Caro-Kann, The

Second Edition

Jovanka Houska

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
480 pages

The second edition of Jovanka Houska’s The Caro-Kann differs from Sielecki’s work in that it is arranged in the tradition of a classical opening book – by variations rather than model games. This approach can sometimes lead to a very dense, hard-to read book but that is not the case here. While the author is quite diligent in covering all the main lines with detailed analysis there is also plenty of prose to explain what is going on.

Almost a quarter of this book is devoted to the heart of the repertoire, 4…Bf5 (1.e4 c6 2.c4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4) and anyone who thinks the Caro-Kann is quiet and stodgy will be shocked how sharp the lines can be in the main line lines where White castles queenside and Black kingside and the two sides thrust their pawns towards the opposing monarchs. This is very much a main line treatment.

That’s not quite the case with the recommendation of 3……c5 against the Advance Variation, avoiding the huge and ever-growing body of theory after 3…Bf5. Houska advocated 3……c5 in her first edition eight years ago and she is sticking to her guns although it has yet to catch on at the elite level. That said it is a more practical choice for non-professionals being much easier to learn than 3…Bf5 and with more opportunities to grab the initiative should White go wrong.

Other tries against the Caro-Kann (Two Knights, 2.c4, 2.d3, 3.f3) are analyzed, especially The Panov-Botvinnik, where the recommended line 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Nf3 g6 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Nxc3 9.Bc4 Nd5 10.Bxd5 e6 11.Bxc6+ bxc6 12.0-0 Qd5 is particularly well-covered. It will also be of interest to anyone who plays either side of the symmetrical English line 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e3 Nf6 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 d5 7.cxd5 which transposes.

Highly recommended for players 2000 on up.