Understand the Caro-Kann
In my youth days, there were no World U8 championships. No young GM prodigies. No online tournaments. No computers.
We were fighting fiercely in the open games. The King’s Gambit and the Danish were monsters. The Sicilian was popular as well. Especially the super-sharp Dragon and the Scheveningen, which brought the world title to Garry Kasparov. Every once-in-a-while someone would try something exotic, like the Scandinavian. But we were taught that this is an irregular opening, and quite a risky affair.
Therefore, one day, when I was around ten, I was quite surprised to hear that my opponent was using the Caro-Kann Defence. I strongly believed that you should be an old man, at least over forty to play this opening…
I asked my coach how to react. The time before the game was scarce, but with a mischievous smile, he confidently announced that he would teach me the whole thing in less than half an hour.
We set up the pieces and he started showing:
Then he switched to the other recapture:
Finally, he showed me the main line:
And finally showed me how to win the endgame:
Those were the times…
Now everybody knows that things are not as simple. Historically, the Caro-Kann has been famously used by M. Botvinnik to tame the creative attacking genius of M. Tal in their revenge match. T. Petrosian and V. Smyslov had excellent results with it, and A. Karpov too reverted to it when fighting the mighty G. Kasparov.
The modern computers completely changed the assessments of many lines. This same 5...exf6 which my coach considered strategically won for White is now one of Black’s good choices against White’s main lines.
Some lines, like the main line of the Panov simply disappeared from the tournament practice. They were exhausted to the draw. Karpov’s beloved 4...Nd7 is also on the verge of oblivion.
And, yes, Larsen’s beloved short castle in the main line, once considered risky is now Black’s major choice.
The solid constructions that the second player is getting in the main lines forced White to look for alternative lines to create more problems.
The Fantasy Variation was born and then forgotten.
The Advanced line seems to be White’s hottest option in the past years.
Did you notice how many lines I did already mention? And the list can be expanded further! The Caro-Kann is one of the richest openings by pawn structures, plans and ideas.
With this little course, I will try to show some of the most important ideas and trends nowadays, and increase, at least a little, your opening understanding and erudition.