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Moves 1.e4 c6
Origin Bruederschaft (journal), 1886
Named after Horatio Caro and Marcus Kann
Parent King's Pawn Game
The Caro-Kann Defence is a common defense against the King's Pawn Opening characterised by the moves:
The usual continuation is
followed by 3.Nc3 (the Modern Variation), 3.Nd2 (the Classical Variation), 3.exd5 (the Exchange Variation), or 3.e5 (the Advance Variation). 3.Nc3 is the modern variation which 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.
The opening is named after the English player Horatio Caro and the Austrian Marcus Kann who analysed the opening in 1886.
Classical / Capablanca Variation
The most common way of handling the Caro-Kann, the Classical Variation (often referred to as the Capablanca Variation after José Capablanca), is defined by the moves
3.Nc3 (or 3.Nd2) dxe4
This was long considered to represent best play for both sides in the Caro-Kann. White usually continues
Although White's pawn on h5 looks ready to attack, it can prove to be a weakness in an endgame.
Much of the Caro-Kann's reputation as a solid defence stems from this variation. Black makes very few compromises in his pawn structure, and plays a timely c5 to contest the d4 square. Black has the options of castling queenside, castling kingside, and even leaving his king in the centre. Should things proceed to an endgame, Black often stands well thanks to his solid pawn structure and kingside pawn majority.
Here is a brilliancy illustrating White's attacking chances when the players castle on opposite sides in the Classical Variation: Lev Milman – Joseph Fang, Foxwoods Open, 2005 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 (10...Qc7 avoids White's next) 11.Bf4 Bb4+ 12.c3 Be7 13.0-0-0 Ngf6 14.Kb1 0-0 15.Ne5 c5?! (15...Qa5 is usual and better) 16.Qf3 Qb6? (necessary was 16...cxd4 17.Rxd4 Nxe5 18.Bxe5 Qc8 19.Rhd1 Rd8 20.Ne4 with a small White advantage) 17.Nxd7 Nxd7 18.d5 exd5 19.Nf5! Bf6 20.Rxd5 Qe6 21.Bxh6 (21...gxh6 22.Rd6 Qe8 23.Rxf6 Nxf6 24.Qg3+ mates on g7) 21...Ne5 22.Qe4 Nc6 23.Qf3 Ne5? (23...gxh6 24.Rd6 Qe5 25.Nxh6+ Kg7 26.Nf5+ Kh7 with an unclear position) 24.Qe4 Nc6 25.Qg4! Qxd5 (25...Ne5 26.Rxe5 Qxe5 27.Bxg7 Bxg7 28.h6 wins) 26.Bxg7 Qd3+ 27.Ka1 Ne5 28.Ne7+!! Kh7 29.Qg6+!! fxg6 30.hxg6+ Kxg7 31.Rh7# (White is down a queen, a rook, and a bishop!)
Smyslov / Karpov / Modern Variation
Another solid positional line, this variation is characterized by the moves
3.Nc3 (or 3.Nd2) dxe4
At one time named after the first world champion Wilhelm Steinitz, nowadays the variation is variously referred to as the Smyslov Variation after the seventh world champion Vasily Smyslov who played a number of notable games with it, the Karpov Variation, after the twelfth World Champion Anatoly Karpov, in whose repertoire it appeared quite often, or, most commonly, the Modern Variation. The short-term goal of 4...Nd7 is to ease development by the early exchange of a pair of Knights without compromising the structural integrity of his position. Play is similar to the Classical Variation except that Black has more freedom by delaying the development of his bishop, and is not forced to play it to the g6 square. However, this freedom comes at a cost as White enjoys added freedom in taking up space in the center, and often plays the aggressive 5.Ng5!? where Black's development is brought into question as well as the positional weakness of the f7-square. The famous last game of the Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov rematch where Kasparov committed a known blunder and lost was played in this very line.
Unfortunately for Black, this variation can lead to a quick mating trap for White with 5.Qe2 and then 6.Nd6#.
The Bronstein-Larsen Variation and Korchnoi Variation both begin with the following moves:
The Bronstein-Larsen Variation arises after:
Black has voluntarily opted for an inferior pawn structure and a practical necessity of castling queenside, while gaining dynamic compensation in the form of the open g-file for the rook and unusually active play for the Caro-Kann. It is generally considered somewhat unsound, though world championship challenger David Bronstein and former world championship candidate Bent Larsen employed it with some success.
The Korchnoi Variation arises after:
Viktor Korchnoi has played 5...exf6 many times (including his first world championship match with Anatoly Karpov), and this line has also been employed by Ulf Andersson. Black's 5...exf6 is regarded as sounder than 5...gxf6!? of the Bronstein-Larsen Variation and offers Black rapid development, though also ceding White the superior pawn structure and long-term prospects.
Advance variation: 3...Bf5 and 3...c5
The 3...Bf5 variation that follows with
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:
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
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.
Exchange variation and Panov-Botvinnik Attack
The Exchange Variation is 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5.
The Panov-Botvinnik Attack begins with the move 4.c4. It is named after Vasily Panov and the world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. This system often leads to typical isolated queen's pawn (IQP) positions, with White obtaining rapid development, a grip on e5, and kingside attacking chances to compensate for the long-term structural weakness of the isolated d4 pawn. The major variation in this line 4...Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nf3, when Black's main alternatives are 6...Bb4 (a position which often transposes into lines of the Nimzo-Indian Defense) and 6...Be7, once the most common line. 6...Nc6?! is inferior as it is favourably met by 7.c5!, after which White plans on seizing the e5-square via the advance of his b-pawn to b5 or by exchanging the Black's Knight on c6 after Bb5.
The "true" Exchange Variation begins with 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Nf6 6.Bf4 Bg4 7.Qb3 This line is considered to offer equal chances, and was tried by Bobby Fischer. Some of the strategic ideas are analogous to the Queen's Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation, (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5) with colours reversed.
White can play 2.c4. Then Black may play 2...d5 (see 1.e4 c6 2.c4 d5). This can transpose to the Panov-Botvinnik (B14, given above, with exd5 cxd5 d4) or Caro-Kann (B10, with the double capture on d5). Or Black may play 2...e5 (see 1.e4 c6 2.c4 e5).
Also White can play 2.Nc3. Then Black may play 2...d5 (see 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5). This can lead to the Steinitz Variation (B17, given above), Caro-Kann (B15), Two Knights, 3...Bg4 (B11), or Caro-Kann (B10). Or Black may play 2...g6 (see 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 g6).
Two Knights Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3, played by Bobby Fischer in his youth, where White's intention is to benefit from rapid development as well as to retain options regarding the d-pawn. Black's logical and probably best reply is 3...Bg4. After 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3, the positional continuation, Black has the option of 5...Nf6 or 5...e6. This variation sets a trap: if Black plays along the lines of the Classical Variation, he gets in trouble after 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 (4...Nd7 is playable) 5.Ng3 Bg6?! (5...Bg4) 6.h4 h6 7.Ne5 Bh7 (7...Qd6 may be best) 8.Qh5! g6 (forced) 9.Bc4! e6 (9...gxh5?? 10.Bxf7#) 10.Qe2 with a huge advantage for White. Now 10...Qe7! is best. Instead, Lasker-Radsheer, 1908 and Alekhine-Bruce, 1938 ended quickly after, respectively, 10...Bg7?? 11.Nxf7! and 10...Nf6?? 11.Nxf7! 4....Bh5 is a complex line, in which White can trap the bishop, though Black gains tremendous compensation.
Fantasy or Tartakower Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3, which somewhat resembles the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. 3...e6 is probably the most solid response, preparing to exploit the dark squares via ...c5, though 3....g6 has been tried by Yasser Seirawan. Related to the Fantasy Variation are the gambits 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.f3, originated by Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, and 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.f3 by (von Hennig).
Gurgenidze Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 g6; it is because of this variation, originated by Bukhuti Gurgenidze, that 3.Nc3 fell from favour in the 1970s. 3.Nd2 has since been regarded as the accurate way to reach the positions arising from ....dxe4. After 3.Nd2,....g6 is met by 4.c3, when the fianchettoed bishop has little to do.
Hillbilly Attack: 1.e4 c6 2. Bc4?! This is often played by club players. Black can simply play 2...d5 3. exd5 cxd5, gaining a tempo on the bishop.
Note that the Caro-Kann can sometimes be reached by transposition of moves from the English Opening: 1.c4 c6 2.e4 d5.
The Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings has ten codes for the Caro-Kann Defence, B10 through B19:
* Hillbilly Attack: 1.e4 c6 2.Bc4
* Modern; English Variation, Accelerated Panov: 1.e4 c6 2.c4
* Breyer Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d3
* Stein Attack: 1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 e5 6.Ngf3 Ne7 7.O-O O-O 8.b4
* Massachusetts Defense: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 f5
* Masi Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 Nf6
* Scorpion-Horus Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d3 dxe4 4.Bg5
* Spielmann/Goldman Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Qf3
* Two Knights Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3
* Two Knights Attack: 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3
* Mindeno Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Bg4
* Retreat Line, Mindeno Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.h3 Bh5
* Landau Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 6.e6
* Mieses Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Be3
* Diemer-Duhm Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.c4
* Advance Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5
* Prins Attack: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.b4
* Bayonet Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.g4
* Tal Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4
* Van der Wiel Attack: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nc3
* Dreyev Defense: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nc3 Qb6
* Bronstein Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Ne2
* Short Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2
* Botvinnik-Carls Defense: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5
* Maroczy Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3
* Fantasy/Lilienfisch Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3
* Maroczy Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3 dxe4 4.fxe4 e5 5.Nf3 exd4 6.Bc4
* Modern Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2
* New Caro-Kann 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 g6
* Edinburgh Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Qb6
* Ulysses Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nf3 dxe4 4.Ng5
* De Bruycker Defense: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 Na6
* Hector Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 dxe4 4.Ng5
* Rubinstein Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Nf6 6.Bf4
* Panov-Botvinnik: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4
* Panov-Botvinnik, Gedult-Gunderam Attack: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.c5
* Carlsbad Line: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6
* Czerniak Line: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 Qa5
* Reifir-Spielmann Line: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 Qb6
* Gurgenidze Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 b5
* Von Hennig Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Bc4
* Milner-Barry Gambit, Rasa-Studier Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.f3
* Knight Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6
* Tarrasch/Alekhine Gambit: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Bd3
* Tartakower Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6
* Forgacs Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 6.Bc4
* Gurgenidze System: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 g6
* Gurgenidze Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 g6 4.e5 Bg7 5.f4 h5
* Campomanes Attack: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6
* Finnish Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 h6
* Bronstein-Larsen Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ gxf6
* Korchnoi Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6
* Karpov Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7
* Smyslov Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Bc4 Ngf6 6.Ng5 e6 7.Qe2 Nb6
* Tiviakov-Fischer Attack: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Bc4 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6
* Kasparov Attack: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Ng3
* Ivanchuk Defense: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ndf6
* Classical Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5
* Flohr Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Nh3
* Seirawan Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3
1. In Frasier, season 3 episode 18 ("Chess Pains"), Martin Crane beats Frasier for the first time when he accidentally stumbles into the Panov-Botvinnik Attack.
The Wikibook Chess Opening Theory has a page on the topic of
* Houska, Jovanka (2007). Play the Caro-Kann: A Complete Chess Opening Repertoire Against 1 e4. London: Everyman Chess. ISBN 1857444345.
* Wells, Peter (2007). Grandmaster Secrets – The Caro-Kann. London: Gambit Publications. ISBN 978-1904600619.
* The ABC of the Caro Kann, Andrew Martin, ChessBase Publications, 2007, Fritz Trainer DVD.
* Karpov, Anatoly (2006). Caro-Kann Defence: Advance Variation and Gambit System. London: Anova Books. ISBN 0713490101.
* Gallagher, Joe (2002). Starting Out: the Caro-Kann. Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-303-9.
* Silman, Jeremy (1990). Dynamic Karo Kann. Summit Pub. ISBN 9780945806028.
* Kasparov, Garry; Shakarov, Aleksander (1984). Caro-Kann: Classical 4.Bf5. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-4237-9.
* Keene, Raymond; Mednis, Edmar; Soltis, Andy (2004). Understanding The Caro-Kann Defense. Hardinge Simpole Limited. ISBN 9781843821342.