The Opening that Isn't an Opening

May 9, 2008, 4:50 AM |
(The Flexible Reti)
We all obsess about openings. As soon as you find out that there are set moves you can learn that will get you off to a good start, almost guaranteed, you fall over yourself to learn them all as quickly as you can so you aren't at a disadvantage from the next player.

Then you find out there are gambits, where someone will play what looks like a crazy move, offering up a pawn that can be captured without being recaptured. But it leaves you undeveloped.....

A veritable minefield!!!!

Then you're taught to explore the King's Pawn openings first which have more traps, tricks and gambits in than any other! Well maybe it's supposed to make you think...or force you to study openings...but it scares me a bit and I worry that, even as white I will end up falling for something odd like an elephant or latvian gambit! (I can hear Scorebook wailing and gnashing his teeth at that statement)

Anyway I was in London and picked up an Eric Schiller book which recommended a "hypermodern" opening for white. I was intruiged and I bought it and began to study what is in principle a book on how to use the Reti opening (ECO Codes A04-A09). To quickly translate, for those of you who don't know,
Hypermodern = "don't go for quick control of the center, setup your pieces to attack it all-out later!" (roughly)

The title of the post is what some people, in particular Scorecard!!, think of the Reti as an option to open with.

So let's get a diagram up quickly before you fall asleep at my ramblings.

What the heck?
This is the "ideal Reti"....I'm not sure if that's an official name or just my title for it.
The ECO Codes for the Reti A04-A09 classify any opening starting 1. Nf3 ....
That's not much to go off I appreciate. But let's just ask the quick question, what's the point in Nf3 as an opening move. What does it acheieve? Well straight away it prevents 1 ... e5 so black is moved away from an open game...for now. Nf6 is the most popular reply according to databases, but at club/amatuer level I've seen 1 Nf3 d5 almost without fail.

Richard Reti used as the idea for this opening is to delay occupying the centre until all his pieces were developed, but with the minimum of effort.
The diagram above shows:
  • Each piece having moved just once (Castling is a King Move :-)
  • Each piece on a useful square
  • The center being controlled from a distance
  • No glaring weaknesses as e2 will move soon or can be defended easily
Those are almost the 4 classical chess rules (control centre, develop pieces first, castle, connect rooks) with the added Hypermodern angle of controlling the centre without actually occupying it.

What's so good about this opening then?
Well it forces black away from the open games without having to play a queen's pawn opening straight away. It can transpose into lots of other openings which you may prefer based on black's replies. You can reach it through any sensible number of developing moves.
What's bad about it?
It can transpose into lots of other openings (double edged I know!). It requires deeper thought early on rather than being able to rely on "book knowledge". You won't have the centre from move 1.

What about black's moves? Good question ;-) In my next post on the Reti I'll be discussing common lines/themes and how to take advantage of the dynamic nature of the opening.