The Three Philidor Positions

The Three Philidor Positions

| 40 | Strategy

The chess heritage of Francois Andre Danican Philidor is enormous. There is an opening named after him (1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6) and three endgame positions all called "the Philidor Position"!

The Philidor position in rook endgames is one every chess player should know -- otherwise you can lose a basic endgame:

However, if you know the Philidor position, then achieving a draw is really simple.  You just put your rook on the sixth rank and wait till your opponent pushes his pawn forward, since otherwise he cannot make progress.  Once your opponent pushes his pawn to the sixth rank, you move your rook down and start endless checks from behind:


While it is uncommon that strong players don't know the rook endgame Philidor position, the R+B vs. R endgame Philidor position is a totally different story.

Recently the whole chess world ridiculed Fabiano Caruana for inability to win a theoretically won endgame that most probably cost him the world championship match:

To tell you the truth, I would have been very surprised if after a very long fight in this game, towards the end of a very tough tournament, being short on time Caruana had demonstrated the tricky solution.  And besides I had a very strong case of deja vu.

Twenty-two years ago I played a very strong tournament in Tilburg , Netherlands. It was exactly like the knockout world championships popular 15 years ago...before the knockout world championships actually existed!

The strongest players in the world played knockout matches -- when winning each match would double your prize money! At the very end of a playing day, when all other games were already over, two participants were still trying to eliminate each other. At some point the familiar Philidor position appeared on the board:

About 30 grandmasters watched the game live on a big monitor.  I remember the big dispute if GM Vladslav Tkachiev would be able to win this endgame having about 15 minutes on his clock. I was both shocked and comforted to learn that about half of all the GMs in the room forgot or simply didn't know how to win this theoretical position.

You probably got the idea why I was not just shocked but also comforted wink.png. I remember that GM Alex Yermolinsky offered a bet everyone that he would be able to win this position in just 40 seconds. Since there were no takers, he graciously demonstrated his knowledge to me for free.

Yes, indeed, if you know the solution by heart, it is that simple! Meanwhile, here is how the game ended:

Finally, the Philidor position in the Q vs. R endgame is relatively easy.

 It is getting this Philidor position in your game when you have a queen vs. a rook that is challenging!

So, do yourself a favor! Open your favorite endgame manual (or follow the link to Wikipedia's article above) and learn these three endgame positions.

Next time a game decides who is going to play the world championship match, even if it is not your own game, you will be able to impress people with your knowledge!

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