27 November 2021

Article: "Introducing the Caro - Kane Variation"

 NM Jeremy Kane recently posted an interesting look at a dangerous Caro-Kann sideline on Chess.com, "Introducing the Caro - Kane Variation". It's partly what the expression "tongue-in-cheek" is about - not being completely serious - yet it is definitely worth some thoughtful consideration. The idea is based on an ultimately unsound sacrifice on f7 for White in a variation of the Two Knights, but one that can easily trap Black. I consider that true mastery of an opening requires study of exactly these kinds of ideas, which from the Black point of view your opponent could easily use in an attempt to try to win in the opening phase. Gaining an understanding of the line's ultimate flaws will both arm you against future opponents and give you a better comprehension of chess in general.

Here's my take on it, looking at the best play from Black's point of view (with an assist from Dragon 2.5.1 by Komodo).

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Caro-Kann - Two Knights"] [Black "\"Caro-Kane\""] [Result "*"] [ECO "B10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 2.5.1 by Komodo"] [PlyCount "20"] [EventDate "????.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 {This is considered by opening theory to be not as strong as ...Bg4, but a lot of Black players may use it with the intention of transposing to the Main Line.} (3... Bg4 {is played most often, although the text move is a strong second. Black now has to be comfortable with the idea of immediately exchanging the bishop on f3 after h2-h3.}) 4. Nxe4 Nf6 ( 4... Bf5 $6 {is a common error, with Black trying to get into the Classical Caro-Kann. However, White just gets an advantage if Black uses standard moves in the line, for example} 5. Ng3 Bg6 (5... Bg4 $5) 6. h4 h6 7. Ne5 Bh7 8. Qh5 g6 9. Bc4 $18) 5. Neg5 {this introduces the "Caro-Kane" sideline.} (5. Nxf6+ { and now Black can play either ...exf6 or ...gxf6 and after White plays d4, this transposes into the respective Main Line variations.}) 5... h6 6. Nxf7 { this is the point of the line. White will now try for an all-out attack on the more vulnerable Black king.} Kxf7 7. Ne5+ {The most likely follow-up, although the bishop check on c4 could be executed first. Black has to remember two ideas: retreat to g8 (not e8) after the knight check, and block the bishop check with ...e6.} (7. Bc4+ e6 8. Qe2 (8. Ne5+ {transposes to the main line given here}) 8... b5 {the third key idea to remember is to react with ...b5 after White plays Qe2. Black aggressively challenges the bishop, in order to disrupt White's building attack.} 9. Bb3 c5 $19) 7... Kg8 {see the "Caro-Kane" article for what happens after ...Ke8. The king is too exposed if left in the center.} 8. Bc4+ e6 {now White can follow up in a variety of ways, but again Black has thematic counter-ideas.} 9. d4 (9. Ng6 $6 {it looks tempting to recoup material, but the attack then fizzles and Black is doing well.} c5 10. O-O Qe8 11. Nxh8 Kxh8 $19 {Black's king is perfectly safe and now Black will get a decisive lead in development with open lines against White's king. The two minor pieces Black has are much more of an advantage in such situations that the rook White has in exchange.}) 9... c5 {this is the engine's choice, which is also a good response to Ng6 (given above), O-O or c3. If Qe2 then ... b5, as mentioned in the above note. Black now has the idea of developing with . ..Nc6 to directly challenge the Ne5 and White's center, and is also threatening ...cxd4.} (9... Bd6 {was highlighted in the "Caro-Kane" article as a common response by Black.} 10. f4 c5 (10... Bxe5 $2 {is what the author's opponents tended to play, but this gives white compensation with an open f-file after fxe5.}) 11. dxc5 (11. f5 $2 Bxe5 $19) 11... Qa5+ {followed by ... Qxc5, Bxe5 and Nd5, with the idea of ...Nc6}) 10. O-O (10. Be3 {the problem with moves like this is that White is down too much material and any exchanges will simply favor Black, while robbing White of attacking pieces.} cxd4 11. Bxd4 Nc6 $19) 10... Nc6 $19 {White has run out of attacking options, as the Ne5 will now be driven off or exchanged. As we've seen before, White loses even if the knight gets back material by going for the Rh8, due to the much better minor pieces vs. rook situation that would result for Black.} *

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