La Bourdonnais 
Louis Charles Mahe De La Bourdonnais
Number of games in database: 106
Years covered: 1821 to 1838
Overall record: +57 -33 =15 (61.4%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.
      1 exhibition game, odds game, etc. is excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Evans Gambit (20) 
    C51 C52
 Queen's Gambit Accepted (16) 
 King's Gambit Accepted (5) 
    C37 C38 C39
 Giuoco Piano (4) 
With the Black pieces:
 Sicilian (21) 
    B21 B32 B30
 King's Gambit Accepted (11) 
    C33 C37 C38
 Evans Gambit (8) 
    C51 C52
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais, 1834 0-1
   La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell, 1834 1-0
   La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell, 1834 1-0
   McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais, 1834 0-1
   La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell, 1834 1-0
   La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell, 1834 1/2-1/2
   La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell, 1834 1-0
   McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais, 1834 0-1
   McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais, 1834 0-1
   La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell, 1834 1/2-1/2

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   WCC Index [La Bourdonnais-McDonnell 1834] by suenteus po 147
   McDonnell vs. De La Bourdonnais by Gioachino Greco
   Annotations by Morphy by jakaiden
   a-1749 by wina
   Blunder Check: Louis Charles De La Bourdonnais by nimh
   Selected 19th century games by atrifix
   K-c by classicalwin
   Micah Tuhy's Favorite Games (Pre-1850) by micahtuhy

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Louis Charles Mahe De La Bourdonnais
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(born 1795, died 1840) France

[what is this?]
Louis Charles Mahe De La Bourdonnais was born in Ile Bourbon on the French island of Reunion. He was sent to Paris where in 1814 he learnt to play chess but he only took up the game seriously in 1818. About 1820 Guillaume Le Breton Deschapelles took on La Bourdonnais as his pupil and when he retired La Bourdonnais became not only the undisputed Champion of France but also the World's leading player. In 1834 La Bourdonnais met Irish master Alexander MacDonnell in a series of six matches with La Bourdonnais winning (+45, =13, -27) overall. In 1838 he became ill with a stroke and then later with dropsy. He passed away in 1840.

 page 1 of 5; games 1-25 of 106  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. La Bourdonnais vs Cochrane 0-130 1821 ParisC37 King's Gambit Accepted
2. La Bourdonnais vs Pelling 1-017 1830 CasualC21 Center Game
3. La Bourdonnais vs Alexander D'Arblay 1-020 1830 FranceC39 King's Gambit Accepted
4. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 1-021 1834 London m4 ;HCL 18B32 Sicilian
5. La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell 1-026 1834 LondonD20 Queen's Gambit Accepted
6. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 0-148 1834 London m5 ;HCL 18B21 Sicilian, 2.f4 and 2.d4
7. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 1-048 1834 LondonC24 Bishop's Opening
8. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 1-020 1834 MatchC51 Evans Gambit
9. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 1-032 1834 London m3 ;MAINBC38 King's Gambit Accepted
10. La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell 1-041 1834 London m6 ;HCL 18C51 Evans Gambit
11. La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell 1-045 1834 LondonD20 Queen's Gambit Accepted
12. La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell 1-026 1834 London m4 ;HCL 18C51 Evans Gambit
13. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 0-130 1834 London m 18C33 King's Gambit Accepted
14. La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell 0-154 1834 LondonC23 Bishop's Opening
15. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 0-137 1834 London m4 ;HCL 18B32 Sicilian
16. La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell 1-029 1834 MatchC51 Evans Gambit
17. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 0-130 1834 London m1C23 Bishop's Opening
18. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 1-049 1834 London m3 ;HCL 18D41 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
19. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 0-125 1834 London m5 ;HCL 18B21 Sicilian, 2.f4 and 2.d4
20. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 0-135 1834 LondonB21 Sicilian, 2.f4 and 2.d4
21. La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell ½-½93 1834 London m4 ;HCL 18D20 Queen's Gambit Accepted
22. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 1-020 1834 London m6 ;HCL 18C51 Evans Gambit
23. La Bourdonnais vs McDonnell 0-154 1834 LondonC53 Giuoco Piano
24. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais ½-½56 1834 London m4 ;HCL 18B32 Sicilian
25. McDonnell vs La Bourdonnais 0-155 1834 LondonB21 Sicilian, 2.f4 and 2.d4
 page 1 of 5; games 1-25 of 106  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | La Bourdonnais wins | La Bourdonnais loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing >
Apr-18-06   Maatalkko: Ugh, that's a terrible looking portrait of him. I hope that's not what he really looked like.
Premium Chessgames Member
  NakoSonorense: He's got a nice hairdo, dont you think?
Apr-22-06   Gioachino Greco: La Bourdonnais has a good case for being by far the strongest player in the world during his lifetime.

He surpassed Deschappelles in games, causing his teacher to seek retirement. He then beat both Lewis and Cochrane (the two top players in England at the time), and later went on to defeat MacDonnell in a gigantic marathon series of matches.

The men who have the best claim to being world champions in all but name would probably be:

GIOACHINO GRECO (defeated Morano, then toured Europe and beat the strongest players he could find--given the narrow scope of chess at the time, this is as close to dominance as you can get)

PHILIDOR (beat Stamma, one of the best players in England, and dominated both his French and English several cases Philidor was past his prime during these matches).

DE LA BOURDONNAIS (For reasons stated above; Deschappelles' case is a bit more nebulous, considering his penchant for odds and his lack of a great opponent on his resume).

STAUNTON (defeated Saint-Amant in a match; also has wins over Popert, Horwitz, Harrwitz)

ANDERSSEN (defeated Staunton and a large pool of other opposition during the 1851 international tournament; he went on to play fairly dominantly in tournament chess afterward)

MORPHY (defeated Anderssen, and held wins over the entire field of chess masters--including Harrwitz, Boden, Barnes, Lowenthal, Bird, de Riviere, Paulsen, etc.)

STEINITZ (Anderssen's dominance after Morphy is debatable; for all intents and purposes, Steinitz and Zukertort were the two top players in the world until the official unification match)

Apr-27-06   Maatalkko: <Gioachino Greco>

Regarding your list of pre-official world champions:

I would take Staunton off the list, he really was never that great of a player, and his genius lay more in self-promotion than chess.

Also, while Goacchino Greco was certainly the first author to analyse chess with any seriousness, its almost certain that most of his games were composed, so it's hard to rate his skill as a player.

May-02-06   Gioachino Greco: <Maatalkko>

I agree that Greco is debateable. His writings alone are not sufficient grounds for a world championship claim--just as Carrera, Polerio, Lopez, Damiano, etc. cannot be regarded as world champions.

What distinguishes Greco is the fact that he travelled around Europe playing the best players and defeating them. His chess skill is also well-documented (in sharp contrast to his predecessors). While it is definitely possible that the games are composed, it is equally true that Greco could certainly have played them if he composed them.

I take the fact that Greco was dominant in his home city, in his travels across Europe, and against Morano to be the closest anybody could come to the "strongest player" title in the 1600's.


Regarding Staunton: Yes, he was a promotional genius and organizer, but he holds wins over Harrwitz, Horwitz, and (most importantly) Saint-Amant, who was considered to be the French champion. He also played numerous games (most of which he won, as I recall) against Cochrane--another top chess player. He lost the 1851 tournament, but this is partly attributable to the fact that he was simultaneously trying to organize it. I think that this must have had some effect on his playing strength.

Premium Chessgames Member
  BishopBerkeley: This website maintains that there was a style of Chess pieces named for the Caf� de la R�gence (photo shown):

It's a rather pleasing style, I think! I wonder if this is true?

The "Selenus" style (shown on the page above) is also quite appealing, in my opinion.

Main site:

(: B Bishop Berkeley B :)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Open Defence: yes bishop nice chess sets :)
Feb-12-07   Egoch: I am desesperatly looking for the author of this portrait of La Bourdonnais. And by the way, in which circonstances was it drawn?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Knight13: How tall was this guy? 160 centimeters?
Mar-11-07   elLocoEvans: <I am desesperatly looking for the author of this portrait of La Bourdonnais> well the drawing has some Simpson's air, that maybe it was Matt Groening.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Karpova: A picture:

The Chess Note:

Nov-27-07   DarthStapler: Who was a better player, La bourdonnais or Philidor?
Premium Chessgames Member
  nimh: <Who was a better player, La bourdonnais or Philidor?>

Computer analysis shows that La Bourdonnais and McDonnell were by far more accurate players than Philidor.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Knight13: <Computer analysis shows that La Bourdonnais and McDonnell were by far more accurate players than Philidor.> That's because 1. Philidor's age was less advanced in chess knowledge/theory and 2. Philidor barely has any games in the database.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TigerG: Did this person spend his life playing with Alexander McDonnell?
Jan-26-08   savagerules: < TigerG: Did this person spend his life playing with Alexander McDonnell? >

Yes, I believed this was mentioned somewhere in the movie Brokeback Mountain.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Open Defence: heh I believe they were buried side by side is that right ? ... hmmmm probably they had a different idea of check mate
Premium Chessgames Member
  kellmano: I never knew who i preferred out of McDonnell or Labourdonnais until i saw that picture.

Every time i play through one of their games now, i will be picturing Labourdonnais at the board and be hoping he wins.

Mar-12-08   pawnofdoom: Haha he does look pretty funny. Like a really short, chubby man. But still an awesome player. Way better than me at least. I'm not sure how he would compare to players today. But he makes exciting, usually decisive chess.

I wonder if you wrote out his name on a piece of paper, would it be taller than him?

Mar-14-08   sneaky pete: De La Bourdonnais also composed problems. This one was published in Le Palam�de, 1837:

click for larger view

# in 7

Premium Chessgames Member
  Knight13: <TigerG: Did this person spend his life playing with Alexander McDonnell?> No need to use sarcasm, right? It was 1834, reason his games are mostly against McDonnell is because they were the best at that time and people cared enough to record the games. There weren't many masters in 1834. Of course, La Bourdonnais played many games against other weak players.
Sep-07-08   GrahamClayton: The De La Bourdonnais v McDonnell match was the first match where all of the games were recorded and made available to the general public.

Source: David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld, "Oxford Companion to Chess", 2nd edition, OUP, 1992

Sep-07-08   sneaky pete: Only 85 of the 88 games known to be played "were recorded and made available to the general public."
Premium Chessgames Member
  Karpova: Jeremy Silman's article about La Bourdonnais:


<What makes this all the more impressive is the fact that de la Bourdonnais, once wealthy (he and his English wife lived in a chateau at St Malo with, reportedly, five servants and two carriages), had lost his fortune (how this happened has never been made clear) and was now earning a living from chess and chess alone. A man that loved to talk and laugh, he had a tendency to swear horrible oaths (in French) of horror and frustration when he was losing. One reason for this might have been the fact that, while de la Bourdonnais tended to move quickly, McDonnell often took 1 to 2 hours for a SINGLE move! That�s right, the chess clock hadn�t been invented at that time and a player could sit there all day and think about what he intended to do! On the other hand, McDonnell�s long thinks allowed de la Bourdonnais the time to go to another room and play games for money with anyone who wished to place the bet. JUST IMAGINE: you�re playing a serious game against a man who claims he�s the world�s best (McDonnell), you make your moves quickly while he thinks forever, and you play dozens of quick games for cash at the same time as you are playing an unofficial World Championship match game! Then, to top it all off, you crush him (and everyone else you play) like a bug. Now THAT is domination!>

Oct-09-08   drukenknight: DIdnt at one pt. in one of the matches, after no one had moved for an hour or two, one of the players looked up and said: "Oh is it my move?" Or is that apocryphal?
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