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A roundup of the modern variations in the Caro-Kann, featuring two games by yours truly and two convincing wins from Matthias Bluebaum.

Download PGN of June ’23 1 e4 ... games

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Caro-Kann Defence, Endgame Variation [B10]

After 1.e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3.d3 dxe4 4.dxe4 Qxd1+ 5. Kxd1 a lot of emphasis has been placed on 5...Nf6, but there is very little wrong with the immediate 5...g6 either. Here I like 6.Ne5, but in Fernandez, D - Chambers, E I opted to push the a-pawn, resulting in the following position after Black’s 11...0-0-0:

I need some psychoanalysis into the question of why I enjoy flank pawn pushes so much, because here I again pushed the a-pawn with 12.a5 when White had some (not too difficult) better moves available.

Caro-Kann Defence, Endgame Offer with 3...Bg4 [B10]

Most people (myself included) see the queen trade as most appropriate after 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d3, but that doesn’t mean we can rule out moves like 3...Bg4 either. An incredible slugfest ensued in the game Kovalev, V - Salem, AR, reaching its opening climax after 7...h6:

White should probably play 8.Ne5 without further delay. When the Belarusian opted for 8.Qe2 instead, his opponent quite rightly denied him the opportunity for this knight jump with 8...Nd7.

Caro-Kann, Two Knights Variation 3...Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.d4 [B11]

We’ve discussed the position after 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.d4 dxe4 7.Qxe4 Nf6 before, mostly featuring the reply 8.Qd3 (which takes us into a Scandinavian with an extra tempo for Black.) Instead, in Parvanyan, A - Bluebaum, M we see White try 8.Qh4:

Black can equalise in a couple of ways, but I think the takeaway from the opening phase of this game is that they have to be philosophically focused on the drawbacks of White’s queen position in order to do so. Otherwise, there is a risk of simply ending up in a ‘bishop pair +/=’, which White had one chance to inflict in the game with 14.Rb1.

Caro-Kann Defence, Short System with 5...Ne7 6.c3 Ng6 [B12]

A second strong effort from the German GM in Preotu, R - Bluebaum, M and one which yields plentiful grounds for future analysis. In principle the confrontational 7.0-0 f6 should be better for White, but it takes some effort to show it, especially when the pawn needs to be sacrificed in virtually all lines. The followup was 8.Re1 fxe5 9.dxe5 Nd7 10.Nd4:

Black should accept the pawn, preferably immediately, and White shouldn’t hasten too much to regain it. The latter was his undoing in the game.

Caro-Kann Defence, Short System with 5...Nd7 6.0-0 Ne7 [B12]

In this highly traditional line White opted for the immediate 7.a4 (it’s more common to try for Nd2-b3 first) and, in my opinion, Black immediately went slightly wrong with 7...Ng6:

This looks like the poor cousin of the line Bluebaum played above, though 8.c3 as played in the game is not critical (and rather makes it look as though Black has played an especially clever move order.) Stronger is 7...c5. In the game Pranesh, M - Wei, Y Black equalised convincingly and seemed on the cusp of completely overwhelming his opponent in good style, when strange things started to happen.

Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation with 3...Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.c4 [B12]

A bit of a sequel to my own game with the White player in this game was the encounter Garrido Outon, A - Moussard, J. After the further 5...e6 6. Nc3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 Nd7 8.Nge2 Be7 9.Be3 Nh6 10.Ng3 we arrive at a critical juncture:

In the game Black played 10...Bg4?! implying acceptance of a bishop trade, while much more solid would have been 10...Bg6 (here there is no 11.Bd3 because of the pinned d4-pawn, and it turns out that White taking on h5 is not all that scary.) White handled the rest of the game excellently and pulled off an upset against an opponent with an extra 300 rating points.

Caro-Kann Defence, Exchange Variation with ...g6 [B13]

Via the slightly unorthodox Modern order 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.c3 d5 5.exd5 cxd5 I reached an exchange Caro-Kann with fianchetto for Black in the game Fernandez, D - Petrovic, A. (My 4th move was intended against 4...d6, as I quite like playing with Nf3 and c3 against the Modern.) The structure is perfectly solid for Black, and they preserve the idea of meeting 9.Bd3 with 9...Bf5, as indeed happened in the game:

The biggest learning point for me in this game was just how much work had to be done after trading my g-pawn for Black’s front f-pawn, as in previous annotations I have more or less implied that taking on f5 and then pushing g4 gives White a ‘+/-‘ without too much fuss.

All the best, Daniel

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