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Thread: Beating the Caro-Kann

  1. #11
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    Thanks for the explanations Kevin, it's all good. I guess I can a be a little too stubborn at times , so I take my share of the blame...

    One of the reasons why I never took up the ...Nc6 line is that after 6.Nf3, (6.Bg5 being considered as "risky" for both sides, but probably more so for White), black's best move is 6...Bg4, which leads to an endgame where neither side has much, and it's practically impossible to play for a win for Black... or White!.
    There's been a recent try to improve the variation for white with an in between check on c5:



    [Event "Analysis"]
    [Site "Canadian forum"]
    [Date "2018.12.12"]
    [Round "0"]
    [White "Not important"]
    [Black "Not importan"]
    [Result "?"]
    [PlyCount "30"]

    1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nf3 {This is the most
    solid line here, after which ...Bg4 is thought to be best. The main line now
    leads to a completely equal position, but there's a recent new idea which is
    causing black some problems.} Bg4 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Qb3 Bxf3 9. gxf3 e6 (9...
    Nxd4 $4 10. Bb5+ {And White wins.}) 10. Qxb7 Nxd4 11. Bb5+ Nxb5 12. Qc6+ (12.
    Qxb5+ Qd7 13. Qxd7+ (13. Nxd5 exd5 {Unlike the line with 12...Qc6+, here
    Black's King hasn't moved and can therefore still castle, so any move other
    than Qxd7, which tranposes into the endgame, is just bad.}) 13... Kxd7 14. Nxd5
    exd5) 12... Ke7 13. Qc5+ $5 {This was first tried by GM Grischuk in a rapid
    game. The move looks absurd because Black can retreat his Knight to d6.} (13.
    Qxb5 Qd7 14. Nxd5+ Qxd5 15. Qxd5 exd5 {This has been played hundreds of times.
    Unlike the other line, Black's King is here on e7 rather than d7, but the
    position is so equal that it doesn't really make much of a difference.}) 13...
    Ke8 (13... Qd6 14. Nxd5+ (14. Qxb5 {This has been tried also.}) 14... exd5 15.
    Qxb5 Rb8 16. Qd3 $5 {With an unbalanced position.}) (13... Nd6 14. Nxd5+ exd5 {
    And here both 15.Qxd5 or, better, 15.0-0 give White good compensation for the
    piece, with Black's King being stuck in the center for a while.}) 14. Qxb5+ Qd7
    15. Nxd5 exd5 {And here White can retreat his Queen to b3 or d3. Since Black's
    already moved his King, he can no longer castle, which could cause him some
    headaches in the long run.} *


  2. #12
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    I did not see this conversation as anything remotely approaching something that administrators might intervene in. As an occasional Caro-Kann player (something like seven games with five wins and two draws as black if my memory serves) I found it very interesting. When I played 1.e4 the Panov attack was my preferred way of dealing with the Caro-Kann. At the time my play was full of gambits and it seemed a bargain to play white and get all that play without even giving up a pawn. The state of theory and research was much simpler in the 1970s.

    Even though my record with the Caro-Kann would suggest that I should continue to play it, I put it on the shelf for a while pending actually learning some theory. I do occasionally still play it in online blitz with reasonable results. I was miserably lost in almost every one of those tournament games, even the ones I won mainly because my entire foray into understanding the opening was about one hour of training. I even played it against a life time Caro-Kann player in hopes of learning the line he feared most. It seemed a very realistic fear based on the game we played though he lost his way in the complications and I eventually won from a lost position.

    I have a much better theoretical knowledge of 1.e4 e5 or 1.e4 c5 or even the Scandinavian or French defense as openings that I have played and studied more extensively.

  3. #13
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    Grischuk's move I was unaware of. As Black, if I ever were to play 5...Nc6, the Endgame Variation (or now Grischuk's refinement) is something I would possibly side-step, as it does not suit my style, at least at the moment. There is the apparently risky 9...Nb6!?, if home analysis with an engine works out in a certain variation (but my engines are older ones now), and there is the Dangerous Weapons book's idea of 6...g6 (again after 6.Nf3), though the author of that chapter admits it's not exactly perfect - it looks to me that White might gain a slight edge in case(s).

    As an aside, it seems I may have taken a quote from the Well's book out of context earlier regarding 5...Nc6 (i.e. that it may have been sounder than 5...e6), as there was some possible ambiguity involved (i.e. the author likely actually meant to compare 5...Nc6 to 5...g6 instead). Improperly checked things happen in the course of internet conversations, at times. It's hard for me personally to tell if modern books recommending 5...Nc6 (not at all implying 5...e6 is worse) is simply a reflection of a short-lived fad, without seeing if a considerable number of GMs are still playing 5...Nc6 these days at the top level. I don't have much in the way of 2018 databases. Otherwise, I have a fairly modern book on the Panov by D'Costa (2013) where so far I've found no clue about the popularity of any of the major continuations.
    Last edited by Kevin Pacey; 12-10-2018 at 05:31 PM. Reason: Adding content
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vladimir Drkulec View Post
    I did not see this conversation as anything remotely approaching something that administrators might intervene in. As an occasional Caro-Kann player (something like seven games with five wins and two draws as black if my memory serves) I found it very interesting. When I played 1.e4 the Panov attack was my preferred way of dealing with the Caro-Kann. At the time my play was full of gambits and it seemed a bargain to play white and get all that play without even giving up a pawn. The state of theory and research was much simpler in the 1970s.

    Even though my record with the Caro-Kann would suggest that I should continue to play it, I put it on the shelf for a while pending actually learning some theory. I do occasionally still play it in online blitz with reasonable results. I was miserably lost in almost every one of those tournament games, even the ones I won mainly because my entire foray into understanding the opening was about one hour of training. I even played it against a life time Caro-Kann player in hopes of learning the line he feared most. It seemed a very realistic fear based on the game we played though he lost his way in the complications and I eventually won from a lost position.

    I have a much better theoretical knowledge of 1.e4 e5 or 1.e4 c5 or even the Scandinavian or French defense as openings that I have played and studied more extensively.
    Nowadays I have a 'repertoire' with both sides that's wide, even when I'm not occasionally deviating from it with previouly abandoned or suspect stuff. I don't study nearly as much as I think I should (even minimally), nor always keep up with the very latest stuff. Otherwise you might say I have 6 basic choices around move one with both colours, regardless of their move, assuming a mainline opening is played. In the case of 1.e4 c5 or 1...e5 I have two choices with each, against Open Sicilians and Ruy Lopez, so you might say I have 8 regular defences against 1.e4, though in the past I've played 1...e6 (intending the Winawer almost always) about a third of the time. It's part of the core that I know best, and often save for the toughest opponents.

    When it comes to the Caro I often avoid the most ultra-solid stuff as Black, though there are exceptions. Against the Classical (3.Nc3) I lean on 4...Bf5 (often preferring to castle long, but still hope for some activity, in a way) or else I play the more suspect Bronstein-Larsen after 4...Nf6. I don't know if 4...Nd7, which I've never played yet, is so much in vogue as 4...Bf5, but they seem to be both mainlines. The Advance so far I've played 3...Bf5 against, but would sidestep any attempt to get into the wildest lines of the Shirov line, where there's way too much theory to be absorbed just to survive as Black, I would think (just like I don't allow the Marshall as White in the Lopez, but play it as Black since most of the traps and pressures work against White).

    One time when I transposed to a Panov as White (via 1.c4) against NM (and Newsletter editor, and TD) John Upper, he played 5...Nc6, and I played one of the few ways to avoid the Endgame Variation (though I played 6.Nf3 instead of 6.Bg5, even). It was a way mentioned by Gallagher. I lost, but probably not the fault of the opening. The few other times I've played the Panov I've had better success, though still not as much as with the offbeat 2.Nc3 d5 3.Qf3 (or even more normal 3.Nf3, thus far), which somehow has suited me even better so far, though I haven't faced the Caro nearly as often as even the French, which happens historically about 20% of the time to me when I play 1.e4 (though with Halldor, or formerly John, it happens 100% of the time). I also haven't yet faced too many master+ strength players who play the Caro as Black.
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio.

  5. #15
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    There was a Jovanska Houska 2015 book on the Caro-Kann. There are also three new 2018 books from Andrew Martin, Daniel Fernandez and Victor Bologan. I am sure that Larry Bevand and Strategy and Games has most if not all of them. The Fernandez book is from Thinkers Publishing and is the only one that might be tricky though Larry usually has a good selection of such publishers.

  6. #16
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    Vlad: glad to know you're a member of the Caro-Kann lovers club! The caro will always be a realiable and faithful defence, but true, some effort on our side to keep up with modern theory is essential.
    Kevin, good point about the ...Nb6 variation. I did mention it in passing when I talked about Jacob Aagard's book on the caro-kann, and his opinion is that "white should have the advantage", but as you pointed out, the book is rather old.
    I did a quick search in Mega2018, with games where at least one of the players was 2300. This is the statistics that I got:

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    So, that looks like bad news, and the fact that so few people chose it is also a bad sign...

    I did another search in the main line of the ...Nc6 variation, also for games where at least one player was 2300+. The results prove that it is incredibly solid (but difficult to win for either side).

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Kevin, regarding your choice of subvariations in the Caro, I┤m glad to hear you try the Bronstein variation from time to time. I've been playing it consistently for many years.

  7. #17
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    Hi Javier,

    I don't see your stats as bad news at all. Black plays pretty close to his rating and white does not play much above his rating. I think if you pick your spots the Caro-Kann will get the job done for most players. I have found that young players do not always know how to deal with the middlegames that arise. I may make a push to look at the theory and try to play it in some tournament games in the new year. Resources like chesspublishing.com are useful in prep work.

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