Opening surveys in CBM 138

10/31/2010 – Black equalises in the Caro-Kann against 3.Nc3; at the moment, only 3.e5 gives White some hope of an opening advantage. Things are as clear-cut as that according to Leonid Kritz. In any case, the German grandmaster also delivers his contribution to proving this statement, at least as far as the second part on the Advance Variation is concerned. In the critical line after 3...Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 he shows how White achieves a slight advantage both against 6...Qb6 and also 6...cxd4. The Olympiad game Karjakin-Eljanov confirms Kritz' analysis. You will find another 11 articles on the DVD of CBM 138. Read: Kritz' complete article

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The advance variation Nf3-Be2; Black plays 5...c5

by Leonid Kritz

The Caro-Kann Defence nowadays is one of the group of classical openings which present a problem to all those who open with 1.e4. I think that after the Petroff, it is the second safest opening against 1.e4. For a long time 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 was considered the main line. However at the start of the century, a lot of possibilities were discovered for Black, which all lead to equality. Since then the 3.e5 variation has become more and more popular. One of the sub-variations is the setup with Nf3-Be2, when White tries to develop his kingside first and only then decides how he intends to play on the queenside. The best reply for Black is to get in c6-c5 immediately, in order to initiate counterplay against the white centre.

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5

The starting position for the 3.e5 variation, in which White possesses several options. In this article we shall deal with the setup 4.Nf3-Be2.

4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2

Now Black has various ways in which to continue including 5...Nd7, 5...Ne7, 5...h6 etc. However, Black's strongest option is the immediate attack on the white centre:



White should not change over to the typical pawn structures after 6.c3, because he then has on the board in principle a French position, only there is the difference that the black bishop is on f5 and not on c8. The fact that Black has used two moves to achieve c5 is more than sufficiently compensated for by the active bishop on f5.

In the position which has arisen Black basically has two plans - 6...Qb6 and 6...cxd4. There are also more rarely played alternatives, which we shall look into first.

A) Rare continuations

6...Nd7. Obviously the c6-square suits the bishop better. On d7 it is relatively passive and in addition the black queen can no longer control the d5 -square, which can be important if White should play c4. 7.0-0 Ne7 8.c4! and White had an excellent position in Haslinger,S - Strating,S 1-0.

6...Nc6. This move would have been good, if the c5-pawn were not hanging. 7.dxc5! Black will find it very difficult to win the pawn back: 7...Qc7 8.0-0 Nge7 9.c4! and White had a clear advantage in Edouard,R - Reinhart,E 1-0.

B) 6...Qb6!?

From White's point of view, the most dangerous continuation. Here play is so dynamic that, if the player with White does not know exactly what must be played, not only does he not obtain anything of an advantage but he can quite quickly see his game collapse.


The pawn has to be given up; moves such as 7.b3 or 7.Qc1 are just not worth considering - chess cannot be played as passively as that.


An alternative is 7...Qxb2.

a) From this position, White can go into the madcap variations 8.Nb5 c4 9.Nc7+ ¢d7 10.Nxa8 Bxc2 etc. The position which arises at the end, however, is absolutely unclear and in addition it is very difficult to keep everything in mind is such highly complicated variations. For that reason, in my opinion the positional move 8.Qb1 is better.

b) 8.Qb1! Qxb1 9.Rxb1 c4 (9...b6 10.dxc5 bxc5 11.Rb7 d4 12.Bxd4! cxd4 13.Nxd4 Nd7 14.Bb5 and White had a won position in Baklan,V - Rasmussen,K 1-0) 10.Rxb7 Nc6

11.Nb5! Rb8 12.Rxb8+ Nxb8 13.Kd2! a6 14.Na7!, Bologan,V - Palo,D 1-0. In all variations, White has a clear advantage which is based on good, solid logic rather than on mad computer variations.

We shall now return to the position after 7.Nc3 Nc6:

8.0-0 Qxb2 9.Qe1!

Once more I find that the attempt to win the a8-rook by means of 9.Nb5 cannot offer a clear advantage. On the other hand, the move 9.Qe1 leads to a clear-cut position with a slight positional superiority.


9...0-0-0 is not good, because after 10.Rb1 Qxc2 11.Bb5! White achieves very good compensation, Kamsky,G - Morozevich,A ½-½.

10.Bxd4 Nxd4 11.Nxd4


Black cannot waste any more time bringing back the f5-bishop, he has to complete his development.

12.Rb1! Qxc3

12...Bxc3 13.Rxb2 Bxe1 14.Rxe1 does not make much of a difference, Motylev,A - Belov,V ½-½. The white rook is not on b4, but on b2, which however does not make a great difference.

13.Rxb4 Bxe1 14.Rxe1

Black cannot defend simultaneously against the threats of 15.Rxb7 and 15.Nxf5; but in any case he must hang on to the b-pawn.

14...b6 15.Bb5+ Kf8 16.Nxf5 exf5 17.Rd1 Ne7 18.c4!

and White possesses great compensation for the pawn, Mekhitarian,K - Turov,M ½-½. Here only two results are possible - on account of his deficit in development Black has no winning chances. The result of the game depends on whether White can make creative use of his initiative - original ideas are needed in in order to break into the black position.

C) 6...cxd4

Black resolves the tension in the centre and tries to complete his development quickly.

7.Nxd4 Ne7

It does not constitute a problem for Black if White takes the f5-bishop. The position is closed and thus the bishop pair does not have so much power. Also the e5-pawn is an important factor - White has to give some thought to its defence.


This is the only way to fight for an advantage! The old main variation goes 8.Bg5 Qd7 9.Bxe7 Bxe7 10.Nxf5 exf5 11.Nd2 Nc6 12.Nf3 0-0 and in the game Nijboer,F - Erenburg,S 1-0 Black showed that his position has no problems. One important positional factor is that the d5-pawn is not weaker than the e5-pawn.

8...Nbc6 9.Qa4


Black is controlling the b5-square and wants to take on c4, possibly even going on to play b7-b5 immediately afterwards. The alternative immediate capture on c4 has the disadvantage that White will develop his b1-knight via  a3 and take the c4-pawn with the knight, after which Black has problems: 10.Na3 Qa5 11.Qxa5 Nxa5 12.Nxc4 Nxc4 13.Bxc4, Svidler,P - Anand,V ½-½.

10.Nc3 dxc4 11.0-0-0!

White gains more and more time, whilst Black is already clearly behind with his development.


The queens have to be exchanged in order to take the tension out of the position. In the event of 11...Qc8, White obtains an advantage after 12.Nxf5 Nxf5 13.Bb6!, Caruana,F - Cossin,S 1-0.

12.Qxa5 Nxa5 13.Nxf5 Nxf5 14.Bb6 Nc6 15.f4 Rc8


Playing quietly does not offer White very much in the long run - Black wants to play Be7-g5 and the white bishop pair does not have much to do either. The opening up of the game is clearly in White's favour.

16...Nh4 17.Bxc4 g5 18.f5 Nxe5 19.Bb3 Bc5


An innovation, recently played by Caruana. After 20...Ke7 21.f6+! Kxf6 22.Ne4+ Kg7 23.Nxc5 Nc4 24.Ba7! White finally managed to decide the game in his favour after a complicated struggle - Caruana,F - Arutinian,D 1-0.

In conclusion we can say that with correct play White is in the driving seat in all lines, but he must play very accurately in order to turn his slight advantage into the full point. One slip is enough to give away his advantage, or as in the Qb6 variation even to fall into a worse position.

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