Beating The Scandinavian Defense – Beginner Chess Openings

The Scandinavian Defense is a common beginner chess opening, allowing black to immediately challenge White’s center and activate his queen. After the move 1. e4, Black does not make the preparatory …c6 or …e6 moves of the Caro-Kann or French Defense, but immediately goes for 1… d5.

Beating The Scandinavian Defense - Beginner Chess OpeningsIt is a surprisingly popular beginner chess opening as Black is aiming at attacking possibilities and little opening theory.

Moreover, the Scandinavian allows Black to get his desired position without anti-Scandinavian variations (such as against the Open Sicilian, which can be avoided in many ways).

With clear-cut plans and just a few variations to study, the Scandinavian seems a good option. So, how to play against it?

First of all, the Scandinavian Defense is only rarely used at higher levels, and for good reason. Although you still see elite Grandmasters like Alexey Dreev and Viswanathan Anand playing it as a surprise weapon from time to time, White is able to generate very dangerous threats very early in the opening if they play very actively and with a clear plan in mind.

One general idea is to develop pieces that threaten Black’s queen that has ventured out into the open, and work to get a knight into e5.

In this article we’ll be examining the main line of the Scandinavian Defense with 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5. There are other principal continuations that Black can employ, however, the ideas presented in this article should overlap and transpose very well with different move orders by Black.

Jamming Black With An Early Ne5 Is Critical

Let’s take a closer look at some concrete variations against one of the most frequently-played beginner chess openings:

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Black’s main idea in the Scandinavian Defense is that he will rapidly liquidate White’s e4-pawn and then maintain counterplay due to the active placement of his queen. One of the best ideas for White is to try to take advantage of Black’s alleged strong queen by harassing it, developing the White pieces with tempo.

White does not have to play Bd2 immediately, but White can take a somewhat round-about approach by playing a multi-purpose move like Ne5. Jamming Black with an early Ne5, results in uncomfortable development, as Black is no longer able to smoothly play …Bg4.

If Black tries to exchange the knight on e5 with …Nbd7, White is able to smoothly maneuver the knight to Nc4, hitting the Black queen with tempo.

If Black tries to continue developing normally with an early …Bf5, we recommend the following basic set-up for White to start creating pressure and threats as fast as possible in the opening.

Accurately Attacking the Scandinavian Defense

Ilya Smirin plays the opening very well in the below example, immediately putting pressure on Black with 7. g4!?, 8. Ne5, and 10. h4!?. Facing such aggressive play in the opening, Black responds indecisively and obtains a nearly lost position after only 14 moves.

Smirin’s play in this game is a perfect example of how to destroy the Scandinavian Defense with active play and rapid threats. After 14. d5! White rips open the center by taking advantage of Black’s exposed queen on a5.

Black attempts to hold on, however after 19. Bh3+ and 20. Nd5! White wins a decisive amount of material and the game.

What If Black Exchanges White’s f3 Knight?

In the example below, Judit Polgar perfectly demonstrates how to crack the Scandinavian Defense. As opposed to the above game with Ilya Smirin, Polgar’s opponent does not retreat the bishop to h5 but rather exchanges the potentially dangerous White knight with 6…Bxf3.

Polgar develops with a straightforward plan, calmly placing pressure on Black’s queen with 8. Bd2 and immediately castling queenside to begin attacking operations in the center and kingside.

Polgar’s plan works excellently, as she is able to instantly overwhelm black with 10. g4!? and 11. h4! – accurately taking advantage of Black’s lack of development due to so many Queen moves early in the opening.

After 15. g6, Black is strategically lost and Polgar proceeds to finish the game with a precise attack.

Conclusion – Beating Beginner Chess Openings – The Scandinavian Defense

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The Scandinavian Defense is one of the most popular beginner chess openings. However, it has a major problem: the Black queen gets exposed and White is going to gain time developing his minor pieces with tempo.

So, if White plays aggressively he can quickly have a lead in development.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive chess course on chess openings for beginners to be ready to face any chess opening with either color, we’ve got a fantastic offer for you.

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11 comments on “Beating The Scandinavian Defense – Beginner Chess Openings

  1. Scandi player says:

    Most of these games are played horribly by black…. c6! must be played immediately after Qa5 to make room for queen and to defend against d5!

  2. mike manzano says:

    Great explanation. This is road to be a master

  3. chanderdeep says:

    dear master can any engine or player beat singularity on FICS if yes tell me who and how . i played against it with deep rybka 4.1 and also with houdini but it defeated both why

  4. Abbas Ali says:

    Dear Sir, I had some fear with scadinavian. but i feel now i am okey. i got some idea after watiching the game model games are very nice and easy to understand the game. your online chess lessons are very usefull to us
    Abbas Ali, India, TAmil nadu

  5. Raghav Gupta says:

    Hi William,

    Thanks for covering this opening. This helps. Wanted to check the relevance of black’s c6 move. There could be better developmental moves such as Nc6 making black castle ready.

    Thanks again.

  6. Timmy says:

    I play this opening but after PxP , I play Nf6 to attack the pawn so the knight can be in the open instead of the queen. The only move to save the pawn is c4 but then black can play e6 or b4, cracking White’s control in the center.

    I wonder of there are any flaws/counter plays in this line…

    1. Bent Hansen says:

      White shout NOt use time on the d4 pawn with a move like c4. eks. e4 – d5.2.exd5 – Nf6.And now White shout develop with either Nf3 oew d4 ( d4 is also the most acknowledged moves on master level. ) Is is like in the Queens gambit accapt, ( d4 – d5-2-c4 – dxc4) Black is unable to hold on the the c4 pawn, with out running in to other problems, such as weeking the queen side etc. ) Here White face the same problem, if he ( ore she ) use time on it. Black wood have a good play, and have no problem defenting the possition while develop the game in to he´s benefit.Of couse chess is not easy, so it is not an easy job, but the point is that Whis need to think on other tactical approach, then to use time on the pawn. After 3.d4 – Nxd5. White can consider 4 c4, but this also leaves to the opening of a possible attack via the Queen side eks. 4.c4 – Nb6.5.Nf3 – Bg4.6.Be2 – e6. And Black can make a plan to invade whites Queenside with Bb4.
      Personly I like 4.Nf3, taking things slow and develop the game in a good manner. An idea that you may like to look at is, to play the slow technique idea Nf3 – Be2 – 0-0 and Nc3 ore Nf3- Be2- Nc3 and then o-o…This slow idea is ( in my experence ) fair to play, Black would not have that much space to find attacking plans, and if Black take the knight at c3, the panw´s on c2 – c3 – d4, can becom a “nek in the but” for Black later on in the game. But ofcouse this is also what your style of play and experience is, that will leaf you this possiblety idea.

      1. Bent Hansen says:

        P.S. Dealing with ONLY the opening You may like to study the position after: 1.e4 – d5.2.exd5 – Nf6.3.d4 ( not fighting for the pawn ) Nxd5.3.Nf3 – Bg4.4.c4 ( telling Black that you are NOT afraid, like saying BRING IT… 🙂 ) Nf6.5.Be2 – e6.6.0-0 – Nc6.7.Be3 – Bd6.8.Qb3 ( note that after c5, White is giving Black the potential knight move Nd5 wich can be annoying ) Qd7!? ( well this move is better then Rb8 ) 9.h3 – Bf5.10.Nc3 – 0-0 with a small advantage to White.
        If White plays the move that I mentioned earlier: 4.c4 – Som players like the move Nb6 others like Nf6. I am not sure wich one is best, the Knight on b6 is for now, not that activ, but after: 4.c4 – Nb6.5.Nf3 – Bg4.6.c5 – Nbd7.7.Nc3 – Nc6.8.Be2 – e5.9.0-0 – Bxf3.10.Bxf3 – Nxd4. Black is almost in the game ….
        I wich you good luck

  7. Rafael says:

    Dear master, first of all excuse my English. I tell you I always read your comments and I always watch your videos on youtube, they´re excellent and I´m learning a lot from them. I´d like to tell you something about this article (Beating the Scandinavian defense) I am a practicioner of this defense and I think you chose rare variations for your article. The stronger variations are 5… Bf5 in the main line and after Ne5 the correct answer would be Be6. Anyway, I enjoyed a lot your work. Thank you for reading me, regards from Perú.
    PS. I love your comments on live on your games, byee

    1. William says:

      @Rafael Thanks for checking out the site. I agree that there are stronger alternatives than the games/lines I chose in this article, however it is directed at beginner players and the purpose is to show some very aggressive ways to play against the Scandinavian. Also in the early Ne5 line (after …c6 and …Nf6 by black), I agree ..Be6 is the answer (check a game from Kasparov vs Anand 1995 NY WCh Match for a good example with a kingside fianchetto for black).

      Saludos a Perú, hace 2 años fui a Cusco y Macchu Pichu. Ha pasado demasiado tiempo desde que tomé un buen Pisco Sour!

      1. Rafael Ibarra says:

        I´m glad you know how to speak Spanish, would you like to practice your Spanish? I hope so…
        Bueno… le quería decir lo agradecido que estoy por las lecciones que siempre recibimos de Ud. También soy seguidor de sus cuentas en Facebook (especialmente de la sección “Morning tactics) y en Twitter (para enterarme de nuevas publicaciones)
        También me gusta mucho los videos sobre aperturas, son muy didácticos! Ojalá algún día haga una serie acerca de la Defensa Merano. Un saludo, hasta pronto.

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