I'm a 1800 Elo player that likes positional, quiet, drawish, slow, boring and strategic openings.

As Black against 1. e4 I play the Caro-Kann. But there is one variation of the Caro-Kann that I slightly dislike: the Advance Shirov (4. Nc3).

  [StartPly "7"]

  [FEN ""]
  1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nc3 e6 (4... Qb6) (4... h5) (4... a6) 5. g4 Bg6 6. Nge2 (6... f6) (6...h6) (6... Ne7) (6... Bb4) (6... Nd7) (6... Be7) c5 7. h4 h5 (7... h6) (7...cxd4) 8. Nf4 Bh7 (8... Nc6) 9. Nxh5 cxd4 (9...Nc6)

It seems to be much more sharp, aggressive, chaotic, wild and tactical than every other variation of the Caro-Kann. And so I don't know what to play against it.

I could go for the main line with 4... e6 5. g4 Bg6 6. Nge2, but then I don't even know which variation to choose next among all the available options.

Or I could choose to stop 5. g4 with 4... Qb6, 4... h5 or 4... a6, but I don't even know if any of these three moves are objectively good.

I've included everything in the FEN diagram.

And so my question is: which variation tends to lead on average to the most positional, solid, safe, quiet, drawish, slow, boring and strategic positions? (i.e. the least sharp and tactical positions)

But note that the variation also needs to be objectively good and reliable. And if possible it needs to be played reasonably often by Grandmasters. I don't want to play something bad just for the sake of not entering into complications. (i.e. I would still prefer something that is both tactical and good over something that is both positional and bad.)

  • 2
    I can't answer your question but thanks for posting this: "But there is one variation of the Caro-Kann that I slightly dislike," Now I know what to play against the Caro-Kann!
    – bof
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 3:39
  • 2
    You can't really get a slow position if White wants to launch all his kingside pawns!
    – magd
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 10:17
  • @Petrosian, have a look at "Beating the Caro Kann" book from Kotronias, he covers this variation in depth. btw he metions this variation is sharper than 4. Nf3 (the positional option) Commented May 7, 2015 at 1:52

7 Answers 7


At this point, it's very hard to keep the game quiet. You have two choices: keep the center closed (then a flank attack will be justified and advantageous), or open things up. The good news is that if you open up the position according to modern theory, or at least play accurately, you will be objectively better, and White's flank attack will be turned into a weakness.


Arguably, 4.Nc3 is one of the most aggressive variations against the Caro-Kann. For black, it is not easy to steer the position into quiet waters, but here are some ideas:

  • 4....Qb6. The idea is to play 5.g4 Bd7 and to continue with e6 and c5. The most popular reply is 5.Nf3 and after 5....e6, we have a position is similar to the main line 4.Nf3 e6. A recent example is Yu Yangyi - Margvelashvili.
  • 4....e6 5.g4 Bg6 6.Nge2 f6. After 7.Nf4 black can play 7....Bf7 or 7....fxe5. The reply 7.h4 is more popular, after which black can continue with 7....Nd7, finish his development and counterplay with c5. A recent game is Onishuk-Matlakov.

In order to make a choice (not necessarily from these two ideas, but in general), you can look for some grandmaster games to see which variations lead to which type of positions.

      [FEN ""]
      [StartPly "7"]

      1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nc3 e6 (4...Qb6 5.Nf3 (5.g4 Bd7) 5...e6) 5.g4 Bg6 6.Nge2 f6 7.Nf4 (7.h4 Nd7) 7...Bf7 (7...fxe5)

  • While Qb6 tends to be a bit quieter than the lovely lunacy that e6 almost always entails white still has chances to open the centre, especially after 5 Bd3 which is the main theme after Qb6 in "Beating the Caro-Kann" mentioned above. In this line as a whole as far as I can tell Black just can't twiddle his pieces around behind the lines in normal Caro fashion until white falls to sleep - which is why I play it as white!
    – Ian Bush
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 18:29
  • @Ian Bush: Thanks for the suggestion of 4....Qb6 5.Bd3. Usually, in the Caro-Kann, black is happy to exchange these bishops, therefore I didn't consider this move. I don't have "Beating the Caro-Kann", so maybe GM Kotronias found an advantage for white. What does he recommend after 5....Bxd3 6.Qxd3 e6? In the game Greet-Drozdovskij, black seemed to be doing fine. chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1567607
    – Maxwell86
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 20:14

Perhaps you could try 3..c5 followed by 4..Nc6 and a delayed Bf5.


I'm a 1800 Elo player that likes positional, quiet, drawish, slow, boring and strategic openings.

Good luck with never being able to advance. ;) OK, seriously, you must embrace the "other", "meaty" part of chess as well. If you want to make progress, don't work on the parts where you feel comfortable, work on your weaknesses!

This question is a perfect example of the limitation of only following the "strategic, drawish (etc.)" route. Let's put it simple: There is no boring response to this variation, which is probably why Shirov likes it.

However, you're missing an interesting option here, probably because it's marked as dubious in all the old books (if mentioned at all):

[FEN ""]
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nc3 e6 5. g4 Bg6 6. Nge2 Qh4

Yes, this is indeed a possible move which can throw White off guard - it obviously attacks that naughty pawn on g4, prevents a further h4 and puts some immediate pressure on f2. Combine it with a quick Bb4 and suddenly White must display some imagination in coming up with an attack plan. If this is not to your taste, follow up with c5 and Nc6, maybe even h5, and suddenly White must have some fear that his beloved d4 pawn may lose its balance. Most White players will try trapping the queen, which is generally speaking impossible and gives Black quite some time to come up with pressure against the center. I have this variation in my repertoire, and I like it - the results are also within the acceptable range.

  • Really nice variation!But he can play h4 and then Nge2... Commented May 22, 2015 at 11:33
  • 2
    That's possible, but White doesn't achieve much. 6.h4 h5 7.Nge2? hxg4, and the pawn on h4 is en prise. Taking on h5 leaves White with a horrible pawn structure. That leaves 7.g5 with a closed kingside and the interesting option of Ne7->f5 with a further c5, again attacking d4. There's a reason why 6. Nge2 is the standard move.
    – Ray
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 12:10
  • 1
    Yeah and you achieve that drawish, slow, boring and strategic oppening:P Commented May 22, 2015 at 12:54
  • 6....Qh4 is an interesting suggestion. However, I wonder how black should react after 7.h3. For instance, 7....c5 8.Be3 Nc6 9.Qd2 and white seems to have a clear advantage, as in the game Yu Yangyi - Grigoryan: chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1675985
    – Maxwell86
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 17:52
  • I'm not sure if Grigoryan could have tried 7...h5 (or one move later) in that game. The Qh4 looks trapped after 8.g5, but I'm not sure how White could exploit this.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 8:56

I stopped playing Bf5 because that is the most explored Caro-Kann line... I recommend playing 3..c5 instead (Botvinnik–Carls Defense). Yes, it is sharp, but I find it relatively straightforward to learn, and play.

If you still prefer Advance-Shirov, then I recommend either 4..Nd7 (I like it because Black develops another piece) for a quiet/solid opening, or as you mentioned, 4..e6. However, if you would like to have a complicated game, I recommend immediate 4..h5!? I play this move with success quite often as it confuses White, plus it is a perfectly sound move. If it works for GM Sergey Kasparov it should work for us, club players...


Most positional move here is Nc6 after c5 which bring a new piece and attack the pawn chain base and the center. This lead to a unpleasant things after bishop b5, Knight e7, but after moving the queen and castle queenside the position is pretty quiet.

  • 2
    In which position do you mean exactly? After 4.Nc3 the black pawn is still on c6...
    – Maxwell86
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 17:44
  • Study the position before accord a minus Maxwell86 Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 6:18
  • 2
    He won't be able to study the position unless you precise which position you are talking about. Do you mean 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nc3 e6 5.g4 Bg6 6.Nge2 c5 7.h4 Nc6 ? If yes, can you give a more detailed survey of what happens afterwards ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 16:25

Buy Chessbase 14 and the latest 2018 Database and in partnership with some free engine, like Stockfish, to have 3400 assistance to every chess question. Alternatively, there are wide selections of far less expensive books, say from someplace like Chess Direct, to cater for your general 1800 improvement and in particular of any opening you feel troubled with. In this computer day and age, there is no end to the software support available. Good lucky, and do try to stretch away for your present grade.

  • 5
    Welcome on Chess.SE ! I am afraid your answer is too general for this question, could provide some guidelines for the specific Caro-Kann line mentionned by the OP ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 16:21

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