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Posts Tagged ‘Philidor’

Philidor’s Sad Demise – (21.10.2017.) 956

The greatest player of the 18th Century was Francois-André Danican Philidor (1726-1795). A child prodigy in both music composition and chess, he became a familiar figure in court circles, which after the French Revolution did him no favours, and after one of his annual visits to London to play matches against wealthy patrons, in 1793 it was felt too dangerous for him to return to his wife and children, as his name was on a hit-list of dangerous “émigrés”. So he was left marooned in London, taking residence at 10, Ryder Street, Piccadilly. Parted from his family he was physically and emotionally broken. He fell ill and died there, and was buried on 3rd September 1795 in one of the new cemeteries on the edge of the city, adjacent to where the first Euston Station would be built in 1837.

His contemporaries found his skills at simultaneous and blindfold play quite incredible, and his book, L’Analyze des Échecs went into 100+ editions worldwide and influenced chess theory for generations, not being fully appreciated until the 20th century.

If his lonely end was not sad enough, more was to come, when in 1849, Euston station was extended with platforms 9 & 10 added by taking over part of Philidor’s cemetery. Some of the headstones were laid out as paving stones but what happened to the disinterred coffins, including Philidor’s, is not known.

Members of the Staunton Society, Chairman Barry Martin and Ray Keene, having got Howard Staunton’s neglected grave renovated in Kensall Green cemetery and a blue plaque erected, lobbied English Heritage to get a plaque for Philidor placed in Ryder Street. They declined saying that “he was not famous enough”.

Here is a game of his, played at odds in London in 1789 against one of his regular opponents, J. Wilson. Philidor is White and is without his QN, while Wilson gives up his f7 pawn.

1.e4 Nh6 2.d4 Nf7 Philidor follows his normal plan of occupying the centre with pawns and developing pieces in support. 3.f4 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3 cxd4 6.cxd4 Nc6 7.Nf3 Bb4+ Annoying, as White is without his knight to block the check 8.Ke2 Qc7 9.a3 Be7 10.Be3 d6 11.b4 Bd7 12.Rc1 Qd8 Black is already finding it difficult to find good squares for his pieces. 13.h3 Rc8 14.g4 Nb8 15.Qd2 Rxc1 16.Rxc1 d5 17.e5 a6 18.f5 h6 19.fxe6 Bxe6 20.Bf5 Bxf5 21.gxf5 Bg5 22.e6 Bxe3 23.exf7+ Kxf7 24.Qxe3 Re8 25.Ne5+ Kg8 26.Qf4 Qf6 27.Kf3 Rf8? 28.Ng6! Re8 29.Qe5! Qxe5? 30.dxe5 The exchange of queens works in White’s favour as it unites his forward pawns. Nc6 31.Kf4 Kf7 32.Rd1 d4 33.h4 Rd8 34.Ke4 b5 35.h5 a5 Desperation – he has little else to do. 36.Rc1 d3 This brings us to this week’s diagrammed position. Black has a freely advancing pawn backed by a rook, so will our hero have time to take the undefended knight? What will he do?

In last week’s position, White could play 1.Qe1! which threatens to both capture the knight and to “skewer” Black’s queen and rook.

Can Philidor afford to risk taking Black's knight?