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

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 December 1840,[3] having been forced to sell all of his possessions, including his clothes, to satisfy his creditors. George Walker arranged to have him buried just a stone's throw away from his old rival Alexander McDonnell in London's Kensal Green Cemetery.[4][5]

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
Final position after Black's 37...e2

See also


  1. ^ The Oxford Companion to Chess – David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld (1992) p. 56
  2. ^ La Palamède edited by St. Amaint (1847) p. 211
  3. ^ Crescendo of the Virtuoso: Spectacle, Skill, and Self-Promotion in Paris during the Age of Revolution. Paul Metzner, Berkeley: University of California Press, c1998 1998.
  4. ^ Philip W. Sergeant, A Century of British Chess, David McKay, 1934, p. 39.
  5. ^ Walker, George (1850). Chess and Chess-Players. London: C. J. Skeet. 


External links