Alexander McDonnell (1798–1835), sometimes spelled MacDonnell,[a] was an Irish chess master, who contested a series of six matches with the world's leading player Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais in 1834.
|Country||Ireland / United Kingdom|
|Died||15 September 1835 (aged 37)|
London, United Kingdom
The son of a surgeon, Alexander McDonnell was born in Belfast in 1798. He was trained as a merchant and worked for some time in the West Indies. In 1820 he settled in London, where he became the secretary of the Committee of West Indian Merchants in which role he advocated strongly on behalf of slave-owning sugar plantation owners. It was a lucrative post that made him a wealthy man and left him with plenty of time to indulge his passion for chess. In his politics McDonnell was a committed Whig.
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In 1825 he became a pupil of William Lewis, who was then the leading player in Britain. But soon McDonnell had become so good that Lewis, fearing for his reputation, simply refused to play him anymore.
Around 1825–1826, McDonnell played Captain Evans, while the latter was on shore leave in London. McDonnell was beaten with what is now regarded in chess circles as the creation of the Evans Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4).
La Bourdonnais matchesEdit
At that time the world's strongest player was the French aristocrat Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais. Between June and October 1834 La Bourdonnais and McDonnell played a series of six matches, a total of eighty-five games, at the Westminster Chess Club in London. McDonnell won the second match, while La Bourdonnais won first, third, fourth and fifth. The sixth match was unfinished.
McDonnell was suffering from Bright's disease, a historical classification of nephritis, which affects the kidneys. In the summer of 1835 his condition worsened and he died in London on 15 September 1835 before his match with La Bourdonnais could be resumed.
- Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais vs. Alexander McDonnell, 04, London 1834, Queen's Gambit Accepted: Central Variation. McDonnell Defense (D20), 0–1 The first immortal game of the history of chess, according to Reuben Fine. A purely positional sacrifice of a queen for two minor pieces.
- Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais vs. Alexander McDonnell, London 1834, Bishop's Opening: Lopez Variation (C23), 0–1 An interesting encounter with chances and errors on both sides, ending with a nice two-knights mate.
- McDonnell versus De La Bourdonnais, Match 4 (16), London 1834 A classic game demonstrating the power of a mobile central block of pawns.
- The spelling "M'Donnell", found in some old sources, is in fact a typographic variant of "McDonnell"
- Taylor, Michael (2014). "Conservative Political Economy and the Problem of Colonial Slavery, 1823–1833". The Historical Journal. 57 (4): 980. doi:10.1017/S0018246X14000089. S2CID 161584587.
- Taylor, Michael (2014). "Conservative Political Economy and the Problem of Colonial Slavery, 1823–1833". The Historical Journal. 57 (4): 981. doi:10.1017/S0018246X14000089. S2CID 161584587.
- Tim Harding, ‘Evans, William Davies (1790–1872)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2012
- Thomas Secombe, Julian Locke, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 35, page 299, ISBN 0198613857
- Philip W. Sergeant, A Century of British Chess, David McKay, 1934, p. 39.