Play the Caro-Kann
Play the Caro-Kann
A repertoire book by English international master Jovanka Houska
(first opening book ever by a female player?). After many years
where no one wrote about the Caro-Kann, there has suddenly been
published several books, following various concepts. This one tries
to provide black players with a full repertoire against 1.e4,
recommending variations against both the main line (3…Nc3), The
Panov Attack, Advance Variation etc.
As with most repertoire books, you are
mostly given just one option for the side it roots for, whereas, for
instance, those published by the team Karpov and Podgaets, try to go
more in detail with the current status of a certain variation,
providing several options for both sides (though they are also
obviously written from a black point of view).
The material is divided into the following sections:
- Main Line: Introduction and 11 Bf4
- Main Line: 11 Bd2
- Main Line: 6 Bc4 and Early Deviations
- Panov-Botvinnik Attack: Introduction and 6 Nf3
- Panov-Botvinnik Attack: 6 Bg5
- Exchange Variation
- Advance Variation with 3…c5: Introduction
- Advance Variation: 3…c5 4 dxc5
- Fantasy Variation
- Panov’s Little Brother: 2 c4
- Two Knights Variation
- King’s Indian Attack
- Unusual Lines and the Plain Bizarre
It seems to be written for club players (let’s say 1500-2200),
looking for an easy and solid reply to e4. And Houska does quite a
good job at this, explaining first the basic ideas in a given
position and then moving on to the concrete theory. The variations
she has chosen are mostly sidelines (pretty natural, as otherwise it
would be an impossible task to cover all the theory in the book’s
200 A5 pages), but more or less all have an acceptable reputation (you
might say good, but given it’s from the black point of view, we’ll
be more ‘modest’ in the evaluation) and are regularly played by
2600+ players, giving the basis of a pretty sound repertoire.
Houska remains fairly objective throughout the book, which
certainly also is a must nowadays, if you want something for your
repertoire, otherwise people will sooner or later just use their
computer programs and out-prepare you. But obviously, as it’s a book
of only 200 pages, Houska does get around many critical variations a
bit too fast. She often mentions continuations which have appeared
in practical games, but fails to mention the obvious improvements,
which most computer programs, and certainly Rybka and Fritz which
she has used, will tell you in a split-second. And that must be more
important when we are very close to the theory, especially when
there are improvements for black, than getting the next 10 moves
down a ‘wrong’ path.
Also, it should be mentioned that in several of the variations,
it’s very hard to play for a win with black. That is of course
something you have to accept, if you want a sound and solid
repertoire with black, but it would have been nice if Houska had
recommended some extra possibilities for black, aimed at the purpose
of playing for a win.
Advance Variation with 3…c5
One of the more interesting suggestions in the book is the reply
3…c5 against the advance variation. It is still a rare guest at
grandmaster level, but even players such as Kramnik, Karpov and
Akopian have used it, and German ‘super-grandmaster’ Igor Khenkin
practically always opts for it.
In the probably most testing line of the variation, which arises
after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 e6 5.Be3 Nh6 6.c3,
Houska recommends 6…Nd7!?
Almost a novelty – in the Chessbase Megabase 2007 it only appears
in one game between two junior amateurs – but a pretty logical move.
And indeed it seems to be a reasonable line. With several pages of
interesting and original analysis, along with her usual excellent
explanations, Houska arms you with likely much more knowledge and
concrete theory than your opponents will have, no matter their level!
All in all it’s a very nice repertoire book, written
with exactly the word “repertoire” in mind. The explanations are
great and the lines well-chosen for the purpose in mind – and
it’s nice to see that the author actually trusts her own
recommendations, she plays the lines herself!
It is not a book
for avid fans of the Caro-Kann, who wants to update their
knowledge about it, but the book is highly recommendable to
players new to the opening, or just some of the lines, who wish
to learn something new, without having to buy and read 4
different books about it.
This book is very likely to heighten the popularity of the
Caro-Kann among club players. Excellent work!