Scandinavian Defense Chess Opening

Scandinavian Defense is a King’s Pawn Opening that starts with 1. e4 d5. It is also called center-counter defense.

Black immediately challenges white’s center pawn and ready to play a game with open center. Black is ready to lose a few tempo after recapturing the pawn on d5 with the queen. But as we will see, it doesn’t add too much of advantage for white. White plays 2.exd5 and now black has two options.

2…Qxd5 is the main line and 2…Nf6 leads to ‘Modern Scandinavian defense’.

Main line with 2…Qxd5

Black recaptures with the queen and exposes it to attack from white. Best way for white is to play 3.Nc3 which is the main line. The line goes 3…Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 c6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Bd2 e6

As you can see, white has a slightly better development due to extra tempo which he gained by attacking black queen. But black is not suffering a lack of development.

If white plays 8.Nd5 then Qd8 9.Nxf6 gxf6 is the most popular continuation. If white makes a move like 8.h3, black develops naturally with 8…Nbd7 9.0-0 Bb4 10.a3 Bxc3 11.Bxc3 Qc7 followed by …0-0 and black has a playable game.

Bronstien Variation

Instead of 3…Qa5, black can also play 3…Qd6 which is the Bronstien variation. It seems like an odd square for black queen because it will obstruct the development of black’s f8 bishop. In this line black’s f8 bishop can choose to go to g7. For example line can go 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 c6 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.Nc4 Qc7 8.a4 Nd5 9.Bd3 g6 and …Bg7. Black completes his development with good position.

Kingside Knight Variation with 3.Nf3

Instead of attacking the queen directly with 3.Nc3, white can also choose 3.Nf3 which is the Kingside Knight variation. White wants to keep the possibility of playing c4 to attack the queen. Since black’s queen is not immediately under-attack, black has various continuations possible.

3…Bg4 3…Nf6  3…g6 and even 3…c6 is possible. Game can continue 3…Nf6 4.d4 Bg4 5.Be2 Nc6 6.c4 Qh5 7.Be3 0-0-0 8.0-0

Modern Scandinavian Defense 3…Nf6

If black is uncomfortable with getting the queen out too early, he can choose 3…Nf6, with the intention that the d5 pawn will be recaptured anyway. It is called the Modern Scandinavian defense. Main line goes 4.d4 Nxd5 5.Nf3 or 5.c4

Instead of the queen, now the knight gets harassed with c4. In any case, white has natural developing continuations while black’s knight after going to b6 may find its place uncomfortable. If black goes for the Scandinavian defense, it makes sense to be brave and play 2…Qxd5 the main line.

Game may continue 4.c4 Nb6 5 Nf3 Bg4 6.c5 Nd5 7.Qb3 with good game for white.

White plays 3.c4

After 2…Nf6, white can get greedy and protect the pawn with 3.c4. White gets an extra pawn but black will have a compensation of better development.

Black can play either 3…c6 4.dxc6 Nxc6 5.Nf3 e5 6.d3 Bf5 Black has a good compensation for the pawn. White has weak square on d4 and backward pawn at d3. Black will soon play …Qd7 and 0-0-0 and put more pressure on d3.


Black can also play the islandic gambit with 3…e6 4.dxe6 Bxe6.

Black has natural developing sequence and a pressure on d file after …Nc6-Bc5-Qd7-0-0-0. while white keeps his extra pawn at the cost of slow development.


As the lines suggest, Scandinavian defence is very much playable from both the sides. Black doesn’t have any major problems in spite of getting the queen out early. On the other hand, white has a completely natural and variety of ways to develop his pieces.

In the Modern Scandinavian, white should not be tempted to keep the extra pawn. Instead white should go 3.d4 and later on kick the knight that will come to d5 by recapturing the pawn. Thus the opening phase for these lines can be less tensed for both the sides. Mostly the lines lead to a positional kind of game where it is important to have studied various plans and possibilities for both the sides.

Harikrishnan A

I am an International Fide Rated player with 10+ years of experience. Played many International Chess Tournaments and Commonwealth games.

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