The Scandinavian Defense: Modern Play

The Scandinavian Defense: Modern Play

| 19 | Opening Theory

In part 1 of "The Scandinavian Defense: A History," we learned about the earliest beginnings of the Scandinavian Defense, and also saw some games with the slightly less usual 2...Nf6 in response to 2.exd5.

Now we will see how the Scandinavian with 2...Qxd5 has been used in more modern times.

The first games in the Scandinavian featured the simple 3...Qd8 retreat. However, it was dealt a heavy blow by none other than Bobby Fischer.

In a famous game against Karl Robatsch, Fischer showed a very straightforward plan for White, which resembled some of his clean destructions of the Dragon Sicilian:

3...Qd8  is rarely played nowadays, and indeed players in general tend to have more ambitious plans for their openings. 3...Qa5 became the main move.

The Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen loved to explore the less-trodden areas of chess, and not surprisingly he used the Scandinavian on a number of occasions. Famously he defeated then world champion Anatoly Karpov in the Montreal 1979 tournament, in a game which clearly shows the light-square strategy after Karpov was provoked to overextend:

Probably the highest-level use of the Scandinavian was when Viswanathan Anand brought it out for a single outing in his 1995 world championship match with Garry Kasparov.

Anand got a splendid position, although the game ended in victory for Kasparov:

This was the one and only time Anand used the Scandinavian that I have found. However, as an attacking player and a theoretician, he has played some excellent games against it. In particular, the following game featured a spectacular combination appearing on the board -- somewhat of a rare event in the top-level chess of today, when high levels of play prevent the actual occurrence of many brilliancies:

Today, a few top-level grandmasters use the Scandinavian with some frequency.

Hikaru Nakamura has used it a lot, although not so much in the last few years. It is not surprising that Nakamura, a tricky and sharp tactician with a very wide opening repertoire would be drawn to the provocative Scandinavian.

In recent years, the move 3...Qd6 -- previously seen as very offbeat -- has practically supplanted the "automatic" 3...Qa5. On d6, the queen continues to influence events, while not being vulnerable to certain attacks by (e.g.) a bishop on d2.

Naturally Black has to consider a host of other problems, such as Nb5 or g3 followed by Bf4. Nevertheless, 3...Qd6 has proven playable. By far the biggest specialist in this line is GM Sergei Tiviakov:

For most players, the Scandinavian has been a surprise weapon, a backwater of chess, a way to avoid preparation and to take the game onto one's own "territory."

I think, as with the Alekhine's Defense, that you cannot really call yourself a chess player until you have played these openings at least once!


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