Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Philidor Clamp

"The Philidor Clamp" after 1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 f5 4.d3 c6 5.O-O f4!

NM James R. West posted his win over FM Steve Stoyko at the 4-County Open in Mt. Arlington this past weekend, and I liked it enough that I've annotated it.
I have been playing the Philidor myself of late, generally seeking the Antoshin Variation by 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 (4.Qxd4 is similar) 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....
You can find the game on West's blog without notes. West also posted some great links today to analysis in Kaissiber #27 (see pages 32, 33, and 34) which offers an even stronger version of the PCG "refutation" that I suggest in my notes, beginning 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4! f5!? 4.exf5!


Anonymous said...

In my opinion, White stood OK after 8.b3, but that move was played with the wrong idea. I think your assessment of the position at that point is a little optimistic, since white has taken the center in response to Black's "clamp" of 5...f4. That pawn center creates a balance of tension, and one can argue that White's actually better since Black will soon have no good place to put his K

I think White's correct approach was 8.dxe5 (When your opponent's K is uncastled, open up lines) 8...dxe5 9.Nbd2 g5 10.a4 (you think Black should castle Queenside now?) 10...Ng6 11.Ne1 g4 12.Nd3 where it's no longer sound to continue with 12...f3.

At any rate, 8.b3 g5 9.Ba3?! Ng6 10.Bxf8 is just the wrong idea. There's no rush to trade B's. The time should be spent staking out the Q-side and preserving the balance of terror.

Michael Goeller said...

Your development scheme for White is better than the one employed in the game and does discourage Black from developing his queenside forces let alone castling queenside. But I think Black can simply continue with his kingside action with, after your line, 12...h5 and push up the kingside pawns. He can also finish developing with some scheme like Be7 followed by Nd7-f8-h7-g5 or Nd7-c5 or Nd7-f8-e6. After ...h5 he can also consider ...Rh7 holding the b-pawn and making other developments possible. Why should Black be in any hurry to castle anyway? He has all of the attacking prospects and his king is practically invulnerable in the center. Your line is better, and there is no doubt White has to take up a more vigorous queenside action if he is to get any play. It's just that Black's kingside play is fantastic.

Greg Shahade said...

Forgive me as I'm not so up to date on my opening theory, but on quick glance at the diagrammed position it simply looks good for white. WHy can't white just do something like 6. d4?

- Greg

Greg Shahade said...

I figured out in cab ride home that probably some move like ...Qf6 leaves black with the same bind, although I would hardly call it winning!

Michael Goeller said...

A pleasure to find people like yourself reading my blog! OK -- granted -- "winning" might be an exaggeration. But I sure prefer Black. West analyzes 6.d4 in his book, as I mention in my notes to the game: "6. d4 Qf6! 7. dxe5 dxe5 8. Nc3 Bg4 followed by Nd7 and O-O-O is given by West as better for Black" -- with which I think you'd agree.

Like Lawrence Day's "The Big Clamp," Black's pawn formation just creates a much easier game for him: more logical plans, better piece placements, and control of the board.

Greg Shahade said...

I hate the move Nc3. I think that white should avoid ...Bg4 at all costs, and play something like Ne1, maybe with some ideas of a4, b3, maybe be2, nd3, bb2 and perhaps nd2-c4 to try to put some pressure on e5. I dunno, main thing is I see no reason to allow ...Bg4.

Of course black gets to move too in the meantime :)