Kt Maneuvers Against the Advance Caro-Kann

Kt Maneuvers Against the Advance Caro-Kann

| 23 | Opening Theory

Drumdaddy (commenting on an article about the Schliemann) said:

I suppose that there are many excellent players who can comfortably read through game moves presented in paragraph form, but I am not one of them and would much prefer active diagrams or moves presented in list form. I've gotten too lazy to break out a real board and pieces and keep trying to find my place in a cryptic paragraph on a computer screen.

Dear Drumdaddy:

Hey man, you either puffed too much, drank too much, or desperately need a new pair of glasses (if it's one of the first two, I'll join you). I always present BOTH moves/prose in paragraph form AND an active board so you can play through everything with clicks and grunts. I don’t have to do this, and indeed it takes me longer to do so. However, I present things this way because:

* Personally I love to print out paragraph form analysis for my files. This allows the reader to do so if they are so inclined.

* I find that reading explanations and prose is FAR easier on the eye in paragraph form than in the active board. Thus I recommend you look through the non-board stuff and get a feel for what’s being said, and only then look at the analysis on the active board.

* Of course, if you simply hate the paragraph form moves/analysis, ignore it altogether and just look at the material on the active boards. I should warn you that, if you do this, then you run the risk of missing a paragraph or two of instructive prose that might well end up being the whole point of the article.

So, why couldn’t you see the boards? Perhaps there’s a software glitch (easily fixed by a basic download)? I don’t know, but my masters at should be able to iron the problem out.


Anmol Sood asked:

I am a 13-year-old beginner and I mostly play the Ruy Lopez and King’s Indian Attack.

I understand and enjoy some success with quite a few openings as White, but I am not doing very well with the black pieces.

My question for you concerns the Caro-Kann, Advance Variation (B12) – 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5. I use this as White and do quite well with it, but as Black I feel intimidated by white’s space and can’t find good squares for my Knights. How should Black play against the Advance Variation? 

Dear Mr. Sood:

It’s far from easy to answer such a general question since White has many ways of playing the Advance Variation and Black often has quite a few possible replies to each one. Thus, I’ll keep it simple by giving white’s most common Advance systems, showing a quick taste of black’s main replies, and demonstrating some general Knight placements in the positions that often occur.

After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 we have a pawn structure that’s highly reminiscent of the French Defense (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5). In the French, Black usually answers 3.e5 with 3…c5, striking at the base of white’s pawn chain and preparing to increase the pressure against d4 with the following team effort setup: …Nc6, …Qb6, and at some point …Ng8-e7/h6-f5 when everyone is bashing d4.

It stands to reason that Black (in the Caro-Kann) can try this same piece configuration, but he’s already pushed his c-pawn to c6 which means that a subsequent …c6-c5 will leave him a tempo behind the French position. Losing a tempo like that isn’t a good thing, but there’s a huge compensating factor: in the French, black’s light-squared Bishop is locked in (the e6-pawn blocks it), while in the Caro-Kann this Bishop can leap out to f5 or g4.

As a result, Black can and often does play to create that French piece configuration with the added bonus of tossing his light-squared Bishop to f5 (in some cases followed by …Be4 where it hits the f3-Knight, which defends d4) or g4 (hitting the f3-Knight and, in effect, adding to the pressure against d4).

Though the classic Caro-Kann reply is 3…Bf5 – getting the Bishop outside the pawn chain in anticipation of …e7-e6 – it’s also possible to take the bull by the horns and hit the center immediately with 3…c5, accepting the loss of tempo by …c7-c6-c5, but intending to make quick use of the c8-Bishop’s freedom along the c8-h3 diagonal. In a way, us Caro players would love it if this logical advance actually worked, but it’s far from clear if that’s the case. The lines here can be very sharp and very tactical, and in some of them Black sacrifices a pawn. I can’t, of course, write a book here, but the most dangerous lines appear to be (after 3…c5): A. 4.Nf3 (Intending a line opening “let’s blast Black off the board” c2-c4 advance.); B. 4.c3; C. 4.dxc5.

Other moves like 4.Ne2, 4.Nc3, and 4.c4 aren’t that worrisome. 

A. 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.c4

Starting an immediate war. Also commonly seen is 5.dxc5 Bg4 6.Be2 (The sharper 6.Bb5 also doesn’t promise White anything after 6…Qa5+ 7.Nc3 e6 8.Be3 Nge7 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 a6 11.Ba4 Ng6 12.12.a3 Qc7 when e5 will fall and Black will be assured an excellent position) 6…e6 7.Nbd2 Bxc5 8.a3 Nge7 9.c4 Bxf3 10.Nxf3 dxc4 11.Qxd8+ Rxd8 12.Bxc4 a6 13.0-0 Ng6 and, as usual, the e5-pawn is a ready-made target.

5…cxd4 6.Nxd4 e6 7.Nc3 Bb4! 8.Nxc6

8.Qg4 looks scary but can be met by 8…Nxe5! 9.Qxg7 Qf6, =.

8…bxc6 9.Qa4


* 9.Qg4!? d4! 10.a3 (10.Qxg7?? dxc3 wins for Black) 10…Bf8! 11.Ne2 (11.Ne4 Qa5+ 12.Bd2 Qxe5 favors Black) 11…c5 12.Nf4 Qc7 (once again targeting e5 for obliteration) 13.Nd3 Ba6 14.Qd1 Bb7 15.Bd2 Ne7 16.b4 Ng6, = (analysis by Jovanka Houska).

* 9.Bd3 Ne7 10.0-0 Ng6 was pointed out by Jovanka Houska with the lines 11.f4 0-0 12.Qa4 Qb6+ and 11.Qh5 Ba6! 12.Bxg6 fxg6 covered in detail in her excellent book PLAY THE CARO-KANN (Everyman Chess, 2007).

9…Rb8 when Ms. Houska gives a ton of (extremely complicated) original analysis in her aforementioned book, and ultimately claims that Black is okay. Her main line: 10.Qxa7 (White gave 10.a3 a try in the game R. Edouard – J. Houska, La Rouche 2007: 10…Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 Qc7 12.f4 Bd7 13.Bd3 c5 14.Qc2 dxc4 15.Bxc4 Ne7 16.0-0 0-0 17.Be3 and now she should have played 17…Bb5 with a perfectly satisfactory game.) 10...Rb7 11.Qa4 Qc7 12.f4 Ne7 13.a3 Bc5 14.Bd3 Ra7 15.Qc2 Ba6 16.b4 dxc4! 17.Be4 Bd4 18.Bb2 c5 19.Rd1 Ng6 20.Bxg6 fxg6 21.Ne4 0-0 22.Bxd4 cxd4 23.Rxd4 Rxf4!! 24.Nf6+ gxf6 25.Rxf4 c3!! 26.Rf3 (26.Re4? loses to 26…Bb5 27.exf6 Rxa3!) 26…Qxe5+ 27.Kf2 Qd4+ 28.Re3 Qf4+ 29.Rf3 Qd4+, =. Of course, all this is largely untested and it seems that even Houska herself might have lost faith in it. If this is indeed the case, I'm not sure why. It could be 10.cxd5 (instead of 10.Qxa7) 10...exd5 (10...Qxd5 11.Qxb4 Rxb4 12.Nxd5 seems more comfortable for White) 11.a3 Bxc3+ 12.bxc3 Qc7 13.Bf4 which might be a bit better for White (M. Erdogdu - G. Timoshenko, Kalamaria 2008).

B. 4.c3

White simply holds onto his center.


Making use of the French template, which calls for the pressurizing of d4.


5.Be3 Qb6 is also fine for Black.


There you have it! Black offers the c-pawn (5…e6? would just be a pure tempo down French Defense) for quick and fluid development. After 5…Bg4 Black not only has instant designs against d4, but he also can follow with …e6 with the tempo down but free-range Bishop situation I mentioned earlier.


The only logical move. 6.Be2 e6 is easy for Black.

6…e6 7.b4

Holding onto to his extra c-pawn. Also played is 7.Be3 Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Nxe5 9.Bb5+ but Black is fine after 9…Nc6.


And not 7…Nxe5?? 8.Qa4+.

8.Nbd2 g6

Black’s plan is now clear: he will hammer e5 with …Bg7 and, if necessary, …Qc7.

9.Bb5 Bg7 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Nxf3 0-0 12.Bf4 Qc7 13.Qe2 a5!

Cracking white’s queenside structure.

14.Rb1 axb4 15.cxb4 d4 16.a4 Nd5 17.Bd2 Nxe5 18.Nxe5 Bxe5 19.0-0 Nc3, =, A. Lastin – K. Landa, Tomsk 2006.

C. 4.dxc5 e6

After all my mumblings about the c8-Bishop being free, Black willingly locks it in! What in the world is going on? In this case Black feels that his lost tempo is balanced out by white’s “premature” capture on c5. Whether this is true remains to be seen.

In these lines, Black will make use of two “cracking” pawn breaks – a well timed …b7-b6 strike and the center smacking …f7-f6 hit.

The verdict also isn’t in on the greedier 4…Nc6!?


Lots of other moves here. One example: 5.Be3 Nh6 (heading for f5) 6.Bxh6 gxh6 (it looks ugly, but the loss of white’s dark-squared Bishop will come back to haunt him) 7.Nd2 Nc6 8.Ngf3 Bd7 9.Bd3 Qc7 10.Qe2 Bg7 and, as we see over and over again, white’s e5-pawn is about to fall.

5.Be3 Nh6 6.c3 is critical. Jovanka Houska gives 6…Nd7 and follows it up by a zillion pages of original analysis. If you want to see it, buy her book: PLAY THE CARO-KANN (Everyman Chess, 2007).

5…Bxc5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Nge7 8.Bf4 Ng6 9.Bg3 0-0 10.Nbd2 f5 11.exf6 Qxf6 12.Bxg6 Qxg6 13.c4 Be7 when, according to Houska, the chances are even.

Many of the lines with 3…c5 demand very active play from Black, and more than a bit of memorization. However, the key strategic ideas are easy to retain and will appear again and again.


* A black Knight on c6 hits both d4 and e5. If the d4-pawn takes on c5 then the e5-pawn becomes very weak.

* The weakness of the e5-pawn is often highlighted by the simple maneuver …Ng8-e7-g6.

* If White chops on c5 and holds that pawn with b2-b4, Black can increase the overall tension with cracking moves like …a7-a5 and …f7-f6.

* Since the d4-pawn is often black’s main target, getting his g8-Knight to f5 either by …Ng8-e7-f5 or …Ng8-h6-f5 is a critical idea in black’s strategic armament. Note that if White captures on h6 with his Bishop, black’s pawn structure problem is compensated by his possession of a dark-squared Bishop (and white’s lack of one), which often allows him to bring even more pressure against e5 (after …Bg7).

Many of these ideas can also be used in the positions that occur after 3…Bf5.

After 3…Bf5 we’ll look at: A) 4.g4; B) 4.f4; C) 4.Bd3; D) 4.c4; E) 4.h4 h5 5.c4; F) 4.Be3; G) 4.Nd2; H) 4.Nf3; I) 4.Nc3

A) 4.g4 Be4

Forcing White to play a very ugly pawn move. Also popular is 4…Bd7 followed by 5…e6 when we’re back to a tempo down French Defense with the important point that White has severely weakened his kingside structure with g2-g4.

5.f3 Bg6 6.h4 h5 7.e6 Qd6! 8.exf7+ Bxf7 and Black has an excellent game – white’s mindless aggression has only served to create weaknesses in his own camp.

B) 4.f4

This might appeal to amateurs (and it’s been played by the mighty Morozevich!), but it carries some serious baggage: it weakens the e4-square and blocks white’s dark-squared Bishop.

4…e6 5.Nf3 h5!

A VERY important idea! Black wants to make the f5-square his own. Thus, by clamping down on g4 (preventing a possible g2-g4 advance) he lays claim to f5. 

6.Be3 Qb6

Eyeing both b2 and d4.

7.Qc1 Nh6 and the Knight will eventually take up shop on f5 with a good position.

C) 4.Bd3

Amateurs tend to love this move, but it actually plays into black’s hands since it creates light-squared weaknesses in white’s camp and allows Black to make use of an instructive maneuver.

4…Bxd3 5.Qxd3 e6 6.Nf3 Qa5+! 7.c3 Qa6!

There it is! Black’s Queen will strike fear down the f1-a6 diagonal if White avoids the exchange, but the endgame is also nice for Black.

8.Qxa6 Nxa6 9.0-0 c5 10.Be3 Rc8 11.Nbd2 Ne7 and Black can be pleased with the opening’s result.

D) 4.c4

Hitting the center, but ultimately it will give Black access to the d5-square.

4…e6 5.Nc3 Ne7 6.Nge2 dxc4 7.Ng3 Nd7 8.Bxc4 Nb6

The Knight takes aim at the juice d5-hole.

9.Bb3 Qd7 10.0-0 Bg6 11.Nce4 Nf5, =. With one Knight heading for d5 and another landing on f5, Black has to be happy.

E) 4.h4 h5 5.c4

This is the same as line “D”, with the important difference that g5 has now been weakened.

5…e6 6.Bg5

6.Nc3 Ne7 7.Bg5 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Nd7 9.Nge2 f6! (A concept that readers who looked at the 3…c5 lines should be well acquainted with by now.) 10.exf6 gxf6 11.Be3 Nb6 12.Bb3 Ned5 13.Nf4 Nxf4 14.Bxf4 Bd6 15.Bxd6 Qxd6 16.Qe2 0-0-0 17.0-0-0 Rhg8 left Black with the preferable position in Vujic - Perunovic, Senta 2007.


IMPORTANT! Note that Black does NOT want to play …Be7 since the exchange of dark-squared Bishops severely weakens the d6-square. After exchanging dark-squared Bs, a later …dxc4 gives white’s Knights access to e4. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal since black’s dark-squared B would keep an eye on d6, but once they are traded, a White Knight hopping to e4 and d6 is serious business.

7.Qd2 dxc4 8.Nc3

And not 8.Bxc4?? Bxb1.

8…Qa6 9.Nh3 Nd7 10.Be2 Ne7 11.b3 Bd3 12.Bxd3 cxd3 13.0-0 c5 14.dxc5 Nc6 15.a4 Bxc5 16.Nb5 Qb6 17.Qxd3 Ncxe5 and White didn’t have enough for the sacrificed pawn in Kurnosov - Galkin, Kazan 2005.

F) 4.Be3

This, in conjunction with Nb1-d2-b3, is meant to make it hard for Black to play his thematic …c6-c5 push. 



5.Nd2 Nd7 6.Nb3

By now you might guess that 6.f4 can be met by 6…h5 followed by …Nh6.

6…Ne7 7.Be2

Pardon me for ramming a point home, but let’s do the …h7-h5 dance once more: 7.f4 h5! 8.Nf3 Bg4 9.h3 Nf5 10.Bf2 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 h4 (stopping g2-g4 once and for all) 12.Bd3 Be7 13.0-0 g6 (a common maneuver – Black wants to keep his Rook on h8 so it can bolster his kingside structure. He intends to castle by hand via …g6 and …Ke8-f8-g7) 14.c3 Kf8 15.Kh2 Kg7 and Black has a very good position, Situru - Wu Shaobin, Singapore 2006.


Here we have a brand new Knight setup (a huge favorite of grandmaster Lars Schandorff in his wonderful book, THE CARO-KANN [Quality Chess, 2010)])!!! The idea is that Black is very solid so he puts off his …c5 advance and prepares to calmly develop with …Be7 and …0-0. Then he might play for …c5 or he might seek a different kind of queenside action.

8.f4 Be7 9.Nf3 0-0 10.0-0 a6 11.Rc1 b5 12.c3 Ncb6, “Black is already somewhat better because of my active play on the queenside” – Schandorff.

G) 4.Nd2 e6 5.Nb3 Nd7

Getting ready to employ the “Schandorff Maneuver”.

6.Nf3 Ne7 7.Be2 Nc8 8.0-0 Be7 9.a4 0-0 10.a5 a6 11.Be3 Na7 12.Ne1 c5 13.Nxc5 Nxc5 14.dxc5 Nc6 15.Nf3 Bg4 16.Nd4 Bxe2 17.Nxc6 Bxd1 18.Nxd8 Be2 19.Rfe1 Rfxd8 20.Rxe2 d4 21.Bd2 Bxc5, and Black had an edge in Galkin - Ivanchuk, Khanty-Mansiysk 2007.

H) 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2

The very popular Short Variation, named after Grandmaster Nigel Short.


Leaping into the typical French Defense plan with the light-squared Bishop comfortably outside the pawn chain. Another popular, slower, plan is 5…Nd7 followed by …Ne7, …Bg6, …Nf5, and …Be7.

6.0-0 Nc6 7.c3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nge7 9.b3

Two other lines that make use of two of our usual Knight maneuvers:

9.Be3 Bg4 10.Nbd2 Nf5 (this square is a dream for this Knight) 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Nxf3 Be7 13.Bd3 Nxe3 14.fxe3 0-0 15.Rc1 Rc8, =, Hirscheider - Haluschka, corr. 2005.

9.a3 Nc8 (and here’s another “Schandorff Maneuver”) 10.b4 Be7 11.Nbd2 Nb6 12.Bb2 0-0 13.Rc1 Rc8 14.Qb3 a6 15.Rfe1 Qd7 16.Nf1 Na7! taking control over a4 and b5 and assuring himself a good game. Schakel - Goebel, corr. 2005.

9…Rc8 10.Bb2 Ng6

This not only hits e5 in anticipation of the thematic central strike …f7-f6, but it also creates the possibility of …Nf4 in some lines.

11.g3 f6 12.Nbd2 Be7 13.a3 a5 14.Rc1 0-0 15.Kg2 Qb6 with a good game for Black in T. Ernst - Gausel, Oslo 1994.

I) 4.Nc3 e6 5.g4 Bg6 6.Nge2 c5 7.h4 is a whole other kettle of fish. So far we’ve been looking at lines that allow Black to play by understanding certain setups. However, this line is so complicated and violent (and so memory intensive) that it’s way, way off point (since this whole article is really about typical Knight positions for Black against the Advance Variation!). For those that want to know to deal with it, I strongly recommend Schandorff’s book, THE CARO-KANN. 
On the other hand, for those that don’t want to memorize tons of lines, it’s possible to avoid white’s hoped for mess after 4.Nc3 with 4…a6!? which stops later Bb5 nonsense and allows Black to play a nice, calm game (Black got a good game with it in Llobel Cortell – Karpov, Manises 2001).


* In many positions (especially if White plays f2-f4) a timely …h7-h5 prevents possible g2-g4 advances and gives Black long-term ownership of the f5-square.

* When f2-f4 is met by …h5, Black will often castle kingside by hand via …g6 and …Ke8-f8-g7, keeping his Rook on h8 to bolster his kingside structure.

* If White exchanges light-squared Bishops the f5-square can easily fall into black’s hands and the lack of the light-squared guarding Bishop allows Black to consider the instructive …Qa5+ followed by …Qa6 maneuver.

* c2-c4 often gives the black Knights access to the d5-square (after a timely …dxc4) and also leaves white’s d-pawn vulnerable down the half-open d-file.

* After c2-c4 is met by …dxc4, a Black Knight can easily reach d5 by the maneuver …Nb8-d7-b6-d5.

* In lines with c4 and …dxc4, Black does NOT want to exchange dark-squared Bishops since that severely weakens the d6-square. A white Knight could then hop to e4 and onwards to d6.

* Black can (if White is opening in a slow positional manner) often hold off on the thematic …c6-c5 push and instead employ the “Schandorff Maneuver”: …Nb8-d7, …Ng8-e7-c8, …Be7, …0-0, followed by …c5 or even …b7-b5 and …Nc8-b6-c4.

Please keep in mind that the maneuvers seen in both 3…c5 and 3…Bf5 are often interchangeable. If you learn these ideas, you’ll be able to play the Black side vs. the Advance Variation with a certain confidence and flair.


Mimchi said (concerning a book recommendation I made in an earlier article):

Grandmaster Repetoire 7: The Caro-Kann is not for sale yet; it arrives in stores July 1st. So I can only assume (if Mr. Silman saw it before it is published), that Mr. Silman is friends with Lars Schandorff and is marketing his book for sales. Please don’t say a book is good just because you want to sell it.

Dear Mimchi:

Why do people make mean-spirited comments about topics that they are completely clueless about? As anyone that knows me will attest to, when I talk about chess books I’m always 100% honest and have even been known to trash the work of some of my friends (which, of course, doesn’t please them at all!).

Since I review books, I often get advanced copies before they appear on the U.S. bookshelves. As for Mr. Schandorff, I’ve never met him, and I didn’t even know who he was before I looked at this book on the Caro-Kann. Having done so, I’ll be sure to eagerly look for anything he does in the future.

In truth, this reply isn’t just about Mr. Mimchi, it’s a reply to everyone who spouts off in aggressive but ignorant fashion without having a clue what they are saying. Instead, why not simply ask me what’s up in a polite manner? If you do that, I’ll answer in kind, and won’t have to waste my time humiliating you in front of the masses.

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