Enter the Scotch Game with four knights

by ChessBase
3/26/2009 – Thanks to Garry Kasparov the Scotch Game nowadays comes with a huge amount of theory. Nonetheless, it still is an attractive choice for 1.e4 players, and it can be adopted also without swotting. On his new DVD British GM Nigel Davies presents the Four Knights Scotch which is especially suited for club players and can be built into a world class Scotch repertoire. Buy it now or read more.

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Nigel Davies: The Scotch Game

Review by Sean Marsh ('Marsh Towers')

‘The space White takes early in the game can easily translate into a powerful attack against Black’s King. In addition to this White can often inflict some damage on Black’s pawn structure by capturing Black’s knight on c6. These dual aims have certainly been giving Black plenty to think about.’

GM Davies confesses to experiencing a revelation as an 11 year-old: by playing 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4, White achieves an excellent position in the centre. Checking the idea in the theory books brought the bad news that Black’s easy development was good enough compensation.

That’s life, of course. 11 year-olds are set to have many disappointments through life. However, things turned out to be not quite so cut and dried for The Scotch Game. Former World Champion Garry Kasparov’s rehabilitation of 3 d4 took place at the highest level; three consecutive World Championship matches (1990, 1993 and 1995).

Consequently, the Scotch became much more popular and now ‘enjoys’ a considerable body of theory (‘Kasparov’s fault’, claims GM Davies).

Despite the onset of theory, lively play and reasonably easy to learn plans make the Scotch a suitable weapon for players to add to their repertoires.

Click here for replay the entire Intro to 'The Scotch Game'.

Maintaining his position as friend of the club player, GM Davies quite typically offers a ‘quick start’ option to ease the Scotch into one‘s repertoire - via the Four Knights Opening. This is analysed on the first part of the DVD, covering lectures 2-16

The standard target position for White arises after the following moves: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d5 8.exd5 cxd5 9.0–0 0–0

The main focus of attention falls on 10 Bg5, a straightforward developing move with a threat of the compromising 11 Bxf6, due to the pressure on d5.

Here we see a recurring theme of the whole opening. Black may enjoy good development but there’s always the danger of the compromised pawn structure coming back to haunt him. GM Davies nicely demonstrates various ideas, plans and pitfalls involving the uncomfortable Black pawn islands.

The second part of DVD covers the normal Scotch with 3 d4. The presenter admits that the material barely scratches the surface of the theory of the sharpest lines.

The bulk of the lectures on the main lines are devoted to The Mieses Variation and 4 …Bc5, in more or less equal measure. The Mieses Variation is a tough one to learn. It is ‘…for young, energetic players with loads of time for study. It’s not for your more mature chess player who is rushed off his feet; he should stick to the Scotch Four Knights’

One of the standard Mieses positions shows the board ablaze and some pieces on unconventional squares. GM Davies explains the logic behind the moves and skilfully guides the view through the minefield of nuances and nuisances. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Ba6 9.b3

Players with Black are advised to avoid the line altogether. ‘Play (4...) Bc5, for goodness sake!’

There’s a good round-up of the minor options, including oddball attempts such as 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Bc5 5 Nf5, Steinitz’s 4 …Qh4 and the theory-dodging 4 …Bb4+

The honesty of the presenter is further demonstrated by using his loss to GM Gawain Jones - on the Black side of a Scotch - as an illustrative game, despite the painful memories.

The bottom line

In all, there are 33 illustrative games. I enjoy the refreshing honesty of GM Davies. He never tries to sell his audience long theoretical lines which are almost impossible to keep up to date with. Indeed, his practical advice for club players is often as valuable as the actual moves he recommends. I’d say this was the pick of this month’s very good bunch.

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