|Position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.exf5!|
The Philidor Counter Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5) was Philidor's own method of playing the opening that bears his name. The man who said that "pawns are the soul of chess" always tried to use his pawns to claim control of the center. In his view, White had made a mistake with 2.Nf3 in blocking his f-pawn's advance! Theory offers several "refutations" to the PCG, but the one I find most convincing is 4.exf5! -- the subject of this article -- which doesn't even try to win a pawn (which may explain why it is not more popular). The goal of this move is positional and it puts Philidor's own principles into practice, as the White Knight leaps forward after 4.exf5 e4 5.Ng5 to clear the way for the advance of his own f-pawn (with 6.f3!) to battle for central squares. This method is also in keeping with contemporary GM practice against counter-gambits, where White typically does not try to hang onto the pawn but surrenders it for the control of key squares. Therefore it is not surprising to find GMs (including Dvoirys and Charbonneau) choosing this method. As Bent Larsen said of this line: "It's all so simple that it's difficult to find an improvement for Black."
I wonder what that great defender of the PCG, Life Master James R. West (profiled here in 2006), has in mind as an improvement over his play in the main game below? I see from his blog that he still plays the line and that he has had to face 4.exf5 on several occasions -- but never from players familiar with the plan of f3 as employed by Dvoirys. I include a PGN of my analysis for any who want to go searching for NM West's presumed improvement; but I think that the more you look at the line, the more you will agree with Larsen that "it's difficult to find...."