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Play The Caro-Kann : Varnusz
Compiled by mneuwirth

Two German players, Horatius Caro and Marcus Kann, introduced this defense into competitive practice during the second half of the nineteenth century. Romantic gambits were popular among players of the time, so it is hardly surprising that this defense was regarded as dry and boring. Its popularity only began to grow after the discovery and general acceptance of basic positional principles. Early in this century several masters recognized the advantages that it offered, and even a world champion, in the person of Capablanca, had it in his armoury. The great Cuban is acknowledged to have been an outstanding positional player, and later adherents of the defense were to be competitors of similar inclination (Flohr, Botwinnik, Smyslove, Petrosian, Karpov, etc.)

Black's first move (1. ...c6 in response to 1.e4) is aimed at obtaining a foothold in the center by way of d7-d5. The concept is strongly reminiscent of the French Defense, but the development of Black's queen's bishop is, as a rule, smoother. Admittedly it does have the inherent disadvantage, as compared to the French, that after 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 (3.Nd2) Black, in the absence of any other useful move, has to part with his center pawn by 3. ...dxr4 - thus relaxing tension in the center.

The middle games which develop from the Caro-Kann are generally sound and of a rather positional character. Direct attacks against the king are rare in early stages of the game. Flexibility is one of the chief advantages; Black remains uncommitted to any particular pawn structure. None of his pieces have any sort of development difficulty that might influence the whole opening (remember the problems that the queen's bishop has in the Queen's Gambit Declined). The Caro-Kann defense is clear, relatively easy to learn, and therefore an eminently practical system. You can usually find your bearings without being completely familiar with the theory. Only a few particularly sharp variations require theoretical knowledge. The fact that Black is able to avoid the pitfalls of the dangerous gambits was evidently considered to be one of the Caro-Kann's advantages in the last century.

However, the disadvantages should not be swept under the carpet. The initiative rests principally with White, while in a number of variations Black can only achieve equality in positions of a simplified and drawn character. Yet it must also be said that the game does not proceed inexorably towards a quick draw, the reason being that the pawn structures are asymmetrical and there is no mutually open file that would tend itself to the early exchange of major pieces.

White frequently acquires a space advantage, due mostly to the absence of the center pawn. Luckily this is a type of advantage which is most difficult to capitalize on. Moreover, the danger of White overextending himself and throwing caution to the winds is always present.

*** WHICH VARIATION SHOULD WHITE CHOOSE? *** We do not know which of the alternatives is the most dangerous. The choice also depends a lot on fashion. One master may prefer one particular variation, another a different one. Lesser players tend to follow suit. The variation 2.Nc3 and 3.Nf3 was very popular for twenty years, but is practically an extinct species in today's competition practice. The situation is much the same regarding the closed variation (3.e5). 2.d3, on the other hand, is a move which not so long ago was hardly ever contemplated, and then only by reckless eccentrics. NOwadays it presents serious problems to those using the Caro-Kann.

The Panov variation, which resembles the Queen's Gambit, has for decades been the critical test of the Caro-Kann. This is the sharpest of the variations, and the complications arising frequently surpass those of the King's Gambit.

Instead the natural continuation 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 has proved its worth and has been popular right up to the present day. After 3. ...dxe4 4.Nxe4 the continuations 4. ...Bf5, 4. ...Nd7 or 4. ...Nf6 are equally popular.

Finally it should be added that the continuation 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 has also had devotees at various times (Fischer!), thoguh it has never been amain variation.

*** HOW SHOULD THIS BOOK BE USED? *** This volume, like so many other works dealing with opening theory, throws a vast number of variations at the reader. However, the memorizing of the whole material is neither necessary nor intended, so the reader should not lose heart. It is important, though, to learn those moves (generally of a sharp and combinative character) which are essential for a proper understanding of the variation. This does not, however, make up the major part of the material, which consists of examples showing the possibilities hidden in a given position. The reader will tend to forget them after playing them over, but he will still grasp the salient point. It will gradually become second nature to him.

The material used here is particularly suitable for this purpose. At a time when chess books more and more resemble logarithmic tables, the illustrative games in particular offer relief. The reader will have fun learning from them, he will understand the connections between the opening and the middlegame and sometimes even the endgame.

The author has endeavoured to sift out and evaluate everything that is essentially new in competition practice. It is up to the reader to judge how far he has succeeded in achieving his aim. It is this aim of the author's that also explains who some of the variations and evaluations in this volume differ from the material contents of earlier works.

Like all chess writers, the author of this book has borrowed many variations from the works of predecessors. The work of German chess writer Rolf Schwartz, the Yugoslav Encyclopaedia and the theoretical articles of Alexander Konstantinopolsky, to mention but a few, have been particularly fertile sources. To them, and my fellow masters and friends, I would like to express my gratitude for their invaluable help.

Egon Varnusz, 1982 Egon Varnusz

Here's the brilliant game he lists on the cover

Hort vs Seirawan, 1981

N Evseev vs Flohr, 1949 
(B17) Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation, 24 moves, 0-1

Tal vs Vasiukov, 1964 
(B17) Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation, 58 moves, 1-0

E Haag vs Pachman, 1973
(B17) Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation, 45 moves, 1-0

Jansa vs Kholmov, 1976 
(B17) Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation, 42 moves, 0-1

Adorjan vs J Flesch, 1975 
(B17) Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation, 31 moves, 1-0

Tal vs Petrosian, 1973 
(B17) Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation, 27 moves, 0-1

Simagin vs Smyslov, 1963
(B17) Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation, 40 moves, 0-1

M Bluemich vs Alekhine, 1941 
(B15) Caro-Kann, 35 moves, 0-1

Bogoljubov vs Alekhine, 1942 
(B15) Caro-Kann, 46 moves, 1-0

Ragozin vs Boleslavsky, 1942 
(B15) Caro-Kann, 19 moves, 1-0

L Forgacs vs Duras, 1909 
(B15) Caro-Kann, 26 moves, 0-1

Tal vs Bronstein, 1974 
(B15) Caro-Kann, 44 moves, 1-0

Alekhine vs Tartakower, 1927 
(B15) Caro-Kann, 26 moves, 1-0

J Bellon Lopez vs Larsen, 1976
(B16) Caro-Kann, Bronstein-Larsen Variation, 39 moves, 0-1

Sokolsky vs Bronstein, 1944 
(B10) Caro-Kann, 29 moves, 1-0

Spassky vs Karpov, 1974 
(B18) Caro-Kann, Classical, 56 moves, 0-1

Keres vs Golombek, 1956
(B18) Caro-Kann, Classical, 45 moves, 1-0

Tal vs Botvinnik, 1960 
(B18) Caro-Kann, Classical, 58 moves, 0-1

Lasker vs F J Lee, 1899 
(B18) Caro-Kann, Classical, 39 moves, 1-0

Karpov vs A Pomar Salamanca, 1974 
(B18) Caro-Kann, Classical, 48 moves, 1-0

Geller vs Hort, 1968 
(B18) Caro-Kann, Classical, 41 moves, 1-0

H E Atkins vs Capablanca, 1922  
(B12) Caro-Kann Defense, 67 moves, 0-1

Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca, 1927  
(B12) Caro-Kann Defense, 46 moves, 0-1

Tal vs Golombek, 1958 
(B12) Caro-Kann Defense, 35 moves, 1-0

Tal vs Botvinnik, 1961 
(B12) Caro-Kann Defense, 29 moves, 1-0

Maroczy vs Capablanca, 1926 
(B13) Caro-Kann, Exchange, 49 moves, 0-1

Fischer vs Petrosian, 1970 
(B13) Caro-Kann, Exchange, 39 moves, 1-0

Lasker vs Tartakower, 1923 
(B13) Caro-Kann, Exchange, 42 moves, 1-0

Hort vs Gipslis, 1974
(B14) Caro-Kann, Panov-Botvinnik Attack, 35 moves, 1-0

Fischer vs Euwe, 1960 
(B13) Caro-Kann, Exchange, 36 moves, 1-0

Botvinnik vs Flohr, 1933 
(B13) Caro-Kann, Exchange, 33 moves, 1-0

A Martin Gonzalez vs J Bellon Lopez, 1977 
(B13) Caro-Kann, Exchange, 24 moves, 0-1

Botvinnik vs Euwe, 1934 
(B13) Caro-Kann, Exchange, 56 moves, 0-1

Alekhine vs K Richter, 1942 
(B13) Caro-Kann, Exchange, 46 moves, 1-0

Botvinnik vs Golombek, 1956 
(B14) Caro-Kann, Panov-Botvinnik Attack, 45 moves, 1-0

Botvinnik vs A Konstantinopolsky, 1943 
(B14) Caro-Kann, Panov-Botvinnik Attack, 52 moves, 1-0

Botvinnik vs Alekhine, 1938 
(D41) Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch, 51 moves, 1-0

Portisch vs Bagirov, 1965 
(B14) Caro-Kann, Panov-Botvinnik Attack, 24 moves, 1-0

Smyslov vs Karpov, 1971 
(D41) Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch, 29 moves, 1-0

Taimanov vs Karpov, 1973 
(E54) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Gligoric System, 39 moves, 0-1

Smyslov vs E Gereben, 1949 
(B12) Caro-Kann Defense, 23 moves, 1-0

Fischer vs F Olafsson, 1959 
(B10) Caro-Kann, 42 moves, 1-0

Boleslavsky vs Flohr, 1950 
(B11) Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4, 32 moves, 1-0

B Gurgenidze vs Petrosian, 1961 
(B11) Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4, 33 moves, 0-1

Fischer vs Keres, 1959 
(B11) Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4, 55 moves, 0-1

Smyslov vs Botvinnik, 1958 
(B11) Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4, 35 moves, 1-0

Stein vs I Birbrager, 1966 
(B10) Caro-Kann, 20 moves, 1-0

Ljubojevic vs D Ciric, 1975
(B10) Caro-Kann, 49 moves, 1-0

48 games

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