Watch the man behind the new Philidor Defence

by ChessBase
7/16/2009 – Just a couple of years ago the shocking pawn sacrifice 5.g4 entered the theory of the dignified Philidor Defence. If you check with the ChessBase online database, you will find 208 games and an amazing score of 64% for White. The creator of this ultra-sharp new line, Alexei Shirov, recently recorded a Fritz Trainer DVD on both the new and the classical Philidor. Buy it now or read more.

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Alexei Shirov: The Philidor Defence

Review by Sean Marsh

It is interesting to see that after many years of neglect the Philidor Defence is suddenly receiving plenty of attention. This is partly due to a clever move order by Black, namely:

1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 e5

This is that starting point of The Lion, which has been slowly gaining new supporters. One point of it is that if White plays 4 Nf3 then 4...Nbd7 gives Black a Philidor without having to navigate some troubled waters found in the 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 route.

Needless to say, GM Shirov doesn’t like to play 4 dxe5 dxe5 5 Qxd8+ so it’s no surprise he prefers to keep the Queens on the board. Remaining true to his creative style, he duly introduced the extraordinary 5 g4 to ensure Black doesn’t always get an easy life.

He confesses that his original plan for the DVD was to ‘prove’ that 5 g4 wins for White (thanks to an almost 100% personal score) but then he discovered some improvements for Black and he was forced to be more objective. The story behind the genesis of the remarkable move is given in the first illustrative game.

His game with Cyborowski demonstrates why he finds the positions resulting from 5 g4 so appealing. Shirov - Cyborowski

Definitely a Shirov game! It is curious that a tactical blow now struck on f7, the customary weak point in so may open games (only usually much earlier on in the game) 19 Bxf7+ Bxf7 20 Rd1 and 1-0 (23)

Instead of 5 g4, the normal 5 Bc4 leads to a popular variation.

The normal Philidor is not neglected. Black’s main try now occurs after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 exd4 There are eleven illustrative games, mostly by Shirov himself (Kasparov v Azmaiparashvilli is the only exception). Three cover 5 g4, one looks at 3...exd4 and the rest demonstrate the Hanham Variation.

It's fascinating to hear all about Shirov's invention from the man himself. The Philidor may have limited appeal, but any trip to Planet Shirov is well worth the effort. This is another fine addition to the growing collection of his best games.

Click here for the original review.

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