François-André Danican Philidor

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François-André Danican Philidor

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François-André Danican Philidor

Portrait from L’analyze des échecs. London, second edition, 1777.
Full name François-André Danican Philidor
Country Flag of France France
Born
Died
World Champion ~1747–1795 (unofficial)

François-André Danican Philidor (September 7, 1726 - August 31, 1795) was a French chess player and composer. He was regarded as the best single chess player of his age (see any of the References), although the title of World Chess Champion was not yet in existence. Philidor's book Analyse du jeu des Échecs was considered a standard chess manual for at least a century. He was commonly referred to as André Danican Philidor during his lifetime.

[edit] Musical family

François-André Danican Philidor came from an extraordinary musical family, which included:

  • Jean Danican Philidor (ca.1620-1679), André Danican Philidor's grandfather, was a musician at the Grande Écurie (literally, the Great Stable; figuratively, the Military Band) in Paris. The original name of his family was Danican (D'Anican) and was of Scottish origin (Duncan). Philidor was a later addition to the family name. Jean Danican Philidor was given the nickname of Philidor by Louis XIII because his oboe playing reminded the king of an Italian virtuoso oboist coming from Siena named Filidori.
  • Michel Danican (died ca.1659), André Danican Philidor's great-uncle, was a renowned oboist and, together with Jean Hotteterre, coinvented the oboe by modifying the shawm so that the bore was narrower and the reed near could be held near the end by the player's lips.
  • André Danican Philidor (ca.1647-1730), François-André Danican Philidor's father, was also known as Philidor l'ainé (Philidor the Elder). He was an oboist and crumhorn player. He was a member of the Grande Écurie military band and later performed at the Court, at the Royal Chapel, in the employ of Louis XIV.
  • Jacques Danican Philidor (1657-1708) was the younger brother of André Danican Philidor (Philidor the Elder) and, being a musician, too, was logically known as Philidor le cadet (Philidor the Younger).
  • Pierre Danican Philidor (1681-1731), also a musician, was the son of Jacques Danican Philidor.
  • Anne Danican Philidor (1681-1728) was André Danican Philidor's oldest brother. Anne Danican Philidor is best remembered today for having founded the Concert Spirituel, an important series of public concerts held in the palace of the Tuileries from 1725 to 1791.

François-André Danican Philidor was born to his father’s second wife, Elizabeth Le Roy, whom he wed in 1719 when she was 19 years old and he 72. When François-André was born, his father was 79 years old; he died 4 years later and left his son fatherless.

[edit] Chess career

Philidor started playing regularly around 1740 at the chess Mecca of France, the Café de la Régence. It was also there that he famously played with a friend from 'New England', Mr. Benjamin Franklin. The best player in France at the time, Legall de Kermeur, taught him. At first, Legall could give Philidor rook odds, a handicap in which the stronger player starts without one of his rooks, but in only three years, Philidor was his equal, and then surpassed him. Philidor visited England in 1747 and decisively beat the Syrian Phillip Stamma in a match +8 =1 -1, despite the fact Philidor let Stamma have white in every game, and scored all draws as wins for Stamma.[1]

Philidor astounded his peers by playing three blindfold chess games simultaneously in the chess club of St. James Street in London on 9 May 1783. Philidor let all three opponents play white, and gave up a pawn for the third player. Some affidavits were signed, because those persons who were involved doubted that future generations would believe that such a feat was possible. Today, three simultaneous blindfold games would be fairly unremarkable among many chess masters. Even when he was in his late years, when he was 67 years old (1793), he played two blindfold games simultaneously in London, and he won.

In 1749, Philidor published his famous book Analyse du jeu des Échecs. He printed a second edition in 1777, and a third edition in 1790.[2] The book was such an advance in chess knowledge that by 1871, it had gone through about 70 editions, and had been translated into English, German and Italian. In it, Philidor analyzed nine different types of game openings. Most of the openings of Philidor are designed to strengthen and establish a strong defensive center using pawns. He is the first one to realize the new role of the pawn in the chess game; and his most famous advice was the saying "The pawns are the soul of chess". It was said that the reason why Philidor emphasized the pawns in the chess game was related to the political background during the eighteenth century of France, and that he regarded pawns as the "Third rank" on the chess board (citizens were regarded as the third rank of the society before the French Revolution started in 1789). He also included analysis of certain positions of rook and bishop versus rook, such analysis being still current theory even today (see Philidor position and pawnless chess endgames). He is most famous for showing an important drawing technique with a rook and pawn versus rook endgame, in a position known as the Philidor position. The Philidor Defense (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6) is named for him.

[edit] Musical career

Philidor's bust on the façade of the Opera Garnier in Paris

Philidor joined the Royal choir of Louis XV in 1732 at the age of six, and made his first attempt at the composition of a song at the age of 11. It was said that Louis XV wanted to listen to the choir almost every day, and the singers, while waiting for the king to arrive, played chess to relieve their boredom; this may have sparked Philidor's interest in chess.

From 1750 to 1770 Philidor was a leading opera composer in France, and during his musical career produced twenty-one music comedies and one opera. However, when he felt that he was being surpassed by other composers, such as André Ernest Modeste Grétry, Philidor decided to concentrate on chess.

A bust of Philidor is placed on the façade of the Opera Garnier palace in Paris.

[edit] Final years

Philidor was stranded in England when the French Revolution occurred. Because of many of his social connections mentioned above, the Revolutionary Government put him on the banned list. He died on August 31, 1795 in London and was buried in St James, Piccadilly. A few days later, his relatives succeeded in getting his name removed from the list.

[edit] Notable chess games

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess, Oxford University Press, 1913, p. 862. ISBN 0-19-827403-3.
  2. ^ Murray, p. 863.

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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