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It's so nice to do something different for a change, so when Andrew accepted swapping sites for a month I almost jumped with joy!

Since this is apparently what the crowd demands, I'll start my update with some original lines in the Scandinavian drawn from my own (15 years' worth) experience, thus divulging my most intimate secrets... ;o)

Download PGN of January '06 1 e4 ... games

Scandinavian Defence

Here, in a general way, I will discuss where White can either make immediate use of his c-pawn, or hinder the successful development of Black's light-squared bishop outside of his pawn chain.

Let us start with the surprising sequence, one of Andy's favourites, 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Ne4?!:

A breath of fresh air in the Scandinavian, where, walking in Shirov's footsteps, (See Game 10) and, whatever his level of play may be, White often plays the same line, although it may not be particularly dangerous, as we shall see...

At least was that my state of mind before tackling Game 1 with the assurance that ignorance brings, and I was fortunate enough to beat an aggressive Grandmaster with the black bits.

Alas, Game 2, where White played 6.Bd3! Nxc3 7.bxc3, and Black went for the 'over provocative' 7...Qxc3+ and, more importantly, the notes within it examining the normal and less suicidal 7...g6, should really dissuade Black from repeating this particular gamble more than twice...

Game 3 introduces one of the most dangerous systems for Black, 5.Bc4:

Whites postpones the development of the g1-knight with the idea of threatening to win the black queen with Bc1-d2 and Nc3-d5 as early as possible, and then execute a quick long castles in order to open the position with the d4-d5 breakthrough before Black has time to interpose ...Bf8-b4.

In this last game Black was given a severe lesson after the casual but unconvincing 5...c6 and 6...Bf5, and that is why I have regularly played the more challenging 5...Bg4! here:

And this is for the reason that, unlike GM Wahls, I was never an advocate of the "Königspringerzurückhaltungpolitik"! (The policy of keeping the king's knight back) as IM Leon PLIESTER teasingly wrote in NIC yearbook 68.

In certain sharp and interesting lines for White like this present one I need my knight on f6 to play ...Bg4 in order to disturb the nice attacking order of the white pieces, and by comparison with the well-known, and dubious, line 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bh5 7.g4! White is sometimes tempted to reply with 6.Nf3?!:

What is wrong with this? Well, to explain that I will have to go back a bit ... I took up the Scandinavian in 1991. I mean THE Scandinavian: the real one with 3...Qa5 and not the feeble 'substitutes' with 2...Nf6 or 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd8 or even 3...Qd6. Unfortunately, quite soon I had to give up the aggressive ...Nf6, ...Nc6 system with which I and Etienne Bacrot (who was my pupil at the time) had achieved tremendous results, when the ultimate refutation of 6.Bd2! intending Nc3-b5, c2-c4 started to become known.

However, this experience proved very formative for the rest of my career with the ...c6, ...Bf5 Centre Counter since I had been acquainted with lots of uncommon and aggressive motives. For instance, I knew that this dubious setup for White was possibly the only one where Black could develop with 6...Nc6! without having to fear the diminishing space available for his queen too much (which is the real problem with the ...Nf6, ...Nc6 combination, much more than the doubling of the c-pawns that you sometimes find as a reference in not so up-to-date theory books!):

This move is based on the original spirit of the line i.e. long castling and quick development. In Game 4 after the further 7.Bd2? Black was able to use what I have called the "mouse hole trick" to suddenly get a winning position by 7...0-0-0!:

Yes, without the opponent blundering a piece, and playing only apparently reasonable moves, this sort of thing is possible for Black in the Scandinavian!!

White was more cautious in Game 5 with 7.h3, profiting from the weakness of b7, but after 7...Bh5!? (With little risk, Black can hope for more than the immediate dull equalizer 7...Qh5 8.Be2 0-0-0) 8.g4 Bg6 9.Bd2 0-0-0! 10.g5! Nxd4! and once again White was flirting with disaster:

So, instead of this, 6.f3 Bf5 7.Nge2, in this order or first 6 Nge2, is therefore White's best continuation, when Black should reply 7...Nbd7!:

Although it is difficult to name it this way, if you take into account the paternity of the move or the numbers of games available in my Megabase, this is 'my variation'. After having deprived White's king's knight of his best square, Black combines aggressive development (more or less implying long castling) with concern for his queen's restricted breathing space.

In Game 6 White did not exactly know what to with his pieces and castled kingside. Black then castled the opposite way after having protected his f7 weakness and obtained, as usual in such cases, excellent prospects with direct pressure against the enemy d4 pawn.

Game 7 is crucial for theory and develops 8.g4 Bg6 9.h4 h6 10.Nf4 where White wants to keep the d4 pawn protected by the queen and does not wish to chase the black queen onto an arguably better square. After the further 10...e5! 11.Nxg6 fxg6 12.Bd2 0-0-0! (Once again using the "mouse hole trick" which only works when c7 is protected) 13.d5 I played 13...Nb6! - a novelty winning a pawn that should definitely rehabilitate this variation:

The White idea of transferring his queen's knight to g3 on the kingside, as in a Bf5 Caro-Kann, to solve the major concern of its misplacement in the Centre Counter, is another tricky system for Black to face. For instance, after 5.Nf3 c6 6.Bd2 Bf5 the move 7.Ne4 can generally be met by 7...Qb6! (although this is less usual than 7...Qc7) As I have always found it important to gain immediate counter-play against White's d and b pawns in this situation. Then White should not bother too much defending his b-pawn with messy consequences. However, he often goes 8.Nxf6 gxf6 9.Bc4 instead, when 9...Rg8!? followed in Game 8, which was designed to prevent White from short castling (and not really threatening to take on g2 because of the fork Nh4) and after 10.Bb3 I countered with 10...a5! 11.a4 Na6!:

Which is the 'semi refutation' of this set-up for White. Thus the d-file remains open after long castling; the queen can stay on b6 for a while with the b3-bishop in the line of fire in case of a white c2-c3, and the knight is annoying on b4 with the retreat square d5 in case of necessity.

Facing it for the first time, a strong GM (and my fellow French writer!) recorded one of the most terrible defeats of his career here after the catastrophic 12.Qe2? Nb4 13.0-0-0?:

However, 9...e6, giving priority to development, is probably better than the rook move and after 10.Bb3 White was once again being erroneously conservative with his b-pawn in Game 9, where Black once again proved the strength of the plan 10...a5! 11.a4 Na6 should the opponent castle short.

Commenting Game 10 is a special treat for me as it occurred in the main line which stands at the very forefront of the Centre Counter after 7.Bc4 e6 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Nxf6+ Qxf6 10.Qe2:

Indeed, reacting to Sergei Tiviakov's article (published in NIC Yearbook 74), provocatively entitled A series of simple moves suffices and insinuating that 3...Qa5 was doomed (!) on the grounds of the similar variation 6...Bg4 7.h3 Bh5 8.Bc4 e6 9.g4 Bg6 10.Nd5 Qd8 11.Qxf6+ gxf6, where he asserted that : "White has the upper hand in the centre and on the kingside, and will castle on the queenside. Lots of games have been played. It is still up to Black to prove he can reach a satisfactory position anywhere", I have myself published two articles on this annoying idea of Shirov's for White: The first, somewhat confidential as it was not included in MEGA2006, in Chessbase Magazine 106, and the second, in the latest NIC Yearbook 77 '(Centre) Counter-provocatively' entitled "Can a series of simple moves suffice?" ;o)

Black countered Shirov's move by 10...Bg4! 11.d5! Bxf3 12.gxf3 cxd5 13.Bxd5 Nd7! 14.0-0-0 0-0-0! 15.Be4 Qe5!:

Black has played a series of 'only moves' and even though (sad to say) only White can press for an edge in this variation (and for that reason we are not about to see such a thing as 'the Scandinavian revival'), nevertheless, it is an immense consolation to see that the player who brought doubt, sorrow and misfortune to the Centre Counter kingdom did not find a way to break this last bastion of resistance!

Eric Prié.

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