Chess Terms
Philidor Position

Philidor Position

Do you know how to hold your position together when your opponent is a pawn up in an endgame? If you both have one rook and you can enter the Philidor Position, this will not be a challenge for you.

Here is what you need to know about the Philidor Position:


What Is The Philidor Position?

The Philidor Position is a position that can arise in rook-and-pawn endgames in chess. It happens when a player has only a rook and a king defending against a rook, a pawn, and a king.

The defending player's king must occupy the promotion square of the attacking pawn, and their rook must have free and safe access to the third rank from the promotion rank. The attacking player's extra pawn must be at least four squares away from promotion.

The Philidor Position in chess.
The defending king must block the promotion square for the Philidor Position to happen.

This position is named after French chess theorist Francois-Andre Danican Philidor, who studied many endgame positions. Philidor analyzed this specific position in his 1777 book Analysis of the Game of Chess.

Why Is The Philidor Position Important?

Rook-and-pawn endgames are one of the most common types of endgames in chess. When the endgame involves a rook for each player and an extra pawn for one side, you may be the one who is up in material and trying to win with the Lucena Position. However, if you are the one who is a pawn down, you want to reach the Philidor Position to force a draw.

If you know the method for drawing this position, there is no way for your opponent to win the game, even if he knows the theory, too. For this reason, learning the Philidor Position and how to proceed when you reach it can salvage you from future losses.

How To Defend In The Philidor Position

Now that you know why this position matters, it is time to learn how to draw the game after reaching it. Let's start by taking a look at one of the possible configurations of the Philidor Position.

One of the configurations of the Philidor Position.
The starting Philidor Position.

First, it is crucial to understand what your problem is in this position playing as White. Black is a pawn up, and they wish to promote it to a queen and checkmate you. You, on the other hand, want to keep Black from doing so. Let's imagine that you try to achieve your goal by checking the black king.

You cannot start with check in the Philidor Position.
If you try to immediately check the enemy king, your strategy will not work.

The idea of drawing the game by repeatedly checking the king is not wrong. However, right now, the enemy king can hide behind the pawn to prevent you from doing that—and threaten to checkmate you. As you can see, the shelter provided by the extra pawn is the central theme of this position.

The pawn shields the king.
The pawn protects the king, preventing you from drawing the game with multiple checks.

How can you achieve a position where you can keep checking the black king and force a draw? The answer is simple: you need to make your opponent get rid of their own shelter. Your main goal, then, is to entice the other player to advance their pawn. To do that, you need to move your rook to the third rank from the promotion square.

The secret to the Philidor Position.
Your rook cuts off the enemy king and provokes a pawn advance.

After you reach this position, there is not much that your opponent can do. Checking your king will prove to be a fruitless effort.

Checking your king is useless.
If Black checks you with their rook, you can easily step aside.

If Black tries to be tricky and makes a waiting move, you can answer in kind and play a waiting move yourself. You just need to remember to keep your rook on the third rank.

Do not leave the third rank when you reach the Philidor Position.
As long as you keep your rook on the third rank, you are fine.

At one point, your opponent might try to advance their pawn, and then you have reached your goal. After this move by Black, you can notice that their king no longer has the protection of their pawn.

The pawn shield is the central theme of the Philidor Position.
The pawn advance takes the king's shelter away from Black.

After reaching this position, you can proceed with the plan of drawing the game by delivering multiple checks. All you have to do is take your rook to the eighth rank.

The rook on the eighth rank will keep checking the king.
The rook goes to the eighth rank to start checking Black.

When your rook is placed on the eighth rank, you can proceed with the plan of drawing the game by delivering multiple checks.

The pawn push is bad for Black in the Philidor Position.
Black can no longer hide their king.

Notice that if Black ventures too far away from their pawn or tries to go after your rook with their king, you can capture their pawn and draw the game. Their monarch is permanently tied up in the defense of the pawn, allowing you to draw the game by repetition.

The king must protect the pawn.
The king can never go too far from the pawn.

The best part of the Philidor Position is that it works on every file of the board. It does not matter where your opponent's pawn is—you can always draw the game as long as you occupy the promotion square with your king and cut their king off from the third rank with your rook.

Test Your Skills

Now that you know how to draw a game in the Philidor Position, it is time for you to test your skills.

Take a look at the position below. What should be your next move as White to draw the game?

You have just moved your rook to the third rank. Black decides to take action and check your king. What should you do in this situation?

How should you respond?
Black is checking your king. How should you respond?

You are right! All you have to do is to step aside with your king. If Black keeps checking you, you can keep moving back and forth.

You do not have to worry about the checks.
The rook checks are not dangerous at all.

After giving up on the checks, Black decides to change strategy. They finally advance their pawn to try to squeeze your king out of the way. What should you do in this situation?

Can you draw in the Philidor Position?
Black finally advances their pawn. What should you do?

Well done! 1.Rg8 prepares your rook to deliver multiple checks. Now there is nothing Black can do to stop you from drawing the game.

You should prepare your rook for the action!
You should prepare your rook to check the black king.

Conclusion

You now know what the Philidor Position is and what you need to do to draw the game when you reach it. Head over to our Lessons page right now and learn about the Lucena Position, another essential rook-and-pawn ending you should know.