Philidor Defence - Play the Antoshin Variation
Preview by GM Martin Lorenzini
The Antoshin Variation of the Philidor Defense is a very interesting choice. Its theory is not very developed and easy to study. This is very practical if we compare it with other openings like the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense or the Marshall Attack of the Ruy Lopez. In general, you can choose between a solid line and a more tense one. There are usually not many forced variations, and while often a large number of move options are available, many of them end up transposing to each other. Because of this, it is often beneficial to focus on studying the themes and manoeuvres typical for the variation.
Black usually cedes the centre to his opponent, accepting a slight space disadvantage and playing for a counterattack. It is important not to miss the right moment to start this counterplay and end up in a passive position. In this database, I want to provide you with the understanding of all the typical Philidor positions necessary to achieve this counterplay and get a satisfactory game.
The current database consists of 15 theoretical chapters, 20 interactive test positions, and Memory Booster.
The starting position of the course arises after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7
Entering the so-called Antoshin Variation of the Philidor Defence. This will be the starting position of our studies.
Now, I will briefly present the different options that are covered in the database.
An interesting option is 6.Qf3. A concrete move with the idea of an immediate Nf5. This is studied in Chapter 2. In general, this early queen sortie does not promise White any advantage.
Chapter 3 covers 6.Bd3 and 6.Be3. Especially 6.Bd3 is a robust approach that should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, if Black knows what he is doing, he would get a sufficient counterplay.
Another interesting move is 6.Bc4. A standard bishop development that tends to transpose to Hanham Variation positions. It can be found in Chapter 4.
A very important tabiya arises after 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0
A quiet choice, with a positional cut, but for which one must be well prepared. This position and different alternatives are discussed in Chapter 5.
The move 7.Bf4 (instead of 7.0-0) is a flexible option that does not reveal the intentions of the first player, including the flank on which he is going to castle. It is a suggestion from Parimarjan Negi in his repertoire books on 1.e4. This is analysed in Chapter 6.
After 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 Re8 8.f4 we reach the main position of the variation with 6.Be2.
Besides having a considerable space advantage, White is a bit overextended. Practice and concrete analysis show that Black has sufficient compensation in this position. This line is covered in Chapter 7.
Another major direction is 6.Bf4.
One of the two mainlines, and by far the most complex of the entire Antoshin System.
The most important crossroads arises after 6...0-0 7.Qd2
Black has an important choice now. My suggestion is 7...Nc6. The most reliable option. Different types of games are reached, from dry endgames to attacks with opposite castles. This is the subject of Chapter 10.
An interesting alternative to 7...Nc6 is 7...d5!?. Probably the sharpest line of the entire Philidor Defence. It currently does not have a great reputation, although it is a fertile place for possible improvements. I analyse several such attempts in Chapter 9. The move 7...c6 is a solid variation, but in my opinion, the worst of the three options is also examined in Chapter 8.
Finally, we arrive at the main line with 6.g3.
This fianchetto guarantees White a slight but stable positional advantage. For years it has been one of the main continuations in this variation. My main suggestion goes 6...0-0 7.Bg2 Re8.
An ambitious attempt by Black. It temporarily gives White the initiative and some space, waiting for the right situation to reach active counterplay. This is studied in Chapters 14 and 15.
The move 6...d5?! once very popular, today is considered doubtful. White plays 7.e5 when Black has a choice between 7...Ng4 (Chapter 11) and 7...Ne4 (Chapter 12).
My analysis shows that Black cannot equalize in these lines.
A solid alternative to the main line is 6...0-0.
I consider this approach the most solid that Black has to face 6.g3. Slightly worse but highly robust positions are reached. It is analysed in Chapter 13.
At the end of the database, you will find 20 interactive test positions that will challenge your knowledge and understanding.