Play the Scandinavian!

Feb 1, 2008, 4:53 PM |

Stuck in the middle again…


Sometimes it helps to know the road ahead so as to avoid pitfalls hidden from view. It’s one thing to find lines in a database but it’s another to know why certain lines should be avoided. I’ve selected this part from my notes and condensed it for the less advanced player.

 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nxd5 4.Bc4 Nb6 (e6) is perfectly playable. 5.Bb3 Nc6 

(d3) leads to a poor position. Black's Bishop g4 neutralizes White completely. The tactic Nb5 fails. 6.d3 Bf5 7.Nf3 e6 8.O-O Be7 9.Re1 O-O 10.Bf4 Bg4 {Not Na5! This subtle move doesn't just create a pin but also defends against desperados.

11.Re4 Bh5 12.Nb5 Nd5 13.Bxd5 exd5 14. Re3   (14.Bxc7 Bxf3 15.Bxd8 Bxd1 16.Bxe7 dxe4 17.Bxf8 Bxc2 18.Bc5 exd3) 14... d4  15.Re4 a6 16. Nbxd4 Nxd4 17. Rxd4 Qxd4 18. Nxd4 Bxd1 19.Rxd1 Bd6 20.Bxd6 cxd6 21.Nf5 Rfd8  








6... Bf5 7.a4 Na5 8.Ba2 e6 9.d3 

 What we want to look at is the insertion of a4 and Na5. Often we see ever so slight changes in position or move order and we ask ourselves what difference does it really make. To answer the question we have to take a critical look at the position. Only through detail analysis can we determine the relative merits of a move.  In case one we see the improvement Bg4 causing White to look for earlier deviations. The idea behind a4 is to attempt to challenge the Knight right away. Looking deeper we see that White also wants to try to get the Knight to move to the edge of the board where theory suggests the Knight is badly placed. This also takes the Knight away from the key central squares d4 and e5. Now let’s look at the effects on White’s camp. The Nc3 is left to the defense of the a pawn. Nc3 can be pinned with Bb4. We can see that to advance the queen side pawns will take some untangling for White. This could even potentially mean that the White Queen needs to hang around the c pawn for defense since the Bishop no longer defends it.   9…Be7 10.Bf4 Nc6 11.0-0 0-0 12.Re1 Bg4

With a little more development we arrive at a very similar position. Black lets White insert the a4 and Bishop a2 moves at the cost of the Knight shuffle. (Essentially the only changes) Now let’s look at the position. The pawn can’t advance and requires the defense of the Knight. All the other preconditions are still present so we ask, how does this effect those ideas. (Incase you missed this. The Knight shuffle is required to stop the pawn until the Bishop blocks the rook.) By following the same moves we arrive at the same tactics. What we are looking for are new possibilities created by the new positions of the a pawn and the Bishop. If you execute all the tactics one by one they equate to the exact same thing so the value of the deviations must lay where new opportunities exist. It seems the a pawn has run its course and does not offer any new tactical opportunities so does it offer any end game advantage? Well, White needs to find a way to get into an end game without significant disadvantages.  


The Bishop pin is more than just a pin. Black is making a serious threat. First let’s look at the more static features of the pin. It hampers White’s development. In many games where one side switches a Bishop to the opposite side of the board its home turf becomes ripe for attack on those squares. Obviously it’s because they are harder to defend without the Bishop. 


Next, can White do something to take advantage of the King side disruption? No moves or motifs present themselves. Black is too dynamic for that. It would most likely become an end game weakness for White if the game made it that far. 


Ok, what about 13.h3 Bh5. It seems White is compelled to do something. It now becomes a matter of whether this something is good or bad. A condition known as Zugswang.  14.g4 Bg6 15.Qd2 Bd6 or Bb4 and Black begins operations in the center. White has a lot of air around his King and not much more. In fact, it is Black who has much more freedom.  



The move a4 was intended to put the question to the Knight but it seems that it was not thought out in detail. By putting the new move through its paces and testing the preconditions against it we were able to reveal its effect. We can conclude that it is actually a weakening move that does not offer significant advantages. The move Bg4 should be the obvious choice since its counterpart is absent. Interestingly, Black did not have to shape the terrain to really exploit the Bishop on b3 or a2. White’s move d3 should be considered suspect. Next we will look at 6.Nf3 where White has the option of avoiding the pitfall of d3 by this simple change of move order.