Person of day - 28 MAY 2023
Richard Reti was born in Pezinok, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in a family of a military doctor. Richard’s great grandfather, Elias Maria Reti, was a famous artist and his older brother Rudolph was no less renowned as a composer. Reti’s family valued culture above all and, naturally, most family members played chess.
Richard enrolled in the mathematical faculty of Vienna University, where he was invited to play in the 1908 tournament that brought together all the strongest European masters. His chess “baptism” would have destroyed anyone else’s desire to continue- Reti won just 1,5 points out of 19. But the young player made the appropriate inference from his performance and his star began to rise soon after: a year later, he won a winter tournament in Vienna and another tournament in Trebic, after which Richard was a constant guest at the largest tournaments of his time.
Richard successfully completed his studies, but World War I broke out at that moment. Under the terms of the Treaty of Trianon, Reti’s hometown was given to Czechoslovakia, where strong chess players such as Karl Gilg and Karel Hromadka lived. At its first Olympiad in 1927, Czechoslovakia came fifth and its leader came third at the first board. In 1925, Reti set a record of blindfold chess after performing on 29 boards.
Reti won tournaments in Kosice in 1918, Rotterdam in 1919, Amsterdam and Goteborg in 1920, Teplice in 1922, Bratislava in 1925 and Vienna, Brno and Giessen in 1928 and he defeated Gyula Breyer and Max Euwe in individual contests. However, Richard’s greatest moment of fame came in 1924, when he defeated Capablanca at a time when the legendary Cuban had not stopped the clock for eight years and was considered invincible.
At the peak of his career, alongside Nimzowitsch, Reti was considered one of the classic founders of hyper-modernism because he promoted styles concentrated on pressuring the opponent’s centre. He has an opening named after him: it is a double fianchetto for White that was used by world champions Mikhail Botvinnik and Garry Kasparov and it is currently a fearsome weapon in the hands of Vladimir Kramnik.
He is the author of several popular books, such as Modern Ideas in Chess, Modern Chess Textbookand Masters of the Chess Board.
At the end of the 1920s, Richard Reti was justly considered one of the world’s strongest chess players, but he passed away prematurely after contracting scarlet fever. He is buried beside his father in Vienna. Reti Memorials are regularly held in Czech Republic alongside chess composers’ contests named after him- the master left many chess problems and studies behind him, the most famous of which is the manoeuvre of the king in a seemingly simple pawn endgame.
Alexandre Alekhine: “Richard Reti was the only chess player who regularly amazed us in games with his unexpected designs.”