What are the main points, tactical or otherwise, backing up the so-called Apocalypse Attack vs the Caro-Kann?

[Title "Caro-Kann Apocalypse Attack"]
[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Ne5!? 

Is it an opening based on a few cheap tricks? And if so, what are these tricks?

There is a long article here


but it is difficult to me to sum up the main ideas or tactical themes in a more concise way.

  • 4.Ne5 Nc6 5.Bb5 Bd7 6. Nxd7 Qxd7 is how the line is usually played. Black is considered not worsel in this line. Perhaps theres a line better than mine. Mar 1, 2016 at 4:56

3 Answers 3


Maybe it's about having a Knight on e5, which cannot be dislodged easily with pawn moves. I think it's not so significant though, because black can still at least exchange it against the knight on b8, which could come to d7 or c6. d7 might prevent the exchange o black's bishop against the knight on e5. If white manages to get black to exchange on e5, white will have a pawn on e5 most likely. Maybe a point is to still have a pawn there, although white didn't move e4-e5 earlier? I don't really see how Ne5 is really that helpful to be honest. It doesn't even look that interesting to me or much different than other positions.

  • 4... Nd7(c6) helps white to develop with 5. Bb5. Putting the question to the Bishop doesn't help, as then the queenside pawns can become overextended
    – user1108
    Mar 3, 2016 at 10:57
  • @Bad_Bishop It actually crossed my mind to play Nd7 followed by a6 and b5 and then putting the bishop maybe on b7. Doesn't look so bad to me. Mar 3, 2016 at 11:07
  • Just analysing in my head here, but 4... Nd7 5. Bb5 a6 6. Nxf7 Kxf7 7. Bc4+ Ke8 8. Qf3 looks like a promising sacrificial line.
    – user1108
    Mar 3, 2016 at 11:14
  • 1
    @Bad_Bishop interesting idea, but I think the pawn on d5 prevents Bc4+ ; ) Mar 3, 2016 at 11:23
  • Ah, the problem of analysing a position in my head alone! Maybe Nd7 is the best way to play, aiming to go into Smyslov Caro-Kann type structures.
    – user1108
    Mar 3, 2016 at 11:39

Aside of 4...Nc6, black can also play 4...a6 (which prevents Bb5) and 5...Nc6. Black will then place the pieces like in the position after 13...Ne7, pressing against d4. Black can also consider g6 and Bg7 instead of Be7-f6.

[Title "Analysis"]
[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Ne5 a6 
    ( 4...Nc6 $5 )
5.d4 Nc6 6.Nxc6 
    ( 6.c3 $5 Bf5 $10 )
6...bxc6 7.Nd2 
    ( 7.Bd3 Nf6 8.h3 
        ( 8.O-O Bg4 $10 )
    8...Qb6 9.c3 
        ( 9.Be3 $5 )
    9...e6 $10 )
    ( 7.c4 g6 $10 
        ( 7...Bf5 $5 )
7...Bf5 8.c4 
    ( 8.c3 $6 e6 9.Nf3 Bd6 10.Bd3 Ne7 $15 )
8...e6 9.c5 Be7 10.Be2 
    ( 10.Qa4 Qc7 11.Nf3 Bd8 $10 )
    ( 10.Nf3 Bf6 11.Bd3 Be4 $10 )
    ( 10...Nf6 $5 )
    ( 11.Nf3 $6 Ne7 12.O-O Bg4 $15 )
11...Bg6 12.Nf3 
    ( 12.h4 $2 h5 $17 )
    ( 12...h5 $2 13.g5 Be7 14.Qa4 $18 )
13.Qa4 Ne7 14.h4 Be4 
    ( 14...O-O $2 15.g5 $18 )
15.Bf4 O-O $1 16.h5 
    ( 16.g5 $2 Ng6 $17 )
16...Bg5 17.Bxg5 
    ( 17.Bd6 Bxf3 18.Bxf3 f5 $10 )
17...hxg5 18.O-O-O Qc7 19.Qa3 Qf4+ 20.Qe3 Qxe3+ 21.fxe3 f6 22.Rh2 a5 23.
Nd2 Kh7 24.Nxe4 dxe4 25.Bc4 Nd5 26.Bxd5 exd5 27.Rf1 Kh6 28.Rhf2 a4 29.Kc2 
Rfb8 30.Kc3 $10

Black has some initiative in the later part. The white pawn moves (c4-c5, g4, h4, h5) restrict him, but also create a vacuum (allowing Qc7-f4+ for example). But if white does not play c4-c5 then Bd6 and Ne7 is a harmonic setup.


The Apocalypse attack is an anti-Caro-Kann weapon. The main point of the Caro-Kann is to achieve a better French defense, possibly at the cost of some tempo. By better French defense, I mean a solid defense where Black holds a pawn on d5 but hasn't trapped their light square Bishop and will typically develop it to f5 or g4 before pushing e6. By loss of tempo, I mean that in a lot of lines when White does not initiate the pawn trade on d5, Black will play pawn c6 to c5 to trade it for a central pawn. For example :

[Title "Caro-Kann Defense: Advance Variation, Botvinnik-Carls Defense AKA the better French"]
[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3?! (4. dxc5!) {White should realize this is not a French and initiate the exchange while they still can, forcing e6} Nc6 5. Nf3 cxd4 {else White can take and try to hold onto the extra pawn} 6. cxd4 Bg4 7. Be2 e6 

One flawed idea in the Apocalypse attack for White is to gain the Bishop pair with 5.Bb5?! almost no matter what Black played, for example :

[Title "What White should probably not do"]
[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Ne5 Nc6 5.Bb5?! Bd7 6. Nxd7 Qxd7

If anything, Black can dodge that trade by playing Nd7, but they really aren't bothered by it at all, they are willing to trade their Light square Bishop for White's King's Knight in the first place, White is really doing them a service spending their own moves making it happening.

Instead, the correct main idea of the apocalypse attack, is that Black cannot move their light square Bishop out of the pawn chain for a long time or at all, and might end up being forced to play a position that looks more like a French. Whenever Black plays Bf5, White instinct should be to look at Qf3, threatening f5, f7, d5, and sometimes even b7. For example :

[Title "The apocalypse"]
[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Ne5 Bf5?? (4... a6 5.d4 Bf5? 6.Qf3! e6 (6... Bg6 7.Qb3) 7.Bd3) {more accurate than starting with Bb5+} 5.Qf3 e6? {not the best move, but other ones are still losing} 6. Bb5+ {White is winning}

When Black does fall for one of these traps as players new to the Caro-Kann often do, all hell breaks loose, hence the name of the opening.

But even knowing not to fall into these traps it is still difficult for Black to develop a plan.

If they capture the e5 knight prematurely, they get the worse of both the French and the Caro-Kann, with a very annoying pawn on e5 but no Knight able to target it, and still no good way to get their Queen's Bishop out. For example :

[Title "The worse of both world for Black"]
[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Ne5 Nd7 5. f4 {d4 is also playable and the stereotypical move, but if Black is to take on e5, recapturing with the f pawn and then playing d4 is even better. Black shouldn't capture on e5, but by playing Nd7, they either intend to or are giving White enough time to play both f4 and d4} Nxe5 6.fxe5 e6 {Black still has to worry about Qf3, and cannot play Bf5} 7.d4 {now Black has no good square for their King side pieces either and have to worry about moves like Qg4 and Bd3} 

Finally, if they first develop both their knights, as they probably should, playing Bf5 is still risky if White went Nc3 as White can now throw g4 and g5. For example :

[Title "more spooky stuff"]
[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Ne5 Nf6 5. d4 Nc6 6. Nc3!? Bf5 7.g4 {and Black's Bishop has no option but to go home on d7, and Black has to worry about g5}

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