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The Philidor Defense [C41]

This month I decided to do a column on the Philidor Defense from White's perspective. As a King's Gambit player, I have not had to face the Philidor, or other Black responses to 2.Nf3, but I was happy to enrich my chess education by investigating this opening. 1.e4 e5 1...d6 is a good move order for Black to reach the Philidor. 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3

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The Openings Explained

Abby Marshall
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The Philidor Files by Christian Bauer

A) 3...Nbd7 This is Black's idea in this move order, as long as he isn't worried about 4.f4. 4.Nf3 (4.f4 is a good choice to avoid Black's plans. 4.Nf3 e5. This looks more like the Austrian Attack in the Pirc than Philidor territory, so I won't explore it here.) 4...e5 This is what Black wants, but it can be fun for White too. Check out the 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 move order to see what is going on in this position. B) 3...e5 4.dxe5 (4.Nf3 Nbd7 transposes to the position mentioned above.) 4... dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bg5 I like White's lead in development. 6...Be6 7.f4 This is a nice idea that keeps some initiative. Otherwise, the fact that Black can't castle won't be a factor. 7...exf4 8.Nf3 (Not 8.e5 h6 9.Bh4 g5.) 8...h6 9. Bxf4 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 c6 11.Nd4 Bc5 12.Be2 (12.Nxe6+ fxe6 13.Bc4 Ke7 14. Rhe1 looks good too.) 12...Re8 13.Bf3 Kc8?! (13...g5 Black should maybe try for more active play.) 14.e5! Bxd4 (14...Ng4?? 15.Nxe6 White wins a piece.) 15.Rxd4 Nh7 (15...Ng4 16.Ne4 Kc7? walks into 17.Bxg4 Bxg4 18.e6+) 16. Ne4 Kc7 17.Nd6 Once White gets a knight on the sixth rank, Black has a real problem. 17...Re7 18.Rhd1 Nhf8 19.Bg3 a5 20.h4 Nb6? Black lets White unleash a nice tactic. 21.Nf5! Rd7 (21...Bxf5 22.e6+ Kc8 23.Rd8#) 22.Nxg7 Rxd4 23.Rxd4 Rd8 24.Rf4 Black is a pawn down in a terrible position and about to lose even more pawns. 1-0, Degraeve,J-Kasparov, S/Bethune Open, France 2002. 2.Nf3 After somewhat of a digression we have reached the move order generally associated with the Philidor. 2...d6 Black protects the e-pawn, but blocks the f8-bishop and accepts a space disadvantage. 3.d4

The Fighting Philidor by Victor Bologan

Play through and download the games from in the ChessBase Game Viewer.

The Philidor Defence by Alexei Shirov

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White immediately tries to gain more space and put pressure on Black. Even in the main lines, White always has a pull and gets much of the fun if Black is unsure of what to do. However, Black has some options. 3...exd4 3...Nf6 Here I recommend 4.dxe5 (line b). This is the variation Black tries to avoid when playing a 2...d6 move order. A) 4.Nc3 Nbd7 Black has a solid set-up and may be able to take advantage if White oversteps. 5.Bc4 Be7 6.0-0 White has more space and free development. Objectively, the position may end up equal, but I would prefer White. (6.Bxf7+? Looks tempting, but 6...Kxf7 7.Ng5+ Kg8 8.Ne6 Qe8 9. Nxc7 Qg6 10.Nxa8 Qxg2 is bad for White.) 6...0-0 7.Re1 c6 Black gains some more space and control over d5. 8.a4 This prevents ...b5 and gains space for White. 8...b6 The light-squared bishop will be fianchettoed. A1) 9.Ba2 I like this move quite a bit. Rather than go after Black strategically, White tries to make the space advantage count on the kingside. 9...Bb7 10. Nh4!? This is a fantastic game between Morrison-Ruck, Hungary 1999. If White wants to fight it out tactically, this would be the variation to choose! According to Chess Publishing, Morrison spent forty minutes on this move.

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A1a) Black waits to see what is going on. 10...Re8 11.Nf5 Bf8 12.dxe5 Black will gain control over e5 eventually, so White goes ahead and trades. 12... Nxe5 13.f3 a6 14.Bg5 Bc8 15.Ne3 Ng6? (Chess Publishing says that Black had to play 15...h6 16.Bh4 Ng6 I like White here, but I guess Black can defend. The f8-bishop looks so bad.) 16.Qd4 Re5 (16...h6 The endgame is not going to be a comfort for Black. 17.Bxf6 Qxf6 18.Qxf6 gxf6 19.Nc4 Rb8 20. Rad1+/-) 17.f4 Rxg5!? Black tries to take the pressure off and disrupt White. 18.fxg5 Nd7 19.Kh1 Qxg5 20.Nf5 White is of course better here since White is up the exchange. At least Black is breathing. 20...d5?? 21.Nxd5! cxd5 22. Qxd5 Nde5 23.Qxa8 and Black resigned at move thirty-seven. Morrison,CRuck,T/Koszeg, Hungary 1999. This game well illustrated the dangers of the cramped Philidor position. A1b) 10...Nxe4 is naturally the critical move since Black is wins a pawn. 11. Nxe4 Bxh4 12.Qg4! and now we have the following variations: (Not 12.Nxd6 Bxf2+ 13.Kxf2 Qf6+ 14.Kg1 Qxd6 15.dxe5 Qxd1 16.Rxd1 Nxe5 White is

probably okay, but attacking chances are gone. 17.Bf4 Ng6 18.Bg3) A1b1) 12...g6? Black needs a more active defense. 13.Bh6 Re8 (13...d5 14. Bxf8 f5 15.Qe2 Qxf8 16.Nd2 This doesn't look terrible for Black, but it's not what Black wants.) 14.Bxf7+! Kxf7 15.Nxd6+ Kg8 16.Nxe8 wins for White. A1b2) 12...Kh8! 13.Nxd6 Bxf2+ 14.Kxf2 Nf6! (14...Qf6+? 15.Nf5 g6 16. dxe5 Qxf5+ 17.Qxf5 gxf5 18.b4! The bishop-pair and Black's exposed king mean that White is crushing.) 15.Qh4 Qxd6 16.dxe5 Qc5+ 17.Kg3 This is unclear. It's promising and I would recommend playing this position with a friend before trying it over the board. A1b3) 12...d5? This looks natural, but White is coming too fast. 13.Bh6! Bf6 14.Nxf6+ Qxf6 15.Bxg7 Qxg7 16.Qxd7 White has attacking chances and the initiative. A2) 9.d5 This move covers d5 before Black gets settled with ...Bb7. White will try to put some pressure on the light squares in Black's queenside.

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A2a) 9...Bb7 10.dxc6 Bxc6 11.Bb5! This is a nice move to loosen up the light squares. 11...Bb7!? (11...Bxb5 12.axb5; 11...Rc8 12.Bxc6 Rxc6 13.Qe2 h6 14. Be3 The f5-square is tender and Black's queenside could face danger on the light-squares.) 12.Nh4! a6 (12...Nxe4? 13.Nxe4 Bxh4 14.Nxd6+/-) 13.Bxd7! Qxd7 14.Nf5 Rfd8 (14...b5 15.axb5 axb5 16.Rxa8 Rxa8 17.Nxb5 Bxe4 18. Nxe7+ Qxe7 19.Qxd6 Qb7 20.Qxe5 Bxg2 21.Nd6 Qf3 22.b4 White is winning.) 15.Bg5 White has plenty of pressure. A2b) 9...c5 10.a5 Unfortunately, Black can't push past with ...b5. White gains nice space on the queenside. A2c) 9...cxd5! 10.Nxd5 Bb7= Chess Publishing says, "This is close to equal. As a general rule, one outpost isn't usually enough to win the game." Maybe so, but we usually aren't playing grandmasters and this may be enough to win. 11.b3 Just for reference, here is what may happen. 11...Rc8 12.Re2 Nc5 13. Nxf6+ Bxf6 14.Bd5 Qd7 15.Ba3 Bxd5 16.Qxd5 Rfd8= Chadaev,NKazhgaleyev,M/Moscow RUS 2007. B) 4.dxe5 Nxe4 (4...dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Nxe5 Be6 7.Bg5 White is up a pawn.) 5.Qd5 Nc5 6.Bg5 Be7 (6...Qd7 7.Nc3 c6 8.Qd4 This is really slow for Black.) 7.exd6 Qxd6 8.Nc3 White has such a lead in development that it has to be good for White.

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B1) 8...0-0 9.0-0-0 Qxd5 10.Nxd5. What's nice about this variation is that even after the exchange of queens White still has a pull. B1a) 10...Bd6 11.Be7! Bxe7 Forced. (11...Re8?? 12.Bxd6 cxd6 13.Nc7) 12. Nxe7+ Kh8 13.Nxc8 Rxc8 14.Ne5 f6 (14...Kg8 15.Bc4 Ne6 16.Rhe1 Black is so undeveloped on the queenside and White should be able to quickly force concessions.; whereas 14...Rf8 immediately drops a pawn to 15.Nxf7+!) 15. Nf7+! Kg8 16.Nd8! Nc6 17.Bc4+ Kf8 18.Nxc6 bxc6 19.b4 Na4? 20.Rd7 Nb6 21.Rf7+ Kg8 22.Be6 Re8 23.Bb3 Nd5 24.Rxc7 Kf8 (24...Re6 25.Rxc6!) 25. Bxd5 cxd5 26.Rd1 Re2 27.Rd2 Re1+ 28.Kb2 Re5 29.Kc3 a5 30.b5 Rb8 31.a4 Re4 32.Rd4 Re2 33.Rxd5 1-0, Velimirovic,D-Sekulic,V/Bijeljina, Yugoslavia 2001. B1b) 10...Bxg5+ 11.Nxg5 White has too many threats and Black can only parry one at a time. 11...Nba6 12.Ne7+ Kh8 13.Nxf7+! Rxf7 14.Rd8+ Rf8 15. Rxf8#. B1c) 10...Bxg5+ 11.Nxg5 Nba6 12.Ne7+ Kh8 13.Nxf7+! Rxf7 14.Rd8+ Rf8 15.Rxf8#. B2) 8...a6 9.0-0-0 Be6 10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.Qe5 B2a) 11...f6 12.Qh5+ Bf7 13.Qh4 Nbd7 (13...0-0 14.Bc4 Nc6 15.Rhe1 The Black queen is in trouble.) 14.Re1 Ne6 (14...Be6 15.b4 0-0 16.Nd4) 15.Bc4 00-0 16.Nd4 Ndc5 17.Nxe6 Nxe6 18.Qe4 Rd6 (18...Rde8 allows 19.Bxa6! bxa6 20.Qa8+ Kd7 21.Rd1+) 19.Bd5! c6 20.Bb3 Kb8 21.Qg4 Re8 22.Re3 g6 23.Qg3 Ka8 24.Rhe1 f5 25.Na4! Qd8? (25...f4 is met by 26.Qxf4 Nxf4 27. Rxe7) 26.Nb6+! 1-0, Keitlinghaus-Gretarsson, Iceland 1997. If 26...Qxb6 27 Qxd6 or 26...Ka7 27 Nc8+! Qxc8 28 Qxd6 or 26...Kb8 27 Bxe6 Bxe6 28 Rxe6! Rxe6 29 Rxe6. B2b) 11...0-0 loses to 12.Nd5 Qd8 13.Nxc7. 3...Nd7 4.Bc4 Here there is another whole slew of variations in which White has all the fun.

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A) 4...Be7? 5.dxe5! Now everything loses. 5...Nb6 (5...Nxe5 6.Nxe5 dxe5 7. Qh5; 5...dxe5 6.Qd5) 6.Bb3 White is up a pawn for absolutely nothing. In another six moves Black resigned in Banikas, H-Sofronie,I/Kubbeli Salon,

Turkey 2002. B) 4...h6 This looks like an invitation to disaster. 5.dxe5 dxe5 (5...Nxe5? 6. Nxe5 dxe5 7.Bxf7+; 5...Qe7 looks ugly but may be necessary after the earlier mistake. 6.exd6 Qxe4+ 7.Be2 Bxd6 8.0-0) 6.Bxf7+! This leads to a really great lesson in hunting down the king. 6...Kxf7 7.Nxe5+ Kf6 (7...Ke8 8.Qh5+ Ke7 9.Qf7+ Kd6 10.Nc4+ Kc5 11.Qd5+ Kb4 12.a3+ Ka4 13.Nc3#) 8.Nc3! B1) 8...Kxe5 9.Qd5+ Kf6 10.Qf5+ Ke7 11.Nd5+ Kd6 (11...Ke8 12.Qg6#) 12. Bf4+ Kc6 13.Qe6+ Bd6 14.Nb4+ Kb5 (14...Kb6 15.Bxd6 cxd6 16.Qxd6+ Ka5 17.Nd5 b6 18.c4 Qf8 19.Qc6 Ba6 20.a4 Ngf6 21.Qb5+ Bxb5 22.axb5+ Qa3 23.Rxa3#) 15.a4+ Ka5 16.Qc4! Bxb4+ (16...a6 17.Nd5) 17.c3 Bxc3+ 18. Qxc3+ Kb6 19.Qb4+ Kc6 20.Qb5#; B2) 8...Bb4 9.Qd4! Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 Ke6 11.Qd5+ Kf6 12.Qf7+! Kxe5 13.Bf4 + Kxe4 14.f3# 1-0, Skatschkov,P-Krovelstschikov,A/Tomsk Open, Russia 2001. Such an awesome game. C) 4...Ngf6? 5.dxe5 Nxe5 (5...dxe5 6.Ng5; 5...Nxe4? 6.Qd5) 6.Nxe5 dxe5 7. Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qxd8 Bb4+ Black doesn't actually lose a queen, but is still going to be a pawn down. 9.Qd2! Bxd2+ 10.Nxd2. D) 4...exd4 5.Nxd4 Be7 6.Bxf7+ Kxf7 7.Ne6! Qe8 (7...Kxe6 8.Qd5+ Kf6 9. Qf5#) 8.Nxc7 Qd8 9.Qd5+ Kf8 10.Ne6+ Kf7 11.Ng5+ Kg6 12.Qf5+ Kh5 13. g4+ Kh4 14.Nf3+ Kh3 15.g5+ Kg2 16.Rg1#; E) 4...c6 5.0-0 Be7 6.dxe5 dxe5 7.Ng5 Nh6 (7...Bxg5 8.Qh5) 8.Ne6 fxe6 9. Bxh6 Nb6 10.Qh5+ Kf8 11.f4 again White is on top.; 3...f5 This is the ultrasharp "Mestel variation," named after England's Jonathan Mestel, who is a grandmaster in regular chess and correspondence chess. 4.Nc3 A) 4...fxe4 5.Nxe4 d5

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A1) 6.Neg5!? intending after 6...e4 (6...h6 7.Nf7! Kxf7 8.Nxe5+ Black has so many weak squares around the king that this move is great.) for 7.Ne5 Nh6 8. Nxh7 The weak light squares are killing Black. A2) 6.Ng3 e4 7.Ne5 Nf6 8.f3! White goes after the head of the pawn chain to weaken Black's grip on the center. 8...Bd6 9.fxe4 dxe4 10.Bc4 Qe7 11.Bf7+ Kd8 12.Bb3+/=. B) 4...exd4 5.Nxd4 (5.Qxd4!? Nc6 can be answered by 6.Bb5) 5...fxe4 6. Nxe4 Nf6 7.Nxf6+ Qxf6 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Nb5 Kd8 (9...Qe7+ 10.Be3 a6 11.Nc3 Black is guilty of little development.) 10.0-0 Black's king is in the center. C) 4...Nf6 5.dxe5 White is doing well. 5...Nxe4 6.Bc4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 c6 8.exd6 Qxd6 9.0-0 White has more activity and Black has weak squares.; 3...Bg4? I think this occurs in many Greco games where White just destroys Black. 4. dxe5 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 dxe5 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.Qb3!. 4.Nxd4

White has more space because the e-pawn is farther advanced than the Black d-pawn. 4...Nf6 4...Be7 5.Nc3 should transpose to the main line. (5.c4!? is interesting, to gain space.) 5.Nc3

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5...Be7 5...g6 is the Larsen variation, named after GM Bent Larsen. 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Qd2 White is going for a Yugoslav type set-up found in the Dragon Sicilian. 7...00 8.0-0-0 Re8 9.f3 Nc6 A) 10.Nb3 White does not rush ahead into the pawn storm but prevents Black from exchanging on d4 and getting the c-pawn ready to be pushed. This move obstructs Black's plans quite a bit. This may be a good choice for the more positionally inclined. See Prasad-Saravanan below. 10...Be6!? (10...a6?! looks a bit slow. We will look at this in the first illustrative game.) 11.Bg5 White has lasting pressure.(11.Nd5? Bxd5 12.exd5 Nxd5! 13.Qxd5 Rxe3). B) 10.g4 Both sides seem to be ready to madly rush at the king. Unfortunately for Black, the c-file is not open for attack. 10...a6 11.Be2 No rush and regardless, this move helps the attack by supporting f3-f4 and g5. 11...Ne5 12. g5 Nh5 13.f4 Exactly the point of White's eleventh move. Now the threat is 14.Bxh5. 13...Ng4 14.Bg1 c5 15.Nb3 Bxc3 Normally Black would not want to give up the dark-squared bishop, but here it does force White to somewhat weaken White's king position. 16.bxc3 (16.Qxc3? would allow 16...Nxf4) 16... Rxe4 17.h3! Ng3 (After 17...Rxe2 18.Qxe2 Ng3 19.Qf3 Nxh1 20.hxg4, Black lost track of the h1-knight.) 18.Bf3! Ra4 (If 18...Nxh1 19.Bxe4 Ng3 20.Bf3, now Black lost track of the g4-knight.) 19.Bxc5 Nxh1 20.Bxh1 Rxa2 21.Kb1 Ra4 22.Bd5 Bf5 (22...dxc5? 23.Bxf7+ followed by 24 Qxd8.) 23.Bd4 Qd7 24. hxg4 Bxg4 25.Re1 Black is still up the exchange, though check out White's bishops, especially the d4-bishop. Black has no dark-squared bishop to oppose it. 25...Bf5 26.Qe3 Kf8 27.Bf6 White soon won in Rytshagov,MMeijers,V/Mezezers zonal tourn., Latvia 2000. 6.Be2 Simple development makes the most sense here, since Black doesn't have any weaknesses besides being a little cramped. 6...0-0 7.0-0 Re8 8.f4 Chess Publishing notes that this system was advocated by Aron Nimzowitsch in My System. 8.Re1 is the more mainstream move, so let's look at it:

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A) 8...Nc6 Black remains cramped. 9.Bf4 Ne5 10.Bg3 c6 11.f4 Ng6 12.Kh1 Qb6 13.Rb1 d5? 14.f5! Nf8 15.exd5 Rd8 16.Bf3+/- Smirin, I-Golod, V/ Ledyards USA 2006. B) 8...a6 9.Bf1 h6 Black takes away one nice square from the c1-bishop. Alas, there is another square for it. (9...b5 10.Nf5 Bf8 11.Bg5+/= White has nice pressure on Black.) 10.b3! See Ivanchuk, V-Urban,K/Team tournament, Poland 2002 below. C) 8...Bf8 9.Bf1 Nbd7 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bh4 c6 12.Qd2 (12.a4 Ne5 13.a5 a6 14. h3 Bd7 15.Qd2 Ng6 16.Bg3 Nh5 17.Bh2 Qf6 18.Na4 Rad8 19.Nb6 Nhf4 20. Nxd7+/= White had good play in Moiseenko, A-Kazhgaleyev, M/Moscow RUS 2006) 12...Ne5 13.f3 Ng6 14.Bf2 White still has that space edge. Sergienko-Chuprov, Voronesh 2002. D) 8...c5!? This move creates weaknesses on d5 and d6, but also frees Black's game a bit. 9.Nf3 Nc6 10.Bf4 Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 12.Bc4 a6 13.a4 Qc8 Black plays this move to forestall g4 14.Nd5 This is the logical way to follow. 14... Nxd5 15.Bxd5 Nd4 16.Kh2 Bf6 17.c3 Nxf3+ 18.gxf3 Be5 19.Bg3 Qd8 20. Qd3 Qf6 21.Kg2+/= is probably about even. 8...Bf8 9.Bf3 c5?! 9...c6 This looks more consistent with the ideas of the Philidor: cramped, but with room to maneuver without creating too many weaknesses. 10.Nde2 Nc6 11.h3!

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Restricting Black's pieces and preparing a pawn storm. 11...Bd7 11...h5!? 12.f5! with the idea Nf4 or Bg5. 12...Ne5 13.Nf4 Nxf3+ 14.Qxf3+/-. 12.g4 h6 13.Ng3 Nd4 14.Bg2 b5 15.a3 Bc6 16.Be3 Qb6 17.Qd2 1-0 It is interesting and certainly fun to play.

The next example is a great attacking game. White's attack develops almost effortlessly and Black hardly has time to notice. Prasad, D Saravanan, V Indian Championship 2001 New Delhi IND, 2001 Philidor Defense [C41] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Qd2 0-0 8.0-00 Re8 9.f3 Nc6 10.Nb3!?

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White choses to disrupt Black's plans before pursuing his own. 10...a6?! As I said in the theory section, this is quite slow. 10...Be6 is better. 11.h4 The kings are on opposite sides of the board, so White begins the pawn storm to attack the enemy king. 11...b5 11...h5 Black can try to stop White's plan. 12.Bg5 The knight is now pinned, which makes ideas of g2-g4 stronger and ideas of Nd5. 12.Bg5! White also pins in this variation with the same ideas. 12...Be6 Black defends against the Nd5 threat. 13.h5! b4 Black has no time to stop either. 14.Nd5 Bxd5 15.exd5 Ne7 16.hxg6 hxg6 17.Bc4 This is a nice move that preserves the pawn on d5 and really restricts Black. 17...Nd7 18.g4 Nb6 19.Qh2!

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Black tried to swing around to the queenside and threaten White, but it's too late. 19...Kf8 19...Nxc4 20.Qh7+ Kf8 21.Bh6 Ouch. 21...Bxh6+ 22.Qxh6+ Kg8 23.Qh8#. 20.Qh7 This is often a strong move. 20...Ng8 Black finds the one way to defend against 21.Bh6, but it comes at a terrible price. 21.Bxd8 Nxc4 22.Bg5 Bxb2+ 23.Kb1 Bc3 24.Nd4 Na3+ 25.Kc1 Nb5

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26.Qxg8+! 1-0 A nice way to finish Black off. Black resigned because the next move is 27. Bf6 with no defense to 28.Rh8#. The next game features super-grandmaster Ivanchuk. Ivanchuk, V Urban, K Team tournament, Poland 2002, 2002 Philidor Defense [C41] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 Re8 8. Re1 a6 9.Bf1 h6 10.b3!

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Ivanchuk creatively reconfigures the bishop's position to b2 with great effect. 10...Bf8 11.Bb2 Nbd7 11...b5 12.a4 b4 13.Nd5 is also great for White, especially after 13...Nxe4? 14. Qf3. 12.Qd2 Nc5 12...b5?? 13.Nc6 Black loses the queen. 13.f3 c6 14.Kh1 a5 15.a3 15.Rad1 a4 16.b4 a3!. 15...Qc7 16.Rad1 White slowly nurses the space advantage. 16...Bd7 17.Qf4 Nh5 18.Qh4 Nf6 19.Rd2 The start of a very effective maneuver. 19...Rad8 20.Nd1!

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20...Be7 21.Qf2 Bc8 22.Rde2! The immediate 22.Ne3 fails to 22...Nfxe4 23.fxe4 Nxe4 24.Qe2 Nxd2 25. Qxd2 Bf6 Black is a little better since White has no center pawns. 22...Bf8 23.Ne3 Ncd7 23...g6? This makes sense to prevent White from going to f5, but it fails tactically. 24.Nxc6 bxc6 25.Bxf6.; 23...d5? is another tactical error. Often, the best positional plans are supported by little tactics that prevent the other side from stopping the plan. 24.exd5 cxd5 25.Nxd5! Rxd5 (or 25...Rxe2 26.Nxf6+ gxf6 27.Rxe2) 26.Rxe8 Nxe8 27.Rxe8.

24.Rd1 g6 25.Qh4 Bg7 It seems that Black has managed to stop any knight from going to f5 and shored up the kingside with the bishop on g7.

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26.Ndf5!! This is the whole key to the plan. 26...gxf5 27.Nxf5 Re6 If 27...Ne5, then 28.Nxg7 Kxg7 29.f4 Ned7 30.Re3, followed by Rg3/Rh3, crushes Black. 28.f4! A rook lift is coming. 28...Nf8 29.Nxh6+ Bxh6 30.Qxh6 N8h7 31.Re3 Ne8 31...Kh8 32.Rh3 Kg8 33.Rg3+ Kh8 34.Qg7#. 32.Rg3+ Rg6 33.Rxg6+ fxg6 34.Qxg6+ Ng7

[FEN "2br2k1/1pq3nn/2pp2Q1/p7/ 4PP2/PP6/1BP3PP/3R1B1K w - - 0 35"]

35.Bc4+ The bishop-pair is too strong. 35...d5 36.exd5 cxd5 If 36...b5, then 37.dxc6+! (not 37.d6+?? bxc4 38.dxc7 Rxd1#) 37...bxc4 38. Rxd8+ Qxd8 39.Qxg7#. 37.Rxd5 Rxd5 38.Bxd5+ Kh8 Or 38...Kf8 39.Qxh7. 39.Qe8+ 1-0

Another game that ended in a brutal attack. Lessons Learned

There are plenty of chances to attack in the Philidor! I gave a few complete games with many variations to show how exactly White nets the black king, but don't let those scare you. Memorize ideas, not moves. White has more space in the Philidor, while Black consents to being cramped. Be careful not to press too hard. A couple of the positions I recommend are not entirely clear, so I would identify and practice them. The one at the end of the theory section for sure.


French grandmaster Oliver Renet is a fan of the 8.f4 system. Serbian grandmaster Dragoljub Velimirovic is often on the white side of these nice attacks. He is a known for his attacking play and has a variation in the Sicilian named after him. Ukrainian grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk was once ranked number two in the world.

Further Reading

The Modern Philidor Defense by Vladimir Barsky. I respect Barsky as an author. This is from Black's perspective.

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