Of course, all good things must come to an end, and it is probably time for me to move on from the Philidor before people start preparing against me. I'll still play it every once in a while, but there are too many openings out there to be always playing the same thing.
It's a funny opening, the Philidor. It has this reputation of being solid but after my game with Jack Puccini I heard people saying they were surprised that such sharp positions could arise so early from the Philidor. The solid line has traditionally been the Hanham variation which is now more often than not being entered by the Pirc move order: 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.d4 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7.
After 5.g4, the variation 5..Nxg4 6.Rg1 is undoubtedly the most popular line and white scores an impressive 59% in my database with 347 games. In the latest Informator, number 123, there is an amazing game played by Swedish GM Pontus Carlsson. The game shows a typical piece sacrifice by white to open the position and activate his pieces while black's king sits in the centre.
Funnily enough, when I downloaded TWIC this week, the first games I looked at were those under the ECO code (C41) for the Philidor. And whose name should I see playing a game, but none other than Pontus Carlsson. So my thought was, I wonder if he played that crazy 5.g4 move again? I wasn't disappointed. Have a look at this position:
Carlsson as white followed up his Bxb5 sacrifice in the last game, with another sacrifice here. 16.Nbd5!, another justified sacrifice against an uncastled king and an under developed position.
These games show that the Philidor is anything but a solid option. Of course there are solid lines, but in the hands of certain players, the Philidor can transform into an exciting opening and middlegame. And Pontus Carlsson is just one such exciting player, who has had an interesting life. His story is a great read.