The First Battleground in Chess, Part I

The First Battleground in Chess, Part I‎

GM Julio_Becerra
21 | Amazing Games

In 1834, between the months of June and October, the Westminster Club of London celebrated a series of matches between the best chess players of England and France, or in fact, the best chess players of the world, since in those times Paris and London dominated the chess scene. The names of the two giants were Louis Charles Mahe De Labourdonnais and Alexander Mac Donnell.

This encounter between Mac Donnell and Labourdonnais created enormous enthusiasm throughout the world. The games were published in pamphlets and for many years served as instructional examples of the best that chess had to offer.  The games were analyzed by later generations as well. For example Morphy knew all the games by heart and commented on 35 of them. Morphy had high regard for the level of chess shown by the early gladiators and described the battle as a magnificent example of chess strategy. The final score was +45 -30 =13 in favor of the French player, Labourdonnais.

The first game I have selected is number 50 from the series, and possibly the most famous of all the games (and from my point of view, the first great game in the history of chess). The extraordinary move 13… Nxd5! made by Mac Donnell, according to the great Emmanuel Lasker, was the first challenge toward the accepted concept of the value of pieces in chess. It is worth admiring the resulting positional strength that Mac Donnell achieves when he gives up his lady for two smaller pieces. This was a gigantic concept at the time.  Later many players took note of this lesson and mimicked it, the last one being the former world champion, Gary Kasparov.



Next it was the turn of Labourdonnais, who showed great imagination and new ideas in the IQP position. For example the sequence 9.h3! and 10.Bb3! was used a century and a half later by Gary Kasparov in a similar position of the Queen's gambit in his 1986 match against Anatoli Karpov. The final attack is led with such virtuosity, that the powerful present day computers cannot improve the white game! Next week we will present several more games from this epic match in part 2 of this series.

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