The Scandinavian Defence

The Scandinavian Defence

If you haven't read my article on picking an opening repertoire then I advise reading that first.

Throughout this article I'm going to be using normal chess notation along with standard move evaluation markings. So !! means a really good move then there is a sliding scale of ! good, !? possibly good, ?! dubious, ? error and ?? outright blunder.

I want to start a series of articles going more in depth about the openings that I play. These are often not cutting edge, but they are openings which I have stuck with since I was about 13, so I get by by playing slightly inferior openings but with more experience than the people I play them against. I advise sticking with whichever openings you pick and just keep playing them. If you start losing against a particular line then try something new. If it gets you comfortably into the middle game (or better) then stick with it: but remember that a line should be evaluated by its worst outcome rather than its best. Just because it occasionally gets you a cheap win against someone worse than you through a trap doesn't mean you should keep it if it puts you at a disadvantage against someone who knows what they are doing.

The Scandinavian is an opening for Black against e4:

 1. e4 d5 

1. e4 d5 

The most common responses to e4 are playing symmetrically with e5 or playing Sicilian Openings with c5, so these are much more common and prepared lines for an e4 player. As someone who doesn't play e4 myself I am always going to be fighting on the away ground if I try to respond in one of these ways. Instead, I play d5 to step away from those areas of opening theory and put it into my home ground. Even if you don't play the Scandinavian, this is a useful idea that can be applied to other openings that you want to sidestep.

Let's look at White’s responses:

1. Take with exd

2. Avoid by pushing e5

And the errors:

3. Support the pawn with c3?! or d3?

4. Get a knight out with nc3?! or nf3??

This article is going to be written in a nested way. Follow the numbering system to follow up on lines.

1. Take with exd

I'm pretty sure this is best. It is tempting for Black to take back immediately with the Queen, but it usually ends up being chased around. Instead I prefer 2...nf6, putting another attacker on White's pawn and generally developing.

 2...nf6

2...nf6

Now White has some decisions. Its main responses in my personal opinion from best to worst are:

a. Ignore Black's tricks and play d4 (the main line)

b. Just develop a knight, nf3

c. Half defend the pawn, nc3

d. Try to defend your pawn, c4

This article is going to look at each. Scroll down much further if you want to go up a step on this nested tree.

1.a. Ignore Black's tricks and play d4!? (the main line)

Solid and open ended. It leaves Black in a difficult position because taking with either piece (knight or Queen) ends with Black getting chased around while White gains space. The best line I have against this is with the Portuguese Opening as follows:

Black developed a bishop into a place where it is immediately pushed away. However this robs White of the best position for its knight.

It is this line which gives me the hardest time as Black and it is worth looking into. Black just has a cramped position.

1.b. Just develop a knight, nf3. This is normal development and just gets out a natural minor piece while ignoring Black's schemes. It doesn't matter if you keep hold of the pawn since it has already taken a pawn for you.

 Normal development, get out a knight

Normal development, get out a knight

At this point Black's best move is to take with the Queen. At first this seems strange since we could have done that a move before, but when Black gets out its second knight, displacing the Queen,the Queen can now safely go to h5 without being taken. Black's knight move was a waiting move. See below.

Black's Queen is hard to displace. I'm going to provide one line where both sides do typical things to give you a feel for this fun line. White moves a bishop to e2 to threaten a revealed attack on the Queen and so Black provides a response by moving its bishop into the fray which White then tries to kick with h3:

Notice that White can't actually take the bishop with the pawn because it is pinned to the rook. Therefore Black can afford to spend time getting out another knight with plans to castle Queenside. If White ever castles then the Black bishop is suddenly in danger:

However White has some fun sacrifices of a bishop for two pawns and a powerful attack. These lines are really fun, but aren't completely sound. I love them.

20170131_120739.jpg

1.c. Half defend the pawn, nc3?!:

This leads to a big swap off in the centre which leaves Black with a Queen which is hard to push from its position:

1.d. Try to defend your pawn, c4?! This is doable, but Black has a lot of aggressive lines in response.

There are various responses, but I like the Icelandic Gambit which offers up a second pawn for some tempo:

White usually takes Black up on this offer and Black can take back with the bishop. While Black is a pawn down, it has developed two pieces while White hasn't developed any.

There are various moves, but the attempt of 5.c4? is common and flawed. Black's attacks are devastating:

The details vary, but putting the Queen on e7 for revealed attacks or castling Queenside are both fast and effective.

2. Avoid by pushing e5

 Push past with e5

Push past with e5

This game is going to play like the French Defence but with a crucial difference. Normally Black's light squared bishop is stuck behind Black's pawn structure and is unable to do much until the endgame. With this move order we can get it out first. After that White grabs the pawn centre like this:

 Getting your bishop out to avoid the "bad bishop" of the French

Getting your bishop out to avoid the "bad bishop" of the French

Black then plays e6 to stop White advancing any further and play can take a few different forms. Typically Black will play c5 at some point and will put lots of pressure on the d4 pawn. This leads to a good game from both sides.

 Black can keep threatening the pawn on d4 with moves like nc6 and Qb6

Black can keep threatening the pawn on d4 with moves like nc6 and Qb6

3. Support the pawn with c3?! or d3?

 2. c3

2. c3

c3?! is unambitious. Sure it protects the centre pawn, but it does so while losing time. Black can just develop normally and not take the pawn, which leaves White with an awkward pawn on f3 which blocks the natural development of the knight. This is a line that doesn't outright lose you anything, but it puts White on the back foot, whereas it should be leading the development.

 2. e3

2. e3

d3? loses you the right to castle after 2…dxe 3.dxe QxQ+ 4.KxQ after which the White has moved for no real gain.

 The position after the pawns and then the queens have swapped off. White can no longer castle.

The position after the pawns and then the queens have swapped off. White can no longer castle.

4. Get a knight out with nc3?! or nf3??

 2. nc3?!

2. nc3?!

a) nc3?! leads to long chases of the White knight being attacked. Typically this plays something like 2...d4 (threatens the knight) 3.nd5 e6 4. knight moves again. Black keeps it up and gets a huge pawn centre. There are variations, but a typical line would look something like this:

 White tries to grab the centre, but the knight can be kicked with either c6 or e6. This is not good for White.

White tries to grab the centre, but the knight can be kicked with either c6 or e6. This is not good for White.

 e6, the knight retreats to f4, e5 to threaten the knight again and gain more space.  Then if White tries to get in the centre again, then the have the position above. Black wins a knight by pushing c6 leaving Black with no retreat squares left.

e6, the knight retreats to f4, e5 to threaten the knight again and gain more space.  Then if White tries to get in the centre again, then the have the position above. Black wins a knight by pushing c6 leaving Black with no retreat squares left.

b) nf3?? dxe loses the pawn and displaces the knight. Just awful.

And that's it. God this article took me a long time.

The Recycling Symbol

The Recycling Symbol

The Utility Problem on a Torus

The Utility Problem on a Torus