French Defence Vs Caro Kann


I mostly win when White plays the Exchange French. It often is a sign that they aren't interested in studying the French and they imagine they're bothering me or pulling some psychological ploy.

jonnin wrote:

I have never faced someone who did anything except lose playing french.  I come at it with the advance variation, and while I know I am a weak player (worse now, getting older), it really seems to offer absolutely nothing to black (esp to equal to me players) except a lot of hard work to get back to equal footing.  The exchange gives black some play, so I don't go there.  Maybe black shouldn't allow the advanced, but at my level, the players often do. 

Caro players give me a rough time of it frequently.  Its stronger, and does not fall behind so easily.  

The advance variation does not offer white any advantage. If you really wanna go for an advantage go for either 3.Nc3 or 3.Nd2.



A feature of the French that has not been mentioned is there are hordes of instructive classic GM games that involve the French, whereas a couple of decades ago the Caro-Kann was considered a GM side-line.  In fact, it's the sheer solidness of the French that has caused the interest in the Caro as most of the French lines have been played-out over the decades by the GMs, hence the lack of interest in the French - as well as modern day engines doing nothing to undermined the solidness of the French. Needless to say this most definitely doesn't apply if your not a GM etc.

Recently even Magus has started to play the French to dodge opponents' prep and one suspects to exploit his superior endgame ability.

The main modern day practical drawback of the French is that White can hold the initiative for a long while so it's less advantageous for Blitz/Bullet games which favour attackers, however this rarely happens at lower levels. Also having a mighty LS-Bishop in the endgame is less of an practical advantage - White generally loses their LS-Bishop in the middle game, or even foolishly swaps it off in the opining! 

As far as the Exchange variation goes, it's pretty foolish to hand Black equality after 3 or 4 moves in an opening, no matter your level.  Better off learning well one of the French Gambit lines, especially with on-line chess you are far less likely to play the same opponent twice.

Also note that if you go over to LiChess you can see that the AVERAGE player is as likely to go for the Exchange as the Advance, indeed these two are by far the most popular. So half the time you're getting near instant equality with zero effort, which can't be bad if you're playing Black! This pretty much negates the principle advantage of playing Caro - the freed LS-Bishop - so why play the Caro?!

Certainly from my own low-level gameplay the only French study/lines required involve the Advance Variation, with the Exchange, Bd6--> Ne7 is playable against anything White has to offer - so you're 6 moves in with equality and a freed LS-Bishop as Black.


I usually Play Caro kann because it is better than french, but french can also be better.

You should try both, and then make your decision which one is better.


Just an odd thought, more or less out of nowhere: why don't you look at world champions and candidate level GMs who have played these openings, and try to learn something from them? Botvinnik and Petrosian used both, IIRC. Karpov played the CK quite a bit, once Kasparov started scoring heavily against 1...e5 

JokerFellings Check it! Leave your impressions. 

French or Caro my variations destroy Blacks mind. Have it to enjoy


Caro- Kann


The French has a very undeserved reputation for being dubious, especially at the amateur level.

Amateurs very rarely play the critical variations; 3. e5 and even 3. exd5 are most commonly played, both of which offer no serious advantage (or none at all in the case of the exchange), and even when they do black has good chances to launch a counterattack of his own (using the open c-file, ... a6/... b5/... b4 (undermining white's center) or a timely ... f6 and using the open f-file). Black also has dangerous variations that the white side is often unaware of, like the Burn variation with ... gxf6; look at Petrosian's games, for example the one against Fischer in their 1971 match. (In that game Fischer avoided the most critical line with g3, because he knew the danger.)

Amateurs also like to say the light squared bishop is bad. On the other hand, in the QGD black had the same 'bad' bishop and no-one disagrees the QGD is a top tier defense. Good French players will also make that bishop work.

It's also remarkable how players often claim the Caro-Kann should be the preferred defense of the two and the French is still more played at EVERY level. Apparantly it's just a fine opening on the non-super GM level.