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, Scotch game opening, Scotch game alternative to Ruy Lopez, early d4, pressure on e5, popularised by Kasparov in 1990 in match vs Karpov, played at World championship, beat Karpov with it, Kasparov revival, lots of dynamic possibilities, overview of main variations, main ideas, trap lines, dual commentary
What is the Scotch Game?
The Scotch Game, or Scotch Opening, is a chess opening that begins with the moves:
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
Ercole del Rio, in his 1750 treatise Sopra il giuoco degli Scacchi, Osservazioni pratiche d’anonimo Autore Modenese (“On the game of Chess, practical Observations by an anonymous Modenese Author”), was the first author to mention what is now called the Scotch Game. The opening received its name from a correspondence match in 1824 between Edinburgh and London.
White aims to dominate the centre by exchanging his d-pawn for Black’s e-pawn. Black usually plays 3…exd4, as he has no good way to maintain his pawn on e5 (this same position can be reached by transposition from the Centre Game 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6). After 3…d6, White is better after 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bc4, or he may simply play 4.Bb5, when 4…exd4 5.Nxd4 Bd7 transposes to the Steinitz Defense in the Ruy Lopez.
3…Nxd4 is possible, though rarely played today by strong players. It was popular in the 19th century, and receives five columns of analysis in Freeborough and Ranken’s opening manual Chess Openings Ancient and Modern (3rd ed. 1896 p. 53). It is often described today as a strategic error, since after 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.Qxd4 (5.Bc4 is the Napoleon Gambit) White’s queen stands on a central square, and is not developed too early since it cannot be chased away very effectively (5…c5? is a seriously weakening move that blocks Black’s king’s bishop). Nonetheless, the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings (ECO) concludes that Black equalises with 5…Ne7 6.Bc4 Nc6 7.Qd5 Qf6 8.0-0 Ne5 9.Be2 c6 10.Qb3 Ng6 11.f4 Bc5+ 12.Kh1 d6 (I. Sokolov). Similarly, Harald Keilhack concludes in Knight on the Left: 1.Nc3 (p. 21) that although …Nxd4 is a “non-line” these days, if Black continues perfectly it is not clear that White gets even a small advantage. Keilhack analyses 5.Qxd4 d6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Bc4 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Bg5 c6 10.a4 Qa5 11.Bh4 and now after 11…Qe5 or 11…Be6, “White has at most this indescribable nothingness which is the advantage of the first move.” (Id. p. 25) The ECO also concludes that Black equalises after the alternative 4.Nxe5 Ne6 5.Bc4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Be3 d6 8.Nd3 Nxe4 10.Nxe4 d5 (Parma).
After the usual 3…exd4, White can respond with the main line 4.Nxd4 or can play a gambit by offering Black one or two pawns in exchange for rapid development.
Scotch Opening, animated
After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4, the most important continuations are:
4.Nxd4 (Main line)
4…Bc5 (Classical Variation)
4…Nf6 (Schmidt Variation)
4…Qh4!? (Steinitz Variation)
4.Bc4 (Scotch Gambit)
4.c3 (Göring Gambit)
Main line: 4.Nxd4
a b c d e f g h
Chessboard480.svga8 black rookc8 black bishopd8 black queene8 black kingf8 black bishopg8 black knighth8 black rooka7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black pawnf7 black pawng7 black pawnh7 black pawnc6 black knightd4 white knighte4 white pawna2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnf2 white pawng2 white pawnh2 white pawna1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white kingf1 white bishoph1 white rook
a b c d e f g h
Main line: 4.Nxd4
In the main line after 4.Nxd4, Black has two major options. Either 4…Bc5 or 4…Nf6 offers Black good chances for an equal game.
Classical Variation: 4…Bc5
Main article: Scotch Game, Classical Variation
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