Caro-Kann Advance Variation

Caro-Kann Advance Variation

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James D asked:

I seem to have come to the conclusion that the advance variation against the Caro-Kann is the most aggressive, but what then? I’ve tried various ways to play the Advance for White, but the latest is 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bg5 which basically provokes black to play …Qb6, forking my pawns.

I managed to play this against someone and win:

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bg5 Qb6 6.Bd3 Bxd3 7.Qxd3 Qxb2 8.e6 Qxa1 9.Qb3 Qxd4 10.Qxb7 fxe6 11.Be3 Qe4 12.Nf3 Kd8 13.O-O g5 14.Nc3 Qc4 15.Qxa8 Qxc3 16.Rb1, 1-0.

However, I’m under the impression that this kind of crazy opening is not one that I should use as my primary weapon against the Caro-Kann. Should I keep playing it?

Dear James D:

Though 5.c4 is white’s most popular move (992 games in my database), 5.Bg5 has scored insanely well for White in recent years – my database has 18 games featuring 5.Bg5, with White winning 16 and drawing two. Even more telling is that your game against “someone” followed M.Perunovic (2580) - B.Lalith (2480), 11th Dubai Open 2009 up to black’s 11th move: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bg5 Qb6 6.Bd3 Bxd3 7.Qxd3 Qxb2 8.e6 Qxa1 9.Qb3 Qxd4 10.Qxb7 fxe6 11.Be3 Qa4 12.Qxa8 Qa5+ 13.Nd2 Qd8 14.Ngf3 Nf6 15.0-0 g6 16.Rb1 Nbd7 17.Qxc6 Bg7 18.Ng5, 1-0.

Clearly you should quit playing this line for White immediately! After all, if you win every game too easily, chess will become boring.

Of course, not everyone will go into this stuff as Black. After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 Black has interesting alternatives to 4…h5 like 4…Qb6!? and the popular 4…h6!? when 5.g4 Bd7 (5…Be4!? and 5…Bh7!? also get air time now and then), played by both Leko and Ivanchuk, has proved to be a solid choice.

Naturally, the Advance Variation isn’t joined at the hip with 4.h4. If White gets tired of pushing his h-pawn, other moves are plentiful and successful: 4.Nf3 leads to both positional and sharp lines, 4.Nc3 is a prelude to one of the most tactical systems in chess, and less common moves like 4.Bd3, 4.g4, 4.Ne2, 4.Be3, 4.c4 4.c3, 4.Nbd2, 4.f4, and 4.Be2 also have their grandmaster devotees.

To answer your question, you should ride the 5.Bg5 wave until someone cuts it down to size, or until you find you don’t like what you’re getting vs. 4…h6. Then you can give all those other 4th move White alternatives a try! Simply put, the Advance Variation is one of white’s best ways to deal with the Caro-Kann, so why not keep milking it?


Jemptymethod said (commenting on an article I wrote about the Budapest Gambit):

As a long-time Budapest/3...Ng4 player, I started flirting with the Farajowicz (3…Ne4) two or three years ago, and I can tell you with certainty: it’s not any good. I’ve used chess engines to contradict the analyses of both Moskalenko and Gutman in many lines, not just 4.Nf3. 

Dear Empty:

Most strong players don’t trust 3…Ne4, but you state that it’s no good because you’ve “used chess engines to contradict the analyses of both Moskalenko and Gutman.”

I know you meant well by this, and that you were trying to give good advice to other readers, but please take a moment to think about what you said. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Done with that moment of Zen? Okay, now we can analyze this whole situation.

First off, it’s you vs. two strong grandmasters. Clearly, you’re outnumbered and vastly outgunned, but … you make it clear that your use of a computer gives you an edge. However, ponder this: don’t you think that both of these grandmasters also use computers? And, when you mix their use of computers with their vastly superior strength, their overwhelming superiority in basic chess understanding, and their ability to lead a computer in the right direction (something lesser players aren’t able to do), how can you even entertain the notion that you have a pristine vision of the board that this pair of titled giants lack?

I should add that Gutman is still writing articles to this day defending the Farajowicz. Are you going to say he’s wrong because your engine is bigger than his? That might impress the non-chess playing ladies, but those in the know will just widen their eyes, snicker, and walk away.

Now, I’m not arguing with your opinion that 3…Ne4 sucks – it probably does. But note that I said, “probably.” How can I insist that Moskalenko and Gutman are just wrong when both are stronger players than I am, both have devoted infinitely more time to this opening than me, and both undoubtedly use every chess engine money can buy to support their analytical views? At the very least, I can voice my opinion in a polite way and not bash my chess superiors.

The advent of computers, and the illusion they give to the masses who think their computer’s analysis is their analysis, is very destructive. It illogically strips grandmasters of the little respect they have, creates a false view of chess knowhow in the amateur’s mind, and ultimately (if engines aren’t used properly) stunts the chess student’s growth as a player by making him believe he understands things that he clearly doesn’t.

When going over a game with a student, he will often say something like, “I’m better here.” I’ll ask why, and he’ll say, “My computer says I’m 0.48 ahead.” I’ll insist: “Yes, but why are you better?” And, in many cases the student won’t have a clue. Of course, the computer might be right, and at other times it might be wrong – that doesn’t concern me. What does concern me is the student increasing his understanding of the game, and mindlessly parroting a computer’s numeric is a surefire road to chess ruin.

In future, if you intend to make a sweeping statement or challenge the analysis of a professional player who has devoted his life to the game (and I welcome people to do so since analytical errors are extremely common), please offer an analysis mixed with a polite query. That way a meaningful dialogue can begin.

Kasabiian said (commenting on the same article):

Gutman’s analysis is p00p.

Dear Mr. Kasabiian:

Are you a stronger player than grandmaster Gutman? Or are you parroting what your computer said, never imagining that Mr. Gutman is also making use of modern technology? Instead of thinking things through in a logical manner, you just slander the guy’s work (offering us nothing but childish rudeness) and expect us to bow down in awe and wonder.

For those that think chess professionals don’t own computers, don’t have databases, and don’t have chess engines, you somehow figured us out! I admit it, you win, our dirty secret has finally come to light! We communicate via smoke signals and drums, and write by etching letters onto stone tablets. Your magical boxes with their strange “chess engines” are a mystery to us – supernatural, scary things you make use of to refute everything we say.

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