48. Philidor writes his book
In the early days of 1747, English army officers guided André Philidor from The Hague to London. More than a year he had been stuck in Holland, see chapter 46.
In 1748 he made the crossing over the North Sea back to the Low countries with the same Englishmen in order to secure subscribers among his friends in the English army for a book on chess upon which he was engaged [Murray 1913:862]. He did succeed: his book would forever get him an honored place in the (chess) history. This chapter is devoted to this book.
Extensive attention for a chess book on a site which intends to write the history of draughts, is not it silly? No, because in Philidor’s book we trace strong influences from draughts on chess.
Philidor may have written his book in Holland, it was printed in London. Language: French. When the book was edited (1749) ‒the production of a book was a time-consuming process, the staff of a printing office put little blocks, each of them represented a letter of another sign, in a mould‒ the English officers had taken Philidor back to England.
There was a list of 127 subscribers and 433 copies sold [Murray 1913:862, Petzold 1986:194-5].
When he was occupied with his book, Philidor visited the English army camp in Eindhoven, which had to stop the advancing French army to interest the officers there. The Duke of Cumberland, the commander, signed for fifty copies, “which naturally inspired many junior officers to follow their commander’s lead” [Eales 1985:114]. It does not cause surprise that Philidor dedicated his book to him [Petzold 1986:194-5].
There was a reprint in London (1752], and edition in English (1750) and in German (1754) [Eales 1985:114].
Writers on chess are in complete agreement: concerning the plan as well as the content Philidor’s book is an absolute innovation. In this chapter I discuss the first facet, making a comparing excursion to draughts.
The plan of Philidor’s book
Harry Golombek [1976:121]: “Philidor wrote a new kind of chess book”. Harold Murray [1913:866]: “No previous writer had attempted to explain the reason for particular moves with the detail and directness which Philidor adopted (…) Philidor’s clear and precise statements came as a revelation”.
What exactly did the young Frenchman? He composed four games (and ten games where he showed how a game can get another development when a player chose other moves) and explained the reason of a move [Murray 1913:867]. Richard Eales [1985:115]: Murray quite rightly identified the lucidity, the assurance ‒Philidor did not doubt the rightness of his vision‒ and the brevity of Philidor’s presentation. These were, said Eales, the reasons for its success.
For Jacob Silbermann & Wolfgang Unzicker [1977 I:54-5] Philidor’s insights were responsible for his success: “Without any doubt, his theoretical ideas had a great influence on the entire chess community because he played chess from a new principle. Undoubtedly he exaggerated the possibilities to apply this principle, arousing a contra school”. One page before they praise his clarity [1977 I:53]: “The distinguishing characteristics of Philidor’s analysis are clearness and methodology”.
Joachim Petzold [1986:196]: “Philidor wanted to show how one can play systematically to a win by way of an advantage obtained in the opening”.
Plan of two draughts books
I cross the border to draughts. De Frenchman Pierre Manoury published two draughts books (1770 en 1787), the Dutchman Ephraim van Emden one (1785). Is their plan somewhat comparable with Philidor’s plan?
Manoury’s plan not at all.
The Dutchman can be compared with Philidor: he spent his fourth chapter, page 49-82, on a game where he expounds the purpose of each move. He discusses ground principles, for instance how the player protects an advance singleton, how he spreads his twenty singletons over the board and how he must manoeuvre so that his pieces hold enough freedom of movement.
Let van Emden influence himself by Philidor? If so he should have known the French version of Philidor’s book of 1749 and 1777 ‒in this time the higher Dutch classes spoke French‒, for the first Dutch translation of Philidor was edited in 1786, one year after his own book (chapter 42). I cannot exclude it, but remember that in van Emden’s time chess was not often played (chapter 41), so that his environment cannot have exercised pression on him to order a chess book in France.
Philidor and van Emden both give attention to the end game. Murray [1913:868]: with Philidor began the scientific and systematic investigation of the endings. There is no reason to assume influence from the Frenchman on the Dutchman, pay attention to the end game is self-evident in both an instruction book for chess players as in an instruction book for draughts players. Van Emden dared not only to treat the genre three kings against one king but also the genre five against two kings. The last-mentioned genre is extremely difficult and is only played without mistakes by a strong computer program.
To combine with a forcing
In an instruction book chess as well as in an instruction book draughts the reader will chance upon what is called a combination. I give three definitions of the combination in chess and compare them afterwards with the combination in draughts.
Chessacademy Suriname: “A combination is an enforced manoeuvre of moves where one or more pieces cooperate”. J. Eade in “Schaken voor dummies” (Chess for dummies): “A combination is a string of forced moves (mostly with a sacrifice)”. The Dutch Wikipedia: “A combination is a manoeuvre where two or more pieces cooperate, often with a (feint) sacrifice or a surprising pointe, which forces the opponent to special moves and which gives advantage”.
A chess problem is an artistic application of the combination. Euwe, Niemeijer, Rueb & Trotsenburg [1932:35-94] put 359 problems on diagram composed by the Dutchman Henri Gerard Marie Weenink (1892-1931), followed by the solution [:95-107]. Sometimes the word threat is added: white to play threatens to win a piece or to checkmate, forcing black to a move giving advantage to white.
Draughts has the same type of combination; therefore, we can stick the three definitions of the combination in chess almost without changes on draughts. In 2011 the writer of this site published the book “Miniatuurforcings” and in 2018 the book “Forse forcings”, with respectively compositions of authors from several countries with maximum eight singletons for both colors and at least nine singletons for bot colors. White forces his opponent to play one or more weak moves and then executes a combination with captures.
To combine with captures
Until now I mentioned similarities between chess and draughts. Draughts, however, has something more, an addition: the capture combination. For this reason, we should accept that draughts is a richer game than chess. Especially the variety played by Pierre Manoury and Ephraim van Emden, today called International Draughts, is characterized by a great richness of combinations.
An addition of three characteristics: the jump capture plus the rule that capturing is obliged plus the 20×20 pieces, makes that International Draughts is a game teemed with capture combinations; therefore, a player cannot afford one moment of concentration loss. Manoury and van Emden paid much attention to this aspect. Manoury [1770:112]: “Draughts count an endlessly number of finer points and tricks”, especially also aiming at this way of combining. He included some capture combinations. In his much thicker book, van Emden gives hundred and fifty capture combinations to solve: fifty king combinations (a combination where a singleton reaches the promotion row) and hundred combinations where white wins without the promotion of a singleton. At the back he gives the solutions.