Against 1.e4, the Scandinavian Defense is a very unconventional line to play. It’s entertaining and fun with the Black pieces. In some lines, if White isn’t careful, they can often find themselves in a difficult position. However, if White plays accurately they can expect a slightly pleasant position.
In this article, you’ll see what the Scandinavian is, some key ideas for both sides as well it’s basic theory.
But first, let’s start with the basics…
How do you play Scandinavian defense?
After moves 1.e4 d5 the Scandinavian Defense appears on the board. With their first move pawn to d5, Black puts direct pressure in the centre.
Key Ideas for Black
Since Scandinavian is played with the Black pieces, let’s first try to understand their ideas. Later, we’ll see White’s options.
Fast Development & Active Pieces
With 1…d5, Black opens not only their queen but also their c8-bishop. This often allows them to develop their c8-bishop to active squares. In the opening, Black will often develop their queen, their knights and their light-squared bishop very quickly. This allows them to put some annoying pressure on White’s position.
In some variations, Black’s idea is to develop their queenside pieces quickly so that they can castle long. When Black castles last long, their idea is to launch an attack on the kingside or play in the center.
Key Ideas for White
Fast Development attacking the king
White wants to develop their pieces fast, especially in the 2.exd5 Qxd5 line. Black develops their queen early which allows White to gain important tempi by attacking that piece. Often in beginner & intermediate level, Black players mindlessly keep moving their queen. This is a bad strategy. With correct play, White can punish it to gain a big advantage.
Don’t overextend – Keep The Position Solid
At the same time, White doesn’t want to overextend. Remember White has extra space. To support it, White needs their pieces. If White extends beyond a point where defending it isn’t possible, it will result in weaknesses. These weaknesses can be exploited by the player with the Black pieces.
Basic Opening Theory
Now let’s see the basic opening theory of the Scandinavian. You’ll see different options for White and Black.
1.e4 d5 2.exd5
Black now has 2 main options – 2…Qxd5 & 2…Nf6. Both are mainlines with a lot of theory in them
The other main line is 2… Nf6. After that, play continues with 3. d4 Nxd5 4. Nf3 g6 5.c4 Nb6. White has extra space in the centre with which they’ll try to smother Black.
Black will look to develop their pieces with …Bg7, …Bg4 & put pressure on White’s centre.
Attacking the black’s queen. Black has 3 good queen moves here.
3…Qd6 – This is the Gubinsky Melts Defense variation of the Scandinavian. It’s a very popular alternative to 3…Qa5. Play continues here with 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 a6. It’s important for Black to prevent White’s 6.Nb5 here. After 5…a6, the position is roughly equal with chances for both sides.
3…Qd8 is another good option. It’s often used by those players who wish to avoid opening theory completely.
A dubious choice like 3…Qe5+ doesn’t make much sense. White simply continues development with 4.Be2. Later the Black queen will be harassed by White’s minor pieces. Results show that White is more than happy to see this move on the board.
Back to the mainline after 3…Qa5, play continues –
4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 c6
It’s important to note that moves like …c6 or …a6 for Black are very common in the Scandinavian. Why is that the case? That’s because Black wants to prevent the White knight from jumping to the b5-square. Also such moves enable Black to play …b5 themselves in the future.
6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Bd2 e6
Black isn’t afraid of any discovered attack along the e1-a5 diagonal.
8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Nxf6+ Qxf6
This is the standard position in the Scandinavian Defense. White has a slight lead in development but Back’s position is without any weaknesses.
Both sides have good chances, though White is preferable.
If you’re playing with the White pieces, remember that it’s important to finish development & gain tempi by attacking black’s queen. Don’t be afraid of the Black queen’s early adventures. With precise play, you should have absolutely no problems.
As Black, don’t try to move your queen too many times in the opening as you’d fall behind in development. Instead, focus on developing your pieces as fast as you can. This way you can create pressure on White’s centre.
With all this, we hope you now have a basic knowledge of the Scandinavian Defense. Whether you should play it or not, is up to you. At the top level, it isn’t very popular. However, at the beginner to intermediate level, a lot of players play the Scandinavian Defense.
Below is a video that explains several variations, and extended lines of this chess opening.