By Chad Lieberman
The Caro-Kann Defense has historically been employed by grandmasters who are playing for a draw in a tournament game. However, there is no denying the dynamic capabilities of this solid defense.
In a previous column, I described black's main idea: control the d5 square by ...Nf6, ...c6, and even sometimes ...e6. In recent years, opening theorists have attempted to come up with some better systems for white because black had been equalizing far too easily.
One of the most common ideas now is a variation in the advance system (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5) when white plays g4, Nc3, and Nge2 soon to be followed by Nf4. Black has a few options against this though, he can play simply with ...h6, ...Bh7 and a later ...c5, or he can choose to play more dynamically with ...h5!?
Another try for white is the Fantasy Variation, initiated by the opening moves 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3, establishing white's pawn e4. There are, of course, drawbacks to this move. The knight usually finds a good home at f3, where it can now no longer go. This move can also be deemed passive. While it might be strong if black plays in a normal Caro-Kann fashion and gets crushed by white's advantage in space, black can get a good game through active play.
In this week's featured game, Lyell plays with inspiration (a little home preparation also helped). Notice how his play leads to easy development and a strong attack while white's king is stuck in the center.
Notice the difficulty white has developing comfortably his kingside pieces (i.e. the knight blocks the bishop). And black could have even improved an otherwise flawless game with 12...Bxe5 13.fxe5 Qxc3+ 14.Bd2 Qxe5+ 15.Be2 Bb5 with a three pawn advantage.