Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Graves of Famous Chess Players - No 3 in a Series of .......?

What started off as a throwaway posting of me in a snazzy holiday shirt, has developed into a bit of a compulsion for me now, and I'm still not entirely sure where this series is going to stop!

It's one of chess history's strange twists, but two figures who are forever inextricably linked by their momentous (unofficial) world championship match(es), are also inextricably linked in death. Louis Charles de la Bourdonnais (1795-1840) was the victor in the epic struggle against Alexander McDonnell, who featured in the previous instalment of this series. By one of life's (death's?) twists of fate, the two men are buried only a stone's throw apart in Kensal Green Cemetery, in North West London.

La Bourdonnais' grave (2796/SQ 108/RS) lies at the far side of Kensal Green, near the wall that borders the Grand Union Canal. The area is largely overgrown and untended, with most of the headstones now anonymous, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that la Bourdonnais' is still clearly identifiable, in the shade of a large tree.

La Bourdonnais is widely judged to have been the strongest player in the world from at least 1824, when he came to London and gave the locals a good pasting, until his death. In 1821 he had also beaten his own teacher Alexandre Deschapelles, and so his reign as "world champion" may have even extended to 19 years.

No remembrance of la Bourdonnais could pass without presentation of his most famous game - possibly the first recorded chess immortal. The final position is truly a thing of beauty.


  1. Sorry if this game is set to auto-play. It shouldn't be, and I'm not sure what I did wrong!