Awesome Free Chess Tutorials

A Killer Off-beat Opening: Scandinavian Defense Modern Variation (Nf6)

A Killer Off-beat Opening: Scandinavian Defense Modern Variation (Nf6)

Scandinavian Defense Modern Variation (Nf6) is a really amazing opening that I have been using ever since I started playing Chess. It has very sharp and dangerous lines and is an under-studied opening in which your opponents will usually not know what to do and get themselves into a lot of trouble.

Personally, I have extensively tried the Scandi with Queen takes as well but my win rate was always better with the Nf6 variation instead. I will of course still cover similar lines as similar positions like the Advanced Scandi and Scandi Qd6 variation can still arise from this opening.

It arises from the following moves:

In this article, I will dive deeper into this opening and play out the most natural and most frequently played human moves found in the Lichess user database and pit them against engines like Stockfish and Leela and try to refute the top played moves with an engine move.

To be clear, I’m making the top human move as White then I’m making an engine move as Black. When I run out of moves in the database, I will use Leela as Black and Stockfish as White — until the endgame in which case Leela is replaced with Stockfish against Stockfish as Leela is bad at endgames.

Now, this doesn’t usually work when you play ordinary openings, because most people know the theory and by the time we run out of the database, the evaluation still ends up being equal. However, in openings like this, people are just thrown off and didn’t study this at all. So I would say this is a huge advantage to studying and preparing for this opening! The win rates are amazing for black as well.

About the Traps 🧨

I stumbled across many of the traps featured here accidentally! I was shocked to find Panov Transfer Gambit lead to Mate in 2 in a short 12 move game, and that most people ended up falling for it. It just goes to show how dangerous this opening can be.

I don’t usually advocate studying traps as a good way to learn openings, but in this case, I can’t help it as the top engine lines just outright refute human play and end up with a huge winning advantage. In other words, the traps here are non-commital and very sound. Even if they don’t fall for it, we still end up equal or better.

You can practice the openings too and it is powered by Listudy.org, which is a tool to help people share puzzles/tactics on blogs.

1. Beautiful Winning Counter Tactic ⚑⚑ — 3.d4 4.c4

Open me

In this first game, we see that players’ most natural play falls victim to an amazing trap. They think that they are winning our knight with d5, however, it is the move that falls victim and it is the #1 played move at around a 80% frequency. Even if they didn’t play it, we are still better.


Move Trainer 🎯



2. Panov Transfer Gambit — Highly Dangerous πŸ’₯

Open me

I absolutely love this line. It’s very sound and even better for Black, causing White problems immediately with a hopeless backward pawn, faster development, and pressure. Also if they walk the wrong way, then BAM πŸ’₯ Mate in 2!!


Move Trainer 🎯



3. Icelandic Gambit — Forest of Traps 🌳🌳🌳

Open me

The Icelandic Gambit is a very tricky opening if they try to hang on to their extra pawn. The moves that are most often played by players just get absolutely wrecked by engines.

However, for serious play, I recommend Panov Transfer Gambit instead. This is because if they play the second most played move Nf3 instead of d4 on move 5, the resulting game is a bit better for white. He always has a backward pawn but otherwise, the position is equal.

I will cover this in the next few chapters, but first, see this diagram and decide if you like the position or not:

For now, enjoy the awesome traps this opening offers!



Move Trainer 🎯



4. Icelandic Gambit — 7. Bd2 Trap 🀫

Open me


Move Trainer 🎯



5. Icelandic Gambit — Plan B πŸ’Š

Open me

If they play 5. Nf3, the opening isn’t great. So this is your Plan B. Study it if you want to play this opening at a high level.


Move Trainer 🎯



6. A Challenging Line πŸ‘» 3. Bb5+

Open me

I used to have the most trouble against this line before I studied it. The moves that Black has to make aren’t very natural and are pretty tricky to remember. It’s a lot of knight maneuvers, however, if you know the right line, this will definitely be annoying for your opponent πŸ™‚


Move Trainer 🎯


Another line that might be better — Stockfish NNUE


Move Trainer 🎯


7. Let The Race Begin! 🏁 — 3. Nc3

Open me

If they play Nc3 at move 3, we can very comfortably race by castling queenside and starting a huge pawn storm. If they slip up one move, it’s an easy checkmate. At one point in this line, the bishop sacrifice that captures his pawn cannot be taken or it’s checkmate. And in another point, the rook taking his bishop cannot be taken immediately or it’s also checkmate. Highly tricky attack to defend against.


Move Trainer 🎯



8. Possibly the Hardest Line πŸ‘€ — 3.d4 4. Nf6

Open me

3.d4 4.Nf3 is possibly the hardest line here that I had trouble refuting. If you know any good systems against this, please let me know. If you are trying to play against this opening, perhaps consider this option.

This could also arise from the Portuguese variation of this opening which I didn’t cover because of the same reason. However, if they try to be too ambitious like in the engine line below, we definitely have the advantage.


Move Trainer 🎯


New discovery: Stockfish NNUE finds a good refutation!


Move Trainer 🎯


9. Ah, the good old Scandi ❄️

Open me

When they play d4 3rd move, there’s about a 30% frequency that we have to transpose to the good old Scandi. I prefer this very solid double fianchetto system I am about to show you. Leela utterly crushed Stockfish after the user database ran out.


Move Trainer 🎯


Stockfish NNUE Recommendation:


Move Trainer 🎯



10. Advanced Scandinavian Defense πŸ¦„

Open me

When they play the advanced version of the Scandi, I’m always very happy and I win most games. It’s like an improved version of the Caro-Kann advanced because we get one extra move as we played C5 in one go. There’s a simple plan to pressure the d4 square / pawn and it’s very difficult to deal with.


Move Trainer 🎯



11. Advanced Scandi, Bf5 Pressure 😽

Open me

This line is a bit less optimal than the previous one, going E5 immediately. However, it has the advantage of getting your opponent to play pawn to d4 in order to be able to exert pressure on it.


Move Trainer 🎯



12. Advanced Scandi, Queen Trap 😡

Open me

This is a very nice Queen trap you can try that most people walk into. Like other traps here, we are just better anyway even if they don’t fall for it. Credit to Duckymaste, more on his Scandi Traps here: https://lichess.org/study/rURz9qxm


Move Trainer 🎯



Tactical Motifs

Open me

These are common tactical motifs that can occur in this opening.


Move Trainer 🎯



That’s All Folks πŸ‘‹

Hope you have enjoyed learning about the Scandi Nf6 from me. If you did be sure to share it with your friends and leave a comment! 🍺 It took me a long time to research & write this so any support is appreciated.

What opening would you like to see next? How was your success using this opening & the knowledge you gained here? Talk soon.