Understanding your opening (Scotch Game Pt.I)
Leave it up to Chess.com to vote on an opening that I don't play personally. When the votes started coming in, I said, "boy." Now I have to learn a new opening. I am glad I did. I have probably played around the Scotch and didn't even know it in some speed games.
I have spent better than a week researching all I could on the Scotch Game. There is too much theory to cover in one post. So I will start with some of the simpler ideas in the Scotch Game. If the interest continues we can explore some of the other lines.
Let me say right away, I am thinking about playing this with white over my favored Ruy Lopez. The opening proves to be sharp and gets the pieces moving right out of the opening.
There are a lot of reasons why this opening might appeal to the club player or average player. For starters the initial moves are natural. Those moves are 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6. Most players who are taught how to play are told to develop towards the center and to get their pieces out. There are plenty of openings where these ideas are seen.
What makes the Scotch Game interesting is White's 3rd move d4. Challenging Black's center right away. That is before his King is safe. Traditionally, players are taught to protect the King before you begin the attack unless you see you can gain some significant material advantage or a winning attack.
3. d4 is more of a positional attack than a winning attack and is sharp for both sides. It is common for black to continue with 3. ... exd4 and then 4. Nd4.
Right away it would appear as if white has a little bit of an edge if not initiative. He is threatening to double Black's pawns which can be a weakness in some circumstances. White will be ready to castle sooner than black and finally if black chooses to exchange Knights White will have a dominant presence in the center of the board after the Queen recaptures.
You might be thinking, "with all those pluses for white, why would black play this?" There are equal ideas for black in this opening as well. First of all the Queen is aggressively placed in the center of the board. However, she is placed there without the support of the rest of her army. Also, the King is still in the center of the board. Black can now naturally develop his pieces while attacking white.
This back and forth initiative grabbing makes for the beginning of a tense struggle with the Scotch Game. I would not recommend this opening for either side if you are not prepared for complex theoretical positions. However, if you are prepared to put the time in there are great opportunities for you.
The Scotch Game has been in and out of favor over the years. It is currently still in favor thanks to the former World Champion Garry Kasparov who went on to prove that Black's initiative might not be enough to secure the full point.
Without going through a lot of analysis here, just scroll through the moves of two
former World Champion players.
In these two games you will notice that black chose two different ways to combat White's positional initiative.
White aims to take control of the center of the board and create tension on Black's King as quickly as possible in the Scotch Game. While black aims to develop his pieces with initiative and prove that his pawn structure will not be enough of a weakness to cost him the game.
Both ideas lead to sharp competitive play and can be seen as an equalizer for the tactical player against stronger opponents.
The position after
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6
This is just one of the ideas in the Scotch Game. With active and accurate play black can neutralize some of White's advantages. Notice how both bishops have diagonals aimed towards white King at the ready.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7
Here white chooses to maintain the initiative and make black delay castling. The Queen has chosen to block the King pin and hold its' own bishop at bay. This move also serves as an attacking move and allows black to challenge White's unprotected King.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8.
White will not be undone. Choosing a symmetrical move - protecting his pawn and blocking the pin on his King. Now Black's knight really is under attack.
These are very forcing moves. There is not a lot of room for variance in this sequence.
To see this entire game review the Kasparov/Karpov game above. We will continue more into the middle game with plans for both sides in Understanding your opening (Scotch Game Pt.II).
If you have played games in this particular line feel free to leave samples in the comments area.