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An old, solid opening for Black originating in the analysis and play of Francois Philidor, Philidor's Defense is not so popular any more, but still offers a very solid, controlled game for Black, with plenty of opportunities to steer the game into unfamiliar territory. The first moves are:
The idea of this move is to strengthen Black's central pawn
on e5, while simultaneously moving the other central pawn to aid development of the white-squared bishop
. The disadvantage
s are twofold: first, Black is locking in his black-squared bishop, which takes up a passive
position on e7. Second, Black is not directly influencing the center squares, merely solidifying his own pawn structure
, so White has the opportunity to gain space and set up his ideal position. If Philidor's Defense is ever played nowadays
, it is with the more hypermodern
idea of waiting for White to commit to a plan
, then uncoiling
from a cramped position to counter that plan. It is an opening based on the potential energy
of Black's position pitted against the kinetic energy
One of the most famous games of chess, played in 1858 between Paul Morphy and two players, The Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard in a box at the Paris Opera House, was a Philidor's Defense. Morphy didn't want to be playing chess at all that evening, because he loved opera, but he couldn't be discourteous to his two prestigious hosts, so he played as quickly as possible, winning in 17 moves with a brilliancy that for many years has been used to demonstrate the basic principles of chess to beginners.
Paul Morphy - Duke of Brunswick & Count Isouard, Paris 1858
3.d4 Bg4?! This move is a mistake - in modern play, 3...exd4 would be seen most often.
4.dxe5 Bxf3 Black is forced to exchange this bishop to avoid losing a pawn.
8.Nc3!? Morphy declines to win a pawn with 8.Qxb7 as this would lead to an exchange of queens after 8...Qb4+, leading to a long and drawn-out endgame which is exactly what he was trying to avoid.
9.Bg5 b5? Black is already in a very difficult position due to lack of development, but this move allows Morphy to sacrifice a piece to great effect.
White's only two remaining pieces, after a flurry of sacrifices, deliver an economical checkmate. For an animated .gif display of the moves of the game on a chessboard diagram, visit: http://www.stmoroky.com/games/chess/morphy.htm