Caro-Kann Defense (introduction, main variations & ideas) ⎸Chess Openings

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Caro-Kann is a great weapon to add to your repertoire against 1. e4. There are numerous ways to fight white’s opening advantage and to get a lot of attacking chances.

The starting move of the opening is 1…c6, in response to e4. With this move black is preparing to challenge the center by pushing d5 (instead of challenging it directly as he does in the symmetrical e4 e5 openings or in the Sicilian Defense). The Caro Kann is a very flexible opening choice and it branches out into several key variations. Each will be briefly mentioned in this video, with the basic move order, ideas and plans for both sides. A separate video will be made for each individual variation where I will go into much more depth theoretically, as well as provide practical advice on move order and traps to set or to avoid.

The opening was named after Horatio Caro and Marcus Kann, two chess masters from the 19th century, who’d analyzed the main line up to move 17 and established it as a solid opening for black (which was hard to do considering the classical school of chess which frowned upon “modern openings” which don’t challenge the center immediately).

The theory of the Caro-Kann evolved a lot since then, and several key variations emerged. It’s now considered to be one of the most solid ways for black to fight against the king pawn opening.

The common variations are:

Main line:
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5

The Karpov variation:
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7

The Korchnoi and the Bronstein-Larsen variations:
1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6 exf6 (Korchnoi) 5…gxf6 (Bronstein-Larsen)

The Advance variation:
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5

The Exchange variation:
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. cxd5 (most commonly leading to the Panov-Botvinnik attack) …cxd5 4. c4

The Fantasy (Tartakower variation):
1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3

The Two Knights variation:
1. e4 c6 2. Nc3

The Gurgenidze variation:
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 g6

Players whose Caro-Kann Defense games you should study:

Anatoly Karpov, David Navara, Alexey Dreev, Tigran Petrosian


  1. I play the Caro-Kann almost exclusively against E4. I will be checking out all of these video's.

  2. Hi Sir. I really admire your efforts. Such a quality content. I really love your channel. It's too underrated. ❤️❤️

  3. Great video. Thank you so much for your knowledge and clear presentation.

  4. Wow. Just fantastic stuff. So clear and concise, without sacrificing depth. Thanks so much. Has me excited to play the Caro-Kann.

  5. Posting this 3 years after the video was posted. Another idea for black, particularly in the advance variation, is to delay developing your white Bishop on move 3 and push c5 instead. If white plays kf6 you immediately pin it with the intention of taking it and trading off your light squared Bishop.

    In most variations of the Caro Kann black is going to end up with most of his pawns on white squares and the light squared Bishop ends up being a weak piece.

    Another idea is if White uses his light squared Bishop to check your king block with your light squared Bishop, again with the intent of trading it off. You are trading your weak Bishop for his strong Bishop,

    Treating the bishop for the knight might be seen as giving up the bishop pair at really high levels but for a lot of mere mortals you are just getting rid of a piece that will ultimately end up gettin0g chased around by pawns and backed into a corner to be traded off anyways.

  6. At 16:01 could you also push the f-pawn? You would remove one of the central pawns and can easily recapture if he takes or pushes his e-pawn. I’m new to chess so I’m just curious on your opinion.

  7. Can somebody please tell me , is the caro kahn a good choice for a begginer below 1300 elo ? Or should I choose the french defence?

  8. Note from a strong chessplayer: There are 3 reasons why GMs dont play Caro-Kann every game against e4. The advance variation is superscary with many nice ideas to simply destroy black. The mainline forces you to give up your pawncenter dxe4; its a big commitment. Many annoying sidelines, like Panov and 2)d3.

  9. 17:02 why can't black play QA5 instead of NC6. There is knight for capture

  10. 0:00 Introduction
    1:51 Main line (3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5)
    7:49 Karpov [Modern] Variation (4…Nd7)
    11:11 Korchnoi and Bronstein-Larsen Variations (4…Nf6)
    13:33 Advance Variation (3.e5 Bf5)
    14:39 Short Variation (4.Nf3)
    15:45 Bayonet Attack (4.Nc3 e6 5.g4)
    17:27 Return to Short Variation
    19:14 Fantasy Variation (3.f3)
    21:26 Exchange Variation (3.exd5 cxd5)
    22:30 Panov-Botvinnik Attack (4.c4)
    23:39 Gurgenidze Variation (3.Nc3 g6)
    24:27 Conclusion

  11. found you through your caro-kann study on lichess. thanks for these videos!

  12. what website is he using for the video? He's on a chess database right?

  13. You're not only a great chess teacher but you have a very lovely wife. 😉

  14. Really nice presentation thank you. I have played Caro for a long time but really just learned by trial and error against Stockfish. This really helps me get a better picture.

  15. I am studying all opening theory about caro-kann. Wish me luck!

  16. Is there a video on 3 c5 caro.?? Botvinik carls defence

  17. Amazing explanation as always 🙂 thank you so much!

  18. Korchnoi variation? It's the Tartakower and there is plenty of counterplay

  19. thank you for helping me study for a tournament 😀

  20. Knight to g6 defending the bishop, if takes- then takes puts the knight on a better square than the back rank and doesn't lose a tempo? Good idea or not?

  21. I'm new to actually studying chess. Is it best to memorize each of the lines Mr. Hanging Pawns describes in these videos? I feel like the odds of playing an opponent that follows exactly is pretty low. Any advice is greatly apprectiated. Thank you.

  22. Hey, I have watched about 1,000 hours of your videos, they are great. However, IM Alex Banzea has also thousands of hours of playing the Caro Kann, he is unbeatable. You should play him for a match and do a video. It would be awesome. I want to see you challenge his Tartakower setup. Unbeatable.

  23. Why would white move the Knight on C3 after CxD4 instead of just taking the unprotected pawn with the Queen?

  24. Highly underrated channel. Subscribed. Thanks for your work.

  25. this channel is by far the best channel for beginners to learn how to think and to learn openings because you also show opening ideas and principles other than just theory. I can say that now I am prepared to play Ruy Lopez main line, Italian game many different lines, caro cann main line and Scandinavian defense many lines perfectly because of you

  26. 4 years in and this is still one of the best videos that exists on the caro cann theory

  27. what does the B19 mean in the top right corner?

  28. Thank you brother. I've learned so much from this. Very detailed. Thank you.

  29. I got so confused on what to do and some good ideas both using and against the Caro Khan. This video was amazing and I will definitely watch the others

  30. [probably the most legit guy on you tubes here before the sell out

  31. One of the best chess channel to really improve for long treh

  32. Your opening explanations are the best! Good job and good luck for your GM way!

  33. How does this guy only have 200k subs instead of 2m?

  34. your opening lessons are really great thank you for the knowledge

  35. The Last of Us- Realistically Vicious Gameplay says:

    4:16 what if white just does pawn to a3 challenging the bishop white doesn’t have to play c3 you know actually I don’t know why they would I’d really love an explanation PLEASE SEE THIS !

  36. Best chess teacher in youtube. Serius, clear and detailed. thanks for all the work you are putting.

  37. Hi Stepan, Every high level player speaks about theory and agaon the theory. What do you exactly mean by theory? For me it seems theory means they learned all the best analysed moves in advance. And thats it.

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