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)


  • 5 years ago · Quote · #121


    Ahh.  I love's explanations and "chessopedia".  You learn something new everyday. :)

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #122


         losing a center pawn so early is not a good idea

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #123


    i play the scandinavian defense but i think i have gotten something wrong! irl my rating is only 816 and i play in novice so don't flame me! please correct me!

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #124


    i like to do this better though its just my style

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #125


    i played a pretty good player who killed me with it

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #126


    i think it is inferior!! white gains tempi..
  • 5 years ago · Quote · #127


    Does anyone know any thing about this move:

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #128


    Scandinavian fans are welcome to join our group, where we discuss the variations / possibilities through forums, vote chess games and also play thematic team matches of different variations:

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #129


    it a waste for black acutally..because white simply develop fasterCool

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #130


    I like it very much because of its transposition

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #131


  • 4 years ago · Quote · #132


    Funny how everyone plays this in live chess but no one plays it in non-blitz OTB

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #133


    Oraoradeki wrote:

    Funny how everyone plays this in live chess but no one plays it in non-blitz OTB

    As per my chessbase, Ivanchuck, Kramnik, Gashimov, Morozevich, Kamsky, Anand, Nakamura, Tiviakov everyone has used it.

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #134


    Lord-Svenstikov wrote:

    Ok the scandanavian is by far my favourite opening so I will show you some of the variations I have come across.


     Look at the move list for all the variations. I tried to cover all the situations you will proberly see if decide to start playing the scandanavian. 

    i think you missed the critical variation

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #135


    i am always extremely glad when black plays this against me

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #136


    nice but simple !!!!!!

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #137


    The Scandinavian i use but i also "invented" the 'Nimzo-Scan' i say i invented this opening because i cannot find a real name for it; so if anyone knows its real name please let us all know plz?

    Nimzo used to do crazy but good openings like the NimzoIndian and NimzoLarsen, so i named this opening after him sort of ; the NimzoScan...

    1 d4, c4. 2 dxc, Qa5+. 3..., Qxc5. 4..., Qc7. 5..., Nc6. or 4..., Nc6 which is the Nimzowitsch Defense. I am sure many 'famous' people have played similar moves and cannot imagine how an "inventer" like Nimzowitsch never did so hence the name, Play the Nimzo-Scan ftw !!! ;)

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  • 3 years ago · Quote · #138


    Here is a good Scandinavian game I played on chesscube.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #139


    When my oponent replys e5 i play e6 and treat this as an advanced French.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #140


    No pieces are displayed on the chess board! UGH!

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