La Bourdonnais Louis Charles Mahe De La Bourdonnais (1795-13.12.1840)

La-Bourdonnais-Louis-CharleLouis Charles de La Bourdonnais was born in the Isle Bourbon (La Reunion) in 1797 into a wealthy family. His grandfather, Bertrand-Francois Mahe de La Bourdonnais (1699-1753), was the governor of Mauritius (La Reunion) and a French naval commander. He was sent to the Lycee Henri IV in Paris, where in 1814, he learned chess. In 1818 he started playing chess at the Cafe de la Regence, where he had his own table, playing 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 1820 he took chess lessons from Alexandre-Louis-Honore-Lebreton Deschapelles, whom in 1821 he defeated together with Cochrane in a triangular contest. Deschapelles then gave up chess for whist. In 1823 La Bourdonnais went to England and defeated Lewis with 5 wins and 2 losses. In the spring of 1825, he visited England and defeated all the chess players he met. In July he married an English girl, Eliza Waller Gordon. In 1831 he lost all his fortune in land speculation in Saint-Malo and then tried to earn a living at chess. In 1833 he published in Paris two volumes about chess, called “Le Nouveau Traité du Jeu des Echecs”


In June 1834, he played Alexander McDonnell, England’s best player, at the Westminster Chess Club. From June to October, six matches were played 85 games, of which La Bourdonnais won 45, drew 13 and lost 27. Bourdonnais won the first match with 16 wins, 5 losses and 4 draws. He lost the second match with 4 wins, 5 losses, and no draws. He won the third match with 6 wins, 5 losses, and 1 draw. He won the fourth match with 8 wins, 3 losses, and 7 draws. He won the fifth match with 7 wins, 4 losses, and 1 draw. He lost the sixth match with 4 wins, 5 losses and no draws. In 1835 La Bourdonnais was making plans to continue his matches with McDonnell. However, McDonnell developed Bright’s disease and died on September 14, 1835.

In 1836 La Bourdonnais became co-editor, along with Joseph Mery, of the world’s first chess magazine, Palamède. In 1838 he suffered a stroke, followed by dropsy. In 1839 the Paris Chess Club folded. Since La Bourdonnais had no money, he was forced to sell his books, furniture, and clothes.

In November 1840, he went to London to work at Simpson’s Divan, where his salary was two guineas a week. The same month he was diagnosed with a dropsy and scrotal hernia and died the following month.