François-André Danican Philidor (September 1, 1726 - August 31, 1795) was a French chess player and composer.
Philidor's ascendancy and popularity, owing to his remarkable and perhaps unprecedented supremacy combined with the liberality of his treatment and the chivalry and enthusiasm of his opponents, tended to create an entirely new era in chess and its support. An interest became aroused of a most important character, unknown in any previous age in England, and which, though not fully maintained after his death, and least of all among the higher classes who ranked so largely among his patrons, was yet destined to have a marked and lasting influence on the future development and progress of the game, most apparent at first in England, but later nearly equally manifested in Germany, since in America and other countries, and not exclusively confined to any country, class, or creed.
Several auspicious circumstances had greatly contributed to aid Philidor in his London career. Prominent among which were his introduction to Lord Sandwich at the Hague. His patronage through the same source by the Duke of Cumberland and the never ceasing liberality of General Conway, the inestimable Count Bruhl, the Dowager Lady Holland, and the gallant Sir Gilbert Elliot of Gibraltar fame.
Of the players who encountered Philidor, Sir Abraham Janssens, who died in 1775, seems to have been the strongest, Mr. George Atwood, a mathematician, one of Pitt's secretaries came next, he was of a class which in the 19th century would call a third or two grades of odds below Philidor, a high standard of excellence to which but few amateurs attain.
Some indication of the varied and important character of Philidor's patronage is afforded by the names on the cover of his edition of 1777, dedicated to the Duke of Cumberland.
Twenty-six ladies of title grace the list, including the historic chess names of Devonshire, Northumberland, Bedford, Marlborough, Rutland, with upwards of 300 male names comprising heads of the Church, men illustrious at the bar and on the bench, statesmen, politicians, cabinet ministers, and many most distinguished in science, both in England and in France, with a long list of our nobility. Devonshire is the earliest name mentioned in old Chronicles connected with English chess, Olgar or Orgar, Earl of Devonshire is recorded to have been playing chess with his daughter Elstreth or Elpida when King Edgar's messenger Athelwold arrived to ascertain the truth of the reports of her extraordinary beauty. Northumberland is mentioned two centuries later as a house in which chess was played. Caxton's Booke of Chesse, Bruges 1474, said by some to be the first book printed in London, was dedicated to the Duke of Clarence, Rowbotham's, 1561, to the Earl of Leicester, Lucy, Countess of Bedford accepted dedication of A. Saul's quaint work, 1597 and Barbiere's edition of the same, 1640. The early love poem of Lydgate, emblematical of chess was dedicated to the admirers of the game, and the Duke of Rutland in the last century took sufficient interest in it to devise an extension of chess.
The names of the subscribers on Philidor's Analysis of Chess, 1777, include the Earl of Sandwich and the Duke of Cumberland for 10 and 50 copies respectively and also the Duchess of Argyll, the Duchess of Bedford, the Duchess of Buccleuch, the Lady de Beauclerk, the Viscountess Beauchamp, Miss Sophia Bristow, the Marchioness of Carmarthen, the Marchioness of Lothian, the Duchess of Montrose, the Duchess of Devonshire, the Countess of Derby, Madame Dillon, La Countesse de Forbach, the Dowager Lady Hunt, the Dowager Lady Holland, La Countesse de Hurst, Miss Jennings, the Duchess of Manchester, the Countess of Ossery, the Countess of Powis, the Lady Payne, the Marchioness of Rockingham, the Lady Cecil Rice, the Countess Spencer, the Lady Frances Scott, Miss Mary Sankey, Miss West, and the Countess of Pembroke.
Notwithstanding the enormous advance in chess, appreciation and practice generally, we have never since been able to boast of a list at all of this kind. There are Dukes Argyle, Athol, Ancaster, Bedford, Bolton, Buccleuch, Cumberland, Devonshire, Leeds, Manchester, Marlborough, Montague, Northumberland, Richmond, Roxburgh; Marquis Carmarthen, Rockingham; Earl Ashburnham, Besborough, Dartmouth, Egremont, Gower, Holderness, Northington, Ossory, Powis, Spencer, Shelburne, Waldegrave; Lords, E. Bentinck, Bateman, Barrington, Beauchamp, Breadalbane, G. Cavendish, John Cavendish, Clifford, Denbigh, Fitzmaurice, Fitzwilliam, Falmouth, Harrowby, Hillsborough, Irwine, Kerry, Kinnaird, March, Mountstenart, North, Oxford, Palmerston, Polnarth, Robert Spencer, Temple, Tyrunnell, Warwick, Willoughby de Broke, Amherst, Petre.
Among statesmen and politicians we find such names as the Earl of Chatham, Pitt, C. J. Fox, Lord Godolphin, Lord Sunderland, St. John and Wedderburn.
Prominent as players as well as supporters were General Conway, Count Bruhl, the French Ambassador, Duke de Mirepois, the Turkish Ambassador, Dr. Black, Sir Abram Janssens, G. Atwood, (one of Pitts' secretaries), Mr. Jennings, Mr. Cotter, and the Rev. Mr. Bouldeer.
Voltaire and Rousseau were friends of Philidor, so also was David Garrick the actor; supporters in the musical world were numerous. A combination of high appreciation for chess and music combined is often found.
Philidor died in 1795.
- Life of Philidor: Musician and Chess-Player by George Allen, Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa; Da Capo Press; 1971. ISBN 0306700751
- The World's Great Chess Games by Reuben Fine; Dover; 1983. ISBN 0486245128
- A biography of Philidor (http://www.geocities.com/siliconvalley/lab/7378/philidor.htm)