Person of day - 7 SEPTEMBER 2023
He was a talented composer and an exceptional chess player. In Paris, Philidor took lessons from Legall before moving to Holland, where he played with the finest chess players of his time. His most renowned match is his contest with Phillip Stamma in 1747, when Stamma played all games with whites and whose draws counted as wins for him. Despite all this, Philidor confidently won 8:2. Eight years later, he won a match against his mentor, Legall.
In London, Philidor published Analyse du jeu des Échecs, where he outlined innovative chess ideas. Philidor claimed that pawns remained the foundation of chess, since only they create attacks and defences: their location determines the outcome of the match. He developed techniques to advance pawns on the board, he took notice of the importance of a pawn-heavy centre and aspects that determined its strength or weakness. This was a new method to evaluate a position.
Philidor attached enormous importance to the interaction between chess pieces. He wrote that real attacks are performed by linking multiple chess pieces- they are rarely carried out by one or two. Essentially, he anticipatedSteinitz’s theory about accumulation and utilisation of minimal advantages. Philidor’s analyses of endgames like “rook and bishop vs rook”, “queen vs rook”, “rook and pawn vs rook” and others remain relevant to contemporary chess theory.
Philidor’s main achievement lies in the fact that he was the first to link all stages of a chess game and subjugate all pieces and pawns to a unitary plan. He is considered the originator of the positional game and the first chess strategist. “He was the greatest chess thinker ever to live”, wrote Reti.
Games that Philidor played in his creative prime have not been found. Only 70 games are known publicly, and they were played in the later stages of his life. Despite Philidor’s insistence on playing blindfolded and giving his opponents an advantage, they reveal his exceptional strategic mastery and evident superiority over his contemporaries.
Francois-Andre Philidor died in August 1795 in London.