Caro–Kann Defence


The Caro Kann Defence is a defense to counter White when he plays 1. e4.

The whole premise of Caro Kann is based on the idea behind the French Defence: Black gets ready to support the ... d7-d5 pawn advance on his next turn.

The eventual aim of the Caro Kann defense is to create a very strong c6-d5 pawn chain and then challenge White’s space advantage (and his Kingside)

The advantages of using the c-pawn (instead of the e-pawn) to support the pawn on d5 is

  1. Black does not block the light-squared bishop on c8.

But the disadvantage is:

  1. Black cannot get his c6 pawn onto c5

The Caro–Kann Defence can be attacked in three different ways based on White's third move:

  • Main line (2. d4 d5)
    • The Advance Variation: 3.e5
    • The Exchange Variation: 3.exd5
    • The Tartakower or Fantasy Variation: 3.f3

Main line

In the main line, there are three variations, the Advance Variation, the Exchange Variation and the Tartakower (Fantasy) Variation..

The Advance Variation is one of the most popular ways for White to deal with the Caro-Kann Defence.

It is a solid defence for Black, who creates a pawn triangle in the center and gets rid of his potentially weak bishop.

In the Exchange Variation, White takes Black’s pawn on d5 with his e4 pawn. This is the most passive way for White to play (since White conceded most of his opening advantage).

The Tartakower (Fantasy) Variation is one of the most aggressive lines for White in the Caro Kann Defence from black.

Putting the pawn on f3 strengthens White’s central e4 pawn, but blocks White’s knight from developing and weakening the squares around the king.

In exchange, White claims a stronger grip in the center of the board and hopes to take a lead in controlling the center of the board.

How To Reach The Caro–Kann Defence?

  1. First, White must move the King’s pawn two squares (1.e4).
  2. Then, Black replies by moving his pawn one square (1...c6).

Take a look at the moves below:

Why Play The Caro–Kann Defence?

The Caro Kann is a very patient and stubborn defense that is hard for White to break.

While White gets a nice space advantage, Black has no weaknesses and a very solid position.

If Black plays correctly, White probably can't achieve any substantial attack and will go into a disadvantageous position in an endgame (since Black ends up with better pawn structure).

Every move explained

Advance Variation

How To Reach It

The Advance Variation of the Caro–Kann Defence appears on the board after the following moves:

  1. e4 c6
  2. d4 d5
  3. e5

You can see the moves here:

Why play the Advance Variation?

White wants to move his e4 pawn forward to e5, to gain central space and more mobility for his pieces.

Black wants to play Bf5, (to put his lightsquared bishop outside of the pawn chain). Then Black can close down his “pawn triangle” defense with e6.

Black has a solid central structure and White has more space in exchange.

White's Moves

Play h4

With the move: 4.h4, white is immediately threatening to trap the Bishop. If Black still wants to create a pawn triangle in the center, white pushes his g4 pawn and traps the bishop.

Play c4-c5

With the c4-c5 break, White wants to initiate trading of queens and disable Black’s dark-squared Bishop.

Then he pushes his b-pawn to open up Black’s pawn structure on the Queenside (so he can attack on that flank).

Black's moves

Break Up White’s Pawn structure

With the c6-c5 break, Black wants to break up White’s pawn structure. Then he develops his pieces to put more pressure on the e5-pawn.

If White puts his Bishop on d3, take it!

Black’s worst piece is his light squared bishop.

By trading Bishops, Black rid of his worst piece, and gets a solid pawn structure in the center. Black has a tempo up, and White has a Queen on d3, which is absolutely misplaced (since all the light squares are blocked off)

If you are White, never put your bishop on d3.

Every move explained

Exchange Variation

How To Reach It

The Exchange Variation of the Caro–Kann Defence appears on the board after the following moves:

  1. e4 c6
  2. d4 d5
  3. exd5 cxd5

You can see the moves here:

Why play the Exchange Variation?

This is the safest option for White (if he is looking to draw) because White has conceded most of his opening advantage and made the position symmetrical.

He deals with the danger to take on the e4-pawn by capturing himself on d5.

White's Moves

Play c4 to put pressure on d5

By playing c2-c4, White wants to put as much pressure as possible on Black’s center.

Then he pressures Black’s Queenside. This can happen with the joint forces of the Bishop, which pins Black’s knight to his king, and the queen, which goes to a4.

Castle Kingside

White should castle Kingside to protect his King.

Black's moves

Overall Plan

Black wants to put his dark squared bishop on the long diagonal, castle kingside (to protect the king), and put his light-squared Bishop on g4, from where it pins the Knight on f3 and hinders White’s development.

Every move explained

Tartakower (Fantasy) Variation

How To Reach It

The Fantasy Variation of the Caro–Kann Defence appears on the board after the following moves:

  1. e4 c6
  2. d4 d5
  3. f3

You can see the moves here:

Why play the Tartakower (Fantasy) Variation?

This variation leads to very tricky and tactical games where multiple attacks can happen (from both sides).

White’s idea is to strengthen his e4 pawn with his f3 pawn (to get a stronger grip on the center).

The drawback for White by playing f3, is that he also ends up blocking his own knight from developing and weakening the squares around the king.

White's Moves

The Trap

White regains the sacrificed bishop with a completely winning position.

Play Nc3 and try to sacrifice your f3-pawn

White could also sacrifice his f3 pawn and get a better development.

Black's moves

Play e5

With this move, Black offers a free pawn for White, if White takes it, Black does not change his queen, he puts the King in check and gets a winning position.

Fianchetto the Bishop

Black is preparing an attack by putting his kingside bishop on the long diagonal.

He also attacks the b2-pawn by moving the queen, and resolving a problem with his c8 bishop. Black claims a better development and ruins White’s pawn structure.

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