An Annotated Training Game

Stephen, with assistance from Spohn and other SM members

Recently a new Unrated Standard option was introduced to the ever expanding list of variants supported by SchemingMind. Unrated Standard is simply a normal game of chess but one in which the result does not affect the rating of either player. Spohn and I decided to use this new facility to play a training game in which we openly and frankly annotated each move played and invited anyone else watching the game to add their thoughts. The purpose of this article is to provide a report on the game, hopefully providing a coherent record of the main comments made and possibly providing a useful training resource for others.



The classic text 'Logical Chess Move by Move' by Irving Chernev adopts the approach of presenting a series of games, annotating each move played. This tried and trusted method has recently been adopted by GM Neil McDonald in his book 'Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking'. This article attempts to follow that format, although it is accepted that the players involved are a very long way short of grandmaster standard and so our annotations won't contain anything like as much insight as Chernov's but somebody might find something useful or even amusing in them.

Enough of the preamble, here's what happened when Spohn had the White pieces against Stephen...

1. e4

White chooses the King's Pawn opening hoping that the board will become open, with his pieces moving freely in beautiful attacks. Too early for that of course, but nobody could argue with White's choice of first move!

1... d5

Not surprisingly Black doesn't want to fall in with White's plans for a beautiful attack! This move takes us into the Scandinavian or Centre-Counter defence which although slightly less common than some other Black defences to 1. e4 is certainly respectable - it was played by Anand against Kasparov in one of their 1995 PCA World Championship games (although Kasparov did win that game) and has been played by many other top Grandmasters. Interestingly in Britain there have been no fewer than three books published on the defence in the last few months (one by IM Andrew Martin, one by GM James Plaskett and one by GM John Emms) although I haven't read any of them yet! It is worth noting that there are strong players who regard the Scandinavian as an inferior defence (including GM Nigel Short) and this view was restated in the Chess Chat forum during this game but to my knowledge the opening has not yet been refuted at the top level.

Another point worth bearing in mind is that by playing the Scandinavian, Black is taking the game down a line that he chooses. In my view this may give him a significant advantage if it turns out that he knows his chosen defence better than his opponent.

2. exd5

White could think about moves like 2.e5 or 2.Nc3 but the move played is by far the most frequently encountered response.

2... Qxd5

At this point Black has two main options. The more attacking Black player might opt for 2...Nf6 treating the lost d-pawn as a gambit pawn and getting on with developing his pieces as quickly as possible. He will try to build up an attack while White spends time trying to hold onto his extra pawn. In this game Black opts for the more positional 2...Qxd5.

Many players are taught early in their chess careers to avoid developing their queen prematurely and so how can it be right for Black to move his queen to the centre of the board as early as move 2? It is in fact this aspect of the defence which causes many players to regard it as inferior.

On the other hand Black knows the dangers of this move and expects to lose at least one tempo when his queen is harassed by White's normal developing move of Nc3. However he hopes that by playing this line he will be able to build up a solid position and freely develop his other pieces - note for example how his first move (1...d5) cleared the way for development of his light squared bishop along the c8 to h3 diagonal. We'll see how this theory stands up as we get further into the game.

3. Nc3

Sound opening play by White. If you can develop one of your pieces and threaten one of your opponent's pieces at the same time then that is usually a good idea - your opponent will probably have to lose time reacting to the threat rather than developing as he wishes.

3... Qa5

The move played is by far the commonest in the position and at least leaves the queen on a reasonably safe square (for the moment). On the plus side for Black the queen is on the same diagonal as White's king; she also may hinder White's development by discouraging (but not totally preventing) d4; finally a5 is not a square Black intends to move his minor pieces to and so the queen is in play without hindering development.

3...Qd8 has also been played but seems unattractive psychologically, the queen returning to base 'with her tail between her legs'. Another consideration might be that in some Scandinavian lines the queen may be better away from d8 so that Black can castle queenside.

3...Qd6 is possible but on the d6 square the queen may interfere with the future development of Black's dark squared bishop.

The general consensus from people watching the game was that 3...Qe5+ has little to recommend it; White will perhaps block the check with Be2 and then harass the queen again with Nf3 (although 4.Be2 c6 5.Nf3 Qc7 may not be too bad for Black).

4. Nf3

This is a straightforward developing move by White. Against the Scandinavian Spohn likes to get a rook to e1 as soon as possible and so often chooses to delay the d4 push until after castling. 4. d4 is another popular choice here, staking a claim for central territory and allowing later development of the dark squared bishop. One advantage of White delaying movement of his d-pawn is that in some lines he can play d3 if Black develops his light squared bishop to f5. Obviously this would have the effect of limiting the effectiveness of Black's bishop.

4... Nf6

This is probably the most common move in the current position, a natural developing move.

5. Bc4

Spohn commented that this is his favourite developing move. The bishop is unprotected at the moment but its development allows White to play a later d3 if appropriate without worrying about blocking it in. It is worth noting that the bishop is eyeing the f7 square which in many games is a weak point and hence a target for White forces.

5... c6

Black has an interesting choice of moves here and it helps to be reasonably familiar with the Scandinavian to be able to assess each of them. Black plays 5...c6 with two main points in mind. Firstly it opens up an escape route to c7 or d8 for his exposed queen should she need it. Secondly players of the Scandinavian need to be aware of the danger if White plays d4 and is then able to play d5, forcing open the centre when White is ahead on development and Black hasn't castled; in simple terms Black will probably be routed and so here 5...c6 is bolstering the defence of the d5-square before White can threaten to get there.

As an alternative Black could consider 5...Bf5 (which is a very common move in the Scandinavian but can be blunted by White playing d3 as mentioned in a previous note) or 5...Bg4, but since Black isn't sure exactly where the bishop should go at this stage he chooses a more flexible move. 5...Nc6 would be undesirable (because it gets in the way of the useful ...c6 move), as would 5...Nbd7 (blocking in Black's own light squared bishop). 5...e6 would be counter to the whole purpose of Black's opening; he has sacrificed tempo by exposing his queen in order to achieve easy development and then this careless move blocks in his light squared bishop.

6. O-O

White continues with his plan of castling and then moving his rook to e1 to claim the semi-open e-file.

6... Bg4

It is 'make you mind up time' for Black's light squared bishop. I suspect that both 6...Bg4 and 6...Bf5 are playable here and frankly I don't know which is best!

7. d3

Spohn chose 7. d3 here because he wanted to keep a solid pawn chain and had no intention of playing c3 later to connect with a pawn on d4. The move played releases White's dark squared bishop, while protecting his light squared bishop. Also White wants to show that Black is behind in development and one possible way of doing this would be to get his rooks connected and maybe even doubled on the e-file.

7... e6

Looking at things from Black's perspective, 7.d3 looks very solid but doesn't challenge for central space in the way that 7.d4 would. Again Black seems to have two obvious developing moves here - 7...Nbd7 or 7...e6 (freeing the dark squared bishop). Black chose 7...e6 because he felt a need to get his king off the half-open e-file as soon as possible. Playing for a king-side fianchetto after 7...g6 may be too slow when Black is already behind in development. Another advantage to 7...e6 over 7...g6 is that it reduces the scope of the bishop on c4 and protects the vulnerable f7 square.

8. Bd2

The d2 square doesn't seem a particularly active location for the bishop in the long term, although it does make Black's queen feel a little uncomfortable in the short term.

During the game Spohn mentioned the possibility of pushing his f-pawn to forcibly open the e-file but this plan never got off the drawing board!

8... Nbd7

The alternative line 8...Qh5 9.Ne4 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 Qxf3 11.gxf3 is worth looking at for Black because the pawn structure in front of White's castled king could be compromised. However that in isolation wouldn't be a decisive advantage for Black and so he decided it would be better to stick to normal Scandinavian opening principles.

While this position isn't a common one, White's last move provides an example of an idea which is very common in the Scandinavian. The idea is for White to move his c3-knight (perhaps to d5 or e4), discovering an attack on the Black queen by the bishop on d2. While Black is keeping his queen safe, White hopes to profit by causing some mischief with the knight. There are however other positions arising from the Scandinavian in which this idea is of more significance because in this position it doesn't appear to be too dangerous for Black. Hence Black simply tries to carry on developing and avoid losing any further tempo.

9. Nd5

White forces Black's queen back to d8. However this knight move is not so much of an attack but a repositioning to e3 where it will be more centralized while freeing White's bishop to go to c3. It also gets out of the way of White's queenside pawns so that White can consider a pawn storm on that wing if Black castles queenside.

9... Qd8

9...Qd8 seems to be the obvious move that I would play in an over-the-board game. However 9...Bxf3 might be interesting option.

10. Ne3

White continues with the re-location of his knight as discussed. From e3 it should be ready for action on either side of the board if needed.

10... Bh5

Black doesn't particularly want to exchange his developed bishop for one of White's knights at this stage. The position is interesting because although Black is behind in development (White has all his minor pieces off the back rank and has castled; Black's dark squared bishop hasn't yet moved) there are no obvious weaknesses in the Black position and therefore he hopes to be able to hold his own.

11. a4

Spohn's idea was to try and provoke Black into making a move that would undermine his now sound position. At this point White wasn't concerned about where Black castled; if Black castles long then White is ready to launch a pawn storm on the queenside and if Black castles short then White has both knights on the kingside so that attack should be possible on that wing. Another point to a4 is that it stops Black from attacking White's light-squared bishop with ...b5 (after which the bishop might have had to retreat to b3 making it harder for White to whip up an effective and speedy pawn storm).

Whilst in itself 11.a4 probably isn't a bad move, White now runs into problems because he has neglected to fully consider what Black might do next. It could well be that 11.d4 is the best move for White in the position, cutting out any chance of Black's next move and gaining some central space.

11... Ne5

Black is keen to complete development, and so a move like 11...Bd6 appears to be called for in this position. However he is attracted to the possibility of disrupting the pawns in front of White's king with 11...Ne5 (followed by Nxf3).

Black could have done something similar at an earlier stage of the game but it somehow seems a better option now because the queens will remain on the board. In fact Black's queen may be in a strong position for attacking the White king. Since there is no immediate threat to Black's position, that's what he decided to go for.

12. b4

During the game Spohn was not overly concerned about his pawns getting disrupted since he felt that White was still ahead in development and if Black castled kingside White would then have the half-open g-file to attack the castled position. In the meantime White could continue with his idea of opening up the queenside.

12... Bd6

Disrupting White's pawns can wait. Black's perspective on the position after this move is that in practice, White probably does not have a significant development lead. Black still has a compact position with no obvious weaknesses. There is a danger that if White spends too many moves trying to open up the board, Black will have finished development and his pieces may be as well placed as White's to take advantage of the open lines. It just shows that chess involves a lot of opinions and judgements; we'll see how it goes...

13. b5

White is still just trying to open up some lines in the board. He feels that development is equal apart from the White castled king and the game board looks equal. Perhaps if this were a GM game, the players would shake hands and go grab a drink?

Or maybe not...

13... Nxf3+

Black is not so sure that the position is equal. He is beginning to think that he might be able to attack on the kingside - after the move played White's doubled f-pawns will get in the way of the defence of his king. Black's king is still uncastled but he is under no threat at the moment.

14. gxf3

In this phase of the game I think it is fair to say that White underestimated Black's attacking potential. He felt that the half-open g-file would help him just as much to attack Black's kingside. He also noted that Black had moved a knight three times to capture a White knight that had moved only once. He conceded that the doubled pawns would have to be dealt with but maybe by sacrificing the forward one later in the game.

14... Ne4!

This was a move that Black enjoyed playing and one that White had missed. It clears a path for the queen's re-emergence, this time aggressively on the kingside. It seems likely that White should avoid taking the knight with either pawn. Obviously if 15.fxe4, Black will respond 15...Bxd1. On the other hand if 15.dxe4, then 15...Qh4 looks very dangerous with immediate mate threatened on h2. Of course if White doesn't take the knight then a number of other tactics come into play.

In fact White's best chance of survival is probably to play 15.Ng2 but even that doesn't look very palatable (e.g. 15.Ng2 Bxf3 16.Qxf3 Nxd2 17.Qe3 Nxf1 18.Rxf1).

15. dxe4

White felt that he would get a knight for a couple of pawns but had missed a trick.

15... Qh4

The queen takes up a very aggressive position. Black is hoping that if the king 'escapes' to e2 then he will be able to arrange to play ...Bxf3+ winning the White queen.

16. Re1

White has to try and make an escape route for his king.

16... Qxh2+

After 17.Kf1 Qh3+ White has major problems. If 18.Ke2 then 18...Bxf3+ as discussed above, winning the White queen. If 18.Ng2 to block the check then 18...Bxf3 again and Black will win material. If 18.Kg1 then mate is inevitable after 18...Bh2+. At this point White resigned.

Looking at the game afterwards I felt that there were two fairly clear general lessons to be learned from the game.

  1. Firstly Black played an opening which invariably gives White an early lead in development. The game only lasted 16 moves, so what happened to White's development lead? I think that the important thing to note is that a development lead is a good thing to have but it is a transient advantage and you must use it or expect to lose it. In the game White lost his development lead by making pawn moves on the queenside (however well intentioned) which gave Black time to catch up with the development of his pieces. If White had ever managed to open up the board, it is likely that Black's pieces would have been as well placed to capitalise as White's. White needed to try and find some way of keeping Black on the back foot so that he did not find time to complete his development efficiently. Of course it may not be possible for White to achieve this objective if Black plays well but then again the player with the White pieces has not divine right to win a game of chess!
  2. Secondly White decided on a plan and then stuck to it without fully considering and responding to what Black was doing. I am all for playing attacking chess when the opportunity arises but I do not think that attacks can be played just because a player decides to play one; in some ways you have to earn the right to launch a successful attack. In this game White felt he had the right to attack because he had a development lead but he should have borne in mind that actually Black had no particular weakness to attack. It is likely that White was so busy trying to attack on the queenside that he did not properly anticipate Black's moves on the kingside and the end result was that Black won the game before White's queenside pawns had any impact whatsoever.

I hope that this article proves to be of some interest to some of our chess friends on SchemingMind. Please give us some feedback if you did enjoy either the game or the article, who knows we might do it all again some time!

Books referred to in this article


Irving Chernev, Logical Chess Move by Move
Neil McDonald, Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking
Andrew Martin, The Essential Center Counter: A Practical Guide for Black
James Plaskett, The Scandinavian Defence
John Emms, The Scandinavian


Irving Chernev, Logical Chess Move by Move
Neil McDonald, Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking
Andrew Martin, The Essential Center Counter: A Practical Guide for Black
James Plaskett, The Scandinavian Defence
John Emms, The Scandinavian

Link to the game

Annotated Training Game


Alopinto2/28/2005 5:13 PMI am going to risk being slapped by the experts of the Scandi here at schemingmind :-)

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6

is a much more interesting choice than the 2...Qxd5. However, the line with 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bc4 etc. has a "unclear" verdict by ECO. In any case (I almost never believe opening manuals and play what I consider optimal in practical play...), I make it a point to retain the pawn at d5 and make Black prove me wrong. Thus far I have had joy with this line. Of course, Black has 4...b4 and 4...Bg4 afterwards when he certainly gets compensation for the pawn and the opportunity to grab it back.

Other line that goes 3...Nd7 4.c4 is also very interesting and in my opinion hard for Black to play. The whole idea is that the pawn at d5 is truly annoying and prevents the breaks e6 and c6 by Black...

4/5/2005 3:26 PM
Great - enjoyed it very much. Very useful for us "less developed" players to share in the thought processes of others
8/23/2005 6:46 PM

very useful information

enjoyed it and played over the game with my friend who is a scandinavian player

best wishes

9/29/2005 1:50 AM
Más, por favor.
dadshane20001/21/2006 5:50 AMNice job and interesting analysis...thanks for your effort in offering this. As white, I don't really like playing against the Scandanavian, for as you point out, I fear my opponent knows the defense better and can control the way in which the game develops. But I have had success against it on this site...see Games Explorer.
Adunatos12/24/2006 12:25 PMDoesn't 7.d4 create the threat of Bxf7+ followed by Ne5+ and Nxg4? I would prefer that over 7.d3
deadlyduck10/26/2007 9:57 AMRe previous comment about playing 7.d4 instead of 7. d3: I don't see this working as the f6 knight and Queen on a5 are guarding key squares. For example, 7. d4 Nbd7 Bxf7+ Kxf7 Ne5+ Nxe5 and Black is ahead.

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