Not as harmless as it looks

Not as harmless as it looks

spassky
spassky
Jun 23, 2009, 12:00 AM |
12 | Opening Theory

Look in any chess opening book about the Caro-Kann Defense and you will find a very small percentage of the book devoted to the Exchange Variation.  Usually only a page or two, the book will site a few lines as giving Black easy equality and dismiss the whole variation as completely harmless.  Then why do I have a huge plus score using this seemingly innocuous opening?  First, since the variation begins on move 3, I get to play it every time my opponent plays the Caro-Kann.  He has to be ready for the whole book, but I only have to know this line.  Second, I get a lot of practice with this line, since the Caro-Kann is relatively popular among amateur players, having a reputation as a "safe" opening.  Third, having gotten all of this practice and having read every book dealing with this line ( I even have a rare Italian book about this line only!), I am fully aware of what I am trying to do, how to do it, what Black might try and how to prevent it, and what Black should be doing and what to do if he fails to do it.  Fourth, all of the preceding gives me absolute confidence that I will be calling the shots and Black will be groveling for a draw in an opening he was told was "harmless".

The lesson here is that you can defeat even strong players with a pet line in which you are well-versed in all of it's intricacies.  All you need in addition to that is a pinch of patience, a taste for tactics, and a dash of imagination.  Then you'll have a recipe for success! 

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