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)


  • 7 years ago · Quote · #81


    good defence

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #82


    I like this move.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #83


    Its not a good opening!

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #84


    this is a good game played by 2 masters  and it completes with white making a checkmate. How you ask? Do your research and find out
  • 7 years ago · Quote · #85


    6 queen moves in 7 moves, complete lack of development by both sides and a second move by white which has never been played on the game explorer. This is not the game between two masters.

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #86



  • 7 years ago · Quote · #87


    3... Qd6 is almost officially the main line at this point.  it has respectable results and i'm predicting that it will only gain popularity in the near-future.  unfortunately i specialize in a sideline has brought me many wins against many masters:

    1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qe5+?! 

    this move isn't the best, but i know the resulting variations deeply enough that i cannot stop playing it.  white has to quickly push with the sharpest replies, otherwise black gets and active caro-type position with the light square bishop out of the pawn chain.  

    i'll give you the variation that gives me the most trouble:

    1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qe5+ 4.Be2 c6 5.Nf3 Qc7 6.d4 Nf6 7.Ne5 Bf5 8.Bf4 with advantage.  however, if in this line white castles early on, black has enough time to get in ...e6 and ...Bd6 which ensures equality.  

    another way white can dominate is to push d4-d5 quickly and go for an attack on the black king trapped in the center.  i've seen nakamura play this way as white on the icc.  btw, i've also seen nakamura play 3...Qe5+?! with black and have good results with it in blitz.  it looks like he recognizes much the way i do that gambling pays off more times than not.

    many e4 players do not know what i speak of here... even those who are fairly strong fail to find the proper continuations over the board and it is for this reason that i continue to play it.  hope all this was helpful.  if you want to know more about it, please hit me up on my website:

  • 7 years ago · Quote · #88


  • 7 years ago · Quote · #89


    Really intresting. I had the idea that 1. ...d5 wasn't good at all Undecided

    I'll have to give it a try.


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #90


    Looks pretty good to use on somebody. I will try it on someone, and I will tell you guys what happened.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #91


    The lessons of chess presented here is invaluable. Are contributing much to my evolution in the magnificent game of chess

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #92


    The lessons of chess presented here is invaluable. Are contributing much to my evolution in the magnificent game of chess

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #93


    In scandinavian, mostly black is in trouble but black in order to attain initiative can gambit 1 pawn. 1.e4 d5 2.exd Nf6 3.c4 4.e6!

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #94

    rpbabu_007; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: initial; background-position: 0px 50%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; margin: 0px;">Scandinavian Defense

    I always use this defense but this depends on opponent;

    May be if e4; then d5 results scandinavian Defense

    Or if other than e4 then also d5!!!  because "d5"- Queen pawn move is my best choice always

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #95


    i had past problems here too . i am new too this way of study so still reading thanks

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #96


    There is so much to learn.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #97


    sacrificing a pawn for greater piece development .. nice..

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #98


    The Scandinavian is now of *critical* importance (!) in all human attempts to crush the chess computer... It's rated 2100+, has the face of Stalin and (almost) always plays this opening... I've played literally dozens of games against it, always losing, but working to perfect my strategies into *always winning!* The following aggression can be forced repeatedly... 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qf5 4. Bd3 ?! Qg5 5. Nf3 ?! Qxg2 6. Rg1 Qh3 7. Rg3 Qe6+ 8. Qe2 Qxe2 9. Bxe2... The idea here is blatant: the black Queen is *relentlessly* tortured in the name of white's vastly accelerated development... It must be possible to crush Stalin from here... But how?!
  • 6 years ago · Quote · #99


    One of my favorite opening.

  • 6 years ago · Quote · #100


    I'd hate to use this defense, it just plain sucks :P

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