The Valencia variation in the Scandinavian

by ChessBase
2/1/2023 – Since the early 21st century, the consensus among specialized historians is that the birth of modern chess took place in the ancient Kingdom of Valencia. Francesc Vicent was the author of the first known treatise on modern chess, the ‘Llibre dels jochs partits dels scachs en nombre de 100’, printed in Valencia on May 15, 1495. In an article for ‘Peón de Rey’ Magazine, Sergi Núñez and Francisco Rubio explain why a line in the Scandinavian Opening should be named ‘the Valencia variation’.

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Over five centuries ago

By Sergi Núñez de Arenas and Francisco Rubio for ‘Peón de Rey’ Magazine

Scachs d’amor, a poem written by poets Bernat de Fenollar, Narcís Vinyoles and Francesc de Castellví, all representatives of the Valencian Golden Age, depicts the following game, which due to its historical interest and the object of this article, we present in algebraic notation.

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd8


This third move by the black pieces is what gives the article its name: the Valencia variation!

4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 e6 8.Qxb7 Nbd7 9.Nb5 Rc8 10.Nxa7 Nb6 11.Nxc8 Nxc8 12.d4 Nd6 13.Bb5+ Nxb5 14.Qxb5+ Nd7 15.d5 exd5 16.Be3 Bd6 17.Rd1 Qf6 18.Rxd5 Qg6 19.Bf4 Bxf4


20.Qxd7+ Kf8 21.Qd8# 1-0

This is the first game in history to use modern chess rules, of which we have an intact record. Currently, it is considered that it was not actually a played game, but rather invented and designed to fit the dimensions of the poem: 64 stanzas for each square of the board. It presents the first historical record of the current queen’s move, which practically closes the innovations of the chess rules as we know them today.

But... why do we call it the Scandinavian Defence? Let us now take a look at the Scandinavians’ role in the development of this line. In fact, this historic game was soon considered a refutation for Black’s play, who lost in just twenty-one moves.

It took four centuries for Scandinavian masters to show that 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 was playable. It was at the first Nordic Championship in Stockholm, in 1897, where Collijn, a Swedish player, constantly replied to 1.e4 with d5. Later, Blackburne and Mieses developed their theories based on Collijn’s games. As a result, it became an occasional option for the best players of the time (Tarrasch, Spielmann and Tartakower, among others). Alekhine drew with this line against then world champion Emanuel Lasker in 1914, and Capablanca won twice with it in 1915.

In the 1960s it was back on the international scene, as former World Championship finalist David Bronstein and women’s world champion Nona Gaprindashvili played it occasionally. But not only them: Danish star Bent Larsen also played it sporadically and defeated world champion Anatoly Karpov with it in 1979. It was at that time that its current name was popularized.

The Scandinavian made its first appearance in a World Championship game in 1995. Anand obtained an excellent position against Kasparov with it, though he ended up losing. In the 2014 Olympiad, world champion Magnus Carlsen played it against Caruana and won, and used it again against the same opponent in the 2016 Olympiad, in a game that ended in a draw.

Theoretical basis

After 1.e4 d5, the main and best move is 2.exd5. Black counts with two continuations: 2...Qxd5 (the move played by the aforementioned poets) and 2...Nf6 (known as the Modern Scandinavian). After 2...Qxd5, the most popular reply is 3.Nc3, against which Black has three options: 3...Qa5, 3...Qd6 and 3...Qd8. Other alternatives are considered inferior for Black.

La Variante Valenciana

3...Qa5 is the classic and most popular line. 3...Qd6, the Gubinsky-Melts Defence, is an alternative that has been gaining popularity and, finally, there is 3...Qd8, the oldest of all the Scandinavian variations.

In the 1960s, 3...Qd8 resurfaced after being played by Bronstein against Fuderer in 1959, although he ultimately lost, as did Nakamura in the 2018 Chess Olympiad against Piorun. Nonetheless, world-class grandmasters have it in their occasional repertoire for rapid or online chess tournaments. We can thus assert that 3...Qd8, the Valencia Variation, is still very much alive first centuries after its introduction.

Perhaps it is a coincidence (or maybe not), but unlike the rest of the alternatives, 3...Qd8 does not have a specific name attached to it. Thus, the line 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Dxd5 3.Cc3 Qd8 should be known as the Valencia Variation of the Scandinavian Defence. Although it was Scandinavian players who rediscovered it, it is no less true that the original line of this defence is undoubtedly Valencia-based.

Relevant games


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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.


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