Philidor's "L'Analyze des Echecs"

6/6/2016 – When Tom Ewers analysed the endgame K+R+B against K+R he came across André Danican Philidor's book "L'Analyze des Echecs", in which Philidor had analysed this endgame more than 250 years ago with remarkable precision. From the analysis of the endgame Ewers soon moved to the book itself and wondered how the content changed with new editions and translations. Here are his findings.

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Philidor's book(s): "L'Analyze des Echecs"

By Thomas Ewers

 

If you are interested in answers to the following questions, read on!

  •  What exactly did Philidor write in 1749 regarding R+B vs R?
  •  Is there an English translation to the 1749 book that I can download (TXT, RTF, PDF, PGN)?
  •  How many editions of the original 1749 book were printed?
  •  Are the three 1749 French editions identical?
  •  How do you differentiate the 1749 editions from each other?
  •  Is the 1750 English edition identical to the 1749 French edition (Regarding R+B vs R)?
  •  What additional information was added to the 1777 English (and French) edition regarding R+B vs R?
  •  What other endgames did Philidor analyze in 1749?
  •  Is the position analyzed in the 1749 French edition the same as the position in "Basic Chess Endings" (Fine), or "Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual" (Dvoretsky)?
  •  When did publications switch from the 1749 version (Black King on e8) to the mirror-like image (Black King on d8) and start calling it the Philidor position?

Fabrice Wantiez posted a link in the comments section at ChessBase for the recent article:  "The Philidor Position: turning point of Moscow".  The link is to photographs of the endgame analysis pages from the original "L'Analyze Des Echecs", Philidor, MDCCXLIX (1749).

There are three French printings of the first edition of Philidor's book with date MDCCXLIX (1749). You can freely read them at Google Play using the books tab (https://play.google.com). Find the books by searching on "l'analyze des echecs" (note the spelling of "analyze").

First edition first printing 1749 (French):

Second or third printing 1749 (French):

Second or third printing 1749 (French):

You can download PDFs of the books using Google Books and searching for "l'analyze des echecs".

The 1749 French edition was translated and printed in English in 1750 (MDCCL).  To find the 1750 edition, search at Google Books using:  "Chess Analyzed". The 1749 French edition was updated in 1777 (MDCCLXXVII) and printed in both French and English. To find the 1777 French edition, search at Google Books using: "Analyse du jeu des echecs" (note the spelling of "Analyse" with an "s"). You may need to click on the link "More editions" on a different entry to find the 1777 French edition. To find the 1777 English edition, search at Google Books using: "Analysis of the Game of Chess".

Once a book is opened at Google Books, you can download the PDF file by hovering the mouse over the "READ EBOOK" at the upper left and then selecting "Download PDF" from the drop down menu.

There were at least three printings in 1749. You can differentiate them by the design on the title page.

The 1749 first edition first printing has this design on the title page:

The second and third printings from 1749 have one of the following designs on the title page:

 

In addition to the title page differences, the first printing contains a long list of names "LISTE DES SOUSCRIVANS" (list of subscribers) before the Preface, starting on page vi.  The second and third printings do not have this list. In the 1749 first printing, the R+B vs R section, "Le Mat du Fou et de la Tour, contre une Tour" begins on page 162.

In the 1749 second and third printing, the R+B vs R title was slightly changed to "Le Mat du Fou & de la Tour, contre une Tour" and begins on page 156. The second and third printings use "&" in many places instead of "et", and there are some changes to the diacritical marks over some letters (grave accent changed to acute accent; è changed to é).  There are also some layout differences where the second and third printings place more text on the page resulting in page numbering differences.

With those differences noted, the chess content regarding R+B vs R for the three 1749 printings is identical.

If you don't understand French, you might first turn your attention to the 1750 English edition.  The notation used in that book is similar to Descriptive Notation (not Algebraic), but is also much more wordy.  The section on R+B vs R begins on page 140.

"To give Check-mate with a Rook and a Bifhop, againft a Rook."

Old English used the "long s" character which resembles the lower case "f".  The title in modern-day English is therefore:

"To give Check-mate with a Rook and a Bishop, against a Rook."

Here is page 140:

===============================================================

               ( 140 )

O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O

To give Check-mate with a Rook and

   a Bifhop, againft a Rook.

The Situation in which I put the Pieces, is
  the moft advantageous for the defending
  Rook ; but in cafe the Defender doth not
  choofe that Retreat, it is not at all difficult to
  force his King at the Extremity of the Chefs-board.

             Situation.
White.  The King at the black King's third Square,
              the Rook upon the Queen's Bifhop's
              Line, and the Bifhop at the black King's
              fourth Square. 

Black.  The King at his home, and the Rook at its
          Queen's fecond Square.

                  1.

White.  The Rook gives check.
Black.  The Rook covers the Check.

                  2.

W. The Rook at the black Queen's Bifhop's fecond
          Square.
B. The Rook at the white Queen's fecond Square.

                  3.

W. The Rook at the black Queen's Knight's fecond
          Square.

                                               B.

===============================================================

Translated into modern-day Chess hieroglyphics:

Mate with Rook + Bishop vs Rook:

1. Rc8+ Rd8
2. Rc7  Rd2
3. Rb7

Here is the modern ChessBase viewer version of R+B vs R from the 1750 English edition of "Chess Analysed":

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.04.13"] [Round "?"] [White "PhilidorPosition"] [Black "1750 English"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "Ewers,Thomas"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4k3/3r4/4K3/4B3/8/8/8/2R5 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "21"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] {Philidor 1750 English ("Chess Analysed") . [editing note: Old English made use of a "long s" which looks like the lower case "f". I have used "s" in this version.] . Title Page: ------------------------------ Chess Analysed: or Instructions By which a Perfect Knowledge of this NOBLE GAME May in a short time be acquir'd. . By A. D. Philidor. . London Printed for J. Nourse, and P. Vaillant, in the Strand. MDCCL------------------------------ ( 140 ) To give check-mate with a Rook and a Bishop, against a Rook. The Situation in which I put the Pieces, is the most advantageous for the defending Rook ; but in case the Defender doth not choose that Retreat, it is not at all difficult to force his King at the Extremity of the Chess-board. . Situation. White. The King at the black King's third Square, the Rook upon the Queen's Bishop's Line, and the Bishop at the black King's fourth Square. Black. The King at his home, and the Rook at its Queen's second Square. ------------------------------ The Letters a, b, c send you back from those Moves to another way of giving him Check-mate, according as he changes his Moves.} 1. Rc8+ Rd8 2. Rc7 Rd2 3. Rb7 Rd1 4. Rg7 {(a)} Rf1 ({From the Letter (a) on the Fourth Move.} 4... Kf8 5. Rh7 Rg1 6. Rc7 Rg6+ {(x)} ({(x) A Sequel of this, from the Sixth Move, in case he doth not give check with his Rook.} 6... Kg8 7. Rc8+ Kh7 8. Rh8+ Kg6 9. Rg8+ { and takes the black Rook for nothing.}) 7. Bf6 Kg8 8. Rc8+ Kh7 9. Rh8#) 5. Bg3 {(b)} Kf8 ({(b) Another way of giving Mate with a Rook and a Bishop, against a Rook, beginning from the Fifth Move.} 5... Rf3 6. Bd6 Re3+ 7. Be5 Rf3 8. Re7+ Kd8 9. Rb7 {and gives Mate the following Move, at the black Queen's Knight's Square.}) 6. Rg4 Ke8 7. Rc4 {(c)} Rd1 ({(c) Another way to give Mate from the Seventh Move.} 7... Kf8 8. Be5 Kg8 9. Rh4 {and gives Mate the following Move, at the black King's Rook's Square.}) 8. Bh4 Kf8 9. Bf6 Re1+ 10. Be5 Kg8 11. Rh4 {and gives Mate the following Move.} *

If you place the 1749 French edition R+B vs R analysis side-by-side with the 1750 English edition it is quite clear that the 1750 English edition is a direct translation from the 1749 French edition.

 

On page xix in the Preface to the 1749 French edition is some text regarding R+B vs R. The 1750 English translation has these corresponding words in its preface on page xix:

"I have omitted all the Mates, except that of the Bishop and Rook against a Rook, it being the most difficult that can happen; Carrera does indeed say, it my be forced, but we may fairly question (by his Writings) whether he himself knew how to do it."

Philidor expanded his original work in 1777 and printed both a French and English edition:

 

In the 1749 edition, there were very few explanations in the variations. The 1777 editions are greatly enhanced in this respect. Both 1777 editions (French and English) have the section "MANIERE" (Method) following the R+B vs R section. That section attempts to show how to force black into the Philidor position from a standard starting position, but that analysis is badly flawed because you can't force the Philidor position from a standard starting position.

In the 1749 French (and 1750 English) edition, in the variation after 5...Rf3 with 8. Re7+ the analysis only continued with 8...Kd8 and did not show the more stubborn defense of 8...Kf8. In the 1777 edition, the variation with 8...Kf8 and the reply 9. Rc7 was added. In the 1777 English edition, they misspelled "BISHOP" as "BIHSOP" in the title to the section:

 

In a side-by-side comparison, the 1777 French and the 1777 English editions seem identical regarding chess variations analyzed. In the 1777 French edition some words are now abbreviated and others are spelled out:

R = Roi
T = Tour
F = Fou
3me = troifieme
4me = quatrieme

There are many mirror, flipped, and rotated images that might be called "The Philidor Position" for R+B vs R, and analysis from one obviously applies to all of them.  The position analyzed in the 1749 French edition differs from the Philidor position in "Basic Chess Endings" (Fine) and "Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual" (Dvoretsky). The 1749 edition has the Black King on e8 while the modern day analysis has a mirror-like image with the black King on d8:

         

It's unclear when this change first occured.  The 1874 reprint of Philidor's "Analyse du jeu des echecs" uses the original position with the Black King on e8 (and a Fool! on e5):

24

...however, a few years later in "A Complete Guide to the Game of Chess" (1882), by H. F. L. Meyer, page 99 describes the Philidor position with Kd8:

In the 1749 edition, the only endgame analyzed is R+B vs R.

With this article I've shown that you can perform your own research into historical chess anthologies without having to find an old library with dusty antique books.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this exposé on the Philidor books!

Thomas W. Ewers


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FabriceWantiez FabriceWantiez 6/8/2016 08:53
This is not only a link. But the pictures and the book are mine ;)
malllanna malllanna 6/8/2016 11:06
Nice gathering thanks to chessbase.
MyHorseIsAmazing MyHorseIsAmazing 6/7/2016 12:59
The long "s" (ſ) did *not* look like an S. This statement is no more true than saying that the uppercase "i" looks like a lowercase "L". They're usually quite similar but it depends on the typeface. However, in the actual page from the English edition you can actually find both letters ("Perfect Knowledge") and ("short time") and they *are* different.
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