Philidor Position

A very important defensive rook ending technique

The Philidor position, which gets its name from the famous Chess player François-André Danican Philidor, is one of the most important drawing techniques that can occur in a rook endgame where one side it’s trying to promote a pawn.

Let’s start from the canonical example:

There are a few things worth noticing:

  • With optimal play, this position is a dead draw. Black can’t promote the pawn.
  • The defending rook is on the third rank. That’s a vital aspect of this defense.
  • the defending king is in front of the pawn the opponent is trying to promote.

The only attacking chance in this position is to advance the pawn. But the resulting position doesn’t allow any progress if the defender uses the right approach:

The idea is to move to the eight rank so that you can check the opponent king effectively making it impossible for her to make any progress.

In this position, black can:

  • check the white king which would move closer to the pawn
  • advance the pawn to the second rank which would not change the situation.

The core idea of this defensive technique is that the side with the pawn can’t shield herself from checks of the defensive side.