Unleash Your Caro-Kann Defense With These Unexplored Moves!

The Caro-Kann Defense has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best chess openings for beginners. This is such a solid defense you don’t need to know a lot of chess opening theory.

Caro Kann opening

In fact, the first of our suggestions has such little theory you won’t find more than a handful of games in your database.

There aren’t many chess players who expect to find such a novelty within an unassuming opening like the Caro-Kann opening. There’s no need to find a new opening when such moves exist to spice up your current opening.

Here’s IM Robert Ris to show you another way of playing against the Caro-Kann Advance Variation, just in case our suggestion (3…Qc7) proves a little too spicy.

The 3…Qc7 often transposes to the 3…c5 variation recommended by Robert. One of the advantages of playing 3…Qc7 is you will get your opponent thinking. He is more likely to be ready for 3…c5 so holding back …c5 can give you an edge.

Caro-Kann Opening: Advance Variation with 3…Qc7

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Qc7

Caro Kann Advance 3...Qc7
Caro Kann Advance 3…Qc7

Warning: Although sound and offering good chances for a win, playing 3…Qc7 is stepping into unknown territory.

Always keep in mind this move poses unique problems, and if your opponent plays the best moves against it, you can transpose. Often this transposition is to the lines with 3…c5.

Take this opportunity to create new chess opening theory!

The queen on c7 performs two essential tasks:

  1. the queen places pressure on e5 (this pressure is increased after …Nc6),
  2. and it eyes the bishop on c1.

Many Caro-Kann players will continue with standard moves like c3, Bd3, and Nf3.

4.Bd3 is the move favored by the chess engines (Komodo Dragon 2, and Stockfish) when play might continue 4…c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Ne2 Bg4 7.f3 Bd7 8.Be3 e6 9.f4 Qb6

Advance Variation with 3...Qc7 and 9...Qb6
Caro Kann Advance 9…Qb6

The assessment by the engines is that White stands slightly better, but Black can exchange a lot of pieces on d4 if he chooses.

When you have less space, exchanging pieces is an excellent strategy. 

Remember the …Bg4-d7 maneuver because it induces a weakness in the Black kingside, and you can use it in the Panov Variation too!

Notice too how the queen on c7 and knight on c6 put tremendous pressure on e5. Developing the queen to c7 makes it extremely difficult for White ever to play dxc5.

Now you know it is possible to play an opening with little to no chess opening theory.

Caro-Kann Opening: Panov Attack 4…dxc4

After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 White’s most popular move in the Caro-Kann opening is 4.c4. Black’s usual response is 4…Nf6, but you have the chance to take your opponent into unfamiliar territory with 4…dxc4.

The Panov Attack with 4...dxc4
Caro Kann Panov 4…dxc4

This move was the move GM Anthony Miles liked to play against the Caro-Kann Defense Panov Attack. Despite the support of a strong grandmaster, the move 4…dxc4 has fallen well behind 4…Nf6.

Along with the surprise factor, this variation is excellent for beginners because the opening moves are natural developing moves. The only other surprising move is to remember is 6…Bg4.

Play continues thematically after 4…dxc4 with 5.Bxc4 Qc7 6.Bb3 Bg4, which takes advantage of the fact Qxg4 leaves the bishop on c1 hanging. After 7.f3 Black retreats the bishop to d7.

Caro Kann Panov 7...Bd7
Caro Kann Panov 7…Bd7

The bishop maneuver …Bg4-d7 is necessary to deprive the White knight of the f3-square. In this position, White usually plays either 8.Ne2 or 8.Nc3.

Black’s moves are logical, easy to remember, and well-suited for one of the best chess openings for beginners. When White chooses 8.Ne2 Black must be aware of Bf4 attacking the queen on c7. 

Bf4 can be met with …Bd6, and if White plays Bg5, then Black can develop his bishop to e7. The light-squared bishop takes up an excellent position on c6 since the knight will often go …Na6-c7-d5.

As the following game shows, Black still retains winning chances even after the queens are exchanged. 

Schaufelberger, Heinz – Kiss, Pal, 0-1, Balatonlelle IM, 2003

Caro-Kann Opening: Korchnoi Variation with 9…h5

The Korchnoi Variation of the Caro-Kann chess opening is a sound opening that is easy for beginners to play. Although Black accepts doubled-pawns, the extra pawn on f6 can prove very helpful in defense.

There aren’t many openings where Black gets to play …h5 and even fewer where he plays it before White gets in h4.

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxf6 exf6 

The Korchnoi Variation starting position
Caro Kann Korchnoi Variation starting position

6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Ne2 Re8 9.Qc2 h5

Caro Kann opening Korchnoi Variation 9...h5
Caro Kann Korchnoi Variation 9…h5

In the Korchnoi Variation, the pawn on h7 is often targeted by White. You can play the solid but passive 9…h6 or 9…Kh8 followed by …Nd7-f8.

The latter avoids moving the pawns in front of your king. For example, 9…g6 allows White to attack with h4! 

Black can go on the offensive with 9…h5 while enjoying excellent strategic play!

When such an opportunity presents itself, always seize the moment no matter what color you are playing. Because play is strategic, there is very minimal theory to learn.

Studying the mainlines is sufficient to play this variation safely with Black, making it an excellent chess opening for beginners.

Perhaps, the most important reason to include 9…h5 in your repertoire is because pushing the h-pawn up the board is always lots of fun.

What you may find surprising is learning 9…h5 was played in a game between two players rated well above 2700 Elo. The player with the black pieces was none other than Maxime Vachier Lagrave.

So, W. – Vachier Lagrave, M., 0-1, chess.com Speed 2019

Final Thoughts

Even though the Caro-Kann Defense has been around for a long time, there is still room for self-expression. Despite its reputation as a solid opening, which it undoubtedly is, there is no reason you can’t add some spice to the Caro Kann Defense.

We are fortunate to enjoy many online chess options in this day and age and can use them to test new opening moves. No matter what chess opening theory or chess engines say, it would be best if you felt comfortable playing the resulting middlegame and endgame positions.

The suggestions made here don’t need to be your first choices, although they are sound enough to be your main moves. You can keep them as a surprise weapon, use them to transpose to similar variations or to unsettle your opponent and make him think for himself.

If you’re looking for more mainstream moves, which also lead to interesting and exciting positions, then the VECO Vol. 8 The Caro Kann Defense is the course for you. The main lines are covered, including the Two Knights, Advance Variation, and the Korchnoi Variation.

Presented by GM Damian Lemos, IM Ekaterina Atalik, and IM Robert Ris, this course will give you the solid foundation you need to play the Caro-Kann Defense with confidence.

Click here to get instant access and 50% Off! VECO vol. 8 The Caro-Kann Defense

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