IM Alex Ostrovskiy: How To Study Openings – Caro-Kann Secrets Revealed in action!

Modern chess literature is facing an explosion of constant opening books. It seems almost every week a new monograph is released detailing how to confront some defense or another. At the same time, titled players and reliable instructors warn against devoting oneself too much to opening study. We’ve all heard the story: An aspiring player endlessly mulls over the intricacies of the mind-boggling complications of a hotly debated opening only to be faced with stagnation as they’ve neglected to study other critical chess themes and phases. With so much information and viewpoints available, its worthwhile to ask the question regarding the significance of opening preparation and how much time should be devoted to studying openings at all.

My experience, practice, and viewpoint is clear:

 “Effective Opening preparation is an essential and powerful tool for improvement that can raise the rating of players rated under 2300 by hundreds of points”


The most important part of the statement above is “effective.” I believe that done right, opening preparation is a tool that can yield many “hidden” benefits to your game. For example by correctly studying the pawn structure of an opening, you will be able apply the ideas learned not only to the arising middlegame, but also to middlegames arising from completely different openings as well! Or studying an opening that leads to opposite side castling can aid your skills in attacking positions overall as well as arm you with new tactical motifs than can boost your game as a whole.

To sum up, opening preparation can lead to the following advantages:

Goals/Benefits of Opening Study:

  1. Increase your knowledge of themes, motifs, and structures
  2. Understand Resulting Middlegame Plans
  3. Save Time on the Clock
  4. Gain an Advantage/Win as a result of preparation

The first two points have already been discussed. The third point is also related to the first two. By knowing the plans in the position, you will be able to make decisions quicker than your opponent. Of course, knowing the opening better will also save you time on the clock. Lastly we have the absolute sweetest goal, a direct hit due to our superior preparation. While the fourth point is the ultimate goal of learning openings, the first two points are equally important since they assist our chess skills overall.


Still, effectively studying openings is not simple. The problem many players face is that they spend oodles of time memorizing variations that simply never appear on the board. Studying “smart” is a trial and error process for many (it certainly was for me when I was a young player), but can be circumvented with the assistance of a good coach or in some cases, a good book.


The methodology described above strongly influenced me in producing my repertoire suggestions on the Caro-Kann defense.

In this 10 hour course, I’ve taken my time in presenting several repertoire suggestions that depend on the players’ style, level, and even ambitiousness. I’ve done my best to explain the principles behind the opening, the typical ideas, maneuvers, and themes that arise, and to explain which continuations need the most attention. The goal is to provide a complete repertoire that will is practically effective and contributes not just to the viewers knowledge of the specific opening, but to chess as a whole.

One of the major influences on my course was the work I have done with several of my private students. One of my students was a direct beneficiary of the materials presented in my Caro-Kann DVD. When we first started, I noticed that my student (who was ~1600) did not have a proper response to 1.e4. I worked to remedy this hole and presented the Caro-Kann repertoire.

Within a couple of months, the student was regularly producing wins against higher rated opponents:

The example above was not a one off. After just a couple of months of work, the student’s rating saw improvement from 1600 to over 1800 as well as a mountain of upsets. The “Opening’s Approach” had been very effective and brought many wins in the Tartakower variation. By focusing not just on the moves but also the significant themes, pawn structure, and piece play, the student’s game had significantly elevated.



Of course what may work for one player may not suit another, which is exactly why I have given at least 2 repertoire options for every variation White may play against the Caro-Kann. In the game above we witnessed White play the Classical variation after which Black responded with the Tartakower Variation. In my Caro-Kann DVD I also recommend the more theoretical Capablanca Variation against the Classical. However, despite being more theoretical, the principles are still identical: there is a focus on key ideas and themes while outlining what variations actually need careful study and which variations do not.

The following game was an example of the repertoire in action by one of my students (rated 2000) against a Grandmaster in a rated tournament game:

A great victory for Black who perfectly utilized the ideas of the Caro-Kann that were outlined in the DVD. Of course Black played a powerful middlegame and many strong moves to win the game, but was strongly aided on the clock and board by studying the Caro-Kann DVD and applying the key plans and ideas. Such an openings approach is supremely effective and efficient– even against GMs!

Conclusion: I hope this article assists you in understanding not just how to study the opening but also in realizing that opening preparation is a powerful tool in improving as a chess player. I have done my best to base my Caro-Kann DVD on these principles and I hope you will be able to utilize these methods to boost your rating and score many victories!



1 Comment

  1. This is entirely a new approach in studying the Caro Kann Opening which is entirely different from several instructional videos published in the web

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