Francois-Andre Danican Philidor

Having talked about the Philidor position, I thought I might conduct a little research into this chess player who I know very little about. He was one of the architects of modern chess.

Philidor was born in 1726  into a musical family and was a member of the royal choir of Louis XV from the age of 6. He became a relatively famous composer in his time. He composed many comic operas and some of his works are available today (for example Carmen Secular/ Overtures  which I am listening to as a write (via Deezer – a music streaming service)).

He began to play chess at the Cafe de la Regency in Paris and soon was able to outplay his French contemporaries. In 1747 he beat the Syrian player Stamma who was considered to be one of the strongest players of the time (and incidentally was the inventor of algebraic notation).

His greatest contribution was to the write “L’analyse de jeu des Echecs”. To understand its impact its necessary to understand the state of chess at the time. The Italian School dominated the way chess was played, with reckless attacks primarily by pieces where pawns were of little value except as battering rams to break the way to the king. Philidor was the very first person to put forward a view of chess based on positional compacts. This is exemplified by his famous quote:

“Pawns are the should of chess: on their correct or bad arrangement depends the success of attack or defence; the art of playing with them decided the fate of the game”

Philidor developed several other rules which were then built on by the generations of chess players to follow.

Most of Philidor’s surviving games were played at odds or blindfold. The following game was from a simultaneous blindfold exhibition.

Philidor was caught up in the French Revolution and was stranded in London, banned from returning to France due to his aristocratic connections. He died in 1795 and was buried in London. The location of his grave appears to be unclear as there does not seem to be any clear records remaining from that time. There is a dilapidated memorial for Philidor in St James Garden which is only distingusihable due to his coat of arms, any writing has eroded away.


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