Jovanka Houska

Publisher: Everyman Chess Author: WGM Jovanka Houska 480 pages ★★★★½

The Caro-Kann by Jovanka Houska

The Caro-Kann is a funny opening – it looks completely unambitious (would you open 1.c3?) yet it was a favourite of World Champions Capablanca, Botvinnik, Petrosian and Karpov. Of course, these guys knew what they were doing. The Caro-Kann gives Black a completely sound position and alleviates some of the development issues of the French, namely the c8 Bishop.

So solid is the Caro-Kann, that White often compromises his (or her!) own position in an attempt to get at Black.Solid can often be confused with boring but Black is just being patient, preparing diligently before attacking the centre and gaining space.

If you choose the Caro-Kann against 1.e4 you will soon realise the wealth of different ways the opening can go – at an early stage too. After 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 White might play 3.Nc3 (Nd2), 3.exd4, 3.e5 or 3.f3 and all have their own unique characteristics. That’s not to mention all the second move deviations.

Thankfully, WGM (and IM) Jovanka Houska is here to help out. “Caro Kann (Opening Repertoire) is a 480 (large) page book designed to give Black an excellent answer to all White’s questions. Because this is a book from Black’s perspective, don’t expect all Black’s possibilities to be covered in detail. Houska recommends a move and gives her reasons. Often this includes a short discussion of why it is to be preferred to the alternatives.All White’s likely responses are covered in detail, of course, so you are well prepared.

Inexperienced Caro-Kann players might learn best by going through the most common variations (3.Nc3, the Panov-Botvinnik Attack (3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4) and the Advance (3.e5)) and playing through the main lines. Jovanka Houska points out all the key manoeuvres, pawn breaks and general strategies to be aware of.

For instance, in the opening paragraph of the chapter on the Fantasy variation, she has this to say:

With f2-f3, White bolsters the centre with pawns and gets ready to open the f-file for his rooks to attack a la King’s Gambit… It does, however, have a clear downside: the pawn on f3 hampers White’s development and the Achilles’ heel of White’s position is the f2-square and the weakened g1-a7 diagonal. As such, Black should adopt a dark-square strategy.

More experienced Caro-Kann players will want to delve deeper into the chapters and become experts in their lines. Happily, Houska’s book is both accessible and thorough, so  suitable for all levels of player.

You can download a free sample of the book on the Everyman Chess website.

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