Philidor Defense: Is it worth playing as Black?

B_Rook wrote:

Well, I'm curious as to why it is you consider the Philidor a 'terrible' and 'inferior' choice when it's in fact the third favourite choice after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 and the fourth favourite choice after 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3. It's also played quite a lot at tournament level and even by strong players like Jobava who use it regularly with success. So I would like to know what actual 'facts' you have to back up any of your statements. 


I look at it mostly from a strategic perspective. In the hanham variation, the kingside is ceded to white, so its a catch me if you can defense thats actually becomes the Czech defense. At the lower levels, they only read the win now and win quick book, so they dont even know their kingside is horrible.

Most humans have not yet faced this strategy, so its only recently got some games piling up....with white having a 48% win rate. Kind of dismal for now, but anyways.

Ive only played 2 blitz games in any recent time vs Philidor so you'll have to excuse my lack of accurate play, but here is 2 games where you have black who has some semblance of playing philidor vs me as white playing out of the blue. The last one black lost on time, but I had an easier time with it.



Here would be a modern Hanham variation where black doesnt fall for 5..Be7 or g6.



Philidor Defense: Everything You Need To Know

WGM Raluca Sgîrcea, IM Renier Castellanos
WGM Raluca Sgîrcea, IM Renier Castellanos
Category: Openings
Philidor Defense: Everything You Need To Know

The Philidor Defense is an excellent practical weapon to play for a win with the black pieces. The opening name is given thanks to the famous 18th century player François Andre Danican Philidor, who advocated 2…d6 as an alternative to the common 2…Nc6. Philidor’s original idea was to play f7-f5 on the next move, challenging white’s center.


However, playing the Philidor this way is too risky for black and soon disappeared from high level practice. Nowadays, the modern move order starts by:

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 (going into a Pirc Defense?) 3.Nc3 e5! (3…Nbd7!?)


There are several GMs between 2500-2700 who play this defense quite regularly and there are some obvious reasons for that. The position becomes tense from an early stage, black avoids exchanges and there are plenty of ways to play the position for both sides. The opening leads to a strategical battle in which black awaits his moment to counter attack. Although there is a fair amount of theory, this is not a theory depending position.


In order to fight blunders, find the right plan in complex positions and improve your positional and tactical vision we recommend you to sign up for our comprehensive training course. Hundreds of chess players already benefited from our training . Don’t wait, start winning chess games today.

A mistake won’t make you lose the game, so it’s more about understanding than memorizing the moves. For all these reasons, this opening has become so popular among Grandmasters, especially when they play in Open tournaments and have to win games with the black pieces as well. Some of the players who employed the Philidor with success are GM Christian Bauer, GM Victor Bologan, GM Branko Damljanovic, GM Aleksa Strikovic and many others. However, it is impossible not to mention Baadur Jobava as the only elite player to continue playing this opening and not only as black. He has also tried it as white and has won many games, including against a top player like Peter Svidler. Studying the games of these players will help you understand the ins and outs of this opening.

One of the most important nuances of the opening – and if we look closely in the games played by Jobava we can see him applying it – is that black never releases the tension in the center, unless there is something concrete for him.

By keeping the tension in the center, it’s harder for white to start an attack on the kingside and meanwhile black improves his position. The control of the square e5 is vital for black.

In this article we will have a close look at some games played in this opening and we will see some examples of how black can play without releasing the center and still create practical problems for white.

Our first example of Philidor Defense is the game played between the Grandmasters Ruben Felgaer and Jobava. The game was played in the tie breaks of the World Cup in 2004 and it shows the plans black can employ, with h6-Re8-Nf8-Ng6. Inside this game we’ll take a look at some other games by Jobava.


I read that on Philidor's deathbed he expressed regret that his Black answer to E4 will not hold up to the test of Time. happy.png

Ekrabin wrote:

I read that on Philidor's deathbed he expressed regret that his Black answer to E4 will not hold up to the test of Time.

I actually remember that quote, it was something on the lines of ''I regret that in the hands of 1300 patzer players like 'Ekrabin' my system will not hold up the test of time or any other system for that matter.'' Well remembered man happy.png 


B_Rook has the chess playing ability of a Class A player, with the Arrogance of an Elite Grandmaster ! happy.png

Ekrabin wrote:

B_Rook has the chess playing ability of a Class A player, with the Arrogance of an Elite Grandmaster !