1 e2

19 f3 Be7 White resigned

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