For every 1.e4 player, the Scandinavian has always been an awkward defense to meet. Not because it is especially dangerous for white, but because the mainlines in which white is meant to obtain a theoretical advantage are quite complicated and difficult to remember. Being a defense seldom seen in practice, it makes it even more difficult to try the current theory.
In this article we are going to look into a practical solution to this problem which has worked very well in tournament games: the system with 4.Bc4!?
White’s idea is to develop easily with 5.d3 followed by 6.Bd2. There are several interesting elements that have made this system appealing enough to be played by strong Grandmasters, among which the most notable one is Nigel Short. However, the line was already popular a long time ago and we can find games played by the Cuban World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca. I suggest the reader to search for his games in order to see the beginnings of this variation.
But let’s see what the main particularities of this system with white are:
- First of all, the pawn advances to d3 instead of d4. This gives a lot of stability to white’s position. It not only keeps the bishop on c4 safe, but also controls the square e4 and considerably reduces the scope of black’s light squares bishop, normally developed to f5.
- Kingside pawn storm. Without any doubt this is one of white’s plans. An avalanche with g4 and f4 supported by the white queen on e2 is usually problematic for black.
- Fast development. One of the strong points of this variation is the flexibility that white has when it comes to choose a plan. Another idea available is developing the kingside knight to e2 followed by short castle and then f2-f4-f5. This rupture opens the F file and also the diagonal for the bishop on c4.
There isn’t much theory established on this line. By my own experience in tournament practice, I can say that after 4.Bc4 the game is pretty much open and both players are on their own. White can try the same idea with several move orders. Meanwhile, black’s usual plan that is based on Nf6-c6-Bf5, does not look like the best option. Some players have decided to play with e6, keeping the bishop on c8. This treatment is far from perfect since white can still go d3-d4 and get into a sort of Rubinstein variation (French with 3…dxe4) with advantage.
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In the following examples we explain the main ideas for white:
Black applies the standard development with Bf5,c6 and Nf6. This allows white to expand on the kingside with h3-g4-f4. There are ideas with f4-5 and the black bishop on g6 is awkward.
Black plays with e6 keeping the bishop on c8. Even though this game turned out great for black, this approach cannot be recommended. White obtains an easy advantage by continuing his development and he can even castle queenside as in the following game.
White plays f4. This is an interesting idea. By playing f2-f4 early in the game white obtains some space on the kingside. The Brasilian GM Gilberto Milos, also a big expert on this variation has tried it successfully against the English GM Stuart Conquest.
In conclusion, we hope to have provided a practical weapon against the Scandinavian, easy to learn and dangerous enough to put difficult problems for your opponents. Good luck with it!
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