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The History and The Culture of Chess

The Forgotten Philidor - Game CXII - a modern vindication
December 29, 2004


Since the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin may never be answered [due in part to the lack of co-operation between the nine Orders of Angels, each of whom have their own separate union contract making such an evaluation an administrative nightmare.] our Ecclesiast has turned his research and analytical talents towards an Apologia de Philidora.

Apologia de Philidora states:

  • that Philidor's chess was thoroughly modern and intrinsically correct strategically (and by extension, tactically) and that while his execution may have differed  from that of modern play, it was equally (relatively speaking) accurate and effective.

  • that Philidor understood many of the principles of modern chess, even if such principles were never overtly expressed.

  • that Philidor was effectively equivalent to modern grandmaster strength.

The game XCII, Bruhl vs. Philidor, was used as the basis for an experiment to test the theories.

  • it's given that the first 12 moves are essentially correct, but that Philidor's position (employing his long pawn chain)  is already superior enough to be winning. [first 12 moves: 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 c6 3. Qe2 d6 4. c3 f5 5. d3 Nf6 6. exf5 Bxf5 7. d4 e4 8.Bg5 d5 9. Bb3 Bd6 10. Nd2 Nbd7 11. h3 h6 12. Be3 Qe7 ]

  • that Bruhl's (white's) 13th move, 13. f4, giving black a passed pawn on e4, is essentially a blunder.

  • that Chessmaster 8000, played on a 2.5 GHz  PC with 512 MB of RAM (and all other programs closed) with 2 hours to play, will approximate grandmaster strength sufficiently enough for this experiment.

  • that even without Bruhl's unlucky 13th move, Philidor would have won (meaning that the blunder hastened Bruhl's defeat but did not, in itself, cause his defeat since the game was already in Philidor's favor).

the position after 12...Qe7 (the starting position for CM8000)

This is the position inherited by Chessmaster 8000 - 1/2 move before Bruhl's blunder.

the actual game is one the left; the experimental game is on the right.

Worth note is that Philidor won the actual game in 51 moves while CM8000's "improvement" was to win in 50 moves.

While the results are, of course, inconclusive, they are also, without a doubt, interesting (and quite worthwhile) in their implications. More study is needed, but often the most important result of an experiment is to indicate that more study is worthwhile.



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