07 April, 2010

Monthly Standard ( April ) : Round 1 - Réti Gambit

It was a last minute decision to enter, as I had a cancelled appointment, so I didn't really "prepare", just signed on a few minutes before and waited for the parings.

I have to admit the "2pm" round is rather strange, since it is always an open with no lower section. This means that the lower-rated players ( like me ) invariably end up against an opponent 300 or 400 points above us. I'm sure its a great learning game, but sometimes, it would be nice to have a sporting chance.

Tonight I'm up against an 1848-rated player ( that's 360 higher than me !) and he replies 1...e6 to my 1.e4. Great, a French Defence, long one of my least favourite openings as White.

However, this time, instead of my usual slow King's Indian Attack, or pretence at knowing Tarrasch, Winawer or Wing Gambit theory, I tried something different, the Réti Gambit, courtesy of author Thomas Johansson. Seemed like a lot of fun to gain, so what did I have to lose ?

( [Updated 7 April 2013 ] Statistically, not too much ! I have various later posts giving details of openings played in amateur online chess. The French Defence is the second most-played opening in Team League and here the Réti Gambit shows as well as the main White options, with 55% positive record ( 11 wins, 2 draws, 9 losses ) and better than main-line replies of d4. In my TL4545 Réti Gambit game, as usual, it wasn't the opening where I lost, so I believe this opening has a lot to offer the White player who wants to push Black out of his French Defence 'comfort zone'. One other benefit of this opening is that it's knowledge could also be applied in the Sicilian. Castling queen-side and attacking king-side has similar themes in both.) 

I'm not a gambit player ( I decline even the King's Gambit, if possible) but the Réti Gambit offered fun and the chance not to play in Black's arena. I was ready to give it a shot !

Johansson advises that "proper" French players would generally not accept the pawn and would play 3...Nf6 instead, and this is what happens here. You would then generally end up with a non-French position with chances for both sides, and in fact, for the first time in many games I have a 10 minute advantage in time after the initial moves. Surely worth its value already !

1. e4 e6 2. b3 d5 3. Bb2 Nf6  The Gambit declined. Accepting with 3...dxe leads you down the path trodden by Réti and Maroczy at Gothenburg in 1920, which is still probably the mainline, namely 4.Nc3 Nf6 5. Qe2 Be7 6. 0-0-0. (5...Bb4 is also a mainline contender ). The Gambit is accepted in about 60% of games. [see additional game Réti - Marozcy ]

4. e5 Nfd7 5. Qg4 c5 6. f4 g6  The 'normal' move order is  6...Nc6  7.Nf3 g6, but this game transposes via 7. Nf3 to reach what Johansson describes as an "almost mandatory" position for this variation.

7.Nf3 : White Options
In this position, according to Johansson, White has 4 major decisions/options :
  • where the Queen goes (h3/g3), 
  • where the Queen Knight goes (a3/c3),
  • where the King Bishop goes (e2/d3) 
  • and which side to castle. 
 Black also has options, but the main one here, is Bg7 or Be7.

( If only I had known this before this game, as certainly my Queen and even more importantly my Bishop placement would have been much better ! I know more now, having bought the book ! )

Black plays 7...Bg7  and we end up with this position...


OK...the queen seems out of place, but she has done her initial job of preventing castling, and then provoking g6 and Bg7, so technically a weakened king-side.

Here is where my lack of knowledge of the position ( and chess experience ) comes into play.

I see a Sicilian sort of structure with the pawns ,so aim for 8. d4 to put the idea into place,and with 8...0-0 9.Bb5 a6 and 10.Bxd7, there is a forced Nxd7 or else Black loses a pawn.( See additional games for 8.Nc3 and a better way to play versus Bg7)

8...0-0 9. Bb5 a6 10. Bxd7

This should put me in a good position, but I'm not sure that after 10..Nxd7 that 11.Nbd2 is the best. It allows castling either side ( I planned 0-0-0) but maybe Nc3 is a better position ( since that is where Knights should be !

I think here it is evident that I do not have a real plan, and instead am playing move-on-move. Not good.

Although I am ahead on time, the next few moves see the initiative shift to Black, and I am, in fact, parrying his threats. 14. Qe2 is an admission that I am defending, but there is no real reason to do so. Instead 14.Qh4 Bd7 15.g4 Rac8 is much better and active for White....(see below )

Variation:  14.Qh4 Bd7 15.g4 Rac8
 ..but I am reacting instead, and after 14...Bd7 15.Ba3 ? I am in this position.

15. Ba3
I took a long time on this move, and even though I thought it wasn't the correct move, stupidly, I still played it. One of those occasions that I was blind to real alternatives, although the 'thematic' g4 seems possible. 15...Rfc8 was an almost instant reply and I could see that I was in trouble.

16. Bxc5
Again, I was not sure of this move, but I thought it was the best as Qa5 was difficult to meet. I expected Rxc5 as I thought it was better than Qxc5. I saw the threat down the a-file, but thought the a-rook needed to stay there to produce it, so the later Rc5 was not what I expected. Mind you, Bf8, although giving an obvious threat of Bb4, wasn't right and I think it put me back in it, although I was short on time by this point.

I don't see why, but after 18...Bf8 engines see it as equal and suggest 19.h4 as the move...I haven't worked this out yet....
..However, after my 19.Rc1, Black plays Rc3 and it is really all over. A couple of possibilities, but Black has the overwhelming attack after this and with 20...Rc8
...my response of 21. Rd2, instead of Qf2, puts me out.

The rest, as they say, is a "matter of technique" !

Regardless, an enjoyable game, probably because the whole situation has a newness about it. The main learning point is - "find a plan", essential in any game.

The additional games below show in Jurchenko- Rozkhov a different approach 8.Nc3 ( to my 8.d4 ) , and in Kurkula - Czernicki another approach to 7...Bg7. The original Réti Gambit game is also there to enjoy.

Update: It is enough to say that having enjoyed this game, I searched out the Thomas Johansson's book better to prepare myself. Its self-published and so not the easiest to buy as the publisher has quite high shipping costs ( at least to Europe ), but my reliable internet bookshop (the Book Depository ) was the answer as the paperback version is printed in the UK ! Ordered and delivered within a week, and being enjoyed.

For the real Gambit players out there he also wrote a recommended book on the King's Gambit, so check out his site  ( here or here ) for details.


Farbror the Guru said...

Great Post! As always...