Play The Caro-Kann

A Complete Chess Opening Repertoire Against 1e4

Jovanka Houska

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
208 pages

English IM Jovanka Houska’s first book, Play The Caro-Kann is one of just a couple repertoire books I know of on the Caro-Kann, and may also be the first full length opening monograph by a female author.

Play The Caro-Kann offers the following repertoire:

Main Line: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 with Black usually castling short.

Panov-Botvinnik: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Bxf3 9.gxf3 Nb6 and 6.Bg5 e6 7.Nf3 Be7

Exchange Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Qc7

Advance Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5

Fantasy Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3 dxe4 4.fxe4 e5 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Bc4 Nd7 7.0-0 Ngf6 8.c3 Bd6

Steiner Variation: 1.e4 c6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.exd5 Nf6

Two Knights: 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 Nf6

King’s Indian Attack and Philidor Reversed: 1.e4 c6 3.d3 d5 3.Nd2 e5 4.Ngf3 Bd6 5.Be2 Nf6 7.0-0 0-0 and 5.g3 Nf6 6.Bg2 0-0 7.0-0 Qc7 8.Re1 Be6

Odds and Ends: 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Qf3 Nf6; 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Ne5 Nf6 5.d4 g6; 1.e4 c6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 dxe4; 1.e4 c6 2.Ne2 d5 3.e5 c5 4.d4 Nc6 5.c3 Bg4; 1.e4 c6 2.f4 d5 3.e5 Bf5

As would be expected, the bulk of the book is devoted to White’s most testing and popular tries with the main line allocated a little over 60 pages, the Panov-Botvinnik about 35 pages and the Advance variation 30 pages. It should be noted that some of Houska’s favorites are not Black’s most popular lines (Advance 3…Bf5) but she shows theory as it presently stands and offers a good amount of original analysis. Those who see the Caro-Kann as a sedate opening should be forewarned that partly as a reflection of current trends and partly the author’s choice, some lines are pretty sharp (Panov-Botvinnik with 9…Nb6 instead of the main line 9…e6). By avoiding the ending after 9…e6 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.Bb5+ Nxb5 12.Qc6+ Ke7 13.Qxb5 Qd7 14.Qxd5 exd5 Black can hope for some excitement after 9…Nb6 10.Be3 e6 11.0-0-0 Be7 12.Rg1 (12.d5! is better) 12…0-0 13.d5 Nxd5 14.Nxd5 exd5 15.Rxd5 Qc7! 16.Qc3 with 16…Bf6!! with the point 17.Qxf6 Nd4+ 18.Kd2 Qc2+ 19.Ke1 Qb1+ 20.Kd2 Qxb2+ 21.Kd1 Qb1+ winning.

Play The Caro-Kann strikes a good balance between explaining the ideas behind the various lines without watering things down too much. Houska writes clearly and effectively and is especially good at explaining thematic ideas.

This book will be useful for a wide range of players, principally from 1800 – 2300. Even stronger players may benefit from certain chapters.