The Philidor with g6!?

The other day, I was chatting with IM Renato Naranja about an idea that Nick Conticello showed him. It involves playing an early g6 in the Philidor, thus taking it into some sort of weird Pirc territory. The position in question occurs after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 g6!?

After glancing at the position, i thought that white should have an advantage after playing f4 and simply going for it in the center. However, with each variation I tried from this starting point, Renato easily demonstrated the flexibility of black’s position.

I can’t condone playing like this (the philidor…my word…other than Master Jim West- who can get away with playing such a defense?) but it is always eye opening to see a new idea so early on – especially one that seems so logical. As I progress (can I call it progress?) I’m reaching the conclusion that it’s best to deviate early and focus your study time on tactics, tactics, tactics, so fresh and original ideas- such as this one and those presented in the New in Chess SOS series- are worth their weight in gold for both surprise value and conservation of study time. The awesome thing about this variation is two IM’s seem to think it is solid as a rock for black- which is good enough for me. Who says originality is dead in chess? I seem to come across these amazing new little gems all the time- and I’m a patzer!

Following are some games I found over on chess labs featuring this variation.