Scandinavian Nf6 Variation

The modern way to play the Scandinavian Defence (Center Counter Defence) is to play 2.Nf6 rather than 2.Qxd5. White can either allow Black to re-capture the d5 pawn with the Knight, leading to quieter play, or White can try to keep the extra pawn, leading to tactical gambit lines. This line is a reasonably new opening for Black against e4 that has become quite popular at the club level, although few grandmasters play the opening. Particularly entertaining are the Portuguese Variation (with for example: 3.d4 Bg4!?, 4.f3!? Bf5) and the Icelandic Gambit (e6).

Diagram: Scandinavian / Center Counter with 2.Nf6

There are many different variations from this position after Nf6. White can play greedily or slowly, tactically or positionally. Various lines include:

  • 3.c4: Black aims to retain the pawn. Black can play “3..e6!?” for the Icelandic Gambit.
  • 3.Bb5+ when Black can play Bd7 or Nbd7 in response. A line for White to retain the d5 pawn starts with “3.Bb5+ Bd7, 4.Bc4!?”. This is a main line often given in opening textbooks.
  • 3.d4 is where White makes no attempt to retain the pawn, and here Black can play quietly with “3..Nxd5” or tactically with 3..Bg4!? (the Portuguese Variation).
  • Quiet plans: White can play Nf3, Be2, and d4, which is slow and quiet play, but is quite sound. Black will recapture the pawn with Nxd5, where White can later biff the Knight with c4.

Transpositions: A number of different transpositions can occur in the Center Counter variations:

  • Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (2.d4!? rather than 2.exd5). This avoids the Nf6 line completely. This gambit for White is generally regarded as dubious at master level, but is certainly playable at a club level.
  • Panov-Botvinnik Attack. If White plays c4 to retain the pawn and Black plays c6 to gambit the "c’ pawn, then if White declines dxc6, we are into the Caro Kann with a “Panov Botvinnik” after Black eventually plays c6xd5.
  • Icelandic Gambit: This occurs when White plays c4 to retain the pawn, and Black gambits “e6” (rather than “c6”). A very tactical gambit that is certainly playable at the club level.