The Phillidor position, along with the Lucena one, holds a significant place in the realm of chess endgames, renowned for its prominence and familiarity. This type of position emerges in rook and pawn endgames and serves as a prime example to highlight the significance of pawn promotion and the strategic role of the king in endgame maneuvers. It was analyzed by François-André Danican Philidor, a French composer and chess player, in 1777.
The key features of the position are:
- The defending king is on the queening square of the pawn, or adjacent to it. The pawn can be on any file.
- The opposing pawn has not yet reached the defender’s third rank (its sixth rank).
- The opposing king is beyond the defender’s third rank.
- The defender’s rook is on the third rank, keeping the opposing king off that rank.
Unlike in the Lucena position, White’s goal is to enforce a draw. Let’s see a sample situation:
So, Black’s sole opportunity for victory lies in pushing the pawn forward. The defender’s primary strategy is to maintain the rook on the third rank until the pawn reaches that position, after which they can check the opposing king from behind. The following sequence of moves presents one potential scenario:
- The defending player should position their king in front of the opposing pawn.
- Then the defending player must maintain their rook on the third rank until the pawn advances to that position.
- At that point, the defender should maneuver their rook to the far end of the board (either the seventh or eighth rank) and execute a perpetual check from behind.
- If the attacker attempts to advance their king to the sixth rank by moving their rook to that position to prevent being continuously checked, the defender can simply exchange rooks, resulting in a drawn endgame with only kings and pawns remaining on the board.
According to Philidor, the sole method for achieving a draw was to maintain the rook on the third rank of defense until the pawn advanced to that rank, after which the attacker could be countered from the rear. However, in 1897, Max A.K.S. Karstedt (1868-1945) disproved this assertion, and Johann Berger (1845-1933) subsequently elaborated on the matter. It is possible to achieve a draw using different defensive tactics, although these alternative approaches are generally more intricate, so we don’t include them in this article.