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Openings for Tactical Players: Scandinavian (Center Counter ) Defense

  • GM Gserper
  • | Jan 10, 2010
  • | 18366 views
  • | 26 comments

The Scandinavian Defense (also known as the Center Counter in the USA) has one unique advantage compared to any other sharp line we've analyzed so far.  Let's say you want to play the Latvian gambit (1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5).   If your opponent plays the King's Gambit, Bishop Opening or any other move different from 2. Nf3, you can kiss your Latvian Gambit goodbye.  This is not the case with the Scandinavian Defense.  The only requirement here is that your opponent plays 1. e4 and then you play 1... d5.  Bingo! You got your Scandinavian defense!

These days the most popular line of the Scandinavian amongst GMs is 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 which leads to a tough positional struggle in most of the cases. But what if you are looking for a street fight from the very first move?  Then 2...Nf6!? is your move!  This move turns the Scandinavian Defense into a real gambit since White can keep his extra pawn with the 3.c4 move.  In return Black gets a very dangerous initiative as the next game shows:

 

Instead of 3.c4 White can play 3.d4 ignoring the d5 pawn and just try to finish his development.  Even in this case Black retains attacking chances.  The next game is a good example of Black's play in this case.  I recommend that you analyze every move and look at the annotations since Black's play is pretty typical for this variation.  Take note of how surprisingly quickly White's seemingly solid looking position was torn apart.
Another possible approach for Black after 3.d4 is to give White another chance to keep his extra pawn in return for a strong initiative.  You don't see too often a 2500+ GM playing White and getting checkmated by move 13, but that's exactly what happened in the following game:
So, is there any hope for White in this line, or does the Scandinavian Defense simply refute the 1.e4 move?  Sure White's play in the above mentioned games can be improved, but probably the most solid approach for White is just to ignore all the sacrifices and stick to his guns by finishing the development.  Veselin Topalov is arguably one of the most theoretically prepared chess players of our time and he chose exactly this approach when facing GM Gata Kamsky.  Black's mistake in this game was that instead of switching to positional play (I know this is a real hell for any gambiteer!) he kept playing too aggressively and got annihilated.  Judge for yourself:
In conclusion I would like to add my usual advice. Since there is no way to analyze all possible lines of any opening in just one brief article, my goal is just to explain the main ideas, to demonstrate typical attacking patterns and to share the spirit of the opening.  If you like it, I strongly recommend you to do your homework before you play it. The Scandinavian Defense is a unique opening that provides Black an opportunity to seize the initiative starting from move one!  Many prominent players have trotted this opening out, so perhaps you should as well.
Good luck!

Comments


  • 12 months ago

    showkat

    Great article! Thanks.

  • 4 years ago

    ShadowQWERTY

    4...b5 is a mistake.  4...Bg4! induces the weakening pawn move 5. f3

  • 5 years ago

    ericycsong

    cool

  • 5 years ago

    ArtNJ

    In the Marinus-Hodgson game, the line with 6. d4 ending with 10 . . . 0.0.0 just leaves me baffled.  My shredder thinks the 11. d5 forking move is good enough for a +1.49 advantage at a depth of 14.  If one is going to stop analysis of a line in a position like this, one obviously needs to provide more...otherwise even providing the sideline is a total waste of time.  My guess is there is a typo in the line somewhere...

  • 5 years ago

    paatalogic

          On  1.e4  d5  2.Nc3   i  think  best  is   when  black  plays  d4 .   I  prefer  this  move.

  • 5 years ago

    Shivsky

    Ditto on the below mentioned "3.Bb5+ sucks the life outta the Nf6 scandi" comment. I've FINALLY given up on the Nf6 Scandinavian after a torrid 4 year love affair with it...and Bb5+ IS THE REASON :)

  • 5 years ago

    random-d

    I've been advocating this line in vote chess games for months! My favorite opening against e4. 

    Thanks for the great article.

  • 5 years ago

    SirChrislov

    Viva la Skandinavich!

  • 5 years ago

    skeletor1

    and by the way if I play e5 to nf6 its not really close to a scandinavian anymore regardless if you play ne4 or nd7...

  • 5 years ago

    skeletor1

    "After

    1.e4 d5 2.Nc3 black can play 2...Nf6 and it is the Scandinavian Alekhine - usually reached via the move order 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5, which is close enough to the Scandinavian."

     

    ok fine then I play instead of nc3, e5, and opt for a slightly worse french advance

  • 5 years ago

    ogerboy

    After

    1.e4 d5 2.Nc3 black can play 2...Nf6 and it is the Scandinavian Alekhine - usually reached via the move order 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5, which is close enough to the Scandinavian.

  • 5 years ago

    skeletor1

    so there are definetely good ways for white to avoid the scandinavian despite what the article says

  • 5 years ago

    skeletor1

    "is is not the case with the Scandinavian Defense.  The only requirement here is that your opponent plays 1. e4 and then you play 1... d5.  Bingo! You got your Scandinavian defense!"

     

    the article for some reason disregards lines like nc3 against d5..... its certainly no scandinavian its the dunst opening(1nc3 opening)  and if white takes the pawn on e4 instead of d4 on nc3 I guess its a caro-kann like position without c6.;

  • 5 years ago

    almighty

    I am a novice here! May be for that reason, I couldn't see the forced win in the game between Topalov And Kamsky.  Could anybody explain?

  • 5 years ago

    SamurayJack

    I agree with jemtymethod, 3.Bb5+ is much better, but I think that 6.Nf3 loses time, I think 6.f3 is a beter response. Thoe I'm also not shure about the 5...Bg4 move

  • 5 years ago

    Candypants

    spakonen: you can see the whole game from move 1. on every game except the first one.

  • 5 years ago

    RoyalStraightFlush

    Very nice article!!!

  • 5 years ago

    jemptymethod

    I prefer 3. Bb5+ as White against the Scandinavian with 2...Nf6.  I've read a number of Center Counter gambiteers calling it the line that takes all the fun out of 2...Nf6, and Bobby Fischer played it.  Below is my contribution to its theory, in a line first analyzed by Staunton over 160 years ago.

    Let me be a bit more thorough.  After 16...bxc2  17. Ke2 is best when play might continue: 17...Qe5+  18. Kd2 e6  19. Qxa8 Bb4+  20. Kxc2 Qxf5+  21. Kb3 and now if 21...0-0  22. Qb7 or 21...Qxb5  22. Qe4 and white maintains a big edge in either case, even the latter line, despite Black's impending discovered check.  The following 16th move alternatives for Black are even worse:
    • 16...Qd8  17. Qh5+
    • 16...e6  17. c4
    • 16...e5  17. Be3
  • 5 years ago

    Bf7

    Thanks! For me, a  very enlightning article. I'm playing the Qd6 variation but must improve my tactical ability and due to that looking for "tactical" openings for Blitz chess. Your article was right on the spot for me!

  • 5 years ago

    paatalogic

               Cool  positions  and  games ,  cool  article .

      This  was  for  me  difficult   "Bakhrakh, Victor vs. Sofieva, Ainur (2385)"  .  i think  other  moves (for  example  Qa4 , not  bad  move  in  my  opinion) ,  but  on  this  game played  first  move  c6. Of  course  here  is  tactic  ,  but  not  so  much . 

           Thanks  for  article.

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