Scotch Game

The Scotch Game is an open chess opening where White advances a pawn to the d4-square. It starts with the King’s Pawn Opening (1.e4 and 1…e5), and both sides improve the Knights (2.Nf3 and 2…Nc6). Then, White strikes the center with the d4-pawn (3.d4), creating a trading opportunity to open up the position.

Scotch Game

Its name originated in the 1800s as a correspondence game. In the 1900s, Scotch Game was less popular among the elite players because it was thought that it released the central pressure too early. Nowadays, Scotch Game is occasionally chosen to surprise the rival at the highest level.It often leads to open positions and gives tactical opportunities to both parties.

Winning Percentage on Both Sides

Results Rate
Victory for White 30%
Draw 45%
Victory for Black 25%

Main Ideas of the Scotch Game

Scotch Game’s dynamic nature allows both sides to benefit from an open board. Both sides can develop their pieces to their ideal squares and have a tactical battle. The White Queen can quickly get into action in many lines to threaten a Kingside attack. White often doubles Black’s Queenside pawn structure, but this does not affect the game’s course much. This open game often gives White a chance to push the central pawns forward to limit the rival’s options. On the other hand, Black often seeks to strike those extended pawns by placing their pieces ideally.

Scotch Game Theory

The Classical Variation often leads to tactical scenes. Both players typically need to place their pieces in the ideal squares. Since the game is open, its course can be decided in the first couple of moves after the initial opening stage.

The Schmidt Variation, also known as the Mieses Variation, often gives White a vast space advantage. Black aims to attack the overextended White pawns and have a solid structure.

The Scotch Gambit is an aggressive variation where White sacrifices a pawn to gain a strong initiative. By enhancing the development flow, White tries to beat the opponent tactically. It often leads to sharp scenes and many opportunities for both sides.

Classical Variation: 3…exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5

It begins with Scotch Opening (3.d4). Then, Black takes the d4-pawn (3…exd4) and releases the tension in the center. Here, White chooses to capture the d4-pawn with the Knight (4.Nxd4). And the main line of the classical variation is reached once Black assaults the d4-Knight with the f8-Bishop (4…Bc5). It is one of the most played lines in the Scotch Game. The idea of Bc5 is to oppress the d4-Knight and f2-pawn to create a vital threat later on.

Scotch Game Classical Variation

There are two primary responses by White in this position (5.Be3 and 5.Nxf6). The third alternative is to maintain the minor pieces on the board by playing 5.Nb3 (assaulting the c5-Bishop and guarding the Knight).

If White chooses the 5.Nxc6 route, Black has two ideas. They can take the c6-Knight with the b-pawn (5…bxc6) or complicate matters with 5…Qf6. Black often aims to create an assault on the f2-pawn in both of these lines.

If 5…bxc6 is chosen, White often puts the f1-Bishop to d3 (6.Bd3) to protect the e4-pawn and scope the ‘a2-h7’ diagonal. Since the classic f3-Knight is nonexistent on its natural square, Black can aim to checkmate the White King by going 6…Qh4. Here, White can either castle and eliminate the mating ideas (7. O-O) or play more ambitiously by going 7.Qe2 (protecting the f2-pawn and preparing an e5-pawn push). From here, White wants to play h3 in the next move to prevent Bg4 or Ng4 attempts by the opponent. Then, White aims to strike with the e5-pawn push and utilize the Queen in the same file as the enemy King. On the other hand, Black wants to play d6 and stop the e5-pawn push.

One sample line can be 5…bxc6, 6.Bd3, 6…Qh4, and 7.Qe2. Then, Black can stop the e5-pawn push with 7…d6. White can castle (8. O-O) and protect their King. Then, Black must be careful and not play 8…Nf6 because it allows 9.e5, but instead should go for 8…Ne7. Then, White can challenge the annoying c5-Bishop with 9.Be3. Black can castle after exchanges occur on the e3 (9…Bxe3 and 10.Qxe3). Both sides can finish their development, and White can march the f-pawn to f4 to create an assault on the rival King.

If Black chooses to assault the f2-pawn with 5…Qf6 after 5.Nxc6, White can play 6.Qf3 and protect the f2-pawn. These games often lead to an early simplification if both sides play correctly. White typically goes for Bc4 and waits for the enemy to capture on f3-Queen so that they can recapture with the g-pawn.

The second route in the classical variation maintains the tension by guarding the d4-Knight by going 5.Be3. This also protects the f2-pawn. However, the enemy almost always tries 5…Qf6 to increase the tension on the d4-Knight and aims to capture the e3-Bishop with c5-Bishop and ruin White’s Kingside pawn structure.

Hence, 6.Nxc6 after 5.Be3 is a blunder due to 6…Bxe3. White often protects the d4-Knight with the c3-pawn push. Then, both sides improve their pieces. Black often goes for Nge7 and d6. White typically plays Bc4 and castles. White can strike with an f4-pawn push and have a strong foothold in the center. This creates many attacking opportunities against the enemy King and limits the f6-Queen’s options.

Schmidt Variation (Mieses Variation): 4. Nxd4 Nf6

It starts after exchanges occur on d4 (3…exd4 and 4.Nxd4), and Black assaults the vulnerable e4-pawn by improving the g8-Knight to f6 (4…Nf6). This move order is less tactically sharp than the other lines because the f6-Knight blocks the d8-Queen’s square in the classical lines.

Scotch Game Schmidt Variation (Mieses Variation)

From here, White has two viable choices. White can protect the e4-pawn by developing the b1-Knight to c3 (5.Nc3). Or they can simplify the position and capture on c6 (5.Nxc6).

If White chooses the simplification (5.Nxc6), Black has to recapture with the b-pawn (5…bxc6). Otherwise, 5…dxc6 allows 6.Qxd8, 6…Kxd8, and Black to no longer have the castling ability.

Hence, 5…bxc6 is chosen in most of these lines. White can improve the f1-Bishop to d3 (6.Bd3) and guard the e4-pawn. Black typically wants to get rid of the doubled c-pawns. Therefore, they often go for an early d5-pawn advancement (6…d5). White can capture that pawn (7.exd5 and 7…cxd5) and quickly develop the pieces. White usually goes for Nc3, h3, and a short-side castle. Bf4 and Bd6 are standard squares for both parties to place their dark-squared Bishops. They can be exchanged on the d6-square. Black can protect the d5-pawn with the c6-pawn push. Black often wants to utilize its central pawns and pressure the semi-open b-file with the a8-Rook. White can place the d1-Queen on f3 after h3 is played. Both sides must be aware of the pawn structure’s elements to handle these positions.

If White instead chooses to protect the e4-pawn with 5.Nc3, Black typically pins that c3-Knight with 5…Bb4. This move should not be so concerning because Black rarely wants to lose that dark-squared Bishop for that Knight unless they gain something concrete. Doubling the c-pawns is not the main priority or problem for both parties. These games often transition to what we already analyzed in the Nxc6 line. One main difference is that both dark-squared Bishops are still on the board, which might be even better for White.

One sample line could be 5…Bb4, 6.Nxc6, and 6…bxc6. Then, White can choose the regular 7.Bd3 to guard the e4-pawn. Black can choose to go for the regular 7…d5 pawn advancement. Both sides can trade pawns on the d5-square (8.exd5 and 8…cxd5). After that, both sides can castle on the short side (9. O-O and 9…O-O). Then, 10.Bg5 can be played to pin the f6-Knight. The enemy can play 10…c6 to protect the d5-pawn. White can go for 11.Qf3, and the game can be very similar to the other line we have discussed, with dark-squared Bishops still on the board.

Scotch Gambit Line: 3. d4 exd4 4. Bc4

It begins after Black takes on d4 (3…exd4) and White plays 4.Bc4. By not recapturing on the d4-pawn, White aims for quick development and activity. If White succeeds in creating problems for the enemy in the next ten moves, positions often favor them. Black typically seeks to consolidate the extra pawn and win in the endgame.

Scotch Gambit Line

From here, Black can deny the gambit and play a regular developing move such as 4…Nf6. Or they can try to stick to the d4-pawn with 4…Bc5.

If they choose 4…Nf6, White can kick the f6-Knight with the e5-pawn push (5.e5). The classic d5-pawn (5…d5) advancement is the best reply here to solve Black’s space issue. The game can proceed with 6.Bb5 (guarding the Bishop, maintaining the attack on both f6 and c6). Then, Black can improve the f6-Knight to the anchored e4-square (6…Ne4). Eventually, White has to recapture the d4-pawn since they couldn’t generate a vital problem for the enemy. 7.Nxd4 could be chosen, and both sides would improve their pieces (7…Bd7, 8.Bxc6 and 8…bxc6) and castle in the short side (9.O-O).

If Black tries to stick to the pawn with 4…Bc5, White often plays 5.c3 and offers another pawn to open up the d1-Queen’s scope on the important d5-square. It also threatens cxd4 and has a strong center. 5…dxc3 would be a blunder because of a crucial tactical short – 6.Bxf7. After 6…Kxf7 occurs, 7.Qd5+ would recapture the material back, and Black’s King would be vulnerable.

Hence, Black often aims to transition to the Nf6 line with 5…Nf6 and 6…d5 after 6.e5. This move order is the same as the one we already analyzed after the d5-e5 pawns were pushed.

Common Traps in Scotch Opening

Scotch Trap #1

It starts with the Classical Variation of the Scotch Game. White replies with 5.Be3 to guard the d4-Knight. Here, if Black blunders with a move like 5…Nf6, White can win a piece in the next sequence of moves. First, White has to grab the c6-Knight with the d4-Knight (6.Nxc6). Since this move comes with a tempo (the c6-Knight is attacking the d8-Queen), the enemy has to capture it. Once the enemy captures it with the d7-pawn (6…dxc6), Queens can be exchanged (7.Qxd8 and 7…Kxd8). The unprotected c5-Bishop will be captured in the next move (8.Bxc5).

Scotch Trap #2

This one starts after everything is traded off on the d4-square (3…exd4, 4.Nxd4, 4…Nxd4, and 5.Qxd4) in the Scotch Game. Here, the Queen on d4 controls many squares, aiming to push the e4-pawn to e5. If the enemy plays the developing 5…Nf6 move, it will be met by 6.e5. The Knight has to return to g8, which looks awful for Black since they have no development. If Black insists on keeping the Knight in the game with 6…Nh5, 7.g4 would trap the Knight.

Pros and Cons of Scotch Game

Pros Cons
Both sides can develop their pieces quickly and launch an assault on the rival. Some tactical variations can be hard to manage if the player is not precise.
It offers an open game for both parties, allowing several pawn trades. Some variations require understanding pawn structure elements, such as hanging pawns.
Preparation in the Scotch Game often pays off because the variations can be complicated to calculate. Both sides can end up with doubled pawns in many lines.
The game can transition to an Italian type of game in specific lines. White can easily overextend with the pawns, allowing Black to strike back.


The Scotch Game is a playable chess opening characterized by its open nature. Both sides often rapidly develop their pieces due to space abundance. Players must be wary of how they proceed during the game because Black can quickly equalize the game in certain scenes. The games usually consist of tactical opportunities for both parties. Due to its rich nature, this opening is advised to be played at a low level.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on and, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
Ask Question


Is the Scotch Game a good opening?

Yes, the Scotch Game is considered a good opening for players who prefer open positions and tactical play. It’s especially effective in club-level games.

What is the idea of the Scotch Game?

The main idea of the Scotch Game is to quickly challenge Black’s center and develop pieces rapidly. It often leads to open positions and active piece play, offering white chances for an early initiative.

Do GMs play the Scotch Game?

Yes, Grandmasters do play the Scotch Game, though it’s less common at the highest levels. It has been employed by world champions like Garry Kasparov, demonstrating its viability in top-level play.

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