Scandinavian Defense Full Guide

Scandinavian Defense Full Guide

Want to annoy 1.e4 players from the very beginning? Then play the Scandinavian Defense (1.e4 d5). After seeing the Scandinavian on the board, we assure you that no 1.e4 player thinks: Oh thats fine. No. The Scandinavian is annoying, inconvenient, and surprising. That is why, if you are playing with Black, you should consider learning the Scandinavian Defense. Full guide below.

Scandinavian Defense

Why the Scandinavian Defense?

There are many reasons to play the Scandinavian Defense, also known as the Center-Counter Defense.

The main one is that its a sound chess opening for Black that takes White out of their comfort zone and gives Black winning chances.

The main idea of the Scandinavian Defense is to challenge Whites center immediately with 1d5.

Scandinavian Defense with 1...d5

Not only the pawn on e4 is now compromised, but now White also cannot play its favorite openings, such as the Ruy Lopez (2.Bb5), Italian Game (2.Bc4), or Scotch Opening (2.Nf3 & 3.d4), among others.

Another great advantage of the Scandinavian Defense is that Blacks Bishops usually do not get trapped behind their own pawns, an issue that is frequent when playing the Sicilian Defense or the French Defense, for instance.

One of the drawbacks of the Scandinavian Defense is that after 2.exd5, now the main response from Black is 2Qxd5:

Scandinavian Defense 2.exd5 Qxd5

And the Black Queen is on the middle of the board after only two moves, breaking the golden rule of do not move your Queen too early in the game.

However, this will not be an issue for Black, since there are many ways to make sure that the Queen is safe again very soon.

Main Moves in the Scandinavian Defense

Before getting into the main variations and alternatives, lets review what the most typical Scandinavian Defense first moves look like.

Weve already seen that the game starts with 1.e4 d5, and that the most convenient way of playing for White is to simply take that pawn with 2.exd5, as we saw above.

Now Black has two main options, which are:

  • 2Qxd5
  • 2Nf6

Out of these two, 2Qxd5 is the main one by far (well examine 2Nf6 later):

Blacks Queen is out, and now its Whites turn.

Again, one move stands out, and that is 3.Nc3:

Scandinavian Defense 2Qxd5

An extremely natural and obvious move.

White is immediately punishing Black for taking out the Queen early.

Where should Black move its Queen now?

Two main options now:

  • 3Qa5
  • 3Qd6

Both moves are perfectly fine.

Black simply takes his Queen out of the danger zone and is preparing to play c6 and then Qc7 at some point in the near future.

Lets choose 3Qa5 for now.

Scandinavian Defense 3Qa5

The game usually continues with 4.d4 Nf6:

Scandinavian Defense 4.d4 Nf6

Nothing out of the ordinary here.

White occupies the center, and Black develops another piece.

5.Nf3 c6:

Scandinavian Defense 5.Nf3 c6

White has developed the other Knight, and Black has played the typical c6, which frees the c7 square for the Queen.

Now 6.Bc4 Bf5:

Scandinavian Defense 6.Bc4 Bf5

Again, two perfectly natural moves.

White develops its light-squared Bishop to the c4 square, eying the f7 spot, and Black plays Bf5 before closing the h3-c8 diagonal with the move e6.


Scandinavian Defense 7.Bd2

Whites Bishop is now on the same diagonal as the Black Queen, which is dangerous.

But Black doesnt need to hurry yet, and can now play 7e6 before retreating their Queen:

Scandinavian Defense 7e6

8.Nd5 Qd8:

Scandinavian Defense 8.Nd5 Qd8

And the position is balanced.

Black will develop soon its remaining Bishop to d6 and its remaining Knight to d7, and White is already prepared to castle either to the kingside or queenside.

The 3Qd6 Line

When Black plays 3Qd6 instead of 3Qa5:

Scandinavian Defense 3Qa5

Things are a little different but the logic of the position remains the same.

So for example, the game could continue like this:

4.d4 Nf6

Scandinavian Defense 4.d4 Nf6

5.Nf3 c6

Scandinavian Defense 5.Nf3 c6

6.Ne5 Nbd7

Scandinavian Defense 6.Ne5 Nbd7

7.Nc4 Qc7

Scandinavian Defense 7.Nc4 Qc7

The Old Variation: 3Qd8

In this variation, Black does not waste time in retreating its Queen right away to its initial square.

Scandinavian Defense The Old Variation

Again, the spirit of the opening is the same here as it was with 3Qa5 and 3Qd6.

Black will play c6, Bf5 or Bg4, e6, Qc7 or Qb6, and White will try to develop its pieces as quickly as possible and castle.

The 3Qd8 line is not played much nowadays.

However, you should know that Magnus Carlsen used it during the 2014 Chess Olympiad to defeat Fabiano Caruana.

Heres the game:

White Plays 3.Nf3

White can also choose to delay the most natural 3rd move, which is 3.Nc3, attacking the Black Queen, and play 3.Nf3 instead:

Scandinavian Defense 3.Nf3

3.Nf3 is a waiting move.

Blacks most common response is 3Bg4, immediately developing the light-squared Bishop, and putting pressure on f3 with the double action of the Bishop and the Queen.

Scandinavian Defense 3Bg4

Play usually continues with 4.Be2 Nc6:

Scandinavian Defense 4.Be2 Nc6

5.d4 0-0-0

Scandinavian Defense 5.d4 0-0-0

6.c4 Qf5:

Scandinavian Defense 6.c4 Qf5

Here the Black Queen is in a weird square, but after 7.Be3 Bxf3 8.Bxf3 Nxd4 9.Bxd4 Qe6 10.Be2 Qe4 the position evens out:

Scandinavian Defense Black Queen is in a weird square

White Plays 3.d4

The move 3.d4 is also possible for White:

Scandinavian Defense 3.d4 is also possible for White

The most common continuations are:

  • 3Nf6
  • 3Nc6
  • 3e5

Watch the following free video to learn more about the 3.d4 and 4.Nf3 variations:

If you liked this video, you can get the whole Scandinavian Defense course by IM Marcin Sieciechowicz here.

Black Plays 2Nf6

We have arrived to Blacks other option after 2.exd5.

We are talking about the move 2Nf6:

Scandinavian Defense Black Plays 2Nf6

With this move, Black is basically telling White that its not desperate to recapture the pawn and that prefers to develop its Knight first.

Eventually, Black will recapture the pawn.

After 2Nf6, White should not try to hold on to the d5 pawn. It is better to continue developing pieces.

So the games usually continue with 3.d4 Nxd5:

Scandinavian Defense 3.d4 Nxd5

4.Nf3 g6

In this line, Black chooses to play with a fianchetto on the kingside.

Scandinavian Defense 4.Nf3 g6

5.c4 Nb6

Scandinavian Defense 5.c4 Nb6

6.Nc3 Bg7

Scandinavian Defense 6.Nc3 Bg7

7.c5 Nd5

Scandinavian Defense 7.c5 Nd5

8.Bc4 c6

Scandinavian Defense 8.Bc4 c6


The Scandinavian Defense stands out as a fascinating chess opening for Black.

It offers a unique approach to the game.

Its asymmetrical nature often catches opponents off guard, leading to dynamic and unpredictable positions.

Embrace the Scandinavian Defense, add an element of surprise to your repertoire, and discover a rich universe of possibilities that will help you win more games against White.

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B01 Sub-variants:


Games on Database: 63577
Last Played: May 2024
Overall score:
41% 27.4% 31.7%

Played frequently by:

Sergei Movsesian 31 games
Oleg Korneev 30 games
Robert Zelcic 29 games
Sergei Krivoshey 138 games
Eric Prie 128 games
Sergei Tiviakov 122 games

Possible continuations:

2. exd5  58829
41.5 % 27.9 % 30.6 %
2. Nc3  2189
37.5 % 22.2 % 40.2 %
2. e5  1340
33.1 % 18.7 % 48.1 %
2. d4  595
40.2 % 18.8 % 41 %
2. d3  305
21.3 % 18.7 % 60 %
2. f3  113
23 % 64.6 %
2. Nf3  92
25 % 19.6 % 55.4 %
2. Bd3  42
21.4 % 71.4 %
2. Bb5+  20
30 % 60 %
2. Qf3  12
25 % 75 %
2. c3  10
20 % 20 % 60 %
2. Qe2  7
14.3 % 85.7 %
2. f4  7
28.6 % 71.4 %
2. c4  4
50 % 25 % 25 %
2. g3  3
66.7 % 33.3 %
2. a3  3
33.3 % 66.7 %
2. Qh5  2
100 %
2. b3  2
50 % 50 %