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I was just wondering, if as Black I normally play the Caro-Kann and the Slav (but I slightly prefer the Caro-Kann), is it a good idea to answer 1. d4 with 1... c6!?

I looked in an opening database, but it looks like 1... c6 is extremely rare and is only played 0.3% of the time. What's wrong with it? Doesn't it just transpose into either a Slav or a Caro-Kann?

Does it have a psychological effect on weak opponents? Maybe they will be a little surprised, and thus they will take slightly more time to make their second move, and so it would be an effective subterfuge especially in blitz.

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There is nothing White can do to stop you entering your openings, but be aware that White chooses whether the game will be Caro-Kann or Slav defense. –  AlwaysLearningNewStuff Jun 15 at 23:32
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3 Answers 3

I don't think it's a good idea. Firstly, no 1.d4 player will go for 2.e4, unless they are also 1.e4 players and really, really good at playing against the Caro-Kann.

More importantly, you may like to play the Slav against d4+c4, and the Caro against d4+e4, but so far white has only played 1.d4. You lose options in case white doesn't follow up with a quick c4 or e4.

Mostly that's lines like the London (say 2.Nf3 and 3.Bf4) or the Colle (with Nf3, e3, Bd3, possibly b3 and Bb2, etc). Against both of those, black's best chance to get an active game are with a quick ...c5, but if you do that you've already given up a tempo.

So there is a downside, and zero upside.

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+1 Good point about the London and Colle systems. –  Wes Jun 16 at 19:49
    
+1, but how about this devil's advocate argument for upside. The OP plays 2000 strength in the Caro-Kann and 1200 in the slav; his opponent plays 1500 against the slav and 1700 against Caro-Kann. Therefore, the opponent could've very well play 1.e4 and be doomed. Or in other words, if OP is much stronger[yeah, I know the real OP said they only slightly prefer the Caro-Kann] with the Caro-Kann 1...c6 could be a trap for people who think they know the Caro-Kann. –  Akavall Jun 17 at 3:42
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There is no such thing as playing 2000 in the Caro-Kann and 1200 in the Slav. Chess is chess, maybe being extremely familiar in an opening can make 100 points of difference but I doubt it. And d4 players still won't play e4, as that's clearly what black is hoping for. –  RemcoGerlich Jun 17 at 11:41
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You are absolutely right to think that it is a good idea to answer 1.d4 with 1...c6, especially if you like the Caro-Kann more than the Slav. Do not let the low percentage for the move bother you. I also checked in chessbase's Big Database and found that it is played about 4.5% of the time. However, that is not because the move is weak, but because the overwhelming majority of the players prefer to play 1...Nf6 or 1...d5, because not everyone wants to play the Caro Kann.

1...c6 may have a psychological effect on weak opponents and if they hesitate to immediately play 2. e4 or 2. c4, then you know that you caught them off guard for a moment. Gary Kasparov himself played 1...c6 in a blitz game.

Hristos Banikas vs Garry Kasparov 0-1, 2001

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C6 is a good move to "throw people off."

Sometimes, you will get e4 in return and go into your Caro-Kann.

Most of the time, the reply will be c4. But even the Slav has some advantages. Specifically, there may later be a chance to play d5xc4, queens gambit accepted, with some chance of holding the pawn.

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