The Scotch: the best opening ever.

Dec 3, 2009, 12:00 AM 52,237 Reads 83 Comments Fun & Trivia

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.


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