# Is 2. c3 the best response against the Caro-Kann?

On chess.com, I was playing as White and my opponent played the Caro-Kann. I personally like the accelerated Panov Attack, 2. c4, but my mouse slipped and I played 2. c3. I was very mad when I did this, but later when I was analyzing, Stockfish said that this is actually the best move. Here is m y own analysis (the engine only says "Yes! This is the way!"):

• It opens a diagonal for the queen.
• It prepares 3. d4 on the next move, allowing the knight to move to d2.
• The annoying bishop pins that usually happen when the knight is on c3 can't happen anymore.

Are there any other reasons why 2. c3 is the best move?

Here is the link to my game.

• just a chess.com way of confusing people Apr 30 at 5:17
• just a weaker engine May 2 at 12:42
• The whole question of what is the strongest move, 2 moves into the game, is highly dependent on who will be playing the rest of the game, no? The best move for Stockfish to play is not necessarily the best move for you to play, if you don't know all the continuations... May 4 at 13:53

It is a solid move but not the strongest. For example, if Black continues with 2... d5, and White plays 3. e5 in the spirit of the advance variation, we reach by transposition a position that would be the same as if White played 4. c3 in the main line of the advance variation (see below the variations). Instead of 4. c3, sharper lines include 4. h4 or 4. c4, which also have better engine assessment. What I find interesting about 2.c3 move is that

1. may come as a surprise for your opponent, who will try to understand any move order nuances.
2. allows 3. exd5 going into the exchange variation (see variation below), and thus it is a flexible move.

.

``````[Title ""]
[fen ""]
[Startply "21"]

1. e4 c6 2. c3 (2. d4 d5 3. e5 (3. exd5 cxd5 4. c3) 3... Bf5 4. c3 (4. h4)) 2... d5 3. e5 (3. exd5 cxd5 4. d4) 3... Bf5 4. d4 e6
``````

I doubt that it is the best move. The pawn on c3 is an early committment, i.e. it does something now that is irreversible but only in some lines useful. Neither Stockfish nor Leela suggest this move as their first choice. In addition, Black wins about 51 percent of games with 2.c3 on the lichess database. While this last bit of evidence is likely partly explained by other factors than the move being bad (I don't think White is already at a disadvantage here), the sum total of all of these points make it very unlikely that 2.c3 is an objectively good move here.

As I said, however, White is probably not at a disadvantage after that move. In that spirit, one could consider playing it as a means to get Black out of book, maybe with a view to making them overplay in an attempt to "punish" the deviation from established theory. This might work, but I would feel that the move transposes easily enough to known lines for this not to be a major issue for Black here.

In an analysis board, if you click on the settings icon (should be right above the h8-square), see what's selected for Strength. If it's on 'Fast', this would explain why 2.c3 is ranked as the top move. The Fast setting only lets the engine think for 1 second, which isn't very much. This is especially so given the fact that chess.com says depth 14 takes ~3 seconds, depth 20 takes ~30 seconds, etc. This is extremely slow by engine standards (e.g., in ChessBase, ~3 seconds takes Stockfish 15 to depth 22-24). I imagine it's so slow on chess.com since a .js or .wasm version of stockfish has to run on the client-side. This is super slow compared to the standard C++ executable of Stockfish that runs locally in a program like ChessBase.

No, it is not the strongest. My answer will explain why this happened to you and how we know it is wrong. First of all, Chess.Com uses Komodo, not Stockfish. Komodo is significantly weaker. Stockfish disagrees and goes for d4. Komodo did still hold by its anylysis in a game I played against it though. The other answers have explained sufficently why other moves are stronger. Note that I ran Stockfish 16.1 at Depth 25 on a 16 CPU Core.

• Current chess.com supports both komodo and an up to date stockfish. However by default the search depth is very poor. May 4 at 5:56
• By default it uses komodo May 4 at 15:01