The Reti Opening - An evergreen repertoire for White

by Davide Nastasio
6/5/2018 – Richard Reti was a very original player who brought us interesting ideas in the openings, as well as beautiful endgame studies. Reviewer DAVIDE NASTASIO explores Victor Bologan's video series, as Bologan explores the different transpositions the Reti (1.Nf3) can lead us to. The goal is to make our opponents play chess from the word 'go', and side-step their theoretical opening preparation.

Reti - A Repertoire for White Reti - A Repertoire for White

Starting with 1.Nf3 the Reti is designed for those players who like strategy, manoeuvres and plans. Bologan presents a repertoire based on 1.Nf3 giving you options for all major replies.

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An review investigation

Bologan has been quite prolific in the past year, I've reviewed one huge book on the King's Indian Defense (KID), written by him, and two DVDs: one on the KID, and the other on the Modern/Pirc.

The Modern Pirc

King

I got this new DVD because I believe Bologan is the consummate professional who knows the material he teaches quite deeply. Of course, it is quite impossible to imitate his level, but at least he is an amazing example to follow!

He begins the DVD telling us about Richard Reti, a hypermodern genius from last century, who gave us many important ideas, and beautifully composed studies.

Reti began to play 1.Nf3, and then followed with 2.c4.

But why is Bologan trying to teach us the Reti opening? Because he says the deep idea behind it is to cause the opponent's pieces to be misplaced, and wait to play for the centre, with the move d2-d4 at the right moment, when the opponent cannot change his configuration anymore. Practically, Bologan is saying that he would love to play 1.d4, but at the same time, he would love to force Black to fight on White's terms, instead of having to accept what Black will play against 1.d4.

As always the real purpose is trying to bring the opponent out of book, because in unfamiliar waters there are more chances for them to commit a blunder. Bologan specifically says, "some people like to play the Gruenfeld, some the King's Indian Defense, some the Dutch...in this way we bring them out of theory!"

Bologan also argues that the Reti is for those who want to play chess, instead of studying a lot of theory, and he mentions Kramnik numerous times.

The introductory video doesn't quite explain enough what Bologan is giving us, because the truth is: the Reti opening can transpose into practically anything.

Instead, I believe it is interesting to understand what Bologan recommends from time to time as a recipe to neutralize Black, because that will form us as chess players at a level nothing else can, especially for those like me who compete in different tournaments and matches every month.

Let me prove it to you, because when Bologan was speaking in the introductory video, in my mind, the main lingering question was: how does he avoid Black entering a Sicilian?

And in fact, in the first video, Bologan discusses the following line: 1.Nf3 g6 Bologan mentions this is a very tricky move order, and objectively he says the strongest move is e4 with the following continuation: 2.e4 c5 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 d6/Nxd4

 

In the position shown above Bologan mentions another series he made a few years ago: Beating the Sicilian.

The repertoire given by Bologan for beating the Sicilian spans three volumes. If one wants to enter the Siclian, then Bologan gives a Maroczy bind setup, which I believe is a good idea to practice against an engine or human player, after the moves:

1.Nf3 g6 2.e4 c5 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be2 Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qd2 Be6 11.Rc1 Qa5 12.f3 Rfc8

 

The move 13.b3 is recommended. Just try playing in the diagram above! You'll have a club level engine as a sparring partner!

If one doesn't have any idea how to play this structure, there are five games, in the model games database given with the series. The one I loved most is the following in which White brings the king in the centre, and keeps it there!

 

But have no fear! Bologan will guide you throughout the videos with transpositions and ideas perfectly tailored to avoid Black's tricks and traps, including those moves Black would play to re-enter in his or her own theory and preparation!

In fact, Bologan shows we are not obliged to enter the Sicilian, and clearly, this becomes a battle of the highest order to steer the game into the direction we want, while our opponents will do the same — trying to trick us to enter the theory they have studied.

So what does he give to play against someone who is clearly trying to make us enter the Sicilian?
If someone tries 1.Nf3 c5 then Bologan discusses 2.c4 with two different videos, which cover all of Black's main answers.

 

While I'm explaining the different lines, I thought of a question someone could ask about the differences between the Reti and the King's Indian Attack (abbreviated as KIA). Why do I think it's important to explain it? Because there can be some transpositions from one opening into the other.

Watch some games, keeping in mind the different plans and ideas played in these two openings. For example after the moves: 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 c6 4.d3 Bf5 5.0-0 e6 6.Nbd2 h6 now we are at a crossroads, depending on what White plays. If White plays 7.e4 we have the KIA, if White plays 7.c4 we have the Reti.

What you get

The video series content is divided as follows:

  • 28 videos of explanations on different lines
  • 1 database of model games with 126 games
  • 15 videos of interactive positions

Pro and cons

This is not the repertoire you give to a beginner or a low-rated amateur. But this is the perfect repertoire for the weekend warrior! The chess player who loves to fight in weekend tournaments, but doesn't have time for managing, and keeping updated a demanding opening repertoire. On the other hand, this is not easy either, because Bologan shows how from some openings one can enter directly into the endgame.

For example, in the following position, Bologan says this is a famous endgame played many times.

 

I didn't know it was famous or played many times. But I noticed immediately the importance of knowing it.

To practice, I created a word file with the FEN of the final positions Bologan shows, I wrote nearby a little evaluation, and then I played one or two games with that position, so I learned the good and bad, and it definitely helped me to understand both sides.

Try it in Fritz, right now!

In the footsteps of giants

In the beginning, Bologan says the strongest move after 1.Nf3 g6 is 2.e4. Two of the chess giants I know, who used 1.Nf3 throughout their careers after 1.Nf3 g6 always played 2.d4. I refer to Kramnik and Ulf Andersson. Does it mean Bologan is wrong? No. It just means this is a very flexible repertoire, and every GM will insert his own style and way to interpret the opening.

Final thoughts

I consider this DVD a masterpiece because Bologan presents a kaleidoscope of ideas, transpositions, ways of obtaining what we want in the centre, which I believe is unique. Now, that said, I wouldn't advise this series to the beginner trying to create an opening repertoire. In the beginning, one needs something simpler. This series is better for the seasoned tournament player who is going to an important tournament, and needs to bring the opponent out of a comfortable zone into a dark forest like Tal would say!

While some people think openings are all about memorization, this series is about connecting the dots. Connecting our knowledge of the pawn structures arising from the Sicilian, with those of the English, with those of the King's Indian Defence etc. Practically, in our minds, we must be able to recognize the different openings and patterns and find the move which prevents our opponents from realizing their plans, thanks to what we have learned from Bologan.

If a beginner stubbornly prefers to learn closed games first, instead of playing open games and gambits, then GM Simon Williams made a pair of video series on the English, which provides a really a good starting point.

However, the Reti, intended as move 1.Nf3, can be used to enter into the King's Indian Attack (KIA) and as such is a way to avoid the Scandinavian, but again this is not the focus of this series. Even so, I'd say a flexible chess mind is the real gift Bologan offers with this series!

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Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."
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Aighearach Aighearach 6/5/2018 09:57
As a middle-aged club-level player who dislikes memorizing opening theory, I love to see 1. Nf3 because I can play ...c5 and I get an English, and if they play 2. e4 then I can play ...e6 and get a Sicilian with a very similar structure to the French, which is what I play against 1. e4. If you don't mind slowly digging yourself out as black then you can play the classical French structures, and now almost all my non-d4 openings are similar!

For me personally, my rating tends to stay about 100 points higher when I focus on middlegame studies instead of openings! 20 years ago I'd play against my father a lot, and he always played 1. Nf3 and 2. c4 if possible so I'd practice forcing transpositions to queen pawn openings. It seemed to work well at the time, but the positions were still easy for white to play so it was a toothless sort of discomfort. Transposing to something that looks like a French rarely makes white uncomfortable, but they're still out of book, and they seem to make a lot of mistakes by not taking the position seriously.
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