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ideas behind openings

Fighting Against the Caro Kann Defense with 4.h4!? E-mail
Written by WGM Raluca Sgîrcea, IM Renier Castellanos   
Friday, 21 August 2015 00:00

caro-kannThe Caro Kann Defense is well known for being a solid defense against white's 1.e4. For many years, it had a reputation of being a passive opening, suitable for a player who is happy playing for a draw. Nothing more distant from the truth!

Nowadays, the number of strong Grandmasters employing the Caro Kann at all levels is very high, and with good results. It seems that, in those sharp attacks that white can develop against this opening, black also has his own chances to fight for the win. On the other hand, if white plays too conservative, then black would equalize fairly easy.

The latest trend against the Caro Kann (was more of a concept than just one variation) is that white should play ''for space'' with 3.e5. In the recent years, this move has gotten a lot of attention and many ideas have been tried, for example the ''Short system'' with 4.Nf3 and 5.Be2, 4.Be3 was also very popular at some point, and even 4.Nbd2 followed by 5.Nb3.


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All these systems had in common that they don't pursue a direct, violent attack against black; they just control black's most important freeing moves (c6-c5, f7-f6) and try to keep a slight edge due to having more space. Needless to say that this is easier said than done and that in practice black has shown more than enough resources to meet every system mentioned before.

In this article we will discuss a system based on the same principle of keeping the spatial advantage, starting with the move 4.h4!?

caro-kann 1

Black's main response has always been 4...h5, although the reader must be aware that 4...h6 and 4...Qb6 are other less principled options that white should know as well. The move 4...h5 puts an end to white's plans of advancing the kingside pawns. However, black concedes the g5 square in return. In the opening system we present on this article white is not too ambitious, and he is gladly settling for a very slight plus by continuing with 5.Bd3.

caro-kann 2

He trades his “good bishop”, but this doesn't matter much here; the black bishop on f5 is also a very strong piece. In general terms, white's aiming for French type of structures without bishops for either side in which he can benefit from his lasting space superiority. One of the main ideas here is to open the C file by playing c4, and in some cases, even grabbing more space by c5-b4-a4 etc.

In the next examples we have a deeper look at the middlegames arising from this variation. We hope they can serve you getting familiarized with the resulting positions.

This is a model game in which white obtained a very good position out of the opening. Black was soon left with only one pawn rupture and it weakened his position considerably.

The next example is another recent game by a very strong player. In this game white's center is attacked early. In this case it’s important to consider releasing the tension with 12.dxc5. Even after the disappearance of the white pawn on d4 white keeps a nice edge.

In the next game black did not answer 7.Bg5 with 7...Qb6, but with 7...Be7 instead. It seems that even after the trade of bishops black still has some problems to solve with the position of his king.

As we have mentioned before, this opening system is not too ambitious, but we believe it is suitable for the player who does not want to play the main theoretical lines and still play interesting positions with chances for an advantage.

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About the Authors:

Raluca Sgîrcea

WGM Raluca Sgîrcea is an active chess player and teaching chess for over two years.  European champion U10, winner of several Romanian national championship medals, Woman International Master title since 2011. One Woman Grandmaster norm. Highest FIDE rating 2302.

Renier Castellanos

IM Renier Castellanos is an active chess player and trainer for over 10 years, have worked for Chessbase and done live commentary on several major events, winner of many international tournaments. One Grandmaster norm. Highest FIDE rating 2529.

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Last Updated on Friday, 21 August 2015 09:32

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