François André Danican Philidor is one of the first chess players to earn the title of world champion. He is known for his maxim “pawns are the soul of chess” and for his best-selling book Analysis of Chess.

Born in 1726, this Frenchman of Scottish origin is a musician like many members of his family. At the age of ten, he was part of the choir of the Royal Chapel of Versailles and this is when he discovered chess.

Philidor arrives in Paris around 1740. He earns his living thanks to music, but does not forget his passion for chess. The Regence café, a famous meeting place for players of the time, quickly became his headquarters.

At the age of 18, already one of the best players, he tries the game blindly (without looking at the board, mentally retaining the game), first against an opponent, then in two simultaneous games which he wins. During his lifetime, he will face the best players of the time in France, England and Holland.


In 1748, Philidor wrote one of the greatest classics of chess literature, the Chess Analysis, which was a huge success. His work was translated into several languages ​​and reissued several times.  Still today, he is seen as the first theoretician of chess.

Despite his success, his variable income does not allow him to support his family. He therefore makes many trips between France and England to run the London Chess Club against payment.

Blocked in England during the French Revolution, he died there in 1795.








Sergio Boffa, François André Danican Philidor, La culture échiquéenne en France et en Engleterre au XVIII siècle.

Larousse du jeu d’échecs, 1977

Photos :


Musée Suisse du Jeu