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The Independent Online
Two hundred years ago, give or take a few days, Francois Andre Danican-Philidor played his last game of chess. Philidor (1726-1795) was by far the greatest player of the 18th century. His book L'Analyze des Echecs, was the first chess work that gave any real advice about good strategy, and there was scarcely a man on earth who could give him a decent game. Indeed, most of Philidor's known games were played either at odds, or in his celebrated displays at which he would play three games at the same time, two of them without sight of the board.

For much of his life, Philidor combined his work as a composer for the Paris Opera - one of his most successful works was a setting of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones - with six months a year as chess professional at London clubs.

He gave his last display on 20 June 1795, at Parsloe's Club in St James's Street, London.

By all accounts a modest and humourless man, expressing no striking personality other than through his music and chess, Philidor was an unlikely person to have been, in terms of his superiority over his contemporaries, the greatest chessplayer of all time.

Here is one of his last games, played on 29 June 1795. Black's pawn play is pure Philidor: Black gives "pawn and two moves" odds (ie plays without his f-pawn and White makes two moves to begin).


1 e4 ... 2 d4 e6 3 f4 d5 4 e5 c5 5 c3 Nc6 6 Nf3 Qb6 7 Bd3 Nh6 8 Qb3 c4 9 Qxb6 axb6 10 Bc2 b5 11 b4 Bxb4!? 12 cxb4 Nxb4 13 Kd2 Nxc2 14 Kxc2 b4 15 Bd2 Ra4 16 h3 Rf8 17 g4 Nf7 18 Ng5 Nxg5 19 fxg5 Rf2 20 h4 b5 21 h5 b3+ 22 Kb2 b4 23 g6 hxg6 24 hxg6 Ba6 25 Rh8+ Kd7 and Black won.