Cramping the Caro-Kann – With Grandmaster So’s 1 e4


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The release of Grandmaster So’s Lifetime Repertoires: 1. e4 (Part 2) is very good news for King’s pawn players hoping for an early advantage.

This part of the course deals with three particularly strong and popular Black defences: The Sicilian, French and Caro-Kann.

In a nutshell, the recommendations against the first two are 3 Bb5(+) and the Tarrasch Variation (3 Nd2) respectively.

Those lines are all very well and no doubt a well-versed player will have success with the recommendations.

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Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So's 1. e4 - Part 1

Rock Solid

I was more intrigued to what Grandmaster So would advocate against the rock solid Caro-Kann Defense1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5.

Caro-Kann Defense

The Caro-Kann Defense

It is a tough nut to crack, as So acknowledges:

‘The Caro-Kann Defence is a very good and solid opening for Black. It has been used as an impregnable defence in World Championship matches by Capablanca, Botvinnik, Petrosian and Karpov, amongst others. It enjoys the reputation as one of the most solid openings against 1.e4.’

In fact, even though José Raúl Capablanca did indeed like and use the Caro-Kann, he didn’t use in his World Championship matches against Emanuel Lasker (1921) or Alexander Alekhine (1927).

However, the reputation for solidity remains intact. Black hopes to play in similar style to another defense, as the course explains:

‘Compared to the French Defence, Black wants to be able to activate his light-squared Bishop and get a solid and coordinated position.’

Cramping the Caro-Kann

This course recommends a way of cramping the Caro-Kann, even after allowing the aforementioned bishop to take up a good position.

Wesley So's 1 e4

1 e4 c6

2 d4 d5

3 e5

The Advance Variation. Black’s best moves now are 3 …c5 and:

3 …Bf5

Caro-Kann Advance Variation

4 Nd2

Caro-Kann Advance Variation 4 Nd2

An unusual move, which could well catch Caro-Kann players off guard. It looks an odd place for the knight but it has not yet finished its journey.

There is a definite point to the move:

‘This is my recommendation. White puts this Knight on b3 right away in order to discourage Black’s main plan of creating counterplay in the center with …c6-c5.’

White then opts for simple development and lets the extra space continue to keep cramping the Caro-Kann.

Cramping the Caro-Kann

There are some extremely interesting ideas in the air. Grandmaster So demonstrates an unusual plan of redeploying the queen’s knight to the kingside, with Nb3-c1-d3-f4. The closed nature of the position allows such liberties with time and the knight ends up applying more pressure on Black’s center and kingside.

There are additional ideas based on an unusual queen manoeuvre too.

Cramping the Caro-Kann Defense

Playing Qb1-d1 is an uncommon idea and this is exactly why I like the look of these 4 Nd2 lines. The search for some fresh and interesting lines is a constant quest for anyone playing 1 e4 and this one could easily become trendy with club and tournament players.

Chessable Courses

Grandmaster So’s 1 e4 recommendations are definitely worth investigating.

The full course is available here and there is also a Short and Sweet version, which can be found here.

If you missed the news of Part One’s release then please catch up!

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Lifetime Repertoires: Wesley So's 1. e4 - Part 2

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