3

I'm beginning to study the Caro Kann defense and I don't fully understand why white plays h4-h5 on the main line. I can see that you get some space with that move, but the pawn on h5 might be a weakness in the future.

The line I'm talking about is

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1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5 Bh7

4 Answers 4

6

the pawn on h5 might be a weakness in the future

The pawn is currently protected twice, by the rook on h1 and the knight g3. Meanwhile it controls the important g6 square (black can't put a piece on g6 and pushing a pawn there is going to seriously weaken f7 after white captures with hxg6).

The maneuver whereby black's bishop has been forced back to h7 means that after Bd3 black is forced to either exchange a bishop which has made three moves for one that has made only one move or submit to misplacing the h8 rook on h7 also giving up kingside castling rights.

4

This h4-h5 is quite interesting, especially since it forces black to play h6 to hide the bishop, which gives White the advantage in development. As you can see, White has advanced both his knights to the kingside, and is preparing to bring both his bishops in the game. Black on the other hand, has a weird kingside structure in my opinion.

Not only that, White has a lot more space to work with. White is also protecting that h5 pawn well, as well as possibly playing Be2 and maybe maneuvering the knight to secure that h5 pawn well.

The h5 pawn is also preventing Black from playing g6 to possibly fianchetto his bishop.

And as what @briantowers has mentioned, Black's bishop is now on h7, and after Bd3, White forces the capture.

Furthermore, this results in White forcing black to castle queenside, unless you want your Black king to be in grave danger. However, if Black castles queenside, there it the possibility that White can also start an attack on the queenside. However, as @PhillipRoe mentioned, white sort of has to castle queenside after pushing that h pawn so far, and further attacking the Black king using White's queenside pawns can be a bad idea, due to it opening up the White king.

2

Existing answers make fair points, but are slightly one-sided. Noone has mentioned the issue of what White is to do with their own King. By advancing on the K-side, White is almost forced into castling Q-side, where there are few defensive pieces, and thanks to c6, the Black Queen can come out menacingly to a5,b6 or c7. As far as I can see, the advance h4 goes in and out of fashion. Certainly it is the most ambitious, but you are right to say that the pawn may be a weakness. Sure it is defended right now, but do you want to keep that Rook on h1 for the rest of the game? White has grabbed space, but it is not in the center of the board.

I do not think it means much to ask if h4 is correct. Many years of experience demonstrate that it is a playable line, but it is also playable to do without it. The best question is whether it suits your temperament to play a move that makes demands on both players

1

Good answers from the others. However, nobody mentioned that when/if black castles kingside (traditionally the most common way to play), this h pawn thrust has already started a kingside assault. By forcing h6 from black, we now have a hook to attack, and the common follow-up g4-g5 pairs well with this earlier h5 move. Now g5 hits the h6 hook, and black cannot keep the kingside closed.

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