Alexander McDonnell

by Bill Wall

Alexander McDonnell was born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1798, the son of a famous surgeon (also named Alexander).

Alexander left Belfast in 1816 to work in Demarara in the West Indies. He became a noted West Indian merchant.

In 1820 in settled in London and became secretary of the Committee of West Indian Merchants, where his duties were to watch the progress through Parliament of bills connected with the West Indies.  The post made him a wealthy man and he spent his spare time playing chess.

In 1825 he became a pupil of William Lewis (1787-1870), the leading London chess player.  Soon, McDonnell became so good that Lewis, fearing his reputation, simpley refused to play him anymore.

In 1826, McDonnell played Captain William Davies Evans (1790-1872) while Evans was on shore leave in London.  Evans defeated McDonnell using the newly created Evans Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4).

In 1831 he joined the Westminster Chess Club, founded by George Walker, where he became the strongest London player.

In June 1834, the Westminster Chess Club issued a challenge on McDonnell's behalf, and a series of six matches was prepared between McDonnell and Louis-Charles de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840).   At the time, La Bourdonnais was considered the strongest chess player in the world. 

Between June and October 1934, McDonnell and La Bourdonnais played a series of six matches, a total of 85 games.  All the games were played at the Westminster Chess Club in London.  La Bourdonnais won the first match, McDonnell won the second match, La Bourdonnais won the third, fourth, and fifth match.  The sixth match was unfinished.

McDonnell won 27 games, drew 13 games, and lost 45 games.

McDonnell developed a kidney ailment and died of Bright's disease on Sep 15, 1835 at the age of 37.

McDonnell was interested in political economy and wrote six books on the subject.

Both McDonnell and La Bourdonnais are buried in Kensal Green All Souls' cemetery in London.

A. McDonnell – NN, England 1835

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nc3 d6 5.d4 g5 6.h4 gxh4 7.Bxf4 Bg4 8.Nf3 Be7 9.Qd2 h3 10.Ng5 d5 11.Nxd5 Bh5 12.Nxc7+ Kf8 13.Nxf7 Bxf7 14.Bh6+ Kg8 15.Qg5 mate  1-0