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I'm a Caro-Kann player who is coming up against the line 1. e4 c6 2. c4.

This line has a few names, such as the "Anti Caro-Kann" and the "Quasi Panov-Botvinnik".

The books recommend 2...d5. Afterall 1...c6 prepared 2...d5. But the line 2...d5 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. exd5 Qxd5 leads to a move down variation of the regular Panov-Botvinnik, so the books recommend after 4. exd5 to play 4...Nf6 to eventually regain the pawn.

My question is, can black feasibly side-step these tricky variations with 1. e4 c6 2. c4 b5(!?). Does this reach a playable middlegame for black?

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This is a creative idea but unfortunately it does not look playable. After 7 minutes, Stockfish 5 gives the position after 2... b5 as +.87. This means that white is up a pawn for very little compensation.

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    Oh gosh... can't believe... asking engine for evaluation after 2nd move! 0.87, yay! And what about all those theoretical positions with even over 1.0? Like some of King's Indian? Seriously. – Pijotrek Oct 7 '14 at 20:28
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    This is nothing like the King's Indian. You dropped a pawn. – Cleveland Oct 7 '14 at 20:30
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    And you need a chess engine here? After 2nd move? – Pijotrek Oct 7 '14 at 20:31
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    It seems to me that you could answer a question about 1. Nf3 f5 2. e4 the exact same way you just did and it would not be obviously wrong. The question asked if it would lead to a playable middlegame and an engine evaluation is a perfectly valid way to answer that. You could have written your own answer instead of commenting on mine with antagonistic sarcasm. – Cleveland Oct 7 '14 at 20:40
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    @user3447603, to reiterate part of Cleveland's previous comment, why not simply post your own contrasting answer along the lines you've suggested? That would be a most welcome addition to the thread. – ETD Oct 8 '14 at 0:07
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I noticed you posted you'd mostly found answer for yourself in the comments, but...it reminded me of when I faced this while trying out the Caro-Kann.

It doesn't look like ...b5 works to me, either. If I were white I would play cxb5 and then let Black decide if and how to take back. There is no hurry to take on c6. The knight on b8 looks restricted, and a move such as ...a6 to force White to decide what to do with the b5 pawn wastes a move, and Black can't even get Benko-ish pressure on the a/b files unless ...c5 is played (which also gives up a move,) since White can just take back with bxc6. If black plays ...Qb6, then Nc3 (or even a4) defends the b5-pawn enough.

So from what I see Black doesn't get enough development for the pawn, and White has a pretty easy game with Nc3, d4, Nf3, etc.

When I played Black I found another pawn sac worked rather well: 4 ... Nf6 and while White can play Bb5+, Black can get it back. ...Bd7 5. Bc4 Qf7 6. Na3 Nxd5 as 7. Bxd5 Qe5 gets the bishop. This seems like a straightforward and low-risk way to equality.

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b5 looks HORRIBLE. If there were not a pawn on c6, you could play a6, like in the Benko, but here, a6 would be answered by bc with a winning position.

It really does just drop a pawn for nothing as you gain no development advantage, or positional trumps.

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