Scandinavian Defense

  • Last updated on 9/4/15, 7:28 AM.

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The Scandinavian Defense (also known as the Center Counter) is the chess opening characterized by the first moves 1.e4 d5. Although played by quite a few grandmasters over the years, the Scandinavian is rarely played at the highest levels of chess. Although the Scandinavian is not played much by grandmasters, it is generally considered to be an opening that is easy to learn and worth trying out for beginners and club level players. 

Main variations

After 1. e4 d5, white usually continues with 2. exd5 when there is a major split between two choices for black. After 2... Qxd5, white usually continues 3. Nc3 when there is again a split between the popular 3... Qa5 and 3... Qd6 and some minor alternatives such as 3... Qe5+ and 3... Qd8.

The variation 3... Qa5 is considered the classical main line. It has enjoyed steady popularity at club level throughout the years, but it has not been played by grandmasters a lot. One famous example of this variation being used in top level chess is the game Kasparov vs. Anand in their match in 1995, in which Anand managed to get a good position out of the opening as black but still lost.

The other variation, 3... Qd6, has enjoyed a big increase in popularity lately. Not only are club players attracted to its dynamic and refreshing nature, but also some grandmasters such as GM Sergei Tiviakov play this variation regularly. Even former World Champion GM Vladimir Kramnik tried this variation at the 2009 World Blitz Championship, where he used it in 14 of his 21 black games, scoring 4 wins, 3 draws and 7 losses.

Instead of 2... Qxd5, black has also played 2... Nf6, also known as the Marshall Gambit. Black intends to capture on d5 with the knight instead of the queen. Some common subvariations are 3. c4 c6 4. d4 cxd5 (transposing to the Panov-Botvinnik attack of the Caro-Kann), 3. c4 e6?! (known as the Icelandic Gambit), 3. Nc3 (transposing to a variation of the Alekhine's Defense), 3. d4 Bg4?! (the Portuguese variation), and 3. d4 Nxd5 is generally considered to be the main line.

Some statistics

After 1. e4, the move 1... d5 is the 8th most played move in the Master Games database. Out of the nearly 600,000 games beginning with 1. e4, only 2% of the games (almost 13,000 games) continues with 1... d5. In those games, white has scored roughly 43% wins, 30% draws and 27% losses.

After 1... d5, nearly all of the games in the database saw white playing 2. exd5. Then 57% of the games continued 2... Qxd5, and about 43% of all black players chose 2... Nf6. In the games with 2... Qxd5, nearly all of the white players played 3. Nc3. After this 70% of the black players chose 3... Qa5, while 22% chose to play 3... Qd6.


Since the Scandinavian is not as popular as openings like the Sicilian Defense, not many books and DVDs on the Scandinavian have appeared over the years. However, since the theory of the Scandinavian does not develop so quickly, older works on the Scandinavian may still be useful, since most of the theoretic assessments still hold. 

Below is a list with the books published on the Scandinavian by the most renowned chess book publishers, such as Everyman Chess, Gambit Chess, ChessBase and Russell Enterprises.

  • Starting Out: The Scandinavian by Jovanka Houska (2009, 320p)
  • The Scandinavian: The Dynamic 3... Qd6 by Michael Melts (2001, 214p)
  • The Scandinavian: The Dynamic 3... Qd6 (2nd ed.) by Michael Melts (2009, 301p)
  • The Scandinavian (2nd ed.) by John Emms (2004, 160p)
  • The Scandinavian - The Easy Way by Andrew Martin (2004, DVD)
  • The Scandinavian - The Easy Way (2nd ed.) by Andrew Martin (2009, DVD)
  • The Scandinavian Defence by James Plaskett (2005, 192p)
  • The Essential Center Counter by Andrew Martin (2004, 141p)
  • Play the Scandinavian by Christian Bauer (2010, 304p)
  • The Modern Scandinavian by Matthias Wahls, et al. (2011, 384p)
  • The Scandinavian: Move by Move by Cyrus Lakdawala (2013, 400p)
  • The 3...Qd8 Scandinavian: Simple and Strong by Daniel Lowinger (2013, 176p)
  • Understanding the Scandinavian by Sergey Kasparov (2015, 176p)
  • Smerdon's Scandinavian by David Smerdon, (2015, 496p)


  • 9 years ago · Quote · #21


    Brattboy23, 'mistakes' like that costs you the game! I am not trying to crucify you friend, however that is the nature of the BEAST we call CHESS. She's like Angelina Jolie's character "Grendel's Mother", in "Beowulf". She gives you the world for the price of your soul.
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #22


    in his defense he only wrote the moves wrong, he wouldnt do dat in a proper game Undecided would he??

    and yeh, the scandanavian defense is always my reply to 1... e4, if he plays

    2. Nc3 is 2... e5 a good move???

  • 9 years ago · Quote · #23


  • 9 years ago · Quote · #24


    Lord, first of all it only works if white plays 2. Nf3?, which is a bad move. It does nothing to either protect the pawn or to get a stake in the center. But if white plays 2. Nf3 after all, I still think Nxd5 is better. Like I said, it's more dynamic. If you prefer the "Queen takes"-variations of the Scandinavian, then you may want to play 3... Qxd5, but then I wonder why you didn't play 2... Qxd5 right away.
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #25


    It is playable and can be lethal!
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #26


  • 9 years ago · Quote · #27

    IM jonathanwesterberg

    I think that scandinavian opening is bad beacuse white is better in almost every variation.

    It is just lazy people using it.

  • 9 years ago · Quote · #28


    that is so wrong in so many ways... how is white better here

  • 9 years ago · Quote · #29


    He's right. People play that all the time.
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #30


    I have a book on the Scandanavian, but haven't studied it yet.
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #31


    p.s.  Several people have played it against me here on
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #32


    Because that's not Scandinavian, Skillz. That's... some other opening, but not scandinavian. Scandinavian is characterized, at the very minimum, by 1. e4 d5 2.exd5.
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #33


    Here is a trap in the 2. Nc3 variation:

  • 9 years ago · Quote · #34


    kool Chesslover96... 

    and i am sorry Nalikill, it is the scandanavian...

    it is simply a variation of the scandanavian, whenever some1 plays 1... d5 it is the scandanavian defense

    PS. i do not play the Scanadanvian Defense anymore, i now play the Sicilian... i havent got that many wins with black in reality but i hope this doesnt discourage ppl to play it... it is very useful up to club level!!

  • 9 years ago · Quote · #35


    foxey openings have something called center counter carnage with im Andrew martin you should watch it
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #36


    try the petrov's allot....
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #37


    In my chess experience, I don't use it, I rather Petrof's defense. I'vo won many chess games when my opponents uses Scandinavian, I think I've won those games 'cause they don't know how to use Scandinavian. I experienced that if my opponent goes for material gaining at the very begining in Scandinavian´s, I'll win because of my pieces development...
  • 9 years ago · Quote · #38




  • 9 years ago · Quote · #39


    thank u .. very useful


  • 9 years ago · Quote · #40


    In the variation with e4 d5 Nc3, after d4, Nb5 is a poorly planned move.  This train of thought doesn't come from people who specialize in e4 openings.  You need to get a book on 1. Nc3, or the Dunst opening, where it is normally played Nc3 d5 e4!.  The idea is that even though Black gains an advanced d-pawn, he has lost some control over the center - the d-pawn is the main attacker of his kingside pawn structure at e4.  The more appropriate moves for the knight after d4 would be Ne2 (planning Ng3 most likely with kingside play) or Nb1!?, which was used in a draw against Spassky (seeking Nd2-f3 or c4 with flexible ideas). 

    The thing is to get out of a normal train of thought.  The reason e-pawn players normally play exd5 is they are wanting to keep black on his toes tactically, and this opens the most lines as quick as possible.  Nc3 may not be the main move, but it definetely has poison if you don't know how to handle it from the Black side.

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