Friday, May 22, 2009

Win with the 3...Qd6 Scandinavian

I am currently recovering from an apathetic period following the completion of our Stonewall book and am starting to consider what may be a fitting next book project. One interesting subject is the Scandinavian (1.e4 d5) and in particular the 3...Qd6 variation. There are some thoughts on this line in the comments to this entry. But I am still not convinced it will stand thorough top-level testing.

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6!? (Dia)

In recent years this seems to overshadow the old mainline 3...Qa5. Quite recently there has been a second edition of Michael Melts' 'Scandinavian Defense: The Dynamic 3...Qd6'. The book is a treasure chest containing an enormous amount of well organized information on the line and lots of independent analysis. Unfortunately it's also very hard to navigate and contains very little prose or guidance except for a few introductory chapters.

4.d4 Nf6

For some minor (possibly insignificant) reasons I prefer 4...a6 - usually followed by 5...Nf6.


5.g3!? is an alternative move-order with some independent ideas.


I find this a much more attractive move than ...c6. Black may follow up with ...Nc6, ...Bg4 and 0-0-0 but also ...b5, ...Bb7 and ...e6.


This seems to be the new mainline. White not only makes ...b5 less attractive but also prepares Bf4.

6...Bg4 7.Bg2

7.h3 is another important option.

7...Nc6 8.0–0

Black also needs to prepare for the immediate 8.d5.

8...0–0–0 9.d5!?

Again the immediate 9.Bf4 must be considered.

9...Ne5! (Dia)

This is Melts recommendation (Game 18, page 151, line B2e2d2!) and indeed the move is starting to look forced:

a) 9...Nxd5 10.Nxd5 Qxd5 11.Qxd5 Rxd5 12.Ng5 of Lakos-R.Perez, Ortigueira 2002 is entirely unattractive for Black.

b) 9...Nb4 is a more optimistic approach, forcing White to choose between a repetition and complications. Unfortunately the complications seem close to winning for White: 10.h3 Bh5 11.Bf4 Qc5 12.Be3 Qd6 13.Qe2! Nbxd5 14.Nxd5 Nxd5 15.Rad1! Qf6 and White has a pleasant choice:

b1) 16.Bd4 Qe6 17.Qxe6+ fxe6 18.Be5 Bxf3 19.Bxf3 c6 20.Bg4 Nc7 21.Rxd8+ Kxd8 22.Rd1+ +- Ibarra Jerez-Trent, Chalkidiki 2003.

b2) 16.c4 Nxe3 (16...Nb4 17.Rxd8+ Kxd8 18.Rd1+ Kc8 19.Qd2 Qd6 20.Qe1 Qf6 21.g4 Qxb2 22.Rb1 +- Humphrey-Aplin, Kuala Lumpur 2006) 17.Rxd8+ Kxd8 18.Qxe3 c6 19.g4 Bg6 20.Qb6+ Kc8 21.Rd1 e5 22.Nxe5 +- Rasik-Antoniewski, Czechia 2006.


The queen sacrifice 10.Nxe5!? is enterprising but on closer scrutiny doesn't seem too terrifying:

a) 10...Qxe5 11.f3 Be6 12.Re1 Qf5 13.f4 Qg6 14.Re5 Bf5 = Ninov-Panbukchian, Pleven 2005.

b) 10...Bxd1 11.Nxf7 Bxc2 12.Nxd6+ exd6 13.Re1 Re8 14.Be3 g6 15.Rac1 Bf5 16.Ne2 Bg7 17.Nd4 Ng4 18.Nxf5 gxf5 = Ragger-Nikolov, Kranj 2004.

10...Nxf3+ 11.Bxf3 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 e5 13.dxe6 Qxe6 14.Bg5 (Dia)

This seems to be the crucial position. Black has tried a number of different moves but none seem to give full equality:

a) 14...Qc6 15.Qxc6 bxc6 16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.Rad1 Bb4 18.Ne2 Bd2 19.Kg2 += Rasch-Aepfler, Germany 2007.

b) 14...h6 15.Rfe1 Qb6 16.Nd5 (16.Bxf6 Qxf6 17.Qxf6 gxf6 18.Re4 Bc5 19.Rae1 Rd2 20.R1e2 Rxe2 21.Rxe2 Bd4 22.Re7 Bxc3 23.bxc3 += Tukhaev-Vasiliev, Evpatoria 2006) 16...Rxd5 17.Bxf6 Qc6 18.c4 Rd6 19.Qxc6 Rxc6 20.Re8+ Kd7 21.Rd8+ Ke6 22.Bc3 +/- Mardell-Brandt, Taby 2007.

d) 14...Bd6 15.Rfe1 Be5 16.Ne4 (16.Re2 Rde8 17.Rae1 Nd7 18.Bf4 f6 19.Qe3 g5 20.Bxe5 Nxe5 = Stiri-Dounis, Athens 2007; 16.Bf4 Nd7 17.Nd5 f6 18.c4 g5 19.Bd2 h5 20.Ba5 Qg4 = Williams-Hamad, Turin 2006) 16...Rhe8 17.Nc5 Qd5 18.Qxd5 Rxd5 19.Bxf6 gxf6 20.Nd3 Re6 21.f4 Bd6 22.Rad1 += Huerga Leache-Garcia Paolicchi, La Massana 2008.

c) 14...Bb4 15.Rfe1 Qb6 16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.Nd5 (is 17.Rfe1 better?) 17...Rxd5 18.Qxd5 Bxe1 19.Rxe1 Qxb2 20.Qxf7 Kb8 = Pesotsky-Bazarov, Lipetsk 2008.

e) 14...h5 15.Bxf6 (15.Rfe1 Qg4 16.Qxg4+ hxg4 17.Ne4 Nxe4 18.Rxe4 f6 = Sedina-Danielian, Elista 2004) 15...Qxf6 16.Qxf6 gxf6 17.Rad1 Bd6 (17...Bc5 18.Ne4 Be7 19.Rfe1 Rhe8 20.Nc3 c6 21.Rxd8+ Kxd8 22.Kg2) 18.Nd5 h4 19.Kg2 Rh5 20.b3 b5 21.Rfe1 += Fernando-Galego, Vila Real 2005.

Preliminary conclusion:

This line may attract a (semi) professional player who feels confident that he can hold a draw against well prepared opponents in one of the lines after 14.Bg5. However, for the average club player (who represents the main segment of chess book buyers) defending a slightly inferior endgame like this for several dozens of moves sounds like a nightmare and will not be a good selling point.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sverre,

I have a suggestion for your next book project. With so many chess opening books out there these days, I think a book would sell well if you write about an opening that hasn't really been covered before or hasn't been covered in a quality book. It would be the same situation as when you wrote your London book.

There doesn't seem to be a book for White devoted soely on lines with an early Bf4 after 1 d4 and 2 c4 (I don't mean the London System, I mean a system based on 1 d4 2 c4 and only then Bf4) I think the Bf4 lines are generally underrated and writing a book on all of the Bf4 lines would give the reader a solid, cohesive, and interrelated repertoire. You already know the London System extremly well so writing a book on 1 d4 2 c4 and an early Bf4 shouldn't be to hard.

Here is a list of all of the Bf4 lines that could be covered.

1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Nf3 Be7 5 Bf4 (Queen's Gambit Declined 5 Bf4)

1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 cxd5 cxd5 4 Nc3 Nf6 5 Bf4 (Slav Exchange Variation)

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 Bf4 (Queen's Indian Miles Variation)

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 Nf3 0-0 5 Bf4 (King's Indian-London System)

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Bf4 (Bf4 Grunfeld)

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Bf4 (Modern Benoni 7 Bf4)

1 d4 f5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 g3 e6 4 Bg2 d5 5 0-0 Bd6 6 c4 c6 7 Bf4 (Main Line Dutch Stonewall)

I don't know if there are any at least semi-respectable Bf4 lines against the Queen's Gambit Accepted, Benko Gambit, or lines of the Dutch besides the Stonewall.

One of these lines are occasionally recommended in a repertoire book but I don't know of any repertoire book that covers them all. For example,

In play 1 d4,Richard Palliser recommends 7 Bf4 agaisnt the Modern Benoni.

In Attacking with 1 d4, Angus Dunnington's recommends 4 Bf4 against the Grunfeld.

Colin Crouch wrote a repertoire book on 5 Bf4 in the Queen's Gambit Declined titled The Queen's Gambit Declined 5 Bf4!.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for your very constructive suggestion. As a matter of fact I have drafts for a couple of these lines (and 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c6 3.c4) in my drawer. They were intended to be appendices in the London book. However, it very early became clear that there would be no room for extra material so I never got around to any real analysis and my co-author never saw them.

Unfortunately this project doesn't fit in with my immediate book plans. I wrote somewhere in this blog (another answer to a reader's comment, I think) that for now my two top priorities are:
1) To round off the 'Win with the ...' series with a book on a defence against 1.e4.
2) To write a book completely by myself - that is without any co-author.

My book projects tend to take around two years and I still have some minor projects to take care of (which probably will fill most of 2009). And then there is the second edition of the London book...
So any books that don't fit any of the two categories above will have to wait.

Anonymous said...

In the second edition of your London book, do you think you will be able to cover:

1. Lines with 1 d4 2 c4 and then Bf4.

2. How Black can occasionally play the London. In the description of Robert Bellin's book "London System Repertoire", which never got written, it said the book was going to cover how Black can occasionally play the London.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Dear Anonymous,

"Win with the London System" is 176pages which was the absolute maximum of pages Gambit would accept. Their reasoning was that players looking for an "easy repertoire" for White would not be attracted by a thicker book. The book has sold well, so they probably were right. Therefore I expect that an update will have a strict limit of pages but possibly an increase to 192 pages will be accepted. In view of this my answers are:

1) No, there is no chance that an update of the London book will contain lines with 2.c4 and 3.Bf4. It is, however, quite likely that we will cover the Slav Exchange with an early Bf4. There is also a chance that we will include the line 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c6 3.c4.
2) I too was intrigued by Bellin's promise of London lines for Black. To include some weapons for Black in a London book could be an interesting selling angle. IF my publishers agree (my guess is that they don't), I can see these options:
a) I have recently had a look at the Baltic/Keres Defence 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Bf5?! and 2.Nf3 Bf5!? I don't find it likely that it will be included in a future update of the London System as it is theoretically quite shaky. However, it's quite likely that you will find something on it in this blog in the not too distant future.
b) There are some well established Slav lines where Black can play something reminding of the London System (like 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5!?). To cover these lines and ignore White's other options doesn't seem a good solution.
c) The fashionable Chebanenko System (4...a6) prepares ...Bf5 and is thus related to the London. However, it would be impossible to fit this into a book on the London.
d) The most obvious option for a London book appears to be 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Qb6!? which is a solid system that has been played by many strong players (most notably Kamsky). This can be combined with the 4.e3 Bf5 line above but this too would probably take up too much space.
e) I have one interesting but possibly not entirely sound idea for Black. If fortified by some GM analysis and a handful of games it could make a nice appendix. Obviously, GM attention is more likely to kill than to strengthen it but I will nevertheless keep it a secret while awaiting developments.

Anonymous said...

You have mentioned the line 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c6 3.c4 twice now in this blog. However, I want to bring to your attention that James Vigus analyzes this line in his book Play the Slav (via the move-order 1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Bf4?!) and he thinks this line isn't very good for White.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I don't have his book but was intending to get it anyway.

What does Vigus recommend? 3...Nf6 4.e3 looks promising for White and scores well so I assume 3...dxc4must be critical. I have had a look at 4.e3 (4.e4?!) 4...b5!? 5.a4 Nf6! when it seems Black can keep his pawn but White will have some pressure. If this doesn't work for White I am afraid the line will not make it into the book (except perhaps as a warning).

Anonymous said...

Vigus does indeed recommend 3... dxc4! 4 e3 b5 5 a4 Nf6.

Sverre Johnsen said...


I will get hold of Vigus' book and sum up practical experience so far in a ChessBase file. Whether it is included in a future London update will depend on my co-author's evaluation. If Kovacevic signs up again the chances may diminish as he generally seemed sceptical when it came to gambit lines.

Anonymous said...

In the 2nd edition of your London book, do you think you will be able to give some recommendations against some minor first moves by Black where the Lonon isn't very effective? In the 1st edition you didn't because you said it falls outside the scope of our work. However, I think it is very frustrating to the majority of readers to be given a repertoire against Black's main first moves but then be forced to buy other books or consult other sources to learn how to deal with some of Black's minor first moves. Some other "system" opening books do give different recommendations against some minor lines when there "system" opening isn't very effective. For example, against
1...d6 and 1...g6, Nigel Davies in his book The Dynamic Reti doesn't recommend the Reti and instead recommends 1.Nf3 g6 2.e4
Bg7 3.d4 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.h3 0-0 6.Be3

Sverre Johnsen said...


I see your point and will try to do something with that frustration. So I will try to offer the readers something against 1...c5, 1...g6 and 1...d6. But whether it will be a full repertoire versus, the outlines of a repertoire or just some pointers/ideas I cannot say yet.

Provided that the new edition will cover the Bf4 Exchange Slav, the 1.d4 c5 issue can be solved quite comfortably with (the slightly boring) 2.c3. I also have some ideas for the Pirc/Modern pair that depend on some additions to the book's general coverage.

crapo said...

Hello Sverre,

When do you think the second edition of your book about the london system will be released ?

Congratulations for your interesting blog,

Truly yours,

Sverre Johnsen said...

Hello Crapo,

So far I have no certain information. I have contacted Gambit Publishing, suggesting to publish a 2nd edition of 'Win with the London System' in the winter 2010/2011. This is based on the assumption that Everyman will publish their 'Play the London System' in the summer/autumn 2010. This scheme seems to make sense to me, as I will then have access to another important analytical source. However, I have on a couple of occasions noted that I am not good at following the chess publishers' reasoning.

I expect to have more information in a week or two but that will be inside information which I may not be free to share.

Yet another patzer said...

If Scandinavian with Qd6 is good enough for Tiviakov, it sure is good enough for a patzer like me :-)

Sverre Johnsen said...

Dear Another Patzer,

That's one very reasonable claim. Another much braver claim is: 'If Tiviakov is good enough to play the Scandinavian with 3...Qd6, I am good enough too!'.

Some lines - in particular those which demand accurate defensive play - are best left for the pros. The big question is whether the ...Qd6 Scandinavian belongs to this group or not. For the moment I am not sure.

Yet another patzer said...

I see your point, but I doubt I would never encounter the critical position in the line as I almost never encounter players rated above 2000 in weekend tournaments.

If my opponents would play the most critical lines I'm not sure whether I would be good enough to play even the London System :-)

Could it mean that 3. ... Qd6 is very well playable by both Tiviakov and ordinary woodpushers, but the variation would cause more headache for the players around 2000-2300?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sverre,

With regards to writing a repertoire book against 1.e4, how about the Petroff? There are virtually no recent books on this opening. Also, the Petroff is highly regarded, and not even as dry as once thought. What do you think?

Happy New Year. Cheers~

Sverre Johnsen said...


Thanks for a very interesting suggestion. For some reason I have never seriously considered 'Win with the Petroff Defence'. However, as a matter of fact it would fit the bill very nicely.

The Petroff has a somewhat undeserved reputation as a 'boring' and 'drawish' opening but does actually secure Black a central presence with active play in a lot of lines. And (like the London and the Stonewall) it constitutes the major part of an opening repertoire. You would only have to add chapters on the Bishop's Opening, the Vienna, the King's Gambit and possibly the Centre Game in order to offer a complete repertoire against 1.e4.

In a month or two I will make up my mind about my next opening theory book, and I will seriously consider 'Win with the Petroff'. However, there are a few reasons I will probably go for an alternative:
1) There is already a good (although rather technical) Gambit book on the opening.
2)It's a very respected opening on GM-level and may be a bit theoretical for the 'Win with ...' family.
3) I have never played the Petroff and don't really have any independent ideas to offer.
4) I know no strong player I could ask co-authoring the book with me. (admittedly I haven't really looked that hard).

Sverre Johnsen said...


Yes, there probably is a set of openings that fit your description: In order to play them successfully against a strong and well prepared opponent, you need to be a good defender.

However, I think you over-estimate the 2300 players. Most of them are far better attackers than defenders. Openings that demand exact and patient defence probably should be left for 2500+ players (and - as you point out - those who very rarely face well-prepared opponents).

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Petroff, have you asked/considered IM Dean Ippolito as a possible co-author? He plays the opening regularly. He has just finished co-authoring a book (Wojo's weapons) with a 2200+ player.

P.S. Your Stonewall book is just awesome. I haven't lost a Stonewall game since reading it. (I'm FIDE 2100+, using the opening vs. 2200-2400 opposition) The verbal explanations on strategy/ideas in the book are what helped me most.

Anonymous (Petroff suggester)

Sverre Johnsen said...

Dear Petroff suggester,

I have not considered mr. Ippolito. It would indeed be tempting to team up with a native speaker of English who already has some authoring experience. So if I go for the Petroff I will seriously consider to contact him.

On the other hand there is not much money in chess book writing and it probably would be easier to convince someone who is less capable of doing the entire job himself.

Anonymous said...

interesting post. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did anyone know that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

Sverre Johnsen said...

I am not sure about this comment. It doesn't appear very relevant as I have never given any indication that I will use twitter. On the other hand, if it's spam I cannot see what it tries to achieve. So I will leave it and see if there is any follow-up.

J said...

Hi Sverre,

I've planted the Petroff book idea in Jacob Aagaard's mind, so hopefully someone would take care of that opening soon :)

Have you come any closer to deciding what you will write about next? Just curious..

(aka Petroff suggester)

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with 5... c6? Zou write that a6 seems to be more attractive. but, arising endgame is ugly for Black.

Harold Scott said...

Would love to see a book written for Black on the rock solid Schlechter Slav as played by Smyslov and Kamsky. There is nothing really outh there on it.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Hi Harold,

The Schlecther Slav is an underrated option and would be a good choice for a "Win with the ..." book. However, I plan only one more book in this category and that will be one against 1 e4.

For the moment I am busy with the King's Gambit, which is a risky choice for a repertoire book as there is no guarantee that White will be better (or even comfortable) in all lines.