Which is better opening: Caro-Kann or Scandinavian?

Hello everyone! 🙂 My name is Eva Kasparova. I’m daughter and interpreter of Sergey Kasparov, a grandmaster from Belarus. So I’m talking on his behalf and then just committing his words. For several years already, he has been practicing a lot, the Scandinavian Defense. That’s why in this video lesson, we will make an introduction to the study of this opening. To attract your attention, we would say that the Scandinavian Defense can be considered an improved version of the Caro Kann defense. Let’s try to compare the pawn structures as pieces can move and they’re quite flexible compared to the pawns which are quite static. So both in the Scandinavian defense and in the caro-kann, Black has a pawn on c6 and there is no pawn on d-file, while White has the pawn on d4 and there is nothing on e-file. If you look at the Caro-Kann structure, then the only difference is that there is a White pawn put on h5 and the Black pawn on h6. I would say that it’s more to the White’s benefit because in the middlegame, the g-pawn can run forward to the g4 and then g5. And so to say exchange with the h6-pawn. Besides in the ending, one can also have some superiority in case that there will be only dark-squared bishops left on the board because the h6-pawn is fixed on the dark square. So this Black pawn could be a potential weakness and as you see the structures are quite similar. That’s why the ideas of these two openings will also be similar. As it’s known White has several options on how to avoid the Caro-Kann, the classical line of Caro-Kann defense. For instance, 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 and then White plays c4 which is called a Panov attack and it leads to the position similar to Queens gambit. Or even more safer system is in case of Bd3 as it looks quite smooth and they don’t need to play c4. It is sufficient just to develop the bishop to d3 and to continue development. This is exchanged variation and this line is quite often used by relatively weak chess players. Then if the classical main line of Caro-Kann is quite studied and Black has a lot of arguments there. It can make sense to go for the advanced variation which is 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 and there White at least has a space advantage and all other things being equal. e5 – White cramps the opponent. Well, finally White doesn’t have to play d4 as a second move. So it can be 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 which is called the Two Knights system. Well this variation does not to put a lot of obstacles for Black but still they will have to work and think creatively over the board. Some people also opt for quite peculiar variations like 3.f3 or as a second move, one can play d3, d5 and Nd2. So as you see there a lot of options to avoid the main line of Caro-Kann defense. Compared to that, in case of the Scandinavian Defense 1.e4 d5 most of those avoidance lines are not possible at all, or they are not satisfactory for White. Well, it’s quite obvious than the options similar or identical to Panov attack or exchanged variations don’t work because on d5, Black will take with a queen or with the knight but not with a pawn. If one tries to continue by the Two Knights variation 2.Nc3 then the continuation 2..dxe4 3.Nxe4 This leads to the classical line of Caro-Kann but also Black has an extra tempo because they are saving a move on c6. For example, Nbd7, d4, Nf6 and then later Black can play c5 and equalize the position. But even more promising is 2…d4 and Black grabs space and again he or she didn’t spend the tempo on c6. Finally, if one tries to move the pawn to e5 by advanced variation, then c5 is quite good because again, there was no tempo spent on c6. And also we shall notice that the scandinavian defense is not that well studied as the Caro-Kann Defense that’s why, especially, one can feel it in the blitz or rapid tournaments. The openings are not so well-prepared. So now let’s consider a typical Scandinavian game. 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 c6. Well here, the knight on c3 stays in front of the pawn and thus, one cannot put the pawns on c4 and d4 as it would be nice for white. So this is the main drawback of the White’s pawn structure. Ne5, nowadays it is likely to be the most fashionable line and Nbd7, knight tries to esacpe from the exchange because as we all know exchanges are more favorable to the one who lacks space, to the more cramped side. Qf3 with the obvious idea to develop the bishop to f4 from where it can attack of the opponent’s wing. Well, this move might seem strange for you because why to put the Queen in front of the own bishop? However, there is a logic in this move because the queen is simultaneously attacking the pawn on d4 and besides it also wants to jump to g4. h3. If I’m not mistaken, this idea was firstly introduced by Victor Bologan in the game against Sergei Tiviakov, a well-known expert of the scandinavian defense. The idea is not to allow the opponent to simplify the position at the cost of the d4-pawn. Nc4, Bxc4 Qxd4 and one has to accept the sacrifice otherwise the position is too bad. So Black stands passively but he has no weaknesses and extra pawn in the center. So if he survives till the endgame, it will ensure the victory. Please pay attention to the pawns which try to stay at the 7th rank as long as possible so that not to create any weaknesses. Rd7, a really nice idea of Sergei Tiviakov which puts the question to the whole White’s strategy. a5 and finally the rook which have been passive so far is activated. Bg7 and gradually, Black pieces come into play and hands the Moldovan Grandmaster who is playing white has to search for the compensation for the pawn which is gradually losing. Let’s see what happens next. h4, Ra3, h5, f5, Qc4, Rc3, Qa2 and Rg3. Well, you won’t often see such a transfer of rook when there are a lot of pieces on the board, right? And the backward pawn e6 really does not decorate the Black’s position but so far it’s safely protected by the bishop. So objectively we have more or less parity on the board. Here, Bf6 is an interesting option but in the game there was Bxh6. Rfe1. At first sight, it’s quite a healthy move as the rook is centralized but in fact it was a time-trouble mistake. So one should have played Kf2, Rg4, g3 and White stands slightly better. So in the game was Rfe1 Bg7, g5, Black returns the favor. Instead in case of cool blooded Qf7 and Black still has an extra pawn. To take by the rook would have been even worse because of this and it’s much better for Black. Ok, so we go back to the text. g5, fxg5 Well here Sergei who was playing black has an extra pawn. However black is doing really active and this compensates the slight lack of the material. I think the more precise option was Rg6 and then let’s see what happens. But it’s equality everywhere. Coming back, f4, Qf3, Bxd6, cxd6, Rd5. This is strictly the only move otherwise the. d-pawn could show itself because it’s a passed pawn. Rd1 and gradually one is running out of resources. Well one is running out of resources to fight with. Exchanges and less pieces on the board. Well here the draw was agreed and we can state that after the opening, Black’s chances were more preferable, better but he didn’t manage to bargain a real benefit out of it. Okay let’s move to the next game now. This one was played in 2015. Sergei is playing Black again. Bf4. The majority of the opponents still do not dare to sacrifice the central pawn. Black establishes the maximum control over the point d5. The bishop on c8 becomes passive but it’s just for some time and besides after the exchanges on b6, the a-file is opened for the rook. Instead of e6, the move Qg4 is not that good because white escapes the exchange by Qe3 for example. I tried this, playing against a strong German girl in 2013. So coming back to the game, The situation is very unclear. The e1-square is controlled by the bishop and it is not possible to give check by the rook. Bc4 and a2-pawn are in danger. Anyway, after the game when we were discussing, my opponent with ELO around 2400..he came to me and told “Well “during the preparation for the game” “I couldn’t find anything better” “than perpetual check.” Bd3, this is a creative pawn sacrifice which is the ‘patent’ of the Ukrainian Grandmaster Yuri Solodovnichenko More often, they play Bb3 when people don’t want to sacrifice the pawn. In the game Bd3 was played and here, Black has several possibilities. One of them is Rxa2. So the Black king is deprived of castling right now but this is not too bad because there is no mate or something inside. And meanwhile black is still possessing the material advantage. g6, so black is gradually addressing the defense line. Qe3 and here actually, black has a lot of good moves but I chose not-that-good h5. One could have also played a Re8 or b5 Ok my option was h5 and follows good move of Re2. Now please pay attention to the fact that the open e-file is fully controlled by several white pieces. However all the penetration squares of the entry squares which are specified with yellow color now, they all are controlled by black. White played Re6 but there was also a move of Bh4 which would be stronger and putting some pressure on the opponent. Re6, Qa7 which is kind of a reminder that black also has some control of arguments. Here starts really puzzling complications but if black plays right then he is out of danger. This is the only move.. only move again and here I could have tried to fight for a victory by taking gxf5, qxf5, Rh6, Re6 and Black is somewhat better. But coming back I played Qa1..only move.. Imitating some aggressive ideas but of course Sergei saw that he cannot avoid the draw. So the draw was agreed here and we can state that in this line, black’s chances are practically not lower. Thanks for your attention! 🙂

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