Playing the Ragozin

Richard Pert

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Quality Chess
440 pages

It’s not easy to find an opening that has never been covered but English International Master Richard Pert come close with Playing the Ragozin. One has to go back 60 years to find another book, Questions of Modern Chess Theory, on Bobby Fischer’s one-time favorite 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bb4. Even that classic by Isaac Lipnitsky (available from Quality Chess in an English translation) was only partly devoted to the Ragozin, but that is hardly the case with Pert’s massive tome.

The Ragozin has traditionally been paired with the Nimzo-Indian (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 and 3.Nc3 Bb4), but Pert has come up with an equally viable repertoire based on 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6, meeting 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 with 4……Bb4 and 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 with 3……Bb4. In addition he provides a repertoire against the Catalan (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Bd6), making this volume a complete defense to 1.d4 d5 2.c4.

Pert is very thorough and in his 300 page treatment of the Ragozin he does a terrific job of presenting the best theoretical lines for Black. He also goes well beyond this. Sometimes when the second player plays the best moves they face the prospect of a long sequence of moves leading to a draw. Many of Black’s best defenses (the Najdorf Sicilian being one prominent example) have main lines that end in forced draws and the Ragozin is no different. Pert’s key variation in this book, which transposes into the Vienna after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 c5, ends in a perpetual after 34 moves. Theoretically there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but for those who are in a must win situation or just prefer a less analyzed alternative, Pert gives 20 pages on the sharp 6…b5 covering much new ground. Another example of his thoroughness is attested to by the fact that he offers multiple answers to Samisch Nimzo-Indian transpositions after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4.

Playing the Ragozin is a first rate effort that will prove of interest to anyone looking for a defense to 1.d4.