The Scotch Game for White
By Vladimir Barsky
Chess Stars, 2009
Those who don’t have the time or the energy to learn all there is to know about the Ruy Lopez (and, quite frankly, who does?) might wish to turn their attention toward the Scotch Game.
The Scotch Game (arising after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4) offers White many advantages: a natural development of his forces, an early spatial superiority and greater central control. Before Kasparov employed the opening, most opening authorities (such as, for example, Paul Keres) held that 3.d4 opened up the position too early, needlessly dissipating the tension; 3.Bb5 was much the preferred move. But take a look at some of the players who have adopted the Scotch in recent years: Ivanchuk, Radjabov, Morozevich and Carlsen. They’re not the kind of customers who’d readily seek out a simple position, gladly settle for a draw or play an innocuous opening. It is only because the Scotch, while solid, has a real drop of poison that such super-GMs choose to play it.
Just study Vladimir Barsky’s excellent book and you will be sure to agree with this assessment. There is full, comprehensive coverage of all Black’s options and against the main one, 4 … Nf6, the author gives three lines:
- Mieses’ 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5, very much favoured by Kasparov
- 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Bd3 d5 7.e5, a sharp line involving a pawn sacrifice
- And finally 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Bd3 d5 7.0-0, with a slightly better endgame for White in prospect
Don’t be surprised, incidentally, if Soloviov’s 12.Nxg7! (on page 68) leads to the permanent abandonment of Steinitz’s 4 … Qh4. Gutman’s magisterial 4 … Qh4 in the
Scotch (2001) makes no mention of this move (see page 239 of that book), and it seems a genuinely significant discovery.
The publisher’s description of The Scotch Game for White, a solid survey of an opening that has been played at the highest level but is still underestimated, can be read here.