As Black, I have never played the Scandinavian Defence, nor have I ever liked the Center Game for White. It seems like 1. e4 d5 wastes valuable time after 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 and Black's Queen must flee, while White can comfortably develop:

The same drawback goes to White in the Center Game:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5. 2. d4 exd4 3. Qxd4 Nc6

But the opening, notwithstanding, appears to be still popular, and online players have often played it against me. Is there some redeeming virtue that I'm missing in this defence?

  • 4
    Note that black doesn't need to take with the queen, Nf6 is playable as well.
    – Landei
    May 8, 2012 at 13:06
  • True. It's interesting that no one in my experience has tried that line. Must be my level (I'm only a low B).
    – Daniel
    May 8, 2012 at 13:23
  • 1
    Inferior to what?
    – bof
    Aug 2, 2017 at 9:39
  • If you hate this response to 1.e4 like I do, you can play the (quite playable imo) Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, with 2.d4. This positions has a very natural kingside attack.
    – psitae
    Mar 19, 2019 at 23:27

5 Answers 5


Here are a few reasons one may take up the defense:

  • Despite having the Queen kicked by the Knight, the Queen is in no real danger of being trapped, its most common escape locations being to a5 and d6.
  • Black's pawn structure is solid, in similar ways to the Caro-Kann.
  • The number of lines Black needs to know are fairly limited, this makes it an easy defense to get into.
  • It's not played very often, so the Black player will likely have more familiarity with the positions than White.
  • Black is able to develop all the pieces and castle in relative safety; notable is the ability to develop with the Bishop on c8 before ...e6 is played.
  • And what about this one - after Qa5 black has a good position after white moves his pawn at d2. When Bd2 is played, the pawn at b2 will become weak point (Qb6 can follow..)
    – Tomas
    Jan 6, 2014 at 23:54
  • White blocking the c pawn is ample compensation for the lost tempo.
    – Mike Jones
    May 3, 2016 at 0:30
  • Speaking for myself, I like it as black because the first 6 or so moves are almost always the same, in slightly different orders. (Just making sure you push c6 and then play qc7 once the white bishop goes to d2). Easy to play quickly, and seems to unsettle some opponents. Aug 9, 2021 at 4:13

Seems to me some players have a critical opinion about the Scandi mostly based on the fact that White gains time on the queen with Nc3. Actually, White only recovers the tempo "lost" on his second move (exd5). Someone even called it "theoretically inferior" based on the first few moves. The Scandi is perfectly playable, and there are several strong GMs playing it regularly. Tiviakov, Kramnik, Ivanchuk, Karpov on his older days just to name a few, and even Carlsen has tried it out. The Scandinavian Defence - especially the 3...Qd6 variation - equalizes in almost every possible line against 1.e4. The "problem" (if there is one), is not the irrelevant Nc3 threatens queen discussion, but the fact that it can be difficult to win with lots of games with Black. At amateur level this is hardly a problem, because most players with White doesn't have a clue about how to play against the Scandi. At higher levels, the main line is :

  1. e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 c6 (also a6 is played, and GM Kovalenko's aggressive Bg4). Then only 6.Ne5 puts any pressure on Black. Earlier also 6.g3 was considered strong, but it has been well neutralized by Black thanks to the efforts of GMs Tiviakov and Kontronias.

After 6.Ne5 play goes: 6...Nbd7 and White has three main tries:

  1. f4 (Shirov's idea) 7.Bf4 7.Nc4

The Bf4 variation is not a problem anymore. Black equalizes quite easy. 7.f4 and 7.Nc4 is more challenging, but Black has found ways to maintain the balance and the theory of these lines are quite heavily developed. Playing Scandi (at least on a higher level) requires knowledge of these lines, and how to handle these quite complex middlegames. It is not enough to know just the opening lines of the scandi, it also important to know these middlegames, and you will need strong endgame abilities to win (or draw) these positions - both as White and Black. This is the "problem" of the Scandinavian (and in all other openings I guess).

Wish you all best of luck playing both sides of the Scandiavian Defence.


I usually play the 2...Nf6 line. I play it because it is forcing and I can focus on one defense, and white usually isn't as prepared for it. It gives black a lot of play and tactical choices. It's a fun line.


I'm a Candidate FIDE Master and I've tried the Scandinavian Defence, and Modern Variation, in the last 2 years. Against weaker opposition my results were very good. Black equalises easily, and quickly, and has very active pieces. The c4 move by white, taking the centre, is hardly a serious problem for the prepared player. After all, many defences concede the centre to white, only to counterattack it later. It is a concept introduced to chess 150 years ago by the Hypermodern School in chess, of which, Aron Nimzovitch was the chief exponent. Defences of this type are the French, the Pirc, the Modern Defence, the Alekhine Defence, and are all played by strong European GMs.

To say that the Scandinavian defence is inferior is laughable,but there is a small problem,in my opinion,to be honest.If you need to win on a specific game with black and face a good opponent,if as white they play very solidly,it is hard to obtain a promising position and the majority of games at higher level end up in draws. Black gets winning chances only if the players with white press too much for the win,underestimating the position.


The Scandinavian defense is theoretically inferior because White will gain time with his actual, and potential threats to chase the queen. Unlike the Scotch game, the threats against the queen are real, because no pairs of knights have been exchanged, and only one pair of pawns.

But it takes very accurate play by White to realize this advantage. The black queen can be placed aggressively at a5, which can cause White some discomfort. Hence, it popularity in an online or club game, where mediocre (White) players abound.

  • 9
    -1 Calling the Scandinavian Defense theoretically inferior is way too harsh. Among the players regularily using the Scandinavian are top players like Tiviakov and Kramnik. It DOES violate classical principles of development, true, but many openings do this unpunished. That Black risks losing his queen may only be true when very weak players try the 3.Qxd4 lines.
    – Ray
    May 9, 2012 at 9:29
  • 3
    "It DOES violate classical principles of development" is a "classic" definition of "theoretically inferior." I also conceded that "it takes very accurate play by White to realize this advantage" which is why it may not be inferior "in practice."
    – Tom Au
    Nov 13, 2014 at 15:34
  • 2
    I agree with Ray. In the 70's and 80's Mr. Edward "Pete" Shaw taught this opening as the main opening for his scholastic teams as Black in the US (Pulaski, VA). Those teams were very successful, especially considering the size of the town! Others have also mentioned its usage at higher levels of play. To say the opening is inferior in any sense seems like a stretch to me. May 3, 2016 at 16:18
  • 1
    It seems like some people have a different definition of the word "inferior". It absolutely is inferior otherwise it would be played more often by top level players. Kramnik has only played it 19 times. Tiviakov isn't a top 100 player but even so plays the sicilian more than twice as often.
    – Savage47
    Oct 11, 2019 at 2:59
  • 1
    It is positionally inferior because white has a better center and black has no immediate way to equalize in the center. That is not the same thing as saying the opening is bad or that it can't produce good practical results. There is a world of difference between what worked at the scholastic level 50 years ago and what works against a modern GM who is prepped against your lines.
    – Savage47
    Oct 11, 2019 at 3:04

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