Play the Scandinavian

Christian Bauer

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Quality Chess
300 pages

When I first started playing chess in 1972 the best answers to 1.e4 were considered the Sicilian and 1…e5, with the French and Caro-Kann next, followed by the Pirc and Alekhine. The last two did not exactly have the Surgeon General’s seal of approval but enjoyed newfound respect by virtue of Bobby Fischer’s adoption of them during his World Championship match with Boris Spassky. The Scandinavian (or Center Counter) and Nimzovich (1……Nc6) were considered second-class defenses not suitable for use at the highest levels. This situation still persists with the Nimzovich, but the Scandinavian has experienced a renaissance the last thirty years. For a long time the Australian GM Ian Rogers was its only champion but 1.e4 d5 had arrived when Viswanathan Anand used it in his 1995 title match with Garry Kasparov. The recent publication of Play the Scandinavian by French Grandmaster Christian Bauer will only add to it popularity.

Bauer, known for his excellent works on the Philidor and 1……b6, has chosen to cover 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 exclusively in this book. Those looking for material on 2……Nf6 or the new-fangled 2……Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 (or 3……Qd8) should look elsewhere. What the reader gets instead is a very comprehensive look at the main line of the Scandinavian which can bear a strong affinity with the Caro-Kann lines 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 and 4…Nf6 5.Nxf6+ gxf6 depending on what variation White adopts. Bauer points out that Black is able to reach these types of positions without having to face the Advance Variation and Panov-Botvinnik – two of White most dangerous answers after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5.

The material breaks down as follows:

Chapter 1 – Main line 8.Ne4 & 8.Nd5 7
Chapter 2 – Main line 8.Qe2 63
Chapter 3 – White 8th Move Alternatives 91
Chapter 4 – White 6th and 7th Move Alternatives 105
Chapter 5 – 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Unusual options for Black 121
Chapter 6 – 4.d4 Nf6 5.Bd2 139
Chapter 7 – 4.d4 Nf6 5.Bc4 167
Chapter 8 – Black delays …Nf6: 187
Chapter 9 – 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.d3 197
Chapter 10 – 4.Nf3 (and 4.h3) 215
Chapter 11 – Flank Attacks 221
Chapter 12 – 3.d4 and 3.Nf3 235
Chapter 13 – 2.Nc3 275
Chapter 14 – 2nd Move Sidelines 285

One very compelling virtue of the Scandinavian, unique among all answers to 1.e4, is its ability to direct the play to black’s choosing. Think of the player whose main weapon is the Marshall Attack against the Ruy Lopez. How often will they ever reach the position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 when White has so many choices along the way? This is especially true among non-professionals. Contrast this with 1.e4 d5 when White’s only decent try for an advantage is 2.exd5. By playing the Scandinavian, Black assures himself an open game and if he successfully develops his light-squared Bishop a position without any “bad” pieces.

Play The Scandinavian is an excellent guide to this one stop answer to 1.e4 and Bauer does a fine job of presenting the material with lots of analysis and plenty of explanatory prose.

Highly recommended.