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I've stumbled upon this opening a few times, and I'm pretty sure it must be known, but I couldn't find the name of it in my book:

[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 
2. Nf3 Nc6 
3. d4 ...

Is someone familiar with that opening? If this is a common opening, I'd appreciate if you could point me to its pros/cons.

I'm not a pro and still learning chess gradually. Is this an opening in which I should consider progressing?

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Garry Kasparov was a big proponent of the Scotch defense. More recently it has been played by Magnus Carlsen. It's a very good opening to learn for a beginner. –  Andrew Latham May 4 '12 at 2:14
    
Check out chesstempo.com's game browser (hopefully this doesn't count as an ad--I'm just a free user of the site). chesstempo.com/game-database.html You can look at the "related openings" under the candidate moves list, which is helpful to see what opening you're looking at. –  Wes Freeman May 10 '12 at 22:54
    
If you drop that move sequence into Google it will take you to suitable chess-related wikis. It's kind of remarkable. –  Tony Ennis Jul 28 '12 at 13:24
    
Scotch game my favourite! Good opening for beginners because this is open game. –  Zistoloen Dec 18 '12 at 9:04
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6 Answers 6

up vote 14 down vote accepted

It is a Scotch Game. It was played a lot more in the 19th century than in the 20th or early 21st.

"Nowadways," it is considered to be too "easy" on Black, because it offers the early exchange of a pair of pawns and knights, thereby freeing Black's game. Also, the White queen ends up in the middle of the board, where it might end up being chased by Black's pieces.

White does have a microscopic advantage in ending up with a king pawn in the center. Also, the queen in the middle of the board hampers the development of Black's kingside.

For those who like to develop queens early, this is a good game. The exchange of one pair each of knights and pawns greatly reduces the chances of the white queen's being trapped.

What is the best way to free your queen as soon as possible?

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FWIW, Magnus Carlsen doesn't seem to think that the Scotch Game is too easy on Black, and it definitely isn't the case that the Scotch is considered too easy on Black because of the continuation described above, 3. ... exd4 4. Nxd4 Nxd4 5. Qxd4. The move 4. ... Nxd4 really isn't to be recommended (and it occurs e.g. only .89 % of the time in Chess Tempo's games database), as the centralized queen is a plus instead of a minus in the resulting position. 4. ... Bc5 and 4. ... Nf6 are Black's most trusted options. –  ETD Sep 11 '12 at 0:44
    
Although 4. ... Qh4 (Steinitz variation) is playable as well, if you want to be more aggressive, especially in blitz games. –  Landei Oct 8 '12 at 10:14
    
You also have the option of 4. Bc4, transposing into lines of the Giaco Piano that are reasonable for white. –  Tyler Eaves Dec 18 '12 at 20:52
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That'd be a Scotch Game; the (linked) wikipedia article has plenty of information about its strengths and weaknesses.

My personal expertise doesn't extend to this opening, so perhaps a more expert player would like to chip in - until then, at least you know the name of the opening!

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If you are interested in the history of this opening, there is a very interesting article here on the Edinburgh Chess Club's website.

It tells of the series of correspondence games between Edinburgh Chess Club and London Chess club commencing in 1824, when it is believed the Scotch opening was first played.

In the 1820's, the moves had to be relayed by horse and carriage, with moves taking up to a week to travel between London and Edinburgh.

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This is indeed the Scotch game. It is my favourite White opening. Why? It is really easy to learn as a beginner but has a fantastic pedigree of top level GM games to back it up! So it offers great possibilities and I enjoy it (Kasparov & Blackburne have enjoyed playing it too so it really cannot be bad! Paul Morphy played the closely related Scotch Gambit with success)!I have played it for a few years and I am still learning new ideas in it (today I missed a 4 move mate in the Mieses variation but I still won the game). The mid and end game positions that may arise after this seemingly simple opening can get complicated and I have learnt lots from these. One day I might take up a real heavyweight theory laden opening such as the Ruy Lopez as an alternative because I prefer 1.e4 openings but the thought of tons of opening theory is not a prospect I relish! I thoroughly recommend the Scotch opening but I agree the early release of central tension may not be liked by everyone! Enjoy your Scotch game!

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Other users have pointed out that this is called the Scotch Game. A simple google search would have provided that, but I just wanted to point out some of my experience playing as white since I have tried to play this opening every chance I get (well mostly every chance)?

I don't believe it used as much on the professional stage, but more at an amateur or club-level. I have noted a few things while playing:

  • Since it is not played often, you can definitely catch someone off guard and this is especially good if someone does know the opening and does not know what the correct response should be. Normally, I have seen that if someone knows the correct response (or the best response), it is usually an equal game.
  • If the move order continues 3... exd4 4. Nxd4 Nxd4 5. Qxd4, I usually end up winning as white since white has developed the queen to the center and has the pawn on e4 while back has virtually no development and now has to catch up.
  • If black does not do 4... Nxd4, but instead does something like 4... Bc5 5. Nxc6 Qf6, black I believe is very good here in that they threaten checkmate on f2 and they are going to win the knight back on c6 with usually bxc6, dxc6, or Qxc6 although this is not as good of a move as the others. The advice I have been given is usually you want to capture towards the center.
  • If black decides to play 3... d6 to support the e5 pawn, things can go down hill very quickly, for example white can play 4. Bb5 pinning the knight, so 3... d6 is not a good move for black.

In a nutshell, I have noticed that the Scotch leads to very open game and can be semi-aggressive. If you like this type of game, I would say it is definitely an opening to explore and learn as it is a lot of fun to play.

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This is one of my favorite openings, but unlike others here, I prefer the gambit lines. After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 I (almost) always play 4. c3 dxc3 5.Bc4 ..., the Goering Gambit. I won't say this is a perfectly sound line, but it's a lot of fun and more threatening than you might think. In fact, I have read (though I can't remember where at the moment) that in this line, it's more dangerous for black to accept the second gambited pawn than to play a developing move like Nf6. If 5...cxb2 6. Bxb2 really opens things up. Most of my most spectacular wins (and losses!) have come in this opening.

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