The Philidor is a tough cookie! Well, only the Hanham Variation of course. Black aims for a setup that is similar to the Breyer Ruy Lopez and if white plays for the central break with d5, then it can even transpose into the Najdorf pawn structure. This is far from harmless.

At first I thought that white had a simple solution, but it doesn’t seem to work.

Then there is Shirov’s pawn sacrifice which does contain a forced draw, but black has other options.

There is also this well known simplifying attempt of course, but the resulting position is actually far from simple.

Finally I checked the mainlines, but this was not entirely convincing either.

There is also the modern interpretation where black takes on d4 with the idea to put the knight on e5 and the bishop on d7 in order to play b5 as fast as possible. The featured line is not entirely forced, but it comes pretty close.

Before I present my final conclusion I need to show an interesting game, where black made a silent draw offer on move eight.

Now you need to know that Negi has written a book on the French, Caro Kann and Philidor where he suggests a rather sophisticated moveorder involving an early h3 to deal with the problems in line with 8…exd4 and since he used Houdini, his conclusions are tough to refute. He looked at every single black reply, except one: 8…Re8. Surprise surprise, look who picked up on that!

So thanks to Negi and Chucky, here is my solution to the Philidor:

Play it safe!