On the Road to Damascus

by Davide Nastasio
11/11/2017 – Curiosity, asking ourselves questions, engaging actively our opening study — what we really need on the road to chess mastery. In this review Davide Nastasio was curious to discover what made GM Bauer begin to play the Scandinavian, and thanks to Megabase 2017 he shares his findings in this review, through showing some critical games everyone should know.

Strike first with the Scandinavian Strike first with the Scandinavian

The Scandinavian is a rarely employed opening on the hightest level und guides your opponent on much less familiar terrain than for example the Sicilian, French or any 1.e4 e5 system. After 1.e4 d5 Black fights for the initiative from move one.


Strike first with the Scandinavian

A review

For the western civilization one of the most important collection of books, if not the most important, is the one we call New Testament. In my own language, Italian, and in the historical period in which I grew up, many ways of saying, and ideas came directly by the books contained in the New Testament. In one of the books is described the conversion of Saul, a zealot persecuting Christians (it should be in the Epistle to the Galatians for those who still love to read).

More precisely in the book: Acts of the Apostles, is described the conversion of Saul into Paul: the story goes that Saul was reaching Damascus and a light surrounded him, blinded him and made him a believer in Christ (Acts of the Apostles 9:3-9 obviously I summarized quite quickly for not annoying everyone, because it should be common knowledge).

"St. Paul on road to Damascus" Photo: Ted via Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Now let's return to our chess world, and soon will be evident the reason for such analogy. I was watching a video online on the new DVD on the Scandinavian authored by GM Bauer,

and I was thinking... "but why did he decide to play this Scandinavian, why not the one with Qd6, like Tiviakov?"

Scandinavian with 3...Qd6

The Scandinavian with 3...Qd6 could just as well be called “The Tiviakov System”. On this DVD GM Sergei Tiviakov shows you everything you need to know to be able to play 3...Qd6 yourself at once.

Obviously we all have fleeting thoughts, questions. Often in this frenetic world we don't take the time to go deep and try to give an answer to our questions. After a few minutes, I stopped the video, and went to consult my Oracle: Megabase 2017 (which I need to remember to update with the latest games!) opened it, opened a board, put the moves 1 e4 d5 and then click on filter and insert the name Bauer C, copied the board position, and click ok.

Christian Bauer - Source Wikipedia

The result was 77 games played by Bauer, my research was for Black and White, and I saw Bauer played against the Scandinavian, so out of curiosity I checked the first game he lost against GM level opposition, who played in fact 3...Qa5; In the beginning I didn't notice the result, I was just trying to understand the game. Then I was laughing inside thinking: "well when you lose as White against the same line of the Scandinavian you propose to play that's pretty bad!" But then I realized the game I watched was his games-conversion on the way to Damascus. A game he played before adopting the Scandinavian as weapon! Bauer understood the goodness of such opening, when playing against it, and he was blinded by the light, as you can see in the following game:

Christian Bauer | Photo: Stefan64 CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Christian Bauer 0-1 Henrik Teske

One rule in life is the following: when we don't understand a lesson, life itself continues to propose the lesson till we understand it! And this is what happened to GM Bauer who got schooled by a player 400 points under him, once more thanks to the Scandinavian...once more thanks to Qa5!

Christian Bauer 0-1 Edmond Stawiarski

Practically after losing these games, he converted to the Scandinavian! It is quite interesting to notice how GM Bauer became an expert of the Scandinavian, and how he switched to it little by little, experimenting, and learning from each game.

Today it is important to have all the tools our opponents use, and clearly Megabase 2017/8 is a tool you cannot miss to have, because it has the answer to all chess-related questions!

Mega Database 2018

The "Mega" is the database every serious chessplayer needs. The database contains 7.1 million games from 1500 to 2017, in highest quality standard, full of top level analyses and completely classified.

I would have never been able to put together all this information, without a huge database, which gave me the answer to the question: "but why did he begin to play the Scandinavian?"

Is GM Bauer aware of what happened to him? This is more difficult to answer, because in the introductory video he mentions many reasons, but he doesn't say: "because I was wiped over and over on the board, when I played against this opening..."

He mentions as reasons to play the Scandinavian:

  1. Because it has a bad reputation (Black moves the queen many times), and as consequence many white players don't dedicate enough time to study it
  2. Being a secondary opening for black, it gives players the luxury of dedicating more time to study other phases of the game, instead of the huge amount of  time 1... e5 or 1... c5 players must dedicate to the latest trends and discoveries in those openings
  3. Black has a very solid pawn structure

Bauer doesn't mention it, but the Scandinavian is an antidote to the King's Indian Attack (KIA), and as we have seen in Fischer's games against Sicilian, French etc. the KIA can be quite deadly!

Coming to review the DVD, after the introductory video, Bauer dedicates a video to explain the synopsis of the course, and show the lines he will teach.

I find the Chessbase DVD system the best, because just listening to the GM lecturing, I can understand where the problems are.

Bauer shows this line: 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Nc3 Qa5 5.Bb5:


And he says: "this can be a difficult line for Black..."

Now, once he said these magical words, I went to check some games to understand what happened in such line.

In this way, when I actually listen to the video dedicated to this difficult line, I can already better understand what are the maneuvers for both sides, and eventually reinforce my knowledge, which will be tested under tournament conditions.

I found many games, I'll show two of them here, because they can exemplify the difficulties Black could encounter.

Anatoly Karpov 1-0 Vlastimil Hort

I chose high level players, because if someone 2400+ loses in 25-35 moves, I guess someone just rated 2000 could lose faster!

Tatiana Kosintseva 1-0 Eva Repkova

On video number three Bauer makes a statement which needs some explanations:

"In this clip I'll show you when the Scandinavian made its appearance on the chess scene..." and he shows the game played in Paris 1858 in a match between Morphy and Anderssen.

Paul Morphy 1-0 Adolf Anderssen

Now why do I say this statement by Bauer needs some explanations? Because I own the best chess database on earth, also known as Chessbase Megabase 2017 (soon 2018), and to check if that was the first game what did I do? I just made a search. It emerged that the first game was played in 1475, before they even discovered the Americas!

500 Master Games of Chess

But in reality many games were played by Von Heydenbrand, and even Anderssen in the years from 1837 to 1856. Those games were played both in Paris, and Berlin, Europe in general, but we have games played with the Scandinavian also in India. Hence quite before the 1858 match between Morphy and Anderssen.

So why did Bauer say that's the first game? Very likely because he is showing a game between two world champions, or between top 10 GMs of that period. They represent the synthesis of chess understanding of their historical period. In fact also another great book, a collection of 500 games, published likely in 1952 for the first time, and then re-published by Dover in 1975, compiled and commented by Tartakower, shows a similar game, with Morphy as White, played in consultation in 1858 against Staunton. Again, two great GMs decided to use a Morphy's game for illustrating the Scandinavian. While I'm writing this review Chessbase just published a new Master Class DVD on Morphy.

Master Class Vol.9: Paul Morphy

Learn about one of the greatest geniuses in the history of chess! Paul Morphy's career (1837-1884) lasted only a few years and yet he managed to defeat the best chess players of his time.

This consultation game also predates the one used by Bauer by about six months.



The DVD is presented in 30 videos, plus one more for the conclusion. I found the videos quite helpful, especially for ideas on how to treat some sidelines which often happen when White tries to avoid the Scandinavian. It made me think on how to avoid to enter into the Caro-Kann, which is one possibility when White plays 1.e4 d5 2.Nc3 dxe4 3.Nxe4 Bf5 4.Ng3 Bg6 5.h4 h6 6.Nf3 Nc6

I don't continue to avoid to spoil the surprise to White players, but it will be a surprise!


The DVD ends with 13 video clips of interactive tests, where Bauer shows typical positions, and ask us to find the right move for Black. There are two databases, one with the theoretical framework on which the videos are based, and one with 78 games selected by Bauer for us to study and memorize.

Final Thoughts

I've been a follower of Tiviakov, and the Qd6 Scandinavian for a while. However I wanted to learn to play Qa5. I know GM Bauer wrote a book years ago on it, but to be honest I find books boring. I prefer a GM voice teach me the lines, and always throught the voice places emphasis on what is important and what is not. As soon as I saw this DVD I got it, because now thanks to his teachings I can add variety to my Scandinavian repertoire, and keep my opponents on their toes. One last thought: ChessBase — thanks to the Chessbase Account membership — provides all "60 minutes" videos, and one of these videos created by IM Andrew Martin teaches the 3...Qd8 Scandinavian, successfully used by Carlsen. In this way one can learn all the three standard answers to 3.Nc3.

A solid Scandinavian Surprise

Accompany FIDE Senior Trainer and IM Andrew Martin on this 60 mins video. You can learn a new opening system in 60 mins and start to play it with confidence on the very same day!

Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."


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