Réti Opening is a solid, flexible, and interesting system for White. It is named after the great master Richard Reti. Something good is that as this is not such a popular variation, very often Black does not know the theory and it could be confusing for the second player.
We have Réti Opening on the board after the moves
1.Nf3 d5 2.c4
Usually, this is followed by a Kingside Fianchetto, although, in general, it is said we are in Réti Opening when White plays Nf3 and c4 to face d5 by Black, and in the next moves there is at least one white Bishop (either of them) developed by the corresponding Fianchetto.
Besides, we need to say that there are different orders (sometimes White can delay c4 for some moves). Also, there is a bunch of transpositions to the Queen’s Pawn or English Opening.
Great Masters who played Réti Opening
Richard Reti played this system and won against Jose Raul Capablanca (who was the reigning World Champion at that moment). Also, Alexander Alekhine used Réti Opening in some games.
Some theory and ideas in Réti Opening
1.Nf3 d5 2.c4
Here Black can play three different approaches:
a) Trade the pawn
2 … dxc4
This is not very common, now White tries to get the pawn back and develop the Bishop at the same time (3.Na3 or Qa4+ are fine too):
If Black tries b5 then 4.a4 and there will be strong pressure on these b5-c4 pawns.
If Black continues defending, then moves like b3 or Nc3 should be enough for the first player to destroy that connection, get the pawn back, and stay with a healthy position in the middlegame.
b) Advance the pawn
2 … d4
Then, White can play some moves like g3 or e3. However, there is this nice 3.b4!?, which is probably the most entertaining option in this position and also good enough to get a nice middlegame for the first player.
The idea is to get ready to develop the dark squares Bishop over the Fianchetto, and at the same time, it controls c5 to make it harder (or at least different) for Black to advance the c pawn.
c) Protect the central pawn with another pawn, which is the most popular option. Black can choose either
c1) 2 … e6
Here White can transpose to Queen’s Gambit Declined by playing 3.d4 or to Neo-Catalan Opening (or some English Opening) by playing 3.g3. Another option here is b3, and usually, in the next moves, the first player will continue developing normally (like Bb2, Nc3, Be2 or g2 and castling).
c2) 2 … c6
This time White can transpose to Slav Defense by playing 3.d4. Another option is the natural 3.e3. The game could continue:
- e3 Nf6 4.Nc3
Black has many ways to continue here: a common plan is to develop pieces like in a London System with reverse colors (Bf5, e6, Nbd7, Bd6). Then, we can mention two interesting ways to play as White here:
C21) The plan Be2, 0-0, b3 and Bb2 and the first player is at least with an equal position since they are always one tempo ahead in development.
C22) The annoying Qb3 right after the Bishop goes to f5, attacking b7 and taking advantage of the early development of that piece.
The pawn hanging on c4 in Réti Opening
Usually, Black does not get too much capturing this pawn on c4 early in the opening. In general, White gets the pawn back very quickly with moves like Na3 or Qa4+. Also, e3 is a good option (and very often a mainline) when the first player has not advanced the g pawn to develop the light squares Bishop over the Fianchetto.
However, when Black plays 0-0 or c6 (now the capture could make some more sense), it could be a good and prophylactic idea to play b3, since White’s dark squares Bishop is usually developed over the Great Diagonal, and at the same time we are protecting that pawn on c4 to avoid the capture.
Typical Pawn Structures in Réti Opening
It is hard to talk about a typical pawn structure in this system since it is very flexible and there are many transpositions to Queen’s Pawn or English Opening (the limits between Réti Opening and these variations are really blurred). However, we can say that frequently, in some lines, there might be an Isolated Queen Pawn (either for White or Black). This happens because both sides very often advance the c and d pawns to fight for the center, and after some trades, the isolated pawn on d could be created.
We are not going to talk about this structure now, since we have already analyzed it before in other opening posts (like in Alapin Variation). The main idea will be that the player with the isolated pawn does not want to trade pieces and will try to take advantage of the better control in the center. On the other side, the player fighting against the isolated pawn will want to trade pieces to play the endgame and should attack the weak pawn to make sure the enemy pieces are tied and passive.
Typical squares for pieces Réti Opening
King: White almost always castles Kingside. Although, there is an aggressive variation where White castles Queenside and plays Rg1, g4, and attacks very quickly over the Kingside.
Queen: In some positions, when c file is closed and Black’s light squares Bishop cannot go to f5, the Queen goes to c2, connecting the Rooks and controlling the center
Rook: Depending on what happens after the pawn central breaks, they could go to some of the c, d, or e files.
Bishops: Usually dark squares Bishop is developed over b2. The other Bishop could do the same over g2, although in some lines it can go over c4 or e2.
Knights: In general, Nf3 and Nc3 are very normal. Unless Black plays d4, where clearly we should not play Nc3. Then the natural development for the Queenside Knight will be d2.