The Scandinavian Defense dates from the 15th century. It and the French Defense are the oldest asymmetrical King-pawn openings. A History of Chess by H. J. Murray reports that the Center Counter was first documented in a manuscript by the Spanish author, Luis Ramires Lucena around 1435.
Although the Scandinavian Defense has never enjoyed widespread popularity among top-flight chess players, Joseph Henry Blackburne and Jacques Mieses often played it, and greatly developed its theory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Alexander Alekhine used it to draw against World Champion Emanuel Lasker at St. Petersburg in 1914, and Jose Raul Capablanca won twice with it at New York 1915.
Bent Larsen played it from time to time, and defeated World Champion Anatoly Karpov with it at Montreal 1979, spurring a rise in popularity. The popular name also began to switch from Center Counter Defense to Scandinavian Defense around this time.
In 1995, the Center Counter Defense made a rare appearance in a World Chess Championship match, in the 14th game at New York. Viswanathan Anand as black obtained an excellent position using the opening against Garry Kasparov, although Kasparov won the game.
The Scandinavian Defense is Ron Wesley's opening move in the 2001 film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In the scene in question, Ron has to play a chess game on a giant chessboard with giant chess pieces. Ron uses this defense to verify that the game they are playing is, in fact, exactly like Wizard’s Chess. The chess positions used in the scene were created by International Master Jeremy Silman.
The Scandinavian is an immediate attempt by black to aggressively cross white's opening plans. Black dictates the opening line of play from the start. Therefore, white's opening preparation along other lines is wasted. White must dance to black's tune. Black often scores a psychological mini-victory in the opening by playing the Scandinavian.
For books about the Scandinavian: The Scandinavian by John Emms, The Scandinavian Defense by James Plaskett and The Scandinavian: The Dynamic 3…Qd6 by Michael Melts.