In the Caro-Kann Panov-Botvinnik Attack, after 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3, which move tends to lead (on average) to the most solid, positional, slow, closed, quiet and strategic positions (the less sharp positions, the positions which contain the less tactics) : 5...e6 or 5...Nc6 or 5...g6 ?

What are all the differences between these three moves? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of them?

  • 2
    5...e6, clearly, following by Bb4 or Be7, according to your taste. 5...Nc6 or 5...g6 are much more active but also dangerous options for black.
    – Niels
    Commented Jul 5, 2014 at 7:25

2 Answers 2


Let me quote very strong GM ( taken from Lars Schandorff-Grandmaster Repertoire 7 The Caro-Kann ) :

The famous Panov variation has always attracted aggressive players with White, and it is easy to understand why. With an active pawn move, White immediately creates tension in the centre and shows that he values the initiative more highly than mere positional matters, such as pawn structure. The Panov often leads to double-edged positions where White has isolated queen's pawn in exchange for fluid piece-play and general activity.

Please note the The Panov often leads to double-edged positions... part. I told you this before, and sadly here is the same case : White chooses here whether the struggle will be sharp tactical encounter or quiet strategical "debate".

That being said, let us examine all 3 moves and let us start from 5...g6 :

This is not entirely correct, but may be playable. Black struggles to draw by regaining the sacrificed d-pawn. So far White has pleasant advantage in the main lines, but maybe somebody will invent some novelty that will make Black's play fully equal ( I still have my doubts but who knows... ).

As for 5...Nc6 :

This move gives White lots of options to sharpen the game. He can go into Endgame variation where he has small initiative and better piece placement, or he can go into sharp lines with 6.Bg5. Here lines are very sharp. You can transpose to more solid lines with 6...e6 which may be what you want but be warned that Schandorff still believes White is slightly better there. Playing similar positions as Black, I must agree with him -> these are very tough to play as Black, at least they were for me. He prefers 6...dxc4 instead.

As for 5...e6, it might be exactly what you look for, but you really need latest theory here. Schandorff says that in the moment of him writing the book ( 2010 ) the Nimzo-Indian plan Karpov invented that starts with 5...e6 lost its appeal. Still, if I were you, I would look thoroughly for these positions as they were solid before. I doubt White can improve the game, so all you will probably need are good opening moves and you will be ready to go! 90% of the time you should be battling against Isolated Queen's pawn which is easier to play as Black... Just "do your homework" first!

I wish I was able to offer you some sample lines with 5...e6 but I have no up-to-date books on that :(

Good luck!

  • I appreciate your recommendation of Schandorff's book on the Caro-Kann. He is rated 2488 in my database of correspondence games, and since the initial GM rating OTB is 2500, I'd agree he's a strong player, but not a strong GM. (There are over 700 GM's rated at 2500 or over, and only about 90 rated lower.) He's also a correspondence player, and many players respect the fact that correspondence players can (and do) delve a lot deeper into opening variations than OTB players. However, the opening theory references that club CC players use are monumental compared to the OTB club player's tools.
    – jaxter
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 3:26
  • 5...e6 is less sharp than 5...Nc6. And after 5...e6 6.Nf3, 6...Be7 is less sharp than 6...Bb4. And 6...Be7 is much more in the style of the Caro-Kann than 6...Bb4, which is in the style of the Nimzo, in fact it can literally transpose into the Nimzo.
    – Fate
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 22:54

Im fairly new to caro kann myself, and am searching for the exact same answer as the original poster.... looking for a quiet continuation. I think, Nc6 is the best option. After that white can play Nf3 or the sharp Bg5. The main blunting move for black here is Be6, played quite commonly these days at the top level, and kind of unusual at the club/amateur level... so I doubt your opponent would know the best continuations for white thereafter.

  • 2
    underestimating the opponent does not seem to be a good option ...
    – Niels
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 12:22

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