Positional Repertoire against the Caro-Kann
The Caro-Kann Defence historically is one of the most solid defensive repertoires. While Black temporarily allows White to grab the centre, he delivers an immediate counterstrike and, contrary to French Defence, doesn't close any of his bishops. Practice proves that it is a tough nut to crack and this is why it's so popular. After writing his trilogy for the Anti-Sicilian approach, GM Neiksans decided to write something similar about the ever-tough Caro-Kann as well. He suggests an easy-to-learn setup which according to several Caro-Kann experts is the most annoying system for a Caro-Kann player to face!
The database contains 10 theoretical chapters and 18 interactive test positions.
After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bd3, we reach the starting position of the Exchange Variation.
Our ideal setup is as follows - c2-c3 and Bf4 followed by Nd2 and Ngf3. In the future, White will try to initiate a kingside attack by starting with the move Ne5. The move order is important. White needs to make sure that the black light-squared bishop doesn't land on f5. Afterwards, he will follow with c2-c3 and Bf4.
Exchange Variation was a favourite choice of Bobby Fischer. After that, it was preferred by many strong players because, in this line, the general understanding of the arising positions is more important than memorizing concrete lines. For many years the "official" theory has considered the line harmless for Black but all changed in the last decade.
Recently, this variation becomes the main weapon for some top players as well, mainly because of the efforts of Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik, and many others.
The author tries to present a classical approach with a lot of new ideas and analyses. He provides you with explanations about all positional and tactical ideas and plans.
Chapter 1 - Introduction + 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 е6
The database begins with an introduction where GM Neiksans explains the main ideas and move orders. After that, he analyzes some rare lines. The most serious of them is 5...e6. This move has a serious drawback - Black's light-squared bishop remains behind the pawn chain. According to the analysis, Black has problems after the natural 6.Bf4.
Chapter 2 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 e5!?
5...e5 is a pretty reasonable continuation as Black fights for the centre. Although Black is trying to be active, he voluntarily creates an isolated pawn. The main line continues 6.dxe5 Nxe5. In this position, the author analyzes both 7.Qe2!? and 7.Bb5!? and claims small advantage for White after both.
Chapter 3 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 g6
One of the most aggressive setups available in Black's arsenal - it's possible to play it at several stages, either before or after Nc6 or Nf6 but the key ideas essentially remain the same. Black wants to accomplish one of three things:
1) Play Bc8-f5 and trade the light-squared bishops, doubling the f-pawns in the process. Usually Black intends to follow-up with e7-e6, Bd6 and sometimes even a long castle, looking for a counterplay at the semi-open g-file. White should accept the trade and double the pawns and before committing to castling prepare Nf3-e5. It will be traded, continue with dxe5 which will free an outpost on d4 for your other knight and Black's kingside will be vulnerable for a typical queens penetration Qh5. If Black will try to get rid of the knight by playing f7-f6, it will seriously compromise his pawn structure and give White easy targets.
2) prepare the ...Bf5 manoeuvre with ...Nh6 first to recapture it with a knight. In this situation, it makes the most sense to retreat with your light-squared bishop to e2 and play against the now-misplaced knight on h6. If Black will try to bring it back in the game with f7-f6 and Nf7, this is the perfect time to strike in the centre with c3-c4.
3) finish the development of the kingside by fianchettoing the dark-squared bishop on g7 and decide the fate of the light-squared bishop later. White should harmonically finish the development with Bf4, Nbd2, 0-0, Re1, perhaps even h2-h3 and aim for Nf3-e5, followed by a slow attack build-up at the kingside. The author suggests continuing with 6.Nf3 where Black has several reliable setups as 6...Qc7, 6...Bg7, 6...Bg4, 6...Bf5, 6...Nh6. The lines here are highly transpositional and it's possible I missed an interesting way to change the order of the moves but I hope you will at least get a better understanding of how to treat these types of positions after reading this chapter.
Chapter 4 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Qc7 6.Ne2 e6
5...Qc7 is one of the two main moves in this position. GM Neiksans suggests 6.Ne2. The idea of this move is that White insists on making Bf4 possible at the expense of the slightly misplaced knight on e2. In this chapter, the reader will find a slightly unusual 6...e6. Things are not so simple as Black wants to play Bd6, Nge7 and in a near-future prepare f7-f6 and e6-e5. White continues with 7.Bf4 Bd6 8.Bxd6 Qxd6 with a complicated position where the author suggests several new ideas and concepts and manages to create serious problems for Black.
Chapter 5 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Qc7 6.Ne2 Bg4 - Part 1
The author analyzes 6...Bg4 in two parts. The main line continues 7.0-0 e6 8.Qe1! - this move was found recently and poses Black serious problems. White intends to go after the light-squared bishop with the thematic f2-f3 and Qe1-h4, or alternatively Ng3 or Nf4. Now Black is at crossroads - if he's aware of White's plans, he has to either give up the bishop or meet the threats accordingly.
In this chapter, the reader will find 8...Bh5, 8...Bd6?!, and 8...Nf6. The position is extremely complicated and armed with the knowledge of this chapter the reader will feel confident to meet these setups.
Chapter 6 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Qc7 6.Ne2 Bg4 - Part 2
This is the safest choice - since White has several tricks in his arsenal to choose from, Black can voluntarily give up his light-squared bishop to get an easy to play position.
This setup can arise from many lines with slight differences. Sometimes Black will have already included a7-a6, sometimes the white f-pawn already will be standing on f4. Neiksans believes that the typical ideas don't change so you can recognize them already from afar. The main line continues 9.Qe2 Bd6 10.g3. We reach a critical position in this line. In the comment below you can see how the author describes the arising position.
"So far I believe everything is almost forced - White could have played f2-f4 immediately but afterward you will be obliged to play g2-g3 anyway in order to develop your knight with Nb1-d2-f3. As far as I can see it, Black has two real options here:
1) Play Nf6 and proceed with a short castle. Afterwards, he either aims for the breakthrough in the centre with e6-e5 or to try to create some weaknesses at the queenside, by executing the typical idea b7-b5, a7-a5, b5-b4 and target the c3 pawn.
2) Play long castle and hope for an attack at the kingside with the standard h7-h5-h4"
Chapter 7 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Nf6 6.Bf4 Bg4 7.Qb3 e5!?
Finally, after 5...Nf6, we've come to the two knights variation where Black doesn't stop White's Bf4 from being played.
7...e5 is an interesting idea to surprise White but if you're aware of it, White gets the upper hand in the end. Perhaps the most famous game of this line is the last round of 2018 US Championship when Samuel Shankland in a stunning fashion beat Awonder Liang to take the title. The author analyzes four different options for White, but 8.h3!? seems to be the most reliable one, after which White can keep a small edge.
Chapter 8 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Nf6 6.Bf4 Bg4 7.Qb3 Qc8
One of the main moves which feel like a more careful approach - the other popular continuation here is 7...Qd7 which comes together with Bd6 and a potential pawn sacrifice on b7.
White should continue 8.Nd2 preparing to play Ngf3. Because of the need to protect the b7 pawn the f5 square is out of bounds so in order to trade the light-squared bishop Black is going to play Bh5-g6 at some moment. The question is - which is the right moment? There are quite subtle nuances. The author analyzes this position in great depth and proves that Black can easily get into trouble while White's play is much easier.
Chapter 9 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Nf6 6.Bf4 Bg4 7.Qb3 Qd7
This is the most ambitious move - Black is not afraid of any early Nf3-e5 ideas and wants to trade the dark-squared bishops with Bd6, even if it costs him a pawn on b7.
The mainline continues: 8.Nd2 e6 9.Ngf3 Bd6 10.Bxd6 Qxd6 11.0-0 0-0 12.Rae1!?
White doesn't hide his plan to play at the kingside with the traditional ideas of Nf3-e5, Re3-h3 and probably f2-f4. Plus, it's the same rook manoeuvre as in Chapter 8. Let us stop here for a moment as Black is at the crossroads. The author states the Black has the following options:
1) Continue with the traditional plan and reroute the bishop on g6. However, with the short castle already done, Black has to understand that there might be a quick and annoying attack at the h-file.
2) Play Nd7 to stop White from playing Nf3-e5 and f2-f4. This allows White almost by force to exchange Black's light-squared bishop and create some targets at the kingside.
3) Black can trade on f3 right away and focus at the queenside. By doing so he wouldn't have to worry about a quick attack at the h-file (had the bishop been rerouted to g6 and traded there) but this gives White quite a lot of freedom.
4) Ignore White's ideas, keep the bishop on g4 as long as it takes and focus on his own ideas at the queenside.
Not surprisingly, the last two ideas at the moment are the most popular choices.
Chapter 10 - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bd3 Nf6!? 5.c3 Bg4
In the past few years, this continuation has had some extra popularity so it is included in the database as a separate chapter.
It is not possible to transform the arising positions to already covered lines, so the author had to dig a little deeper. He suggests 6.Qb3 Qc7(the only critical move) 7.h3 and here Black has a choice between 7...Bh5 8.g4 or 7...Bd7 8.Nf3. GM Neiksans analyzes both and manages to find new concepts that pose practical problems.
This section includes 18 interactive test positions which allow you to check your understanding of the theory. Below, you can try to solve 5 of them.
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