With a grandmaster even their(his/her) introductions can seem too difficult to learn all that one would like. However David Pruess's chess.com Introduction to the Caro Kann switched on a light for me and i thought i would try to share some of that here. For lower rated players (1200?-?) i hope this blog will empower them to learn from Pruess's video more than ever before.
General opening principles include
1. Establishing a Pawn Center
2. Developing Minor Pieces
3. Castling to Protect the King and Connect the Rooks
4. Developing the Queen
(The order of 1-4 is somewhat flexible but generally speaking the given order is somewhat preferred.)
We also take as understood (at least vaguely) that one doesn't wish to waste moves, one does wish to give as much scope to one's pieces as possible, and one's position should be sound. (As alternately stated by at least one grandmaster, the elements of chess are time, space, and harmony. By harmony here we mean that one's pieces are working together. In particular they are protecting one another - protection by pawn is particularly important.)
If white could make 8-10 moves before black made any move (but could only move any one piece once), what would white choose for an ideal opening? With the beginner in mind GM Fred Reinfeld suggested the following:
(I am doing this from memory. I do not believe Fred Reinfeld was favoring O-O over O-O-O. Nor do I believe he was expressing a particular place for the queen.)
Notice the emphasis on a strong pawn center. If pawns on c3 and/or f3 cannot be established so perfectly, then probably Nc3 and Nf3 respectively would be preferred for white's knights. Also the bishops might be more aggressively placed on c4, b5, f4, and/or g5. (There are almost no(?) openings where black plays both d5 and e5 - now i am happy for anyone to tell me an exception.)
In our explanations going forward we will try to adopt the following maxim:
If white or black makes an other than "ideal" opening move as just now given, then there should be a compelling reason. The reason can be either offensive or defensive.
Caro Kann - The Exchange Variation
We see that black was able to make "ideal" opening moves except for cxd5, Be7 and e6. This is great for black and way too often black is not so fortunate. Also note that if white had moved their queen to somewhere other than Qb3, then Bd6 instead of Be7 would have been fine.