How to counter Caro Kann Defense

How to Counter Caro Kann Defense?

Caro Kann defense is the third most popular opening choice against 1.e4. Many of the top players play Caro Kann often. The main idea of Caro Kann Defense is to wait for the white’s plan and try to find a counter attack. There are various similarities between the french defense and the Caro Kann defense. The major difference is in Caro Kann black gets more winning chances. 

Various openings can be used to counter Caro Kann defense. Some of them we will see in this article. The most famous and suggested way to play against Caro Kann defense is to play Advance Variation. There are many other good opening choices available, with a few very interesting choices, such as Fantasy Variation in Caro Kann Defense. 

Caro Kann Defense has a very long history. This opening was named in 1886 and has been considered the favorite opening of many top players for more than 200 years.

How to counter Caro Kann Defense?

There are various ways to counter the Caro Kann Defense. One of the best ways is to play advance variation against Caro Kann Defense. In an advance variation, white starts an immediate attack by playing 3rd move e5. White also gets complete control of the central squares, and black doesn’t get any good options. Black obviously can try extreme counter attack in many situations, but mostly it won’t work. 

Another option is to play Fantasy Variation. It starts with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3. This is the kind of modern variation that is played by French Star MVL and many other top chess grandmasters. The main advantage of fantasy variation is that it can be used as a surprise variation or in rapid and blitz games regularly. Black gets equality if black knows all the accurate continuation. 

Best variations to counter Caro Kann Defense

Following are the five best variations that you can prepare according to your taste and liking. 

Advance Variation

Advance variation starts with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5. White’s main plan is to keep pressure in the center and start attacking slowly. Balck immediately plays 3…Bf5 and tries to open a bishop on a strong diagonal.

There are multiple variations recommended in various chess courses. GM Wesley So recommended 4.Nd2 and suggested playing Nb3, preventing black’s c5 and stopping all the counter attack. 

The traditional opening goes with 4.Nf3. This is a classical variation and includes a lot of theory in it. There are many other options from the white sides which can be played and studied after moving Bf5.

Two knights variation

This variation starts with 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3. White tries to start an attack by two knights without playing the d4 move. This opening is perfect for players who like to play positional as well as tactical play. In some of the lines, white gets a completely sharp and tactical position; in some lines, white doesn’t get any attack but a very sold position.

Black also gets a very comfortable position if black knows theory well. Even if black plays all the moves accurately, it’s difficult for black to claim an advantage in any of the variations. 

This opening is very safe to play from the white side, and you can choose this if you need a draw if the opponent is in a must-win situation.

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Main Line – Classical Variation

In a classical variation, white starts with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 3.Nxe4. From this position, black has three main choices, i.e., Bf5, Nf6, and Nd7. Currently, Nf6 is becoming too much famous. Black gets a very comfortable position in Nf6 if white doesn’t know the proper theory. Players are playing this opening for must-win situations from the black side.

Black can also play Bf5 which is a classical opening. There is a lot of theory involved in this opening from both sides. I would recommend avoiding the main line if you want to prepare against Caro Kann easily and quickly.

Fantasy Variation

This variation has become very famous in recent times. In this variation, white starts with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3! 3rd move obviously seems dubious at first instinct. White wants to keep the pawn structure in the middle of the board and slowly start the attack from the king’s side. This system became quite popular in the last five years when suddenly all the top players started playing this line. 

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King’s Indian Attack

This King’s Indian Attack setup is very common and applied in many openings, such as against French Defense, Caro Kann, King’s pawn opening, and even against the Sicilian defense. White starts with 1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2. White’s main plan is to develop white’s white squared bishop on g2 and does a short castle. After securing the king, white’s play becomes very easy, and slowly white aims to attack the black king. 

Although black gets a very comfortable position after the opening, this variation is about a matter of taste. Some players like to play with fianchetto bishop and like their safe king. 

How to prepare against Caro Kann Defense?

  • Choose your opening – It’s very important to understand your likings and strengths. If you like to play aggressive chess, you should go with Advance Variation. If you like positional chess, go with the Classical Variation or with the Two Knights Variation.
  • Choose a book or video course – You can choose any chess course on the relevant opening. Study and watch the course. Add your own data and variations to it. 
  • Practice – Start playing variations that you studied in the online games or on the board games. Playing some online training games first is recommended before playing directly in the tournament. 


Do grandmasters play the Caro-Kann?

Yes! Many of the top chess players played Caro Kann Defense. This opening is still very famous on the top level. Most top grandmasters play this opening when they want mixed results (either draw or win). Some of the grandmasters play only Caro Kann Defense in their entire career. 

Can you play Caro-Kann against d4?

No! You cannot do this directly. The main reason is white will not play e4 after playing d4. Mostly white will play the c4 move, and in Caro Kann opening, white doesn’t play c4. If you really want to play Caro Kann, you can try playing d4 c6! If white plays e4, then you can play d5, and voila! It’s transposed to caro kann. 

Should I learn Sicilian Defense or Caro-Kann?

If you are starting from scratch, start playing Sicilian defense. It will be beneficial in the long term. Caro Kann is good for those who don’t want to learn completely new things and also want to prepare less for tournaments. On the contrary, Sicilian Defense will give you a different vision and capabilities to win, which other openings don’t have.

How to defend against Caro Kann?

If someone plays caro-kann against you, you don’t have to defend. White should be happy and try for win. If you want to play safer options, go with Two Knights variation or Advance Variation for tactical play.


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