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happinessisawarmgun 22 ( +1 | -1 )
I've started playing the Caro-Kann. I am a beginner trying to obtain a decent(ish) opening repetoire and have recently started to play the Caro-Kann whilst black. Could anybody tell me the pros and cons of this defense ? Thank you !
myway316 28 ( +1 | -1 )
Pros: Thematic ideas are easy to implement,not much theory to learn,can be played against any strength opposition. Cons: not very agressive,can lead to somewhat passive positions for Black if not played correctly. But I recommend you give it a shot-it'sa good,solid,reliable defense.
anaxagoras 87 ( +1 | -1 )
I love this opening too ...and I play it all of the time.

1. The raison d'etre of the caro-kann is to develop the queen's bishop *before* it would be restricted by e6. The continuation 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Bf5 is the classical variation, and is the easiest way for Black to acheive that strategic goal.

2. White will try to retain control of e5 in order to post his king's knight there and further restrict black. A reoccuring thematic theme is Black's liberating c5 in order to dislodge White's d4 pawn, and thereby regain control of e5. White can hold e5 further with f4 to counter.

3. Myway's comment is correct. The opening does not afford black immediate counter-attacking chances, but then neither does it afford White accute attacking chances, save for 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 c4 Nf6 and the bizzare 1 e4 c6 2 c4 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 cxd5... Though most White players do not pursue these lines (someone know why?).
peppe_l 237 ( +1 | -1 )
Anaxagoras Good post!

Some comments...

1) I agree 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 is easiest way to counter the main line of Caro-Kann. The main alternative 4...Nd7 is more theoretical and in general more difficult to play.

2) Yep. Usually White plays (5.Ng3 Bg6) 6.h4 followed by h5, in order to clamp Black. This can be an advantage in endgame where it is harder for Black to form a passed pawn, or if Black chooses to castle short, advanced pawn in h5 can eventually help in attack vs Black king (if White castles long).

After 6...h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 (to prevent Ne5, 7...Nf6 leads to more complex play) 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 Black has to choose whether he wants to continue 0-0 or 0-0-0. He can play 10...Qc7 and castle long or keep his options open by playing 10...e6, when after 11.Bf4 he can continue 11...Ngf6 12.0-0-0 Be7 followed by 0-0-0, or 11...Qa5+ 12.Bd2 Qc7, transposing to 10...Qc7 line (White has no promising way to keep his bishop in f4, for example 12.c3 is fine for Black).

Lines with 0-0-0 by Black are very safe and thematic plans have already been explained by Anaxagoras. Black needs to battle for the control of e5 (usually with c5) and strive for counterplay on c-file, and remember in endgames White usually has easier time forming a passed pawn because his pawn majority (on queenside) is not clamped like Black pawn majority on kingside.

By playing 0-0 Black gets better chances to use the full potential of his queenside play (c5, c4 b5! to control d5, or sometimes even a5), but his king safety is compromised after White plays 0-0-0 and goes for attack, often trying to open the g-file and use the h5-pawn as a part of his plan against Black king.

3) 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 c4 Nf6 is known as Panov attack and often leads to typical IQP position after cxd5 or dxc4. There are many lines for Black to choose from. 1 e4 c6 2 c4 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 cxd5 can transpose to Panov attack (often to lines with 5.Nc3 g6) or lead to independent lines, for example 4...Nf6 5.Bb5+ (5.Nc3 Nxd5 / g6) Nbd7 6.Nc3 a6 7.Qa4 Rb8 etc. Dunno why Panov seems to be relatively unpopular nowadays, my guess is people are - as usual - copying top GMs :-) Some time ago everyone was playing Advance variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5), but now main line is gaining popularity again...?

Happinessisawarmgun IMO for a beginner instead of "specializing" and spending lots of time for opening repertoire, it is better to try lots of different openings in order to gain experience of different types of positions. Nevertheless, I wish you good luck with Caro-Kann!

Yours, Peppe

happinessisawarmgun 25 ( +1 | -1 )
thank you all....... for your kind words of advise . Yes , I hope to gain experiance in various defenses as black however something about the caro-kann stands out to me . I dont know what yet ?! .....but hope to have many years finding out ....peace!!
riga 49 ( +1 | -1 )
peppe You obviously know quite a little bit on the Caro_kann but you are wrong about one little thing. 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 is all good fine and known to most. There is the recommended variation of 6.h4, but if black plays 6. ... h5? He can say good bye to any hope of winning (at least in a GM game). White continues with 7.Be2 Nf6 and 8.Nh3! with the idea of Nf4 and either the h pawn will soon fall, or black will be forced to move f7-g6 after the knight for bishop exchange. Either way, it leaves black with a fairly big disadvantage.
anaxagoras 15 ( +1 | -1 )
riga, you misread peppe. "h5" referred to White's following move after h4. Just insert Black's h6 in between and what he said is correct.
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buddie 16 ( +1 | -1 )
About 4. ... Nd7, It seems to me that if you're going to play this, you'd be better playing the French i.e. 1.e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3/Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7. Then your pawn will get to c5 in one move instead of two.
riga 69 ( +1 | -1 )
No... In the french, the light bishop is still stuck. In the caro-kann, the idea of 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7. is now Ngf6 and either white exchanges the knights, black exchanges the knights and puts his D knight to f6, or white retreates with Ng3. Either way, he gains a solid knight position on f6. The light bishop is still free to move outside of the pawn structure. In the Stienitz Fench, which is what you refer to buddie but instead of 4. ... Nd7, black plays 4. ... Bd7. Here the d6 pawn still limits the light bishop activity and black's plan is to play it c8-d7-c6. Both openings are fine but both have different ideas.
anaxagoras 99 ( +1 | -1 )
caro-kann or french? buddie, Reti gives an interesting discussion of your point:

"If the Caro-Kann Defense 1 e4 c6 is compared with the French Game 1...e6--the purpose of both is the same, that is, to bring about d5--it is perceived that the first has a disadvantage as regards tempo. For, to open up the game completely, the Pawn will generally have to go to c5 anyway sooner or later, and in the French Game this can be accomplished by one move, but in the Caro-Kann two moves are needed. Opposed to this disadvantage is a striking strategic advantage of the Caro-Kann Opening, that the QB can be developed without hindrance, while in the French Game, as in the Queen's Gambit, it becomes the great anxiety of the defense."

I don't play the Nd7 variation, but in most of the lines I've seen e6 is played before the QB is developed. However, because the d5 pawn was exchanged for the e4 pawn, the QB can find an open diagonal with b6 combined with Bb7 and c5. In the French defense Black usually tries to retain his d5 pawn, and after White's e5 it becomes extraordinarily difficult to develop the QB.
peppe_l 107 ( +1 | -1 )
4...Nd7 It is true Bc8 can _sometimes_ be developed before playing e6, for example 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6 (6.Ng3 e6) Nxf6 (7.Ne5 Be6 7.Bc4 Bf5 etc). But 6.Nxf6 is not very promising line and I suppose 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 and 5.Bc4 Ngf6 6.Ng5 e6 are more popular. Both lead to extremely complex and heavily theoretical lines.

I suppose 5.Ng5 is "main line" nowadays, after 5...Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 Bd6 8.Qe2 h6 (only now it is safe to play this move) 9.Ne4 Nxe4 10.Qxe4

And now,

A) 10...Nf6

Winning time threatening Qe4 but weakening the control of e5. After move 14 it becomes clear why this is so important...

11.Qe2 (11.Qh4 Ke7!? - Karpov...amazing move isnt it? :-) Qc7 12.Bd2 b6

Playing 0-0 is risky, so b6 prepares Bb7, 0-0-0

13.0-0-0 Bb7 14.Ne5!

And now in one of my own games here at GK I got into trouble after 14...0-0-0 15.f4! (adding support for powerful Ne5) c5 (thematic move, trying to destroy the support of Ne5 and gain some space, but thanks to 15.f4! this is not enough here) 16.dxc5 Bxc5 17.Kb1 (moving king from semi-open c-file), so I suppose Black has to try 14...c5, allowing 15.Bb5+ Ke7

B) 10...Qc7

Controlling e5 but allowing...

11.Qg4 Kf8 (11...0-0?? 12.Bxh6, winning)

I dont have any experience of this line but it is needless to say after 11...Kf8 position is quite complicated...

All this helps me to remember why I quit playing 4...Nd7 :-)
happinessisawarmgun 16 ( +1 | -1 )
I found the following.......
happinessisawarmgun 24 ( +1 | -1 )
and......... both have plenty of instruction. Again thank you all for your thoughts.