Philidor refuted?

Font Size
Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

We continue from last Thursday.

To recap, in the Philidor Defense after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Black’s woes can be traced to his insistence on maintaining the strongpoint on e5. Why not just give it up and play solid? What’s wrong with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7, the Antoshin Variation? GM Larry Kaufman in “Kaufman’s New Repertoire for Black and White,” remarks that this line is a pretty reasonable choice for Black in a must-win situation, because although White is better, both sides have play, and the chances of a draw are fairly low. He then revealed that he selected this defense for Black repeatedly and successfully for the computer program Rybka in a match where it gave draw and White odds in every game to GM Joel Benjamin.

But there is something wrong with the Antoshin. Later on in the game portion of the book Kaufman says that the line works reasonably well for Black against routine play by White, but the plan of Bf4, Qd2, 0-0-0 then f3 followed by a general pawn advance in the kingside is pretty much a refutation of it.

The Dutch IM Robert Ris has an online show on entitled “The Fast and Furious” where he shows the latest attacking ideas. He analyzed the Antoshin Variation extensively and came to the same conclusion — the Philidor set-up of 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 has been refuted.

Our friends from have agreed to allow our readers to access the video for free. Just go to the links below:

If you want to see a short introduction and discussion of the line go to:

if you want to go to the video directly here is the link:

Note: There are several lectures here. Pick the one which says “Philidor with exd4.” I will repeat what I just said to give it emphasis — has very generously agreed to allow our readers to access the video for free.

I strongly encourage our readers to consider taking up a Chessbase premium membership account. I have one and I use it several times a day to watch videos, watch broadcast of major tournaments, comment on, analyze and save games in the cloud, access the live database where other members store their analyses as well — this ensures that you are always on the cutting edge of theory, etc etc. I find a premium membership indispensable — it is around P250/month. In general the options are here: and IM Robert Ris have also allowed us to present “The Fast and Furious” analyses of “Crushing the Philidor” to our readers

White in the following game is the 25-year old Dutch International Master Nico Zwirs playing against GM Sipke Ernst, an International Grandmaster from Holland and a very active chess player (especially in the German and Belgian leagues), chess coach, and author.

I have added a few comments which are prefaced by <BA>

Zwirs, Nico (2386) — Ernst, Sipke (2540) [C41]
Groninger Combinatie op
Groningen (7), 02.06.2019 (annotated by IM Robert Ris)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4

<BA> Let’s take a final look at the other possibilities here.

We already discussed 3…Nf6, 3…Nd7 and the infamous 3…Bg4 last Thursday; Paul Morphy also played the Philidor himself with Black, and his move was 3…f5 but I have no faith in this move. 4.exf5 e4 5.Ng5 Bxf5 6.f3 exf3 (6…d5? 7.fxe4 dxe4 8.Bb5+ Nc6 9.0–0 White’s advantage is already decisive) 7.Qxf3 Qe7+ 8.Kd1 Qf6 9.Qxb7 Qxd4+ 10.Bd3 Qg4+ (10…Bxd3? 11.Qc8+ Ke7 12.Qe6+ Kd8 13.Nf7#) 11.Nf3 Bxd3 12.cxd3 White is clearly winning. Look at the name of the player handling the black pieces. Even he could not hold it. Charbonneau,P (2513)-Nakamura, H. (2733) Lloydminster 2010 1–0 (31);

3…Nc6 4.Bb5 is the Ruy Lopez Steinitz Defense. I will show you the famous game Tarrasch versus Marco from Dresden 1892 later.

4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.Bf4

This is the critical line, the one which really puts Black’s position under pressure. White’s pieces are more actively placed in the center, Black’s pieces are still on their initial squares and in general he lacks space, so it is harder for him to find squares for his pieces to attack his opponent.

6…0–0 7.Qd2 a6

I consider 7…Nc6 to be the main line. Another very common move here is 7…c6. Both of these moves will be taken up on Thursday.

We also see 7…Nc6 a lot. After 8.0–0–0 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Be6 Black has a solid position, but it is an inferior one 10.f3 Nd7 11.Qe3 (more precise than pushing 11.g4 right away because then Black has 11…Bg5) 11…Bf6 12.g4 a6 13.g5 Be5 14.h4 Qe7 White has an easy position to play 15.Bh2 Bxh2 16.Rxh2 Ne5 17.Be2 f5 18.f4 Nc6 19.h5 fxe4 20.h6 g6 21.Nxe4 d5 22.Nc5 Rae8 23.Bf3 Bf7 24.Qxe7 Rxe7 25.Nxb7 1–0 (45) Lautier, J. (2663)-Dorfman, J. (2617) Val d’Isere 2002.

8.0–0–0 b5 9.f3

It is interesting to see Markus Ragger, a player who is always prepared, play 9.h4 c5 10.Nf5 Bxf5 11.exf5 Nc6 1–0 (53) Ragger,M (2687)-Rusev,K (2520) Skopje 2018. Very strong would have been 12.g4 Nxg4 (committing suicide) 13.Rg1 Nf6 14.Bh6 winning at least the exchange.


[9…b4 is premature 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.exd5 White’s position is much better because of the weaknesses induced in Black’s queenside]

10.Nf5 Bxf5 11.exf5 Nc6 12.g4!

White’s attacking prospects are obviously very good.


To get more attacking ideas I recommend that you play over the following: 12…b4 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.Qxd5 Bg5 15.Bxg5 Qxg5+ 16.Kb1 Nd4 17.Bd3 (17.Bc4 Qf4 18.Qe4 Qxe4 19.fxe4) 17…Qf4 18.Qe4 Qh6 19.Rde1 Rad8 20.Bc4 Qh4 21.Bd5 Rd7 22.Rhg1 Qf6 23.f4 a5 24.Qd3 Rb8 25.g5 Qd8 26.g6 Qf6 27.Qh3 h6 28.gxf7+ Kf8 29.Rxg7 Kxg7 30.Qg4+ 1–0 (30) Edouard,R (2594)-Kazhgaleyev,M (2626) Le Port Marly 2009.


Giving up a pawn for the attack. This is stronger than 13.g5 Nh5 14.f6 gxf6 15.Be3 fxg5 16.Bxd4 cxd4 17.Nd5 Bf6 18.Rg1 when White is better but Black is still fighting. Pontikis,A (2400)-Ingersol,H (2392) LSS email 2007 1-0 (64).

13…Nxf3 14.Qg2 Ne5 15.Be2 b4 16.Na4 Nfd7 17.g5 Re8 18.h4 Qc7 19.Bf4 Rac8 20.Bxa6 Ra8 21.Bb5 Reb8 22.b3 c4 23.f6 Bf8 24.Bxd7 Nxd7

[24…Qxd7 25.Bxe5]

25.fxg7 Kxg7

[25…Bxg7? 26.Bxd6]


Great attacking idea.

26…fxg6 27.h5 cxb3 28.axb3 Rxa4 29.bxa4 Qc3

[Black’s problem is that 29…b3 can be met by 30.Bh6+ Kxh6 31.hxg6+ Kg7 32.Rxh7+ Kg8 (32…Kf6 33.Rf7+ Ke5 34.Qd5#) 33.Qd5#]

30.Rd3! Qa1+ 31.Kd2 Qf6 32.Bg5 Qe5 33.hxg6 Nc5 34.Rxh7+ Kg8

[34…Kxg6 35.Bf4+]


35.Rh8+! Kg7

[35…Qxh8 36.Qd5+ Kg7 37.Qf7#]

36.Rh7+ Kg8 37.Qd5+ Qxd5 38.Rxd5 b3 39.Rxc5 1–0

Because 39…dxc5 is met by the move 40.Bf6

Here is the Steinitz Defense game I mentioned earlier. Back in 1892 Tarrasch claimed to have refuted the Steinitz and published his analysis in the February 1892 issue of “Schachzeitung,” a magazine he edited at that time. Apparently Georg Marco had not seen that article for come July 1892 he walked exactly into that analysis!

Tarrasch, Siegbert — Marco, Georg [C66]
DSB Kongress–07 Meisterturnier Dresden (7.3), 22.07.1892

This game was played during Tarrasch’s dominant period, in the early 1890s when he was winning everything. In 1892 he was offered a title match with the world champion Wilhelm Steinitz, but declined due to the demands of his medical practice. He probably should have taken up the offer, for when Emanuel Lasker became world champion in 1896 Tarrasch was “destined to play second fiddle for the rest of his life” (Reinfeld).

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 Be7 6.0–0 Nf6 7.Re1 0–0?

Tarrasch: After this move Black is lost. Better is 7…exd4 but it is not good enough to equalize.

8.Bxc6! Bxc6 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Raxd8


An insoluble problem for Black. If 10…Bxd8 11.Nxe5 Black, deprived of a valuable pawn, would be at a manifest disadvantage;

If 10…Rfxd8 there follows 11.Nxe5 Bxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Nd3 (13.Rxe4?? Rd1+) 13…f5 14.f3 Bc5+ 15.Kf1! (with Black’s rook on f8 this move would not have been possible) 15…Rxd3 16.cxd3 and White has won the exchange

11.Nxe5 Bxe4

After 11…Nxe4 12.Nxc6 White wins, not a pawn, but a clear piece.

12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Nd3 f5 14.f3 Bc5+ 15.Nxc5 Nxc5 16.Bg5! Rd5

Tartakower: Still trying to save his minor piece; after any other move, White’s reply 17.Be7 is still more convincing.

17.Be7 Re8 18.c4 1–0

The final point: White wins the exchange and the game.

Please don’t be too harsh on Marco for losing in this way. I just now looked up the final position in Chessbase and find that since 1892 62 players have fallen into the same trap, and that includes our very own IM Oliver Dimakiling, who lost to Viacheslav Diu in this same way in the HD Bank Open held in Ho Chi Minh City in 2014.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.