The Réti Opening


The Réti Opening is a chess opening where White wants to control the center from the wings rather than by direct occupation.

The idea: White wants to attack Black’s d5-pawn under attack from the flank. White will do this by playing his bishop on the long diagonal (g3 and Bg2) to create pressure on the light squares in the center.

By moving the Knight first, White maintains flexibility by not committing to a particular pawn formation and, rather, waiting to see what Black will do and counter attacking that.

In the Réti Opening, Black has three main responses:

  • Protecting the d5 pawn (either with ...c6 or ...e6)
  • Taking the c4-pawn (with the move 2… dxc4)
  • Advancing the d5-pawn (by playing 2… d4)

By using the e-pawn to protect the d-pawn, Black can stabilize the centre but also locks in his c8-Bishop inside the pawn structure.

Now, if White wants to take the d5-pawn by going cxd5 Black will be able to take back with the e6-pawn.

This would create an asymmetry in the pawn structure which could be an advantage if you want to play for a win with the Black pieces, since the position would be quite unbalanced.

Going 2… c6 has the same main purpose of going 2… e6: Black is protecting the d5-pawn and makes sure he is able to take back with a pawn if an exchange occurs.

However, Black is not locking his Bishop with this move. If the exchange cxd5 happens now, the following pawn structure will be symmetric.

Taking the c4 pawn seems to be an obvious option, but the truth is that it leaves black quite undeveloped.

White will usually recapture the pawn somehow and will then be left with a position that is easier to play.

The move 2… d4 is quite popular, partly because it avoids all kinds of transpositions to the Queen’s Gambit, since White will not be able to go d4 anymore.

Black gets some space in the centre, and White will try to challenge the advanced d4-pawn.

Why Play The Réti Opening?

White wants to avoid creating any permanent weaknesses early.

Every center pawn advanced is a weakness that Black can attack from long range.

Therefore, White should hold off moving center pawns and rather, attack from both flanks with his pieces.

If White plays 1.e4 or 1.d4 first, these pawn moves are permanent and Black can focus on attacking permanent weaknesses on the flanks.

Therefore, by developing the Knight first, and then the bishop and castling, White doesn’t create any weaknesses on his side.

During this time, Black typically tries to control the center with the d5 pawn. This pawn, can then later in the game, be attacked from long range.

Every move explained

2… e6 (securing the d5 square)

How To Reach It

This line happens after the following moves:

  1. Nf3 d5
  2. c4 e6

You can see these moves below:

Why play the move 2… e6?

This move is very common against the Réti Opening.

Black defends the d5-pawn and is now able to keep a pawn on d5 if White goes cxd5.

This helps Black to support his central pawn and maintain a solid position.

White's Moves

Play d4 transposing into a Queen’s Gambit position

Réti players often feel comfortable playing d4-positions. Because of this, it could be a good idea to transpose into the Queen’s Gambit after Black goes 2… e6.

Fianchetto the f1-Bishop

The h1-a8 diagonal is a very active place for the Bishop. Having a Bishop on g2 will also help White to control some important central squares.

Go e3 to support the centre

Playing the move e3 can be very helpful to stop Black from going d4. Besides that, it ensures White that he is able to take back the c4-pawn if Black goes dxc4.

Black's moves

Support the centre with c6

Playing c6 allows black to give some extra support to the central d5-pawn, achieving a very solid setup.

Go Nf6

Playing Nf6 is a great development move and allows Black to control important central squares.

Play c5 to increase your control over the centre

The move c5 can be a great alternative if you want to fight for the centre in an active game.

Not only does it offer Black some space on the queenside, but also it helps to challenge White’s control of the d4-square.

2… c6 (securing the d5 square)

How To Reach It

This line happens after the following moves:

  1. Nf3 d5
  2. c4 c6

You can see these moves below:

Why play the move 2… c6?

This move is the most common response to the Réti. It has a lot in common with the move 2… e6 and these positions often transpose. Playing c6 helps black to support the centre by protecting the d5-pawn. If White decides to go cxd5, Black will take back with the c-pawn and the position will remain symmetrical.

White's Moves

Play d4 transposing into a Queen’s Gambit position

Just like in the 2… e6 variation, White will often transpose into the Queen’s Gambit after Black goes 2… c6.

Fianchetto the f1-bishop

Also here White will benefit from having a bishop on the active h1-a8 diagonal.

Go e3 to support the centre

Just as in the previous variation, the move e3 is also a common choice for White in this position. It helps white to control the d4-square and protect the c4-pawn.

Black's moves

Support the centre with e6

Black often wants to consolidate the centre by going e6. This position will often transfer to some others starting with 2… e6. Having pawns on both the e6 and c6-squares will help black to achieve a solid position by maintaining a pawn on the important d5-square.

Go Nf6

Once again Black wants to develop with Nf6 to make sure the central squares are under control. It is important to develop this knight quickly in order to castle on the kingside soon.

Fianchetto the f8-Bishop

An alternative to the e7-square for the Bishop is g7. Fianchettoing this bishop could be a good idea for Black to pressure some central squares.

2… dxc4 (giving up the center)

How To Reach It

This variation happens after the following moves:

  1. Nf3 d5
  2. c4 dxc4

You can see these moves below:

Why play the move 2… dxc4?

This move could be a good option to avoid some heavy theory, for example transpositions to the Queen’s Gambit. Although White will often be ahead in development in this line, Black is also left with a position that is quite easy to play. This would probably lead to a quiet game.

White's Moves

Go e3 to recapture the pawn with the Bishop

White is not very worried about the lost pawn. Playing e3 and taking the pawn with the bishop is a good option since black is not able to defend it in time.

Recapture the pawn with Qa4+

Another option to capture the c4-pawn is the more direct check on a4 with the Queen. Black is forced to defend this check and is not able to defend the c4-pawn at the same time.

Black's moves

Develop with Nf6

The f6-square is very good for the knight since it allows it to control some important central squares.

Pin the f3-Knight

A common plan is to pin the f3-Knight by going Bg4. This will put some pressure in White’s position and help Black’s development.

2… d4 (pushing the pawn)

How To Reach It

This line occurs on the chess board after these moves:

  1. Nf3 d5
  2. c4 d4

You can check these out here:

Why play the move 2… d4?

This move stops any transposition to the Queen’s Gambit since white is no longer allowed to go d4.

It also helps black to gain some extra space in the centre. However, this happens at the cost of a developing move.

White's Moves

Fianchetto the f1-Bishop

Going g3 in order to place a bishop on the g2-square is a very good idea in this position. This diagonal is a very active place for the bishop. Besides that, after castling on the kingside, this setup offers White’s king some extra protection.

Expand on the Queenside with b4

White can take advantage of the fact that black has not developed his pieces yet to spend a tempo in this move. This not only gives white some extra space on the Queenside, it also helps him to control the c5-square, making it more difficult for black to place a pawn on c5 in order to defend his advanced d4-pawn.

Go e3 to challenge the d4-pawn

Playing e3 seems like a reasonable move. Black has lost two tempo by moving his pawn all the way to d4, so it makes sense that he doesn’t want to exchange it.

Black's moves

Go Nc6 and e5

Playing e5 is a good goal to keep in mind, since it would give black a very good control of the centre. However, it is not possible to do this without first supporting with Nc4, since White has a knight on the f3-square controlling the advance of the e7-pawn to e5.

Protect the d4-pawn with c5

Black wants to protect the d4-pawn at all cost, since it is giving him a lot of space in the centre. Because of this, going c5 is a very common theme in order to protect the d4-pawn from possible attacks.

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