The Rise Of The Caro-Kane Variation

The Rise Of The Caro-Kane Variation

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Hello chess friends,

Three years ago I got a dangerous but unsound sacrifice, that virtually no one besides me played, recognized as the Caro-Kane Variation. Since then, I kept playing it in online games, but no one knew about it and it remained an obscure surprise weapon. Then, a couple of months ago, everything changed.

Chess streamer, Volen Dyulgerov, better known as Witty Alien, began to promote his own sacrificial idea against the Caro, the Alien Gambit, which has become the hottest new line in online chess. It seems that all of the top chess personalities have started to play and discuss it.

It turns out that the Alien Gambit and Caro-Kane are only one move different. The Alien Gambit features an early d2-d4, while the Caro-Kane has Ng1-f3. Perhaps just on accident, the Alien Gambit boom has led to a huge spike in the popularity of the Caro-Kane as well. The funny part is that most people that play the Caro-Kane think that they're playing the Alien Gambit!

Witty Alien himself has gone out of his way to clear up the confusion. He had me on his channel to discuss the different ideas in our two openings. It was great talking with him. Thanks, Volen!

Even with his help, it's been an uphill climb to let people know what opening they're playing. Here are a couple of recent games from top streamers. I love seeing their ideas in the Caro-Kane, even if they are calling it something else while they play it!

We will start with a nice miniature from Hikaru.

And a complicated effort from Eric Rosen. You may notice that Game Review isn't too friendly to my favorite unsound opening. You can also see Eric's thoughts during the game.

Through it all, I'm still playing the Caro-Kane, even though it may be losing a bit of its surprise value. Here's a recent effort against a GM.

I'll leave you with my favorite Caro-Kane to date, featuring a spectacular mate.

Have you given the Alien Gambit or the Caro-Kane a try? Can you tell the difference between them? Please let me know in the comments.

NM Jeremy Kane

Jeremy Kane is a National Master and three-time Wisconsin state champion. He is the Curriculum Director for He has been teaching chess in person and online for over 15 years and has designed hundreds of lessons, available on He is the author of Starting Out The Trompowsky on Chessble and The Next To Last Mistake, a book on defensive ideas in chess.

He is the developer of the Caro-Kane Variation of the Caro-Kann Defense.


Twitter/X: @chessmensch