Chess

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The Independent Online
Two hundred years ago today, the greatest chess player of the 18th century died. Francois Andre Danican-Philidor (1726-1795) lifted chess above the level of a mere game.

Sharing his life between Paris, where he was a renowned composer of comic operas, and London, where he was hailed as one of the greatest phenomena of the age for his ability to play three games of chess at the same time while blindfolded, Philidor was indeed a remarkable man. Yet everything we know about him indicates a modest personality, almost totally devoid of humour.

Sadly, few of Philidor's chess games have been preserved. All those that exist are from his final years, but we can gain an impression of his ability from his Analyze d'Echecs, the first book to give a systematic account of the strategy underlying good chess play.

Here is the "Second Party" - Philidor analysed a number of principal "Parties", each with several "Back games", following plausible alternatives to the main variations. We begin at move one:

W. The king's pawn two squares.

B. The same.

and move two:

W. King's bishop at his queen's bishop's 4th.

B. Queen's bishop's pawn one square.

Or as we might say today: 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 c6. We continue in that style solely for reasons of space: 3.d4 exd4 4.Qxd4 d6 5.f4 Be6 6.Bd3 d5 7.e5.

As Philidor commented elsewhere: "When you find your game in the present situation, viz. two pawns in a front line, you must take care not to push either of them, before your adversary proposes to change one for the other: which you will then avoid, by pushing forward the attacked pawn."

7...c5 8.Qf2 Nc6 9.c3 g6 10.h3 h5 ("He pushes this pawn two squares to prevent your pawns falling upon his.") 11.g3 Nh6 12.Nf3 Be7 13.a4 Nf5 14.Kf1 h4 15.g4 Ng3+ 16.Kg2 Nxh1 17.Kxh1. ("Though a rook is commonly more valued than a knight, yet your game may be better than his: because not-withstanding this loss, your king is safe, and you are the better enabled to form your attack on which ever side your adversary may choose to castle.") 17...Qd7 18.Qg1 a5 19.Be3 b6 20.Na3 0-0-0 21.Ba6+ Kc7 22.Nc2 Ra8 23.Bb5 Qd8 24.b4 Qf8 25.bxc5 bxc5 26.Nd2! (intending Nb3) 26...c4 27.Nf3! f6 28.Bb6+ Kb7 29.Bxc6+ Kxc6 30.Nfd4+ Kd7. ("If his king takes your queen's bishop, you have his queen by a discovered check.") 31.f5 Bg8 and now we may rejoin Philidor for the final moves:

W. The pawn gives check.

B. The king at his own square.

W. King's knight at the black queen's knight's 4th square.

B. King's bishop at his queen's 3d square.

W. The queen at her 4th square.

B. Lost everywhere.

"The queen next takes the adversary's queen's pawn, exposes every one of his pieces, and wins the game."

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