The usual continuation is
followed by 3.Nc3 (the Classical Variation), 3.Nd2 (the Modern Variation), 3.exd5 (the Exchange Variation), or 3.e5 (the Advance Variation). The classical variation (3.Nc3) has gained much popularity.
The Caro–Kann, like the Sicilian Defence and French Defence, is classified as a "Semi-Open Game", but it is thought to be more solid and less dynamic than either of those openings. It often leads to good endgames for Black, who has the better pawn structure.
Advance variation: 3...Bf5 and 3...c5
The 3...Bf5 variation that follows with
- 1.e4 c6
- 2.d4 d5
- 3.e5 Bf5
has gained popularity after having previously been widely regarded as inferior for many years, owing chiefly to the strategic demolition that Aron Nimzowitsch (playing as White) suffered at the hands of José Capablanca in one of their games at the New York 1927 tournament (http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1007846):
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Bd3?! (after the exchange of the light-squared Bishops, Black's play is based on White's light-squared weakness) 4...Bxd3 5.Qxd3 e6 6.Nc3 Qb6 7.Nge2 c5?! (7...Ne7 8.0-0 Qa6) 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.0–0 Ne7 10.Na4? (10.b4! Bxb4 (10...Qxb4 11.Nb5 Qa5 12.Be3 a6 13.Rab1 axb5 14.Bxc5 Nbc6 15.Rxb5 Qc7 16.Bd6 Qd7 17.Rfb1 Nd8 18.Rc5±) 11.Rb1 Qa5 12.Nb5= Moutousis-Cilia Vincenti, Thessalonika, 13.Nov.1988, 1–0) 10...Qc6 11.Nxc5 (11.Qg3 Nf5 12.Qb3 Nc6) 11...Qxc5 12.Be3 Qc7 13.f4 Nf5 14.c3 Nc6 15.Rad1 g6 16.g4 Nxe3 17.Qxe3 h5 18.g5 0–0 19.Nd4 Qb6 20.Rf2 Rfc8 21.a3 Rc7 22.Rd3 Na5 23.Re2 Re8 24.Kg2 Nc6 25.Red2 Rec8 26.Re2 Ne7 27.Red2 Rc4 28.Qh3 Kg7 29.Rf2 a5 30.Re2 Nf5 31.Nxf5+ gxf5 32.Qf3 Kg6 33.Red2 Re4 34.Rd4 Rc4 35.Qf2 Qb5 36.Kg3 Rcxd4 37.cxd4 Qc4 38.Kg2 b5 39.Kg1 b4 40.axb4 axb4 41.Kg2 Qc1 42.Kg3 Qh1 43.Rd3 Re1 44.Rf3 Rd1 45.b3 Rc1 46.Re3 Rf1 0–1.
The Advance Variation has since been revitalized by aggressive lines such as the Bayonet Attack (4.Nc3 e6 5.g4), a popular line in the 1980s and later favoured by Latvian Grandmaster Alexei Shirov, or the less ambitious variation 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3, popularised by English Grandmaster Nigel Short and often seen in the 1990s.
The 3...c5 variation that follows with
- 1.e4 c6
- 2.d4 d5
- 3.e5 c5!?
is an important alternative and avoids the weight of theory associated with 3...Bf5. It was used by Mikhail Botvinnik in his 1961 match versus Mikhail Tal (though with a negative outcome for Botvinnik – two draws and a loss). The line was christened the "Arkell/Khenkin Variation" in the leading chess magazine New in Chess yearbook 42 in recognition of the work these two Grandmasters did and the success they were having with the variation. In comparison to the French defense, Black lacks the tempo normally spent on ...e6. However, White can only exploit this by the weakening of his own central bind with 4. dxc5 when Black has good chances of regaining the pawn.
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