I am currently using the exchange variation of the Caro-Kann, so the:

[Title "Caro-Kann refutation"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5

I am looking for a more tactical approach. Is the fantasy variation worth it? Or are there more tactical variations?

  • If you wish, you can always go for the Advance variation -> 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5. It can get very tactical if White chooses so... There are many good books on this line but I believe Schandorff wrote a true gem. I think it is Grandmaster repertoire-Caro Kann, but I am not sure, check on Amazon... Sep 15, 2014 at 20:33
  • @bof It's the Panov-Botvinnik Attack. Sep 18, 2014 at 12:36

5 Answers 5


I would also suggest the "caveman" variation. Below is a nice article on this opening:


I am a FM, and have played this opening successfully at the tournament level.

  • 1
    Looks genuinely interesting. Any books you can reccomend?
    – MikhailTal
    Sep 19, 2014 at 19:51

The exchange variation, provided you continue with the Panov attack, is actually very tactical and aggressive. If you are looking for something quite different, I suggest what I play: the advance variation with an early h4 push.

That would be:

[StartPly "7"]
[FEN ""]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4

on this website you can find some of the more common approaches to the variation. More than just a tactical sideline, it is extremely tricky, so you should know a few things before going into this mess. There are many lines where black has "only moves", but it is thought to not be very promising because in the end (after like 20 forced moves) black stands ok.

The thing is, most players who face this line have never seen it before, and they play the natural moves, falling into one of the hundred pitfalls available. An example is if black simply ignores h4 and plays 4. ... e6. After 5. g4, his bishop is trapped. This is only the first trap that you set (and on blitz, it's a very common one). Another one occurs after:

[StartPly "7"]
[FEN ""]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4 h6 5. g4 Bh7 6. e6 fxe6 7. Bd3 Bxd3 8. Qxd3 Qd6 9. f4 Nd7 10. Nf3 O-O-O 11. Ne5 Nxe5 12. fxe5 Qd7 13. h5,

where black simply played normal moves to advance e5 and get rid of his doubled pawns, but in the end is playing without the three pieces of the kingside. I've played this line myself a couple of weeks ago, with devastating effect (I won on 20 moves, the idea is to simply double/triple on the f file).

This is just a few flavors of this sideline, check it out for yourself and see if the positions arising from it suit you.


The hardest for black to meet is the Advance Variation. You might want to look at the latest games of Fabiano Caruana. He won with the Advance Variation against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave very recently.

Otherwise I would recommend playing 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4. This variation gives white a slight edge where you can go for h2-h4 and O-O-O. White is very solid there.

The Caro-Kann is overall very solid, and as white you need to play very accurately to maintain your first move advantage.


One aggressive idea against the Caro-Kann is to basically play the Blackmar-Diemer-Gambit, while ruling out a lot of defences (because black has already played c6).

rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.f3

There are some nice immediate tricks, like 4…ef 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.Bxf7+

Or 4…ef 5.Nf3 Bf5 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.Ne5 e6 8.0-0 Nd7 9.Rxf5!

And if black goes for an immediate queen swap that is fortunately quite bad for black: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.f3 e5 5.Be3 ed 6.Bxd4 c5 7.Be5 Qxd1 8.Rxd1 with a big lead in development and the threat Nb5.

  • 2
    While this is like the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, it is actually the Rasa-Studier Gambit, which is a variation of the Caro-Kann. The Blackmar-Diemer requires Black to play ...Nf6 rather than ...c6, and it is the offer of the e-pawn that makes it a Blackmar-Diemer. When White also plays 4.f3, the variation is the Ryder Gambit variation of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit.
    – jaxter
    Oct 2, 2016 at 1:13

Well a fun tactical line to try against caro-kann (more for blitz) would be a variation in the advanced, it goes like:

 [FEN ""]

 1.e4 c6, 2.d4 d5, 3.e5 Bf5 4.g4?! Be4, 5.f3 Bg6, 6.h4 h6, 7.h5 Bh7, 8.e6!? fxe6 9.Bd3 

So with precise play, black should certainly be fine if not better; but your opponent needs to be quite accurate while you relatively have an easy game/plan.

Note that many time Black doesn't notice 4... Be4 which in fact crucial, You definitely don't want to allow (as black) white to play Nf3 and then Ne5 :O (around move 9-10).

  • Unfortunately, this variation appears infrequently, because Black varies from the line given at 2 key points: Black plays 4...Be4 only about 27% of the time, and Black more often plays 6...h5 (58%) than 6...h6 (42%). So, even if he followed all of the other moves, there would only be about an 11% chance that you'll end up in this line when you play a Caro-Kann. Since he won't play the other moves all the time, it's actually substantially less than that.
    – jaxter
    Oct 2, 2016 at 1:03

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