Andrew Martin: The ABC of the Caro Kann - a review

3/13/2017 – What to do against 1.e4? The Caro-Kann offers good opportunities to reach (very) solid or, if you wish, quite sharp positions. On his DVD "The ABC of the Caro-Kann" Andrew Martin explains the ideas of this opening and offers a complete Caro-Kann repertoire for Black. Markus Hochgräfe had a critical look at the DVD.

Andrew Martin: The ABC of the Caro Kann

A review by FM Markus Hochgräfe

IM Andrew Martin is a well-known ChessBase author and as I have played the Caro-Kann for more than two decades myself I was interested what he had to say about the opening and what lines he does recommend.

Martin divides his material into 25 chapters and explains the Caro-Kann by showing (complete) games. If you think that the Caro-Kann is (too) solid an opening but this DVD shows that this is not always the case. Especially for club players, who want a solid defense but still want to be able to play for a win, Martin’s repertoire choices are excellent (with one exception, the Panov endgame):

Martin recommends 3…c5 against the Advance Variation 3.e5 (which is sharper than the alternative 3…Bf5).
Against the main line 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 he recommends 4…Bf5, followed by the modern approach of playing …e6 and castling kingside which is sharper than the older …Qc7 followed by castling queenside.
Martin likes 4…Bh5 against the Two Knights variation 2.Nc3 and 3.Nf3, which is sharper than the well-known 4…Bxf3.
He wants to play 5…Nc6 6.Bg5 Be6 against the Panov, again a sharper variation than the alternative 6…e6.
Martin recommends 5…Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 which after a series of more or less forced moves leads to the so-called “Panov endgame”.

Chapters

1: 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6 Introduction
2: Repertoire Choices
3: Main line with 3…Bf5, 10...e6 11.Bd2 Black castles queenside
4: Main line with 3…Bf5, 10...e6 11.Bd2 Black castles kingside
5: Main line with 3…Bf5, 10...e6 11.Bf4 Ngf6
6: Main line with 3…Bf5, 10...e6 11.Bf4 Qa5
7: Short Summary of the main line
8: Main line with 4…Bf5, deviations from White
9: Main line with 4…Bf5, deviations from White, 6. Bc4
10: Main line with 4…Bf5, deviations from White, 6. f4
11: Main line with 4…Bf5, deviations from White, 4.Nc5
12: 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6 5.Bb5 e6 6.Be3   8… Nxc6 Game 1
13: 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6 5.Bb5 e6 6.Be3   8… Nxc6 Game 2
14: 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6 5.Bb5   7.Nf3, Club Player’s game.
15: 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6 5.Bb5 e6 6.Nf3
16: Short Summary of the advance variation
17: Two Knights variation with 4...Bh5
18: King’s Indian Attack 2.d3
19: Exchange Variation. 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3
20: Panov 5..Nc6 6.Nf3, Panov endgame.
22: Panov 5...Nc6 6.Bg5 Be6 7.a3
23: 2.c4, 6…a6
24: Outro.
25: Panov 5...Nc6 6.Bg5 Be6 7.a3

My remarks to the various chapters:

12-15: Advance variation: Martin shows some games with 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6 5.Bb5, which used to be the main line, but I found some improvements in the lines he gives in the annotations.

Two examples: In chapter 13 White is better after 13.Bxe7; and instead of 11…Bxh6 Black can win with 11…Qh4.

Even more important is the fact that in recent games White employed two dangerous approaches which are not mentioned on the DVD: 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6 5.a3!? e6 6.Sf3 or 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.c3! e6 7.Be3.

However, the game Kryvoruchko – Tazbir, 2016, shows how Black can counter these attempts by White:

 

 

17: Two Knights variation: after 4…Bh5 Black is ok! My engine also likes Black’s approach. From my point of view there is no reason to play the (too) solid 4...Bxf3.

20: The Panov endgame: For a grandmaster entering Panov endgame after 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 e6 9.Qxb7 Nxd4 10.Bb5 Nxb5 11.Qc6 Ke7 12.Qxb5 Qd7 might be fine and many grandmaster games in which this position was reached have indeed led to a draw. However, Black must know the theory very well. One mistake and he is lost. Therefore, I think the club player’s choice should be 13...Nxc3, which leads to lines in which you have to know less theory but sharper positions with a better chance to play for a win. Here, I recommend to have a look at the 60 minutes-video from GM Danielsen  A clear program to fight the Panov Attack:

Summary:

The target audience of this DVD are players with a rating between 1600 and 2200. The DVD gives you a reliable repertoire based on the Caro-Kann. Martin’s recommendations against the main variation 3.Nc3 and the Two Knights Variation look good to me and my engine also approves of these variations. However, you will need to do some homework in the Advance Variation with 5.a3!?. As far as the Panov is concerned, I would recommend to watch GM Henrik Danielsen’s 60 minutes video about the Panov Attack and to follow his recommendation 13…Nxc3 to avoid the “Panov endgame”. All in all I would rate this DVD with a ‘B’.

A ChessBase feature with Andrew Martin

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dmsv dmsv 3/14/2017 05:10
I'll leave critique of Martin's chosen lines to the experts, but it's worth adding (and emphasizing): Martin is a remarkably good expositor of chess opening plans and ideas, which makes his DVDs especially useful for those of us (like myself) who desperately need someone to tell us what we should be trying to do with our pieces in different opening systems. Although I haven't yet seen Martin's overview of the Caro-Kann, I've watched--and benefited significantly--from several of his other opening DVDs. If you're in the rating range this material is aimed at (it's the ABC series, after all), I suspect you'll find his work very helpful and refreshingly clear as well.
Alan Smith Alan Smith 3/14/2017 01:02
Andrew Martin is a wonderful chess teacher. I truly miss his YouTube channel, which I felt was the best of all the chess-related channels out there.
Michael51 Michael51 3/15/2017 03:51
Looks interesting ....anyone know what year this DVD was originally produced?
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