Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Tricks of the Caro-Kann
The Caro-Kann is a venerable defense against e4, but there are several traps and problems that one must be aware of. I’ve learned some of these at the cost of points over the board, which I will know share for free. If you know them, they can be easily defeated.
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. N1e2 (or 6. Nh3). White’s last move seems a bit strange, but I was expecting f4.
6…Nf6 7. Nf4 e6. So now it seems the whole venture was to trade knight for bishop. 8. h4!! Oh, now I get it! If I play h6, which is typical in other variations (6. Nf3 Nd7 7. h4 h6), he’ll take the bishop and I’ll be forced to recapture with the f pawn. Other typical variations also see 6. Nf3 Nd7 7. Nh4 where the knight is traded away, but the open h file can be used to attack. The only other recourse now is 8…Ne4 9. Nxe4 Bxe4 10. f3 e5 11. fxe4 exf4 12. Bxf4 leaves white with a great position. (See diagram B.) The other option is no better: 8... Bd6 9. h5 Bxf4 10. Bxf4 Bf5 11. Nxf5.
I was subsequently able to draw the game against this particular opponent, but it wasn’t due to my opening play. So how to play it? Go back to the first diagram. 6…Nd7 7. Nf4 e5! The d pawn is protected because of Qa5+. The sequence may continue 8.N xg6 hxg6 9. c3 exd4 10. Qxd4 Ngf6 and black is fine.
Simply put, this variation is a ruse. If you see 6. N1e2 or 6. Nd2, just know 6…Nd7 then 7…e5 and white won’t have any advantage.
White has another trick in the form of 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. g4!? Bg6 5. h4. Here without realizing it, if black plays 5…h6 6. h5 Bh7 7. e6! fxe6 8. Bd3 Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Nf6 10. Nf3 you end up at a position where black is in trouble.
The correct move is 5….h5! leading to 6. g5 e6 7. Bd3 Ne7 8. Ne2 Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Nd7 10. Be3 e6 and black is fine. Black’s knight will go to f5 and be a thorn in white’s side all game. White’s dark bishop is hemmed in by his own pawns.
If you are white, these variations, might be a try in a blitz game, but if you try them in a serious over the board game, you are gambling whether your opponent knows them. If he does, you'll be left with a mediocre position.