Scandinavian Defense

  • Last updated on 9/4/15, 7:28 AM.

  • Send to friend
  • | 6359 reads

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)


  • 8 years ago · Quote · #61


    I'm using Marshall Gambit defined by moves 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 ,and white has two good moves :

    3.d4 and 3.Nc3

    3.c4? is not good because black has two developed pieces for a pawn after 3...c6 4.dxc6? Nxc6

  • 8 years ago · Quote · #62


    As a Scandinavian player myself, I would like to add the following advantages:

    1 - many players who start with e4 hate seeing this opening, since it is annoying

    2 - this causes agression in many white players, who often will have not prepared for this opening

    3 - black can usually can a pyschological superiority under these circumstances. 

    Mind you, very good players will not be affected at all by these variables.  But at the normal competitive level, black can gain an edge because of these factors. 

  • 8 years ago · Quote · #63


    Skills88, the move 3 c4 allows Black to offer the Icelandic Gambit with 3 ... e6, often followed by 4 d5xe6 Bxe6 5 d4 Bb4+! 6 Nc3 Nd4! and if 7 Bd2 Qxd4 threatening # on f2.  There are some tricky tactics in the Icelandic, e.g. 6 Bd2 Qe7 7 Qa4+?? 8 Bd7+ and 6 Bd2 BxBd2 7 QxBd2 Qe7 8 Qe3 Nc6!? 9 d5 0-0-0!According to LM Sonny Kamberi, the positions favor Black so much that most strong players won't allow the Icelandic Gambit to be offered, i.e. White avoids 3 c4.

  • 8 years ago · Quote · #64


    The Icelandic Gambit variation is great - and has some good traps.See for a great article on it

  • 8 years ago · Quote · #65


    Scandinavian is pretty good if you are familar with queen pawn opening!

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #66


    I like the Scandinavian defense. Does anyone suggestions for something similar against 1 d4 ... ? By similar I mean, a bit offbeat and solid.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #67


    The standard blunder in Scandinavian is 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Dxd5 3. Sc3 Dc6?? 4. Lb5 and black's gone. Apart from that, it is a nice opening, especially in blitz games where you want to open the center quickly.

    Anyone knows why it is called Scandinavian? Being Norwegian myself, I am a little curious.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #68


    The move 4 Nxd5 gives black an advantage because black can put it's Queen

    to the center and finally controls the center and white does not have a knight

    to attack the black Queen in the center.


    The moves are 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 3 Nc6 Nxd5 4 Nxd5 Qxd5. That's all:)

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #69


    Ididny no this was a move

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #70


    I don't think this opening is good. Even in the book MY System by Nimzowitch, he says this is a waste of a tempo in the beginning(well that's with 2...Qxd5, otherwise your just down a pawn).

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #71


    If you want to mess with a Scandanvian player's head, try this


    1. e4 d5

    2. exd5 Qxd5

    3. Nc3 Qa5

    4. Nf3 Nf6

    5. b4!?


    It leads to intersting play.  I think its called the Kotrc Mieses gambit.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #72


    right 4. ...Nc6 is a huge mistake becus after 4.Bd2  Nf6 alternative Nxd4?? loses horribly why dont you try it

      or even worse is after 













    after 4. ...Nf6






    So the best black follows after 4.d4 is Nf6 5.Bd2 c6

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #73


    Great opening!! I love it!!

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #74


    1. e4 d5 2. xd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.h3 Qh5 7.Be2 e6 8.0-0 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qf5
    you play white
  • 7 years ago · Quote · #75


    The reason why 2. e5 is a mistake is because black can basically get a great French defense with 2...Bf5

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #76


    Right on  Right on

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #77


    how come no one has mentioned 1.e4 d5   2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qe6+

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #78


    I used to play this back in the 80s when I didn't want to study before tournaments. Against weak players, it's as good as anything else. But against someone who is any good, you get whipped good! I have since moved to the French.

    One interesting line is 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bc4 with a fight for the extra pawn or 4. Be2. It also avoids the Portuguese variation 3. d4 Bg4 which can be very tricky.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #79


    I'll try to use the Scandanavian Defense against my friends. This seems like a good defense for black.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #80


    I used to play the Scandinavian about 20 years ago, when I was entered in a tournament but didn't want to study anything. It just about works against low rated players, but it gets tougher to get even a draw against a decent (Expert and up) player. But it is fun. Smile

Back to Top

Post your reply: