François-André Danican Philidor

Portrait from L’analyze des échecs. London, second edition, 1777.

Full name
François-André Danican Philidor

Country  A9_Philidor

Born September 7, 1726
Dreux, France

August 31, 1795
London, England

World Champion
~1747–1795 (unofficial)

Philidor started playing regularly around 1740 at the chess Mecca of France, the Café de la Régence. It was also there that he famously played with a friend from ‘New England’, Mr. Benjamin Franklin. The best player in France at the time, Legall de Kermeur, taught him. At first, Legall could give Philidor rook odds, a handicap in which the stronger player starts without one of his rooks, but in only three years, Philidor was his equal, and then surpassed him. Philidor visited England in 1747 and decisively beat the Syrian Phillip Stamma in a match +8 =1 -1, despite the fact Philidor let Stamma have White in every game, and scored all draws as wins for Stamma.

Philidor astounded his peers by playing three blindfold chess games simultaneously in the chess club of St. James Street in London on 9 May 1783. Philidor let all three opponents play white, and gave up a pawn for the third player. Some affidavits were signed, because those persons who were involved doubted that future generations would believe that such a feat was possible. Today, three simultaneous blindfold games would be fairly unremarkable among many chess masters. Even when he was in his late years, when he was 67 years old (1793), he played and won two blindfold games simultaneously in London.

In 1749, Philidor published his famous book Analyse du jeu des Échecs. He printed a second edition in 1777, and a third edition in 1790. The book was such an advance in chess knowledge that by 1871, it had gone through about 70 editions, and had been translated into English, German and Italian. In it, Philidor analyzed nine different types of game openings. Most of the openings of Philidor are designed to strengthen and establish a strong defensive center using pawns. He is the first one to realize the new role of the pawn in the chess game; and his most famous advice was the saying “The pawns are the soul of chess”. It was said that the reason why Philidor emphasized the pawns in the chess game was related to the political background during the eighteenth century of France, and that he regarded pawns as the “Third rank” on the chess board (citizens were regarded as the third rank of the society before the French Revolution started in 1789). He also included analysis of certain positions of rook and bishop versus rook, such analysis being still current theory even today. He is most famous for showing an important drawing technique with a rook and pawn versus rook endgame, in a position known as the Philidor position. The Philidor Defense (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6) is named for him.

Andrew Soltis writes that Philidor “was the best player in the world for 50 years. In fact, he was probably about 200 rating points better than anyone else yet alive—set apart by the mysteries of the game he had solved.”

Final years

Philidor was stranded in England when the French Revolution occurred. Because of many of his social connections , the Revolutionary Government put him on the banned list. He died on August 31, 1795, in London and was buried in St James, Piccadilly. A few days later, his relatives succeeded in getting his name removed from the list.

Notable chess games

  • Captain Smith vs François André Philidor, London, England 1790, Bishop’s Opening: Berlin Defense (C24), 0-1 Good sample of Philidor’s ideas about pawns; plus a nice mating combination at the end
  • François André Philidor vs NN, Unknown 1749, Bishop’s Opening: Boi Variation (C23), 1-0

Philidor Position

To sum up the defense: the defender should keep his king in front of the opposing pawn and keep his rook on the third rank until the pawn advances to that rank, then go to the far end of the board (the seventh or eighth rank) and check the king from behind. If the attacker tries to get his king to his sixth rank by moving his rook to that rank first to block the checks, the defender simply exchanges rooks and has a drawn king and pawn versus king endgame.


About Bart7

Chess enthusiast and wanna be blogger ..Supporter of God,Family,USA and Gaming. Long live the Q.G.and Freedom.[GTh:77]
Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CAPTCHA ImageChange Image