Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some Thoughts on the "Reti-English-Chameleon" Opening

Grandpatzer got me thinking with his recent post Reti Opening: Rare Bird? He writes:

I updated my file of personal games, and it's approaching 6000 games (mostly ICC). I did a quick search, and only 6 games had Nf3, c4 and g3 as the first 3 moves for white. I did a search of my 3.4 million game database and it only came up about 12000 times...so maybe 3x as often as it does for me, but still pretty rare.

transformation commented:

i only have 1,000+ out of 3,900 of my internet games with this opening. :)

Part of my comment was:

As to when it's a "Reti" and when it's an "English" well, after say, 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 e6 3. g3 we still don't know! People like dk (transformation) who play this a lot have subtle and devious minds.

I remember that the late Edmar Mednis wrote a good deal about this in his book Strategic Chess: Mastering the Closed Game, which I recommend as a well-annotated collection of instructive games that do not begin 1. e4. The only problem is that the book mainly takes a sophisticated strategical approach more suited to GM chess than the sturm und drang of chess at my level. There's lots of sophisticated discussion of move orders, wherein 1. c4 can become an English, a Reti, a Queen's Gambit, a Dutch Defense...and 1. Nf3 can become all of those, too! And maybe a King's Indian Attack, or even an Open Sicilian (1. Nf3 c5 2. e4!). Anyone for a Reversed Benoni?

Now, every player needs to figure out how to meet this "complex" in a way he's comfortable with, but my approach is based on "taking what ever White gives" which is generally what Black has to do in any opening. Thus:

Against 1. c4, 1. ...e5! As Mednis explained, this is why a lot of players try to get into the English via 1. Nf3. Don't let 'em! Seize the central squares White didn't, put on the pressure from move 1 and see if Black has a really well worked-out approach. Of course if he's a true "English player" he will, but I think this is the move that puts the most pressure on. Another approach that I've had some success with is 1. c4 e6 and my next Black moves will almost certainly be d5, c5 and Nc6 if allowed, playing a Tarrasch Defense formation whether White goes eventually goes d4 or not. Of course, this is only good if you're comfortable with the Tarrasch as Black.

Against 1. Nf3 I personally play Nf6 and leave almost all options open (except the Dutch Defense) but again, d5-e6 is a universal prescription, if you're not afraid to play the Black side of the Queen's Gambit. After 1. Nf3 Nf6 I'm ready to play a King's Indian formation whether White gets in d4, or not. And if you're a Sicilian player, 1. Nf3 c5 "prevents" 2. d4 (it's harmless, anyway) and just aim everything at controlling the d4 square.

Finally, those (timid or devious?) souls who play 1. g3 or 1. b3 should be firmly met with a center-pawn push, quick development and hopefully a good thrashing on the king-side. Of course, that ideal scenario doesn't always happen but I feel that these moves don't put much pressure on Black, and since we're talking about below master-level games I don't think you're going to run in to a lot of positionally sophisticated players who can turn these moves into an edge without Black doing something seriously wrong.

That's my two cents on meeting the "Flank Openings" and I'd love to hear reader's thougts on how they deal with them.

8 comments:

reassembler.com said...

I like your approach to flank openings because it's pretty straightforward. Small note - It's maybe a little early to hope for 'a good thrashing on the kingside' just because your oppt played g3...

Wahrheit said...

Well that's quite true, but he's made two weaknesses there already and it's only move 1. :)

Really, the move 1. g3 is pretty good, but it's amazing how few time I've ever had to play against it in 700+ tournament games and thousands of blitz. It's a lot less popular than 1. Nf3 for sure.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, yes we do know.

1. Nf3, d5 2. c4, e6 3. g3 belongs to the Reti System so long as "d4" is held back. Once "d4" is played however, we would then have a Catalan Opening. If not, then it's a reversed system of some sort, probably a King's Indian or Grunfeld with a move in hand.

With an early "b3" it can either be a Reti/Nimzowitsch Attack or a Reti/Double Fianchetto. There is also the Barcza System, the Alfred Wolf Gambit and the so-called Neo-Catalan System mentioned above.

The Alfred Wolf Gambit is 1. Nf3, d5 2. c4 and Black then has the following options: 1) 2...c6 leading to a Slav or the Alfred Wolf proper by 3. b3 2) 2...dxc4 leading most likely to a Queen's Gambit Accepted although White can play the interesting 3. Na3 3) 2...d4-a Benoni Reversed.

MCO covers the various designations of the Reti Opening very well. I am never confused about White's intentions when holding back the "d4" pawn as White has only the options mentioned above.

I do not recommend Black meet 1. Nf3 with 1...c5 as that can go into a Sicilian Defense if White then plays 2. e4

It's better for Black to keep it simple. One way of dealing with the Reti Player is to play the Queen's Gambit Declined or the King's Indian Defense Set-up. A Queen's Indian Set-Up often works just as well also. White would then, sooner or later be better off transposing by playing "d4." If not, your pawn breaks at either ...e5 or ...c5 are unopposed. Equalization, at least, should then be no problem.

My record against this Opening is pretty good. I seldom lose against it, scoring numerous draws and wins against few losses including my draw against long-time user of it and Expert Neil Bershad.

At the Expert level on down, few players really know what they are doing with it. They usually use it as a "Quiet Down Method" of the Middlegame because these types of players are usually passive individuals. Therefore, they are in effect, playing "Hope" chess, just trying to maintain the status quo. I don't like this kind of Hope Chess because it is defeatist by nature.

But in general, and chess is no exception, wars are won by dynamic action, not passive action.

Against the English, one should answer it with 1...e5 as the English is not a good Sicilian Attack. The extra move just doesn't work as well as the Sicilian proper.

The Reti Player you need to watch out for is the one who knows the "d4" Openings well as they can often use transposition to their advantage.

In fact, both the Reti and the English owe whatever strength they have to transposition.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, 2...e6 is also a response, of course, to the Reti/Alfred Wolf Gambit and White has nothing better than a "d4" to transpose into the Queen's Gambit Declined.

I left that out of my list above because I had been indirectly recommending the Q.G.D as a response to the Reti anyway. This is my preferred method of meeting it, but one also has to know the Black side of the Catalan fairly well so as not to get caught up in positions you do not know.

Wahrheit said...

Eric, a couple of points--I've never heard it called the "Alfred Wolf Gambit," who the heck was that? :)

yes we do know.

1. Nf3, d5 2. c4, e6 3. g3 belongs to the Reti System so long as "d4" is held back.


--you've made my point for me, after these moves we don't know; sometimes Black can play d4 much later. That's why I called it part "chameleon."

One more "flank" move I didn't mention is 1. f4, and I should note I've won some nice games by answering 1. ...f5, which always seems to leave them completely baffled!

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, Alfred Wolf, I believe was an Austrian player who played the Gambit quite frequently, probably during Walter Korn's time when he was doing MCO. That would explain the reference, at least in part.

Not all names are popular. I personally hate and dispise the name "Modern Defense" for Black's 1...g6. A lot of Defenses these days are "modern" in their updated treatment. Austrian GM Karl Robatsch was the first to play it regularly and draw attention to it. Some books have it as the Robatsch Defense, which is the term I like for it.

I don't really object to the term "Chameleon", but all the systems have names now and are well known to Advanced players and to some of us who are not so Advanced.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, I shouldn't say I 'despise" the name "Modern" Defense, but the term is boring and not really applicable.

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