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Reti Opening for White

The Reti Opening, starting with moves 1.Nf3 2.g3, has always been the second or even third choice for White. It’s rarely seen at the club level, historically considered harmless and dull compared to the more popular 1.d4 and 1.e4. However, this assessment is quite superficial.

In his time, Richard Reti considered precisely 1.d4 and 1.e4 as secondary moves because, in these scenarios, Black could easily equalize and initiate a counterattack. On the other hand, with the move Nf3 followed by fianchetto, White avoids creating weaknesses in their camp. Only after castling do they begin the struggle for the center. In this, Reti’s idea was profound and sound.

Reti Opening for White

He was convinced that every advanced central pawn is a weakness that can be attacked. Therefore, from the very beginning, White should exert pressure with their pieces on both flanks. Richard Reti even managed to defeat Capablanca in a remarkable game where the Cuban World Champion was outplayed in just 33 moves.
Watch this game in the Reti Opening:

White: Reti
Black: Capablanca

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. b4 {This is an interesting way of playing against the King’s Indian / Grunfeld.} (3. b3 {is also possible and perhaps a little better.} )Bg7 4. Bb2 0-0 5. g3 b6 6. Bg2 Bb7 7. 0-0 d6 8. d3 Nbd7 9. Nbd2 e5 10. Qc2 Re8 11. Rfd1 a5 12. a3 h6 13. Nf1 {} c5 14. b5 Nf8 15. e3 { Now white is playing with the idea of opening the center with d4.} Qc7 16. d4 Be4 17. Qc3 exd4 18. exd4 N6d7 19. Qd2 cxd4 20. Bxd4 Qxc4 21. Bxg7 Kxg7 22. Qb2+ Kg8 23. Rxd6 Qc5 24. Rad1 Ra7 25. Ne3 Qh5 26. Nd4 {White could have won immediately} (26. R1d5 Bxd5 27. g4 {and the black queen is trapped.} )Bxg2 27. Kxg2 Qe5 28. Nc4 { White’s piece coordination is fantastic.} Qc5 29. Nc6 Rc7 30. Ne3 Ne5 31. R1d5 1-0

 

Sounds good, but do Black really have no simpler ways to equalize the game?
Yes, of course, Black has very reliable options that will allow them to avoid troubles for some time, but isn’t this applicable to every opening choice for White? Perhaps – yes.
In our times, when opening theory is highly developed, and every player is well-prepared, the old ideas of Reti have even greater value. The move 1.Nf3 gives White maximum flexibility in choosing the development path, based on Black’s response. Even attacking players who traditionally used 1.e4, such as Svidler, Karjakin, or Nepomniachtchi, have recognized the practical advantages of 1.Nf3 with subsequent fianchetto and play it with great success. White still retains the option to undermine with e2-e4, transitioning to positions of the Old Indian Attack.

Reti against the Lasker System
1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.c4 Bf5 5. 0-0 е6

 

Reti opening

This is a popular system for Black, reminiscent of the London System with reversed colors. One of the main problems for Black here is that their light-squared bishop often becomes too passive on h7, or it simply hits the white pawn on d3, and sometimes it shoots along an empty diagonal. In the game between Capablanca and Lilienthal, we see typical maneuvers for White against the Lasker System.

This is a popular system for Black, reminiscent of the London System with reversed colors. One of the main problems for Black here is that their light-squared bishop often becomes too passive on h7, or it simply hits the white pawn on d3, and sometimes it shoots along an empty diagonal. In the game between Capablanca and Lilienthal, we see typical maneuvers for White against the Lasker System.
White: Capablanca
Black: Lilienthal

1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 c6 3. b3 Bf5 4. Bb2 e6 5. g3 Nf6 6. Bg2 Nbd7 7. 0-0 h6 8. d3 Be7 9. Nbd2 (9. Na3 {is another possibility.} )0-0 10. Rc1 a5 { Black threatens a4.} 11. a3 {Typical response in order to meet a4 with b4.} Re8 12. Rc2 {} Bh7 13. Qa1 Bf8 14. Re1 Qb6 15. Bh3 {} Bc5 16. Rf1 Bf8 17. Rcc1 Rad8 18. Rfe1 Bc5 19. Rf1 Bf8 20. Bg2 Bd6 21. Ne5 Bxe5 22. Bxe5 Nxe5 23. Qxe5 Nd7 24. Qb2 {After the trade of minor pieces, the rupture with b3-b4 is easier to achieve. The game is still about equal.} Nf6 25. b4 axb4 26. Qxb4 (26. Rb1 ) Qxb4 27. axb4 Ra8 28. Ra1 Nd7 29. Nb3 {} Kf8 30. Ra5 { White begins to press on the queenside.} dxc4 31. dxc4 Nb6 32. Rxa8 Rxa8 33. Na5 { Attack and defense.} Ra7 34. Rd1 {} Ke8 (34… Ke7 35. f4 { gives white a better game.} (35. Bxc6 Nxc4 {is less clear.} )g5 36. Kf2 )35. Nxb7 Rxb7 36. Bxc6+ Rd7 37. c5 Ke7 38. Bxd7 Nxd7 39. c6 Nb6 40. c7 {The c pawn decides.} Bf5 41. Rd8 e5 42. Rb8 Nc8 43. b5 Kd6 44. b6 Ne7 45. Rf8 Bc8 46. Rxf7 Nd5 47. Rxg7 Nxb6 48. Rh7 Nd5 49. Rxh6+ Kxc7 50. e4 Ne7 51. f3 Kd7 52. h4 Ke8 53. Rf6 Ng8 54. Rc6 1-0

 

Black play Bg4

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.0-0 Bg4

 

Reti opening

On g4, the bishop is more active than on f5. Against this system, White can play d3-Nbd2-Qe1 with subsequent e2-e4, or they can stay in Reti territory, playing as in the previous example with c4. In the game between Pigusov and Piket, we see how the battle unfolds when White plays c4 with a double fianchetto.
White: Pigusov
Black: Picket

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 c6 3. Bg2 Bg4 4. b3 {The most flexible move order for white. Not telling yet wether he will play for e4 or c4.} Nd7 5. Bb2 Ngf6 6. c4 (6. 0-0 e6 7. d3 {with the idea of Nbd2 and e4 is also possible.} )e6 7. 0-0 Bd6 8. d3 0-0 9. Na3 {The standard development. The knight stands very well on c2 supporting the center and queenside.} (9. Nbd2 Qe7 10. a3 e5 11. h3 Bh5 12. Nh4 {} Qe6 13. Ndf3 {} h6 14. g4 e4 15. cxd5 cxd5 16. dxe4 dxe4 17. Nd4 Qe5 18. f4 exf3 19. Ndxf3 Qxb2 20. Qxd6 Bg6 21. Nxg6 fxg6 {was only a little better for white in Akopian,V (2704)-Carlsson,P (2520) Dubai 2013} )a5 10. Nc2 Qb8 11. Qd2 a4 12. b4 dxc4 13. dxc4 Bxf3 14. exf3 {excellent positional move. The pawn on f4 will control the important e5 square.} (14. Bxf3 Be5 {is easier for black.} )Be5 15. Bxe5 Qxe5 16. f4 Qc7 17. Ne3 e5 18. fxe5 Nxe5 19. Rad1 Rfe8 20. a3 g6 21. h3 Re7 22. c5 {} Rae8 23. Rfe1 (23. Qc2 { looks good.} )Nh5 24. Ng4 {} Nxg4 25. hxg4 Ng7 {} 26. Rxe7 Qxe7 27. Bf1 (27. Qd7 )Qe4 28. g5 Qg4 29. Qd7 Qxg5 30. Qxb7 h5 31. Qxc6 h4 32. Qf3 Nf5 33. Qf4 Qe7 34. g4 Ng7 35. Bc4 Kh7 36. c6 f5 37. gxf5 gxf5 38. Rd7 Qf6 39. c7 Qg6+ 40. Kh2 Re4 41. Qxe4 fxe4 42. c8=Q h3 43. Rxg7+ Kxg7 44. Qxh3 1-0

 

Reti Opening for White

Pressure on the a1-h8 diagonal

As seen in the previous games, the bishop on b2 plays a crucial role in White’s setup. Typical ideas for White include Rc2 followed by Qa1 or Bc3-Qd2-Qb2, not only intensifying the pressure on this diagonal but also supporting the advance of queen’s side pawns with a2-a3 and b3-b4. Sometimes Black opts for fianchetto with their bishop on the kingside to counter White’s bishop on b2. In the game Bruzón-Nielsen, a instructive battle unfolded, culminating in a devastating attack on the black king. Let’s take a closer look:
White: Bruzon
Black: Nielsen

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 c6 4. 0-0 g6 5. b3 {} Bg7 6. Bb2 0-0 7. c4 a5 8. d3 a4 9. Na3 { Bruzon follows the classical path in the Reti transfering the knight to c2.} (9. Nbd2 )Na6 10. Nc2 Bg4 11. Qb1 Bxf3 12. Bxf3 axb3 13. axb3 e6 14. b4 {With the bishop pair and some space advantage on the queenside white stands slightly better.} b5 15. Ra5 (15. cxb5 cxb5 16. Ra5 {} )Qb6 16. Bd4 Qb7 17. cxb5 cxb5 18. Qb2 {} Ne8 19. e4 (19. Bxg7 {was also possible} Nxg7 20. Nd4 Nc7 21. Rc1 {with a very strong pressure on the queenside.} )Nac7 20. Rfa1 Rc8 21. exd5 exd5 22. Ne3 {} h5 23. Kg2 Qc6 24. Ra7 Qd6 25. h4 Bxd4 26. Qxd4 Ne6 27. Qxd5 Qxb4 28. Rxf7 Rxf7 29. Qxe6 Nd6 30. Qxg6+ {A fantastic game by the cuban Grandmaster} 1-0

I hope you enjoyed this article and learned a bit more about flank openings, such as the Reti. It is advantageous in that you don’t need to study a lot of material – knowing typical plans and thematic ideas is sufficient. This will aid you when you want to avoid theory or simply aim for a quiet game, where, in your opinion, your opponent is more likely to make the first mistake.

 

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