Scandinavian Defence

The Scandinavian Defence, or Center-Counter Defence, is a direct tactical response to White’s e4. It is not as well-established as Black’s e5 or Sicilian (c5) but has become much more popular in recent years. Lines with growing popularity include the Qd6 line (after Qxd5 Nc3) and gambit lines such as with Nf6 and Bg4, although White often avoids these gambits with simple quiet play.

Diagram: Scandinavian Defence (Center Counter)

The main variations and transpositions for the Center Counter Opening include:

Other White Second Moves (Declining the Pawn): White usually captures the "d’ pawn with “2.exd5” but there are alternatives. Other White moves include:

  • 2.Nc3 is more passive, and are not a real attempt to press for advantage by White. Black can choose pleasantly between “2..d4” or “2..d5xe4”. Black’s “2..Nf6” is less impressive after White pushes “3.e5”.
  • 2. d4 transposes to Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. An important early transposition occurs from the Center Counter (all lines) to the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit if White plays simply “2.d4” and thereby allows Black to play “2…d5xe4”. White follows up with “f3”.
  • 2.d3 is weak. Black swaps pawns and swaps Queens.
  • 2.e5 aims for a French Defence, but Black should play Bf5 before playing e6, and it will be a happy line for Black.
  • 2. h3 (or maybe also other waiting moves like “2.a3”) looks like an “Englund Gambit Reversed” (the Englund Gambit for Black is “1.d4 e5!?”)

Main Black Variations (Qxd5 versus Nf6): The two main variations arise depending on how Black recaptures the pawn: with the Queen or with the Knight?

Diagram: Center Counter (Queen Recaptures)

Diagram: Center Counter (Knight Delayed Recapture)

Other Black Second Moves: Black may consider second moves other than Qxd5 or Nf6. None of these options are commonly seen:

  • 2..e6 (early e6 gambit): a gambit move that is probably unsound if White accepts the pawn. This is not the Icelandic Gambit proper, where Black waits for White to play 3.c4 before playing “3..e6!?”. White may also safely decline this early-e6-gambit with a move such as “3.d4” likely to transpose to a French Defence Exchange variation after Black plays “e6xd5” (which is fine for Black; considered drawish).
  • 2..c6 (early c6 gambit): another pawn gambit option for Black, and again likely to be not fully sound if White simply accepts the pawn. Again, White may safely decline with “3.d4” and the game may transpose to become a Caro Kann after Black’s “c6xd5” (such as a Panov-Botvinnik attack if White later plays “c4”).

Diagram: Center Counter (Early c6 Gambit)

Although these immediate Black gambits with “c6” and “e6” are not well-regarded on the second move, some of the same gambit ideas work in variations a move or two later, often after White has played “c4”.

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