Review - Christian Bauer’s “The evergreen Philidor”

by Christian Hoethe
3/19/2024 – The Philidor Defence is an old but very solid defence against 1.e4. However, Black can also play very actively in various positions. French grandmaster Christian Bauer is an expert on this opening and presents here a repertoire that is easy to master. Christian Hoethe has reviewed the course.

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A review

14 years ago, back in 2007, the highly acclaimed book The Philidor Files was published by Grandmaster Christian Bauer. At that time, shortly after the turn of the millennium, the Philidor Defence was experiencing a renaissance. Creative players such as Morozevich, Svidler, Aronian, Bacrot and, above all, Nisipeanu enriched the black set-up, which was often described as somewhat too passive, with many new ideas and gave e4 players another tough nut to crack on the way to an opening advantage!

At that time, the focus was still largely on the move sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 and quickly led to the realms of the Antoshin Variation after 3.d4 exd4. Today the ‘modern’ Philidor is almost exclusively reached via 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5. In his book, Grandmaster Bauer examined all the common set-ups and of course also early deviations such as 3.Bd3 or 3.f3. A great book that I like to browse through from time to time!

Now he has given his Philidor Files a thorough overhaul and presents a welcome update of his book with his new ChessBase publication The evergreen Philidor.

This time Bauer concentrates his repertoire for Black on the two modern ways of aiming for the opening: namely 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 as well as the risky alternative, in which Black avoids the early queen exchange with 3...Nbd7.

Bauer discusses the main variations after 4.Nf3 Nbd7 as well as new developments in early deviations such as Shirov’s 5.g4 and the brand new 5.Tg1!? (diagram) recommended by GM Jones in his “Coffeehouse Repertoire”.

What I personally found a bit unfortunate at this point is that after 5.Bc4 Be7 6.0-0 0-0 7.Te1, Bauer restricts himself only to the lines with 7...c6 and subjects them to a reevaluation. Especially in the variations after 7.a4, the reply 7...exd4!? has proved to be very interesting. FM Segio Trigo Urquijo, for example, recommends the line after 7.a4 exd4 in his The Modernised Philidor, and also enriches 7.Re1 a6!? with many new ideas.

Unfortunately, Bauer does not discuss the still relatively fresh and attractive idea for Black 5.Bc4 Be7 6.O-O Nb6!?. It has already been played over 300 times by strong players with encouraging statistics, and allows Black to shift the game into unexplored territory for White quite early on. But these are just two personal criticisms at this point, which I would have liked to have seen in this update.

The line 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 does not lack the latest trends in the ultra-sharp 4.g4!? h6 (diagram)or an update on the frequently encountered 4.f4, which makes the evergreen Philidor an attractive alternative to openings such as the Sicilian due to its surprise effect!

And because Black can usually play down the first 7 to 10 moves quickly, Philidor is not only a good choice for the practical player in games with a classical time control — especially in blitz and rapid chess, the Philidor saves Black a lot of theoretical knowledge compared to the usual mainstream openings!

Over an impressive 7 hours, Grandmaster Bauer introduces you to the details of the Philidor Defence and often gives you the choice of which line to play with Black: do you want to lure your opponent into a queenless middlegame and overplay him there, or would you prefer a fight with the board full of pieces?

Interactive exercises including video feedback and training via ChessBase apps make it easy for you to learn your new repertoire and play out key positions at different levels.

A great update of an earlier classic!

The evergreen Philidor

This video course deals with the different move-orders leading to the main positions of the Philidor defence, as well as White’s relevant deviations.

Christian Hoethe was born in 1975, is father of two daughters and one son, lives in Brunswick, Germany, and learned chess relatively late, at the age of 13, from his father. At his peak he reached an Elo of 2247. He plays for the German club SC Wolfsburg where he also teaches once a month.