Is the Scandinavian Defense a good opening for beginners?

I'm wondering this because I'm a beginner and I mainly try to do this opening.

  • 3
    There is some danger in this (and any 2nd category lines) opening for beginners that they often have tendency to keep it playing too long, not ever learning main lines later. Opening itself is acceptable.
    – hoacin
    Feb 15, 2017 at 16:01

6 Answers 6


The opening is playable at all levels, though quite rare in grandmaster play. Here is what chess.com says on the opening:

Although the Scandinavian is not played much by grandmasters, it is generally considered to be an opening that is easy to learn and worth trying out for beginners and club level players.

I believe the appeal of the opening is that it is quite conceptual. After 3...Qa5, the mainline, none of the pieces are attacking each other, meaning that there aren't many tactics or much theory in the early part of the game.

[FEN ""]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 c6 {Creating a bolt hole for the queen if she is attacked.} 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bc4 Bf5 {Developing the bishop before locking it outside of the pawn chain.} 7.Bd2 e6 {Black will develop the dark square bishop, castle kingside, then play for central pawn breaks.}

Both sides have developed simply and logically.

Edit: Others have stated the Scandinavian is not testing at the high level. If you wish to employ different openings later on, the and have good reputations and similar pawn structures to the Scandinavian.


In my opinion you should try other openings as well.

The Scandinavian itself is sound, but it actually doesn't teach you many "basic opening principles". It breaks some of them, instead (like "avoid moving your pieces twice" and "develop your light pieces before your heavy pieces").

Since there's a strategy beyond the opening despite all these "side effects", it's good anyway. But in the long term you could end up with very bad habits if you continue playing it without critical reasoning.

So, as a conclusion, I would not recommend the Scandinavian if you are a beginner. I think that other openings are better, at your level (like the Philidor defence, the 2 Knights or the Ruy Lopez), even if the theory behind is much more difficult to study: but you shouldn't memorize all the lines... instead, you should try to understand the principles behind the first moves of each of these openings.


Just as a preference, 1 e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 is a different (modern treatment?) method to play, allowing you to capture on d5 with a piece, avoiding the tempo play by white after 2. ... Qxd5 3. Nc3, etc. Either way, there is little risk.

Some points about the Scandinavian Defense:

Positionally Quiet; One of the simplest openings for Black; There is only one type of pawn structure in the centre characterized by a 1/2-open file for both sides.; All of Black's pieces have good squares to develop to.; Black's pawn structure (after e6 and c6) has no weaknesses; Offers White no direct attack against the Black king; White has a space advantage; Black is slightly passive;

The Portuguese Gambit (1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. d4 Bg4) was recently featured in New In Chess Yearbook #117.

Unless you are a top flight player, it is completely reasonable to include it in your repertoire.

  • 2... Nf6 allows for a transposition to the Caro-Kann with 3. c4 c6 4. d4 cxd5. So besides that standard Slav/Scandinavian pawn structure for black, you'd also have to know how to play against that.
    – TMM
    Jun 4, 2017 at 22:57
  • Same for me. Nf6, while not getting the pawn back immediately, feels much safer, avoids having your queen harassed early, and is still very fun to play (looking at lichess games base, until 2200 it still gives black better chances than Qxd5) May 27, 2021 at 11:04

I don't think there is anything wrong with the Scandinavian itself. The reason why it's not often played at top level is that there are "improved versions" in the Rubinstein French and Caro-Kann Defence, which will leave you with the same pawn structure but all those queen moves in the opening are not needed


The Scandinavian is one of the easiest openings where Black can neutralize the ultra sharp openings of e4 against White . If the White Player is very aggressive , like sharp tactical lines and offers gambits then Scandinavian is one of the best weapon to encounter against those players .

It is even played at higher levels . The lines are even easier to learn and Black achieves a decent Game . From a Strategic Perspective the Scandinavian is less prone to Sacrifices unlike Sicilian defence which has theoretical sacrifices example in Najdorf Poison pawn and with moderate play it extends up to the End game most often where Win is decided by the silly mistake of the opponent .

  • 1
    A strong and well-prepared white player will be able to steer the game towards more critical, tactical variations though. In that sense it is not very different from the Najdorf, except for their different reputations.
    – TMM
    Jun 4, 2017 at 23:01

The Scandinavian is easy to learn and easy to play. Recovering the pawn with the Queen in the opening isn't bad because even though White chases the Queen with Nc3, the Knight doesn't belong on c3. White has to move that Knight a second time in order to play c4 to help crack open the position. So White loses a tempo just like Black does. It is played at the top levels sometimes. I just played through a game where Black was over 2700 and played it with a resulting draw. Bent Larsen beat Karpov with it and Annand almost beat Kasparov with it. Magnus played it using the Qd8 variation and won with it.

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