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Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais


Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais

Louis de La Bourdonnais
Full name Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais
Country France
Born 1795
Died 1840 (aged 44 or 45)
World Champion 1821–40 (Unofficial)

Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1795–1840) was a French chess master, possibly the strongest player in the early 19th century.


  • Early life 1
  • Unofficial World Chess Champion 2
  • Death 3
  • Notable games 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

La Bourdonnais was born on the island of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean in 1795. He learned chess in 1814 and began to take the game seriously in 1818, when he regularly played at the Café de la Régence.[1] He took lessons from Jacques François Mouret, his first teacher,[2] and within two years he became one of the best players of the Café.

La Bourdonnais was forced to earn his living as a professional chess player after squandering his fortune on ill-advised land deals.

Unofficial World Chess Champion

La Bourdonnais was considered to be the unofficial World Chess Champion (there was no official title at the time) from 1821—when he became able to beat his chess teacher Alexandre Deschapelles—until his death in 1840. The most famous match series, indeed considered as the world championship, was the series against Alexander McDonnell in 1834.


He died penniless in London in 1840, having been forced to sell all of his possessions, including his clothes, to satisfy his creditors. Alexander McDonnell in London's Kensal Green Cemetery.[3][4]

He was the grandson of Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais.

Notable games

McDonnell–La Bourdonnais, 1834
a b c d e f g h
d8 black bishop
g8 black rook
h8 black king
d7 white pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a5 black pawn
c3 white queen
a2 white pawn
d2 black pawn
e2 black pawn
f2 black pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
d1 white rook
h1 white king
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
  • Alexander McDonnell vs Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais, 16, London 1834, Sicilian Defense: Old Sicilian. Open (B32), 0–1 A game demonstrating the strength of pawns. Its end position is one of the most surprising in the history of chess.
  • Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais vs Alexander MacDonnell, 3, London 1834, Queen's Gambit Accepted: Old Variation (D20), 1–0 La Bourdonnais punishes McDonnell's premature attack.

See also


  1. ^ The Oxford Companion to Chess – David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld (1992) p. 56
  2. ^ edited by St. Amaint (1847) p. 211La Palamède
  3. ^ Philip W. Sergeant, A Century of British Chess, David McKay, 1934, p. 39.
  4. ^  


External links

  • Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais player profile and games at
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