The Australian grandmaster David Smerdon has written a truly exciting book about some of the byways in the Centre Counter or Scandinavian Defence. The old main lines started 1 e4 d5 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 and generally condemned Black to a long defence. The apparent activity of the black queen tended to be outweighed by White’s lead in development and the fact that the queen itself, more often than not, degenerated into a target rather than a great and mobile force.
Smerdon is quite candid about the dangers which his advocated move of 2 … Nf6 would entail. But the variations are dramatic, it represents a one-stop shop as a black defence against 1 e4, and in spite of heavily computerised analysis, the tactics never conclusively work out in White’s favour. Meanwhile, both players are treading a tactical knife edge, so for aggressive players, good at calculation, Smerdon’s book is ideal.
Smerdon’s Scandinavian is published by Everyman Chess.
Degraeve-Ekstroem; Ohrid 2001; Scandinavian Defence
1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 3 c4 e6 4 dxe6 Bxe6 5 Be2 Avoiding 5 Nf3 Qe7 (which is fine for Black) in this way is safe and sensible, but hardly critical. Black gains full compensation with natural development. 5 … Nc6 6 Nf3 Bc5 7 0-0 0-0 8 d3 Re8 9 Nbd2 White opts for a timid response, but the knight is heading for b3 where it will control the key d4-square. Instead, 9 Nc3 Bf5 creates ideas of … Qd7, … Rad8 and … Nd4. 9 … Bf5 10 Nb3 (see diagram 1) 10 … Rxe2 A nice move to play, if practically forced. 11 Nxc5 Re8 12 d4 The uncompromising 12 Nxb7 was stronger, although White was understandably hesitant about further pawn-grabbing with such underdevelopment. 12 … Bg4 13 Be3 Bxf3 14 Qxf3 14 gxf3 b6 15 Nb3 Qd7 gives Black excellent chances against White’s broken kingside. 14 … Nxd4 Black’s aggressive play has been rewarded by the recovery of the sacrificed pawn and, more importantly, the destruction of White’s centre. At this point Degraeve should have been looking to minimise his disadvantage. Instead, he captures the poisoned b7-pawn on its second offering, to his great regret. 15 Qxb7 Rb8 16 Qxa7 Ne2+ 17 Kh1 Ng4 (see diagram 2) Black has gained an overwhelming attack on the kingside. 18 g3 Qf6 19 Kg2 Rxb2 A ‘black knights’ tango’ checkmate is imminent. 20 Na4 Qc6+ 21 f3 Nf4+ White resigns After 22 Kh1 Rxh2+ 23 Kg1 Nh3 mate, the black knights get the final say.