I know this opening is not that much played at club+ level but I'm really interested in this somewhat unconventionnal response to the Caro-Kann defense.

Where can I find decent material (no Youtube videos)? There does not seem to be a course on Chessable although one may be in writing from what I know.


1 Answer 1


Are there serious materials about the Fantasy variation for White?

There are serious materials in different media formats, e.g.

  • The Extreme Caro-Kann: Attacking Black with 3.f3 (book by Alexei Bezgodov)
  • video courses by GMs (not random Youtube-Videos), for example this one by GM Ivanchuk
  • Alex Banzeas Ambush 1.e4 Chessable course, which does not only cover the Fantasy variation against the Caro-Kann, but a similarly interesting and very tricky sideline against the French: the Schlechter variation.

[EDIT: OP originally asked for opinions about the Fantasy variation, but that part got deleted from the question after a moderation. I decided to keep the following part as it is backed by statistics and engine evaluations.]

What is my opinion of the Fantasy variation as a Caro-Kann player?

  • it's generally underrated and absolutely playable for White
  • it has surprise value (most opponents will know 8-10 moves or less)
  • its practical value is much higher than its objective value. Maybe White can hope for a tiny advantage, but if Black finds good moves it is White who needs to be precise to keep it and not become worse. The practical value lies in the fact that the good moves for Black aren't always easy to find OTB and Black can quickly come under fire after a mistake, especially if they are foolish enough to play 3. ..dxe4 without knowing the theory well.
  • takes Black out of his known structures and therefore comfort zone (club level)

However, for every play style and type of Caro-Kann player, there is a line that suits him. The ultra-solid ones will play 3. ..e6 and not let you have any crazy fun (this is also the most frequently played move on master level). The most principled ones will take and follow up with a quick e5, destroying White's center. This is probably the best variation for Black (and recommended by GM Erwin L'Ami) , but not the most practical one, as Black needs to know a little. As soon as you follow theory only for 6 moves (1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 dxe4 4. fxe4 e5 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Bc4 Nd7), Black already wins 53% of the games vs. White's 41% on club level (lichess DB 2000+) and scores very well on master level. I play the very practical and still objectively good 3. ..Qb6 where Black already wins more games than White on all levels (incl. masters). Looking at my own games, I have a score of 65% against the fantasy, so it's hardly a line I need to be afraid of.

What is better than the Fantasy?

Let's compare the Fantasy variation with other sharp lines against the Caro-Kann. There is the Panov attack ( that objectively does not promise White anything but does offer attacking chances. I think the lines do not differ much both in objective and practical value. However, the Panov with 5. Nc3 is definitely more challenging than the alternative 5. Bg5 and scores well against me.

If you were to choose one of both variations as your main weapon, I would rather choose the Panov than the Fantasy variation. In the Panov, White makes sure the center opens up and develops some initiative. The line is more "solid" than the Fantasy and scores well both on amateur and master levels. Also, you'll gain experience with a very important structure (IQP), deepening your chess understanding.

Then there is the advance variation which is one of the objectively best ways to fight the Caro-Kann defense. Contrary to both previously mentioned lines, White does not need to make any positional concessions and keeps a healthy advantage. There are two sub-variations that come to mind: the Short variation (main line of the advance!) and the Tal variation with an early h4.

Especially lines where White sacrifices the pawn on b2 can become wild and exciting and very sharp. Black needs to be very careful, keep move orders in mind and is constantly under pressure. Most of the time, Black is advised to refrain from taking on b2, due to the excellent compensation White gets for the pawn and the precision that is needed from Black afterward. However, Black cannot always avoid taking on b2:

     [FEN ""]
     1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 c5 6. Be3 Qb6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. O-O Qxb2 {Black is more or less forced to accept the pawn, leading to very forcing play.}

Play becomes very forcing and if Black doesn't know his theory, he can get into trouble. This is the objectively best way to put Black under serious pressure who can go wrong easily.

If you are very ambitious, you might consider playing the advance variation as your main line and use the Fantasy as a surprise alternative/blitz weapon. If you want to cut down on theory, you can of course also play the other lines. Just try them online and find out what you like best.

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