Richard Reti - The Artistic Genius
Richard Reti (28 May, 1889 - 6 June, 1929) was a highly talented chess master from Bosing, Germany (at the time he was born) which later became Bazin, Hungary and later still, Pezinok, Czechoslovakia. Today it's Pezinok, Slovakia.
He emerged as a top player after World War I and throughout the 1920s. He was a leading proponent of what Savielly Tartakower first coined as the Hypermodern School
along with the aforementioned Tartakower and Aron Nimzowitsch
These three and others played openings with an emphasis on preparing their forces to attack and destroy their opponent's center. They said that success in the destruction of the enemy center would see them a long way on the road to victory.
Richard Reti grew up surrounded by music and chess
Richard was the youngest of three sons born to Samuel and Anna Reti. One son Otto died as a young child. Richard and Rudolph made it to adulthood. They were a close knit family.
Over the years they had moved around within central Europe, living in Serbia and Austria at different times. Samuel Reti was a doctor and his work took him to Vienna where he founded a medical practice.
They were a cultured family who enjoyed music and chess as did much of the Viennese middle class. Richard's mother and father would often play a game of chess in the evening with the two boys watching.
Richard Reti played and won his first game of chess against his father when he was 6
One night, having watched his parents play, 6 year old Richard asked for a game. "But you don't even know the rules", his father replied. Richard was visibly upset and his father agreed to let him play if only to appease him.
Everyone was stunned when Richard not only knew the rules but, reminiscent of Capablanca
before him, proceeded to win the game. A second game followed immediately and Richard won that too.
For the next few years his chess was limited to beating his school friends. His passion for devising ingenious chess problems was evident when at the age of 12 a chess column printed a problem he had submitted to them.
He received this feedback from the editor: “Your problem is gratefully accepted and will be published in one of our next columns. And I wish to add that if it is really true that you are only 12 years of age, as you wrote, and nobody helped you with the problem, let me congratulate you wholeheartedly. This is quite an exceptional achievement, which should encourage you to continue your work in chess with all seriousness. Personal greetings, Gottschall.”
Richard Reti played the master Carl Schlechter (above) when he was 13
Richard took Von Gottschall's advice and continued to work hard on his game. None of his school friends could beat him and they called him The Invincible
. His brother was equally encouraging. They all thought that Richard could beat anyone. Richard himself was dismissive of these claims. He told his brother that he would have no hope against a master. And yet he longed to regularly play against masters as he knew that was the way to improve his game.
Rudolph, a few years older, set about bringing this about. He wrote to Carl Schlechter (who some years later would come within a whisker of winning the World Championship against Emanuel Lasker
), the leading master in Vienna at that time. He told Schlechter that Richard was a great player and requested that he play him. Although unconvinced about the abilities of a 13 year old boy, Schlechter was an obliging character and agreed to play.
Rudolph and Richard went to Schlechter's house, not far from their own, and the two sat down to play. Richard lost in less than 10 moves. Schlechter said let's play again. In the second game the boy showed what he was made of. He gave Schlechter a much harder test and lost after more than an hour. “You have certainly given me some trouble”, the master told him. “For his age", he said to Rudolph, "this is certainly exceptional”. He turned back to Richard. “Where and with whom do you play?”. “In the Amateur Chess Club, in the second borough”, came the reply. “Well”, said Schlechter, “that’s fine, but I think you should become a member of the Wiener Schachklub”.
The Wiener Schachklub (The Vienna Chess Club)
Richard Reti joined the Vienna Chess Club at the age of 13
was run by the Baron Rothschild. There, the greatest players in Vienna, Schlechter, Marco, Halprin and others would gather to play.
Schlechter arranged for young Reti to be admitted to the club, the first player of such a tender age to be allowed to do so. Richard learned to his frustration that these masters did not play much chess at the club so his opportunities to test himself against them were limited.
They socialized at the club and only really played when a tournament came round. Richard also had school to occupy him. One great thing about being in the club was he now had access to the best chess books available along with the occasional game against his new illustrious friends.
An inexperienced Richard Reti was thrown into an International Masters Tournament in 1908
10 years had passed and Reti was now a young man. He was studying mathematics in the university. He was also a chess player of real promise. At this time he was representing Hungary. He got a unexpected break when a master had to pull out of the upcoming 1908 International Tournament hosted by the Vienna Chess Club.
A replacement was needed and Reti's name was put forward. It was true that he had shown promise in youth tournaments but he had not yet joined the ranks of the strongest masters. Some objected to his inclusion in such a prestigious tournament.
As it happened he did compete at Vienna 1908
and finished 20th and last, 4.5 points behind the German, Erich Cohen in 19th. He was the only player not to win a game. He did record three draws, the one against Czech champion, Oldrich Duras in the final round proving consequential to the outcome of the tournament.
Duras would have won the tournament outright with a win over Reti. The draw meant he shared 1st prize with the Hungarian, Geza Maroczy and Reti's old friend, Carl Schlechter of Austria, all on 14 points. Akiba Rubinstein
, playing for the Russian Empire finish 4th on 13 points.
Richard Reti spent World War I posted on the border between the Austria-Hungarian Empire and Serbia
Reti concentrated on his studies over the next 5 or 6 years in the fields of mathematics and physics. He was gifted in these areas and was on the brink of gaining his doctorate when World War I broke out.
His chess showed visible improvements from his debut with 1909 Vienna Chess Club Winter Tournament
and the 09/10 Trebitsch Memorial Tournament
beginning an incremental upward trajectory through the decade leading up to the war.
Reti was always of delicate health and did not pass the medical for action in the trenches. Instead he was posted to a border post on the Austria-Hungarian Empire's border with Serbia where he had clerical duties.
Here he was unable to make progress with his mathematics doctorate. It did mean though he could work on his chess. Many of his superior officers enjoyed the game and they encouraged his development. They even allowed him leave to play in some tournaments. He gained recognition as a major force for the future with victory at Kosice 1918
ahead of Vidmar, Asztalos, Breyer, Grunfeld, Schlechter, Balla, Mieses, Foldes, Balogh, Brach and Havasi. Reti destroyed the field finishing 5 points clear of Vidmar in second place.
Richard Reti faced a choice between maths and chess
Austria-Hungary was on the losing side in the war and when Reti returned home he found a crippled economy. The family had lost Reti's father Samuel some 15 years earlier. His mother's pension was not sufficient to pay day to day bills. His brother Rudolph did not earn much from his job as a music teacher.
Reti finished his course in mathematics at the university, but during the final preparations of his thesis disaster struck. He lost the 20 page document and it was never to be found. He was relying on this to gain his doctorate. It was a bitter blow that would always haunt him.
His earlier victory in Kosice had alerted many in chess to his great potential. The Dutch Chess Federation invited him to Amsterdam as a resident master there. Without his doctorate and with no prospects amid economic chaos in Vienna, this opportunity provided an escape.
It was originally only intended for a few months but things went well and he would remain there for several years. Reti would embark on a successful professional chess career.
Richard Reti enjoyed much chess success during the Roaring Twenties
Richard Reti may have become a professional chess player only by accident but he went on to become a very good one. Now playing for Czechoslovakia he won Rotterdam 1919
. He beat up and coming local, and future World Champion Max Euwe
, 3-1 in Amsterdam
in 1920. He beat Gyula Breyer 4-0
in Brataslava the same year.He won Gothenburg 1920
ahead of Rubinstein, Bogoljubov and Tarrasch
in a world class field. In another interesting parallel with Capablanca, Tarrasch objected to Reti's worthiness in such a strong tournament before play began. Reti beat Tarrasch on his way to victory.
He was 5th at Bad Pistyan 1922
and 6th at London 1922
. He won Teplitz Schoenau 1922
and 1924 Argentinian Championship
. He beat Damian Reca 2-0
while in Buenos Aires.
He was 5th at New York 1924
behind Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine
and Marshall. It was here that he scored his famous win over Capablanca. He won Brataslava 1925 by 4 points
and came in 6th at Marienbad 1925
. He finished 7th at Moscow 1925
. Here he met and married Rogneda Gorodetskaia. He was 5th at Berlin Tageblatt 1928
. He died aged just 40 of scarlet fever in 1929.
Reti - Capablanca, March 22nd 1924; Black resigns after 31.R1d5
The Manhattan Chess Club organized an elite tournament with most of the best players in the world attending. Akiba Rubinstein and Aron Nimzowitsch were the most notable absentees.
The 11 competing masters were Emanuel Lasker of Germany, Jose Raul Capablanca of Cuba, Alexander Alekhine of the USSR, Frank Marshall of the United States, Richard Reti now playing for Czechoslovakia, Geza Maroczy of Hungary, Efim Bogoljubov of the USSR, Savielly Tartakower of Poland, Fred Yates of England, Edward Lasker of the United States and David Janowski of France.
Reti scored his memorable win in Round 5. It was Capablanca's first competitive loss in 8 years of competition. Capablanca was known as The Human Chess Machine
because he was by now considered almost unbeatable. Reti eventually finished a very creditable 5th overall. Reti vs Capablanca, March 22nd, 1924
Richard Reti was a major proponent of the Hypermodernism style
Richard Reti was of the Hypermodern School. He fianchettoed his Bishops and attacked the enemy center. The same enemy center that he had allowed his opponent to build unchallenged. The idea is to undermine the advanced center and when it's eventually destroyed, his pieces, initially cramped, would suddenly become incredibly active.
He has an opening named after him. The Reti Opening, 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 contains these ideas in it's lines. Reti along with Nimzowitsch, Tartakower and others popularized these ideas and many openings previously scorned, such as the King's Indian Defense (and all Indian Systems), the Modern Defense, Alekhine Defense, Pirc Defense, Catalan Opening, Reti Opening, King's Indian Attack, the English Opening and others were suddenly widely played by top players. New lines were found and deeply analyzed, changing the face of chess.
Richard Reti had his own theory on chess
From his brother Rudolph's memoirs taken from chesshistory.com:I well remember how Richard tried to explain to me the philosophy behind it in approximately the following way:
The masters dominating the chess scene of today and the generation preceding them, he said, had developed the game to a point of highest thinkable logic and reason. They established the era, as it were, of common sense in chess. Broadly speaking, the idea was that the player had the best chance to win if his chessmen dominated the most terrain in the attack.
“I myself”, said Richard, “was first entirely convinced of this idea, firmly believing that the chance of winning depended solely on one’s capacity for ever more rational, natural thinking. If this were correct, the height of chess as an art would already have been reached, and progress would be thinkable only through an increase in degree – just as an athlete sets a new record by lifting a heavier weight than his predecessor.
Yet in probing deeper into the mystery of the 64 squares it gradually occurred to me that certain moves and systems of development which did not open more terrain for one’s game or rescue one from the opponent’s attack could nevertheless, if properly handled, finally lead to a superior position. In other words, there is often a higher, more complex logic hidden in chess than in the obvious logic of common sense. Certain moves which logically might seem bizarre, even abstruse, may sometimes still prove more effective.”
Reti was yet another great player from a time before computers. A time when the chess books available were not of the same quality as the ones today. Things we know today weren't known when Reti grew up.
He and his contemporaries were the generations who uncovered many of the secrets of chess. Armed with just a chessboard and time. There were many other great players that warrant a mention here. Paulsen, Maroczy, Schlechter, Marshall, Pillsbury, Bernstein and many more were remarkably gifted like the 12 players in this section.
The 70-80 year era from Adolf Anderssen
through to the generation of Reti was an era of tumultuous change in the game. The Romantic Era was usurped by the Classical Era. Then the Hypermodern School came along and while it did not displace Classicalism, it certainly made it's mark. The succeeding mode of play was perhaps a hybrid of Classicalism and Hypermodernism.