Chess, like economy, is about trying to have a competitive advantage over your opponent. This is generally achieved by being the better player. In a more specific sense, you will accomplish it by preparing your openings well, in order to get an informational advantage. To this end, the best openings are these, where the truth is elusive and cannot easily be recognized by the naked eye (by your unprepared or less well-prepared opponent). For that reason, I have been pretty successful with the Hedgehog, as it sometimes appears to defy conventional chess logic and can only be understood on a more abstract level.

While the Caro-Kann mainline is clearly less complicated than the Hedgehog, it is yet deep enough to harbor optical illusions, which work in Black’s favor. When I worked my way through the main lines, I was constantly confronted with engine evaluations between =+ and -/+ where I wouldn’t have initially expected it. The reason for that are White’s many actual or potential weaknesses, with the pawn on h5 being the most prominent one. The following game is a good example. Please have a look at where I indicate =+, -/+ and -+. If you are under 2400, I promise, it will be hard to understand these evaluations without a second thought.

[Event "ARG-NED 2011"] [Site "ICCF email"] [Date "2011.12.12"] [Round "?.3"] [White "Rebord, Mauricio"] [Black "Tazelaar, HJA."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B19"] [WhiteElo "2474"] [BlackElo "2410"] [Annotator "Wahls"] [PlyCount "54"] [EventDate "2011.??.??"] [EventType "team-match (corr)"] [EventRounds "2"] [EventCountry "ARG"] [SourceTitle "Corr 2013"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2012.11.12"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2012.11.12"] [SourceQuality "1"] [WhiteTeam "Argentina"] [BlackTeam "Netherlands"] [WhiteTeamCountry "ARG"] [BlackTeamCountry "NED"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 {White has many options here, with 3.e5 being the
most important alternative. However, the question whether the Caro-Kann is
something for you depends upon your appreciation of the
position type resulting from White's main line. Do you feel a passion for it like I do, or does it leave you cold?} dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 {[#] For me,
the Capablanca Variation is more attractive than both 4..Nd7 and 4..Nf6.} 5.
Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 {The main line of the main line. Many other moves have been
tried here, of which none could endanger our opening.} h6 7. Nf3 Nf6 (7... Nd7
{is the more common move order, as it prevents 8.Ne5.}) 8. h5 ({As far as I
know,} 8. Ne5 Bh7 {is not to be feared, as White's proud knight will be
challenged by Nd7.}) 8... Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Be7 12. O-O-O {
[#]} O-O {It was in the 90s, when the Capablanca Variation had been revived by
the plan to castle short-side. Castling long-side is also possible, but less
ambitious, as Black is deprived of his attacking potential. Also, the kingside
pawns might become weak without king protection.} (12... Nbd7 {leads to the
main tabiya of 7..Nd7. Also there, the idea is to castle short-side. By
castling immediately Black can try exploit having chosen a different move
order. Objectively, that's not an advantage. It's just different positions.})
13. Ne5 $6 {I am skeptical about this move. More mainstream would be} (13. Kb1
{, but than admittedly, Black would have the additional option of} c5 $5 {
, which is a result of his move order on move 7.}) 13... Nbd7 14. Qe2 {Now, we
are back on main line territory by transposition.} c5 $1 {The most important
pawn move of this structure. Basically, it unleashes Black's entire army.} 15.
dxc5 Nxc5 {[#]} 16. Kb1 $6 (16. Bxh6 {is known to be bad because of} Qa5 {
Paradoxically, this might still be White's best option, as it yields equality,
as pointed out by some crazy engine variations:} 17. Be3 Qxa2 18. Bxc5 Bxc5 19.
c4 {Now, Black cannot just push is a-pawn to a3, because White has counter play
with h6.} Nd5 (19... Rfd8 20. h6 Bd4 (20... Ba3 21. bxa3 Qa1+ 22. Kc2 Qa2+ $11)
21. Rxd4 Rxd4 22. hxg7 Kxg7 23. Qe3 Qa1+ (23... Rxc4+ 24. Nxc4 Qxc4+ 25. Kb1
Ng8 $11) 24. Kc2 Qa4+ $11) 20. h6 Nc3 21. Qd3 Nxd1 (21... Qa1+ 22. Kc2 Nxd1 23.
Rxd1 Qa4+ 24. Kb1 Rad8 25. h7+ Kh8 26. Nxf7+ Rxf7 27. Qxd8+ Rf8 28. Qd7 $11)
22. hxg7 Qxb2+ 23. Kxd1 Rfd8 24. Rh8+ Kxg7 25. Rxd8 Qa1+ 26. Kc2 Qa2+ $11)
16... Qc7 $15 {[#] Please have in mind what I wrote at the beginning of this
article. If you asked 100 people on the street, probably 90 wouldn't see any
particular problems and some might even favor White's position, as from a mere
optical perspective, his space advantage looks attractive. However, after
studying this position, you will stumble upon White's problems. His h-pawn is a
liability in most endings. The knight on g3 is poorly placed by itself and
additionally blocks the g-pawn, which would be needed for an attack.
Additionally, White's g- and f-pawn are potential targets, as they lack king
protection. On top of this, and very relevant for this game, White's king is not defended by too many pieces
and Black's forces can easily step up the pressure on the queenside.} 17. Bc3 $2
(17. Ng4 $15) 17... Rfd8 18. Ng4 Nd5 $1 $17 {[#] That's s an improvement over
18..Nxg4? which happened in Xie-Brunner, Bern 1995. The knight on g4 doesn't
contribute much, while the centralized black mustang is a force to reckon with.
Again the same question: If you asked 100 people on the street, how many would
discern a clear black advantage?} 19. Be5 Qc6 20. Rhe1 $2 {Most probably, that
is already more than White's position can take.} (20. f4 Rac8 21. c4 Nb4 22. f5 Bg5 $17
{Obviously, Black's pieces are very active here.}) (20. Ne3 Rac8 21. Nxd5 Rxd5
22. Rxd5 Qxd5 23. f3 Rd8 $17 {White managed to exchange off the Nd5, but the
d-file now belongs to Black. Additionally, White's h-pawn is weak and if
anything, Back could just start marching with his queenside pawns.}) 20... Rac8
$19 {[#] Would the man on the street agree to this verdict?  I don't see a way
for White to avert disaster on the squares c2, b2 or c3 in a satisfactory
manner. Black's idea is to play 21..Na4 and then chase the Be5 away from the
long diagonal by means of f6 and e5.} 21. c3 (21. Ne3 Nxe3 22. Qxe3 Qxg2 $19) (
21. c4 Nb4 22. Bc3 Qa4 23. Bxb4 Qxb4 24. a3 Qa4 25. Qc2 (25. Ne3 $6 Rxd1+ 26.
Rxd1 (26. Qxd1 Qa6 27. Re2 Bg5 28. Ngf1 Qc6 29. Qc2 a5 30. Nd2 a4 $19 {[%csl
Yb2,Yc4,Yg2,Yh5] White is paralyzed with his many weaknesses and his bad king.})
26... f5 27. Nc2 Kf7 $19 {[%csl Yb2,Yc4,Yh5][%cal Ge7f6] White just has too
many weaknesses and suffers from his off-side knight.}) 25... Qc6 26. Ne3 a5
27. Ne2 b5 $19) 21... Na4 $1 22. Ka1 ({After} 22. Ne3 Nxe3 23. Qxe3 Rxd1+ 24.
Rxd1 Qxg2 $19 {Back just nets a pawn for nothing. Can you see how White's many
weak pawns on the kingside added fuel to Black's queenside attack?
Interconnectedness is not only a phenomenon of reality itself (imho), but also
very important on the chess board. White's position was simply over-extended.
He either had the choice to jettison a pawn or to stick to his material and
feel the whip coming down on his king.}) 22... f6 23. Bd4 {[#]} Ndxc3 $1 {
Kawumm!} 24. Bxc3 (24. bxc3 Rxd4 $1 25. cxd4 Qc3+ 26. Kb1 Rc4 $19) 24... Rxd1+
25. Rxd1 Nxc3 26. bxc3 (26. Nxh6+ gxh6 27. Qg4+ Kf8 28. Rc1 Qd5 29. bxc3 f5 30.
Qa4 Qe5 31. Qb3 Bf6 $19) 26... f5 $1 {The bishop wants to enter the fray.} (
26... Qxc3+ $2 27. Qb2 $11) 27. Rd3 (27. Ne5 Qxc3+ 28. Qb2 (28. Kb1 Bf6 (28...
Ba3 $19) 29. f4 Bxe5 30. fxe5 (30. Qxe5 Qc2+ $19) 30... Rc4 $19) 28... Bf6 29.
Qxc3 Rxc3 30. Re1 (30. f4 Rxg3 $19) 30... f4 31. Nf1 (31. Ne4 Bxe5 $19) 31...
Rc5 $19) (27. Kb1 Ba3 $1 $19) 27... Bb4 {[#]} (27... Bb4 28. c4 fxg4 29. Qxg4 Kh8 {The position is
completely hopeless in a correspondence game. Despite temporary material
balance, the engine withdraws more than 3 pawn units thanks to White's exposed
king. e.g.} 30. Qe4 Qa6 31. Kb1 Be7 32. Re3 Rd8 33.
Rd3 Qb6+ 34. Kc2 Rf8 35. f3 Qa6 36. Kb1 Rc8) 0-1

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