Chess Opening Theory/1. e4/1...c6

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Caro-Kann Defence
a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position in Forsyth-Edwards Notation (FEN)
Moves: 1. e4 c6
ECO code: B10-B19
Parent: King's Pawn Opening

Caro-Kann Defence

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The Caro-Kann is considered solid and safe with a better pawn structure (often leading to good endgames). However, White has many possible responses and may develop faster than Black. Out of the Semi-Open games, the opening is thought to be less dynamic than the Sicilian and the French.

In the traditional Open Game (1. e4 e5), many of the big threats that Black may face target the weak f7-square with White's bishop positioned on c4. And, Black often can consider this threat resolved if Black succeeds in pushing their queen pawn to d5. Thus, the idea of the Caro-Kann (as well as the French Defence) is to support a pushed queen pawn on d5 at the early stage in the opening. The Caro-Kann achieves this with 1...c6 (while the French does so via 1...e6).

In choosing the Caro-Kann, Black gives up the centre in exchange for easier development. Black often aims to let White's pawns overextend, or develop a poor structure, and take advantage in the endgame.

In contrast to the French, the queen's bishop is not blocked with a pawn on e6, but the c6-square is no longer available for the knight. Additionally, since White aims for a strong classical centre with two pawns on d4 and e4, here Black will try to attack that centre (specifically the d4-square) by pushing their c-file pawn to c5 (in both the Caro-Kann and the French). However, in contrast to the French, in the Caro-Kann Black has already moved their c-file pawn once to c6. Thus, Black is one tempo behind compared with the French since another push from c6 to c5 is required. (The French pushes to c5 in a single move.)

There are several moves that White can consider here: White's natural move is now 2. d4 as nothing prevents them from building a strong center. This is the Main Line and is played in 3 out of every 4 Caro-Kann games. Usually Black would respond with 2...d5 with White having many different options to choose from. This line is the most studied and analysed.

Bobby Fischer sometimes played 2. Nf3 followed by 3. Nc3. This line's popularity has plummeted since Fischer, though it may become popular again in the future. Usually White would also play 3.Nc3 as well and usually this transposed to the Two Knights variation.

The Two Knights Variation begins with 2. Nc3 and usually continues with 2...d5 3.Nc3. Here White attempts to bring his knights outs first before committing the d-pawn. Usually, White will wait a little bit before placing the d pawn on d4 and sometimes just places it on the d3 square.

The English Variation also known as the Accelerated Panov Attack is White aggressive counter to the Caro-Kann and is played 2. c4. This usually results in White and Black exchanging two pawns. In this line, White hopes to weaken Black's C and D file.

The Breyer Variation starts with 2. d3. This move is fine while unambitious.

In almost all cases, whatever move White makes, Black will respond with 2...d5 and create a pawn chain into the center.

Statistics

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Approximate chances
White win 33%, Draw 43%, Black win 24%.
Estimated next move popularity
d4 72%, Nf3 8%, Nc3 8%, c4 5%, d3 3%, f4 1%, Bc4 1%, other moves less than 0.5%.
move average 365Chess.com (big) Chess Tempo (all) chessgames.com Lichess (masters) Lichess (database)
2. d4 72.0% 79.5 76.0 76.8 81.0 46.8
2. Nf3 8.4 3.9 4.9 3.5 3.6 26.0
2. Nc3 8.2 7.7 8.2 8.4 7.4 9.2
2. c4 5.2 4.3 6.8 7.6 4.5 2.6
2. d3 3.0 3.3 2.9 2.8 2.8 3.1
2. f4 1.0 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 4.2
2. Bc4 1.0 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.0 4.7
2. Ne2 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.5 2.5
2. e5 0.2 0.7 0.7 0.5 0.5 0.3
2. c3 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6
2. b3 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.3
everything else 0.4 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 1.4

Theory table

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1. e4 c6

  2 3 4 Evaluation
Main line d4
d5
=
Two Knights Attack Nf3
d5
Nc3 =
Two Knights Attack Nc3
d5
Nf3 =
Accelerated Panov Attack c4
d5
=
Breyer Variation d3
d5
Nd2 =
Hillbilly Attack Bc4
d5
Euwe Attack b3
d5
exd5
cxd5
Bb2
 
=
Labahn Attack b4
 
Spike variation g4
 

References

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  • Nunn's Chess Openings. 1999. John Nunn (Editor), Graham Burgess, John Emms, Joe Gallagher. ISBN 1-8574-4221-0.


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For explanation of theory tables, see theory table and for notation, see algebraic notation.

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