Ambitious Repertoire against the Caro-Kann
We are pleased to welcome a new author in the Modern Chess family. GM Zahar Efimenko is a very strong player (former 2700+) and a well-known theoretician who worked with Vladimir Kramnik and many other top players.
In his first database for Modern Chess, he presents a repertoire for White against the Caro- Kann. The author chooses the most topical and ambitious system – The Advance Variation.
The starting position arises after the moves : 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5
Here Black has two main options:
In Chapters 1-10, the reader will find the so-called “Short Variation” arising after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2.
Let’s see how the author explains this position:
"This is one of the most classical Caro-Kann positions. After 5.Be2, Black has many opportunities. I think that the system with 3.e5 and 5.Be2 is White's most dangerous weapon. The e5-pawn gives White a long-term space advantage and makes it difficult for Black to develop his kingside pieces. Black has a huge choice here. There are many possible setups and transpositions. Some of the lines are not concrete and you just need to know the typical plans and ideas. On the other hand, there are lines in which Black is trying to achieve immediate equality. In such lines, the play is getting pretty forced and concrete knowledge is required. I tried to make the repertoire as practical as possible. That is the reason why I provide you with a number of rare and almost unexplored lines and concepts. Even though getting an objective advantage is not
always possible, my suggestions will allow you to create practical problems for your opponent."
In the last two chapters (11 and 12), the reader will find the position arising after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5
The database ends with 12 test positions.
Chapter 1 – 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 – Rare Lines
Before start dealing with the most challenging continuations for Black, the author analyzes all rare lines on move 5. In this chapter, you will find six sidelines:
- 5…Bb4!? – The move was tried even by Magnus Carlsen, but White quickly found the right path and now this continuation is a rare guest in the tournament practice.
- 5…Qb6?! – Another dubious move. The queen is not creating any threats and sometimes is just misplaced
- 5….Be7 – This is a very rare option. Black has an idea to develop the knight on h6. The line is playable but quite passive.
- 5…h6 6.0-0 g5 – Very aggressive setup, but a bit premature. Black is not developed yet and this early aggression just weakens the kingside.
- 5…Bg6 6.0-0 Nh6 – This is probably the most serious of all sidelines. The line was tried by such Caro-Kann experts as Artemiev and Riazantsev. Efimenko provides in-depth analysis of this line. He managed to find a very promising setup for White.
- 5…a6 – Another slow move which seems playable but in most of the cases Black simply loses valuable time.
Chapter 2 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 – Rare Options for Black
The main line continues 6.0-0 and now Black is on a crossroads. The author analyzes 6…Nc8 which is a bit passive, 6…Bg6 which is the latest trend in this position, and 6…Ng6 with the idea …f7-f6. All those moves deserve serious attention and the reader should carefully study them. The author suggests some new concepts and novelties. He proves that White is slightly better in the arising complicated positions.
Chapter 3 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 c5
Black is planning to follow with ...Nec6 and ...Nd7, thus achieving a perfect placement for his knights. The drawback is that this idea takes a lot of time. White should continue with the typical 7.c4!.
An important breakthrough! White starts active actions in the centre, making use of his better development. This position was discussed in some high-rated games and the latest verdict of the theory is that White’s chances are preferable.
Chapter 4 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 h6
Black is preserving his bishop and is planning the setup with 7…Nd7 followed by …g7-g5.
True to his practical approach, the author chooses a rare concept for White and suggests the creative 7.a4!?. Then after the sharp 7…c5, we achieve the starting position of this line which is quite new and unexplored. Armed with the knowledge from the database White’s player has a big practical advantage.
Chapter 5 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 Nd7
The move order is not that important, Black could start with 5…Nd7 as well.
Efimenko again decides not to allow …h6 and …g5 setup and suggests 7.Nh4.
In this variation, White has the opportunity to exchange his knight for the strong f5-bishop.
The position is still double-edged, but the author reveals some new ideas which show that White can hope for an advantage in this line.
Chapter 6 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Nd7 6.0-0 h6
This position reminds Chapter 4. That’s why our reply is the same 7.a4!?.
Black should continue developing by means of 7…Ne7 and then White reveals one of his main ideas – 8.a5!. White is trying to gain as much space as possible. Very often, he closes the queenside and then starts playing on the other wing. The arising positions seems to be quite promising for White
Chapter 7 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nc3 Qxb2?!
The main line after 5.Be2 is 5…c5. The most accurate reply for White is 6.Be3 when Black's most principled reaction is 6…Qb6. The main line continues 7.Nc3 and we reach one of the critical positions of the variation. In this chapter, the author analyzes the brave (but objectively dubious) 7…Qxb2.
White’s best reply is 8.Qb1 and after 8…Qxb1 9.Rxb1
White has an upper hand in this queenless middlegame position. Black should play very precisely in order not to lose by force.
Chapter 8 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nc3 Nc6
This move marks the beginning of maybe the most principled way to fight the 3.e5 system against the Caro-Kann. The arising positions are sharp and very concrete knowledge is required. The good news is that from a practical perspective Black's play is much more difficult. White has many safe ways to force a draw. The absolute mainline is 8.0-0 Qxb2!
In this edition, Black can take the pawn. Recently, top players have been discussing this option. Many important games have been played on this subject. In this line, the positions are very complicated and require deep analysis for both colours. The critical position arises after the forced sequence of moves: 9.Qe1 cxd4 (alternatives are also analyzed) 10.Bxd4 Nxd4 11.Nxd4 Bb4
Critical position for the variation. The author chooses the most ambitious 12.Nb5 and provides in-depth analysis.
Efimenko goes for an almost unexplored concept where Black should play a number of only moves not to lose by force. Objectively, Black should probably hold, but he needs to make a lot of brave decisions on the way. The other advantage of Efimenko’s concept is that there are no forced draws in his line.
Chapter 9 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Ne7
This line is getting very popular at the top-level. Black is planning to follow with ...Nbc6 on the next move. At the same time, immediately taking the f5-bishop will help Black to quickly complete the development. White's bishop pair will be compensated by Black's compact pawn structure and good control of the centre. The author chooses 8.0-0 Nbc6 9.Bb5. White's main idea is to play Bxc6 followed by Nxf5, thus weakening Black's pawn structure. The recent practice and Efimenko’s analysis show that White can be optimistic about his chances in this line.
Chapter 10 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 Nd7
This system is very rare in practical games. White should continue 7.0-0 Ne7 and then the author shows that after 8.Nd2 followed by c2-c4, Black's position is very dangerous.
Chapter 11 – 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 e6
This variation is quite popular recently. Again, Efimenko suggests a rare approach – 5.Be3.
This move turns out to be very dangerous. Black must play very accurately. In the arising positions, Black is close to equality, but the author keeps providing us with novelties and challenging ideas.
Chapter 12 – 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6
Not the best answer. This line was once the main option for Black but nowadays is considered just dubious. Again, Efimenko suggests not the most popular move, but the rare 5.f4 which scored very well in practice. The subsequent analysis proves that White has an advantage in this line.
In this section, the author provides 12 interactive test positions which allow you to test your knowledge and understanding of the theory.