The Scotch: the best opening ever.

  • meniscus
  • | Dec 3, 2009

The Best Opening Ever

by meniscus

The Scotch, 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6? 3. d4!

is a direct attack on Black's audacious attempt to blockade the white e pawn and form a cowardly defence* of this blockade. White can claim a psychological victory as early as move three. Otherwise, Black would have continued 2 ...Nf6. It is it the low self esteem of the second player, or fear of public embarrassment in his/her inability to copy white any further, that gives them reason to continue with such a defensive setup? Perhaps neither. The naive preconception that white should play 3. Bb5?? (The Ruy Lopez, which loses for white) is, according to some, is the usual misunderstanding that leads to the fatal error by black: 2. ...Nc6?

Enter the Scotch. 3. d4!, winning.

Black should suddenly realize that the chance to mirror White's brilliance with moves like 2...Nf6 have vanished into thin air. In fact, they might as well resign here, having lost the central initiative and the psychological battle of wills. Still, some players need to be convinced.

That's where Scotch variations come from, better known as "Roads to Rome" by 1. e4 players.

Black, when delusional and not ready to resign, usually continues with the admission of defeat 3 ...exd4?. This completely surrenders the occupation of the centre*. Having surrendered this pawn, one might ask "Why did they play 1...e5 in the first place?" This question has long perplexed Scotch players, and regrettably, I have no answer. I assume by 2...Nc6? Black admits that they have secretly placed a bet on White, and wishes to avoid both winning chances (2...Nf6 and other moves that avoid the Scotch) and the blatant throwing of the game (2...resigns 1-0), which might raise the eye of the casino or bookie that they have invested in.

There of course remains the question, Why is it called the Scotch game? Well, one might as well ask whether the chicken or the egg first existed. Even if such an answer exists, as is rumoured* on the internet, it is of little consequence. It is well known that of all brown liquor varieties, there are only three of consequence to the self-respecting human, be they chess player or not. Those would in fact be Bourbon and Scotch whisk(e)ys, derived from sour mash techniques which predate even less modern versions of the great game of chess. Here there is no debate as to whether or not Scotch tastes better than Bourbon, but there need not be in any case: there is no mainstream opening called "The Bourbon game". On the contrary, there IS a Scotch game, and, all red herrings aside, such a name would not be granted to an inferior opening, as it is not applied to an inferior type of whiskey.

Whether or not this name was given to the opening because of it's strength and status as "The best chess opening ever", or it is the "best opening" because it has the name "Scotch" is, again, a chicken/egg [moot] point.

Finally, my strongest point.

Other main openings that arise from Black's audacious, cowardly, or delusional response 1...e5, including the Petroff defense, the Ruy Lopez, The Guico Piano and others are perhaps better known by some as the Russian game, Spanish game, and Italian game respectively, for example.

Your author would like to end with a rhetorical question:

"Why didn't the Scotch need two names to become so famous?"



* centre, defence, etc:

I know some of you may believe that I should spell this "center", being an American. However, when either playing or addressing the Scotch opening, we do best to put ourselves in the spirit of Britain, naturally. It is with great respect and obligation that I, therefore, spell these words correctly in the article above.


  • 11 months ago


    "I know of 5 books on the market about the Scotch opening"

    Which books do you mean? Any titles, authors, ..?

    I know

    "The Scoth Game", John Emms, Everyman, London 2005

    "The Scotch Game", Yelena Dembo / Richard Palliser, Everyman, London 2011. This may be the standard nowadays despite of several DVD's.

  • 20 months ago


    I play the scotch gambit. There are a ton of traps, and I win some nice games.

  • 20 months ago


    I play the scotch gambit and I win some nice games

  • 3 years ago


    @cll3 You can pin the developed knight with your bishop instead of playing Nc3. This is likely the proper response. It plays fairly nicely for you no matter what he chooses to do.

    Alternatively, I often like to just do exd5 instead of Nc3 in response to d5, it forces him to recapture with the queen or move his knight. If he recaptures with the queen Nc3 forces his queen to move and plays kind of scandinavian like, and you still retain the initiative if you want to initiate dxe5.  This response itself is probably terrible because I'm terrible.

    d5 is a dubious response to d4

  • 3 years ago


    Thank for the overview of the Scotch opening. However if the Scotch is a great opening why is there so little material on it, and remains an unpopular opening?

    I know of 5 books on the market about the Scotch opening. Compare that to the King's Gambit which has at least 11 books on it, or the Ruy Lopez which has 31 books. If I look up information on the Scotch in my FCO there are 6 pages devoted to it, but 28 pages to the Ruy Lopez. The trend is similiar in the MCO-15. Even here at there is only one video on the Scotch (not counting the 4 videos that are live sessions) "Underrated Openings Part 3".

    One thread here wrote "Garry Kasparov thought was good but then realized It was Dubious" about the Scotch. However I checked the Scotch game with the Fritz chess engine (6/6/6/2, 550 eval window, 20 moves) (yes, it took days to finish) with no refutation that black would equalize or gain the advatage (best move/countermove result is +0.20 white). Did the Scotch fall out of favor by Kasparov (I can't find any corroboration), and if so what was K's counter to the Scotch?

    I like the Scotch as it is natural (as white) to direct a game down its lines, gives a nice open board with lots of active play, and even a few traps for the unwary. Why does the Scotch remains unpopular?

  • 4 years ago


    i enjoy the scotch when i am able to get rooks/queen on d-file quickly.... this article was stupendous

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    No wonder when I play my friend Shredder he always does scotch... Although when I verse him with Rybka, Rybka responds differently and beats Shredder. Anyways, nice opening.

  • 4 years ago


    okay, if you love the scotch so much, tell me how to deal with this line from black... it serves the scotch!

  • 4 years ago


    drink amarone wine is really better

  • 4 years ago


    How does Bb5 lose for white??!

  • 5 years ago


    Yes, and Scotch Guard can repel liquids from cloth. Ruy Lopez guard can only attempt to stop a king's assassination. Given that a Lopez guard is of a past time period, these days they're only defending him from those with time traveling technology, so I think we know which guard is doing its job. 

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    3. Bb5 does not lose for white. I dont understand how nc6 is called a poor move in this discussion. Nc6 is usually considered the best move in the position. A poor move would be f6?? or na6? or perhaps even the dastardly Ba3 or Qh4.

    However, the scotch game is my favorite opening despite all this. I like an aggressive game right out of the box, but i dont want to play Parham or Napoleon because those are somewhat weak, especially Napoleon, which blocks in the knight.

  • 5 years ago


    Actually you should spell using English spellings because this was where the language originated.

  • 5 years ago


    Americans shouldn't spell things differently just because of a British topic.  There's no obligation.  Rumor, color, center, defense, etc., should be spelled (not spelt) as Americans spell.  Smile

  • 5 years ago


    Black can still win  if response is correct.

  • 5 years ago


    Couldn't white play Bxg7 winning a bishop and rook?

  • 5 years ago


    I worship this opening. I play it almost every time, never knew what it was called until now. It's perfect, but I must admit, after the whole transaction is finished and the queen is left on d4, black can make a pawn chain in 2 moves and force the queen to move. Sure, black can waste 2 moves building a pawn chain off of doubled-up pawns, but because of the waste of tempo it results of from white forced to move the queen, black equalizes. However, with the queen in the center, its unlikely the opponent will be as aggressive as they intended, because king-side castle is imminent with one move from the bishop. 

    I don't want to brag, but I have played over 1000 games, and over 40% of my games begin with this "Scotch" opening. I am very well versed in it, and without the help of tutors or computers I was able to figure that the early lead with the queen is a dominant opening. The 4 Knights variation and the Karo's can all bow down and tremble before the utmost SCOTCH :DDDDD

  • 5 years ago


    scotch whisky the best and scotch girls the worse:@

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