My database shows that after 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5, white has the following main variations:

    1. Nc3
    1. exd5
    1. e5

and they are equally popular among professional players. However, from my experience playing online games, I have observed that among amateur players, 3. e5 is far more popular than the other two moves. Is it true that 3. e5 is statistically more popular than 3. Nc3 and 3. exd5 among amateur players? If so, why?

  • I wonder if this game: chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1007846 has anything to do with it. It is possible that the only thing some amateurs know about Caro-Kann is that game. – Akavall Sep 15 '20 at 23:38
  • Impossible to answer as there is no hard cut off for when someone is an "amateur", and the lower you get in playing strength, the fewer games are recorded. – RemcoGerlich Sep 16 '20 at 8:38

According to Lichess's database for games between ~1600 rated players in the Caro-kann does indeed show that 3. e5 is much more common than other moves. e5 in fact accounts for 46% of games played; compare this to the second most common move, exd5, which is only 28%.

Often when amateurs are learning the concept of space in chess, the Advanced French Defense is used as an example. 3. e5 therefore is a common move for amateur white players to play against the French Defense.

Since the Caro-Kann resembles the French Defense, I believe amateur players simply play 3. e5 as it is what they know best. (This is only my best guess, don't take this as a hard fact).

  • cool. Though I wouldn't expect that amateurs play the advance french most often, or do they? – CognisMantis Sep 16 '20 at 1:20
  • I looked it up in the lichess database for players below 2000 and the advance french is played slightly more often than the exchange french, followed by the paulsen (858.000 to 823.000 to 607.000 respectively). – Benjamin Raabe Sep 16 '20 at 9:22
  • @Benjamin Raabe And the advance french becomes even more common if you look at only players rated below 1800. (343,000 to 240,000) – Tauist Sep 16 '20 at 21:22

Amateurs are slaves to grandmaster fashion. When a line gets noticed at the 2800 level, the 2500 players adopt it, then the 2200, 1900, and so on.

Also, bad chess coaches recommend 3. e5 because there's less for their students to remember, though it shouldn't be a matter of memorization but understanding.

  1. e5 is still a popular choice among strong players and the fashion slaves who follow them, and bad coaches are still bad coaches, so there's a lot of 3. e5 going around.
  • Do you mean e5 is slightly inferior to the other two moves? – Zuriel Sep 15 '20 at 23:41
  • How do you get that? Openings practice is based in fashion. 3. e5 was the height of fashion 30 or so years ago, and remains popular, neither better nor worse than 3. Nc3, 3. Nd2, 3. f3, 3. exd5..... – friscodelrosario Sep 16 '20 at 0:05
  • I misread your statement "bad chess coaches recommend 3. e5 ..." – Zuriel Sep 16 '20 at 0:59
  • Aha. Bad chess coaches recommend good moves for the wrong reasons. For instance, I have a lot to say about why chess teachers should not recommend 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3? Nc6? , but it's all bad teachers think they know. – friscodelrosario Sep 16 '20 at 8:13
  • I wish to learn why 2. Nf3 deserves a question mark. – user58697 Sep 18 '20 at 4:08

I have played thousand of games with the French over the past 40 years (not all OTB, of course)and my experience is that lower rated amateurs tend to choose ed5. This is too bad from my perspective as there are more chances for B (in my opinion) after e5 c5 or Nc3 Bb4.

--Doug Grant formerly 2330, now down to 2100 (age-related)

  • OP is asking about the Caro-Kann, not the French. – Herb Sep 17 '20 at 20:42
  • OOPS...Sorry. Another age-related issue...little letters. – Doug Grant Sep 19 '20 at 0:05

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