22 February 2024

Video completed: The 4...Nf6 Caro-Kann by Nigel Davies


I recently completed the FritzTrainer The 4...Nf6 Caro-Kann by GM Nigel Davies, which was published in 2016. It covers lines in both the Bronstein-Larsen (5...gxf6) and Tartakower (5...exf6) variations for Black, which is unusual, since Caro-Kann opening resources normally focus on one or the other, because of their major structural differences. The content description is copied below; there are also 16 quiz positions at the end, mostly from the Bronstein-Larsen side. In each of the lines, a full game is presented as the baseline, although certain sub-variations or ideas are demonstrated within it. There is also a separate, larger database of model games included in both variations.

As is reflected in my annotated games database attached to this blog, I've long played the Classical (4...Bf5) variation of the main line Caro-Kann. I have no intention of giving it up, but the 4...Nf6 variations are of interest both from a general improvement standpoint and for potentially expanding my personal repertoire. The position-types that result have some resemblance to familiar ones, but especially the Bronstein-Larsen requires a more dynamic, attacking approach from Black. The positional imbalances that result are also a useful way to deliberately (if more riskily) play for a win as Black, versus the normally more staid positions of the Classical variation.

Although this video set is one of the more comprehensive ones available on the topic, it still covers a lot of territory without much depth, particularly in the main line Bronstein-Larsen 6. c3, where Davies recommends ...h5 as Black's response, rather than the much more common ...Bf5. The database supports this choice, however, with ...h5 scoring significantly better. White has a large number of 6th move possibilities, as can be seen below, so this lack of depth is probably unavoidable.

I avoided the Tartakower variation when originally building my personal repertoire largely because of Korchnoi's defeat against Karpov in the world championship series while relying on it. That said, it's certainly solid and in fact underwent something of a renaissance several years after this video was published. I don't believe it's quite as trendy at the moment, but there are many current games with it and it scores significantly better than the Bronstein-Larsen, so it may be worth delving into further. If you are looking for an introduction to the modern (2017 and on) treatment of the Tartakower, this blog post by GM Max Illingworth on Chess.com may be of interest: https://www.chess.com/blog/Illingworth/the-modern-caro-kann-antidote-to-3-nc3

  • The 4...Nf6 Caro-Kann: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6
  • 01: Introduction [06:28]
  • 02: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 Strategy 1 - Kavalek,L - Larsen,B [11:17]
  • 03: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 Strategy 2 - Victor Ciocaltea - Mikhail Botvinnik [10:09]
  • 04: 5.Nxf6 exf6 Strategy 1 - Rosino,A - Bilek,I [14:29]
  • 05: 5.Nxf6 exf6 Strategy 2 - Torre,E - Kortschnoj,V [12:00]
  • 06: 5.Nxf6 exf6 Strategy 3 - Tarrasch,S - Tartakower,S [07:56]
  • 07: 5.Nxf6 exf6 Strategy 4 - Perez - Alekhine,A [07:52]
  • 08: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.c3 Bf5 - John Fedorowicz - Nigel Rodney Davies [09:47]
  • 09: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.c3 h5 - Eggleston,D - Short,N [15:40]
  • 10: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Be2 Qc7 8.Be3 - Tiviakov,S - Short,N [06:42]
  • 11: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Be2 Qc7 8.0-0 - Lombaers,P - Jones,G [06:46]
  • 12: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.g3 h5 - Nakar,E - Paichadze,L [10:29]
  • 13: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Ne2 Nd7 8.Ng3 Bg6 9.0-0 - Aseev,K - Bronstein,D [05:17]
  • 14: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.c3 e6 8.Ne2 - Pohla,H - Bronstein,D [06:09]
  • 15: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.c3 e6 8.Qf3 - Ivanovic,B - Bronstein,D [08:58]
  • 16: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.Bf4 - Davies,N - Groszpeter,A [04:45]
  • 17: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.Be3 - Bakulin,N - Bronstein,D [08:53]
  • 18: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.Ne2 - Kopaev,N - Bronstein,D [07:35]
  • 19: 5.Nxf6 gxf6 6.Qd3 - Barczay,L - Bronstein,D [05:32]
  • 20: 5.Nxf6 exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Qc2 Re8+ 9.Ne2 Kh8 White castles short - Tiviakov,S - Spraggett,K [10:37]
  • 21: 5.Nxf6 exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Ne2 Re8 9.Qc2 Kh8 White castles long - Fontaine,R - Asrian,K [07:19]
  • 22: 5.Nxf6 exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 Be6 - Arakhamia-Grant,K - Korchnoi,V [07:33]
  • 23: 5.Nxf6 exf6 6.Bc4 Qe7 7.Qe2 Be6 8.Bxe6 - Ivanovic,B - Miladinovic,I [09:03]
  • 24: 5.Nxf6 exf6 6.Bc4 Qe7 7.Qe2 Be6 8.Bb3 - Estevez,G - Lechtynsky,J [09:43]
  • 25: 5.Nxf6 exf6 6.Bc4 Qe7 7.Be2 - Karjakin,S - Jobava,B [11:19]
  • 26: 5.Nxf6 exf6 6.Bc4 Bd6 - Bednarski,J - Donner,J [11:38]
  • 27: 5.Ng3 g6 - Sax,G - Larsen,B [16:23]
  • 28: 5.Ng3 h5 - Elezi,E - Akopian,V [09:21]


  1. Tartakower variation is extremely popular here in Holland, due to a certain Chessable course by Erwin l’Ami. I’ve always played Bronstein-Larsen. h5 is a good idea, but c3, Bc4 and Qb3 is a good line against that for white. So it’s recommended for black to first play …Nbd7, to be able to kick the Bc4 immediately with …Nb6. It’s covered in Dangerous Weapons: the CK.

    1. That's a good point, and shows how shallow the main line 6. c3 analysis is in the product, unfortunately.


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