The Philidor Clamp
By Michael Goeller
I'm sure what follows is a game that FM Steve Stoyko would prefer to see vanish into the dustbins of history, but it is too useful to the theory of the Philidor, and especially to the Philidor Counter Gambit, to allow to go unnoticed. I have been playing the Philidor myself of late, generally with the intention of playing the Antoshin Variation by 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 (4.Qxd4 is answered the same way, which makes it easy to play fast here) 4...Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 and Black has good chances, as Christian Seel demonstrates in his excellent little book The Philidor: A Secret Weapon (Chessgate 2007). Often, however, I have opponents averse to theory playing 3.Bc4!? when I usually respond 3...Be7, hoping to transpose back to Antoshin lines. But I also sometimes play 3...f5! hoping for what I like to call "The Philidor Clamp" that follows 4.d3?! (typical of the theory fearing) 4...c6! 5.O-O?! (practically a blunder) 5...f4! and Black has a winning bind, even though he has only moved pawns. Watch how James West, the Philidor Counter Gambit expert, demonstrates the utter hopelessness of White's position....
FM Steve Stoyko (2273) - NM James R West (2200) [C41]
Viking 4-County Open/Mt. Arlington, NJ USA (3) 2007
I like this little transposition duel in the opening.
2. d4 Nf6 (2... Bg4 is playable, and 2... f5!? would be an interesting way into the Dutch) 3. c4 e5!? 4. dxe5 Ne4 5. Nbd2 Bf5 has been played before by West and apparently transposes to Budapest Gambit, Fajarowicz Variation in which he also specializes.
But now we have the Philidor, which West has played for decades.
I'm very surprised to see Steve play this move. Based on what follows, I think he just wanted to play "simple chess" and avoid any sort of theoretical discussion.
If Steve wanted to play a more "simple" line against the Philidor Counter Gambit, however, he might have tried 3. d4 f5 4. exf5! (recommended long ago by Evans and Smith in their "unbeatable" repertoire) 4... e4 5. Ng5 Nf6 (5... Bxf5 6. f3 Qe7 7. Nc3 Bauer)
6. f3! Qe7 7. Be2 exf3 8. Nxf3 Bxf5 9.
My own experience has been that 9 times out of 10, anyone who plays 3.Bc4 instead of 3.d4 will play 4.d3 to avoid main lines. That's why I often meet 3.Bc4 with 3... f5! even though there are safer alternatives.
This is actually Fritz's choice in this move order as well, but it's really no good, as the present game pretty much proves. White has to play into the well-analyzed territory of the main line by 4.d4 if he wants any advantage.
4. d4! exd4!? (West usually plays 4... Nc6 5. dxe5 dxe5 6. Qxd8+ Nxd8 7. exf5)
5. Ng5 (5. Nxd4 fxe4 6. Qh5+ g6 7. Qd5 Qe7 8. Bg5 Nf6 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. Qxe4+ is pretty good for Black due to the two Bishops)
5... Nh6 6.
West's recommendati n in his book and probably the best move. When playing the Philidor Defense, after all, one needs to remember that "Pawns are the soul of chess!" Instead, 4... Nf6 is suggested by Tony Kosten, but he does not consider White's most challenging line: 5. Ng5! d5 (5... Qe7 6. Bf7+ Kd8 7. Bb3)
6. exd5 Nxd5 7.
This is the move that West was waiting for. It really gives him what he wants. Now he can clamp down on the kingside, strong-point e5, castle queenside, and the attack plays itself. I can't tell you how many times I have won in a similar fashion on ICC, thanks to Jim West's book! But I'm not sure White has a better alternative here.
CLAMP! West says in his book that once White has castled, this move is good for Black due to this coming kingside attack. It's amazing how stifling this move is.
The fascinating thing for me is that Black gets an advantageous position here even though his first five moves are with pawns, and his sixth brings the Queen out early!
A nice refinement. The Knight is headed to g6 to support the strong-point at e5.
Most of Black's pieces are still on the back row, but it doesn't matter: his powerful pawn clamp gives him practically a winning advantage.
A thematic line-opening sacrifice, and still more Philidor-like pawn moves! Nine of Black's first thirteen moves have been with pawns.
With Black's development complete, this move is even more devastating.
White resigns. West notes that "This game won the biggest upset prize of $3.65 (5 cents for each rating point!) in round 3." It is a very good game, but White was basically lost in the opening.
Game in PGNCopyright © 2007 Michael Goeller