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10 Weird Chess openings with animal names you’ll love to know!

We have always been fascinated with the creative and amusing names of some chess openings. Openings like these are usually termed “unorthodox openings” and in this article, we’ll make use of our imagination to see the animal-related characteristics that gave rise to their names.

There are lots of openings with such kind of names. However, we will look at ten(10) of these weird chess openings with animal names.


This opening name is kind of self-explanatory. After 1. a4 e5(any other black move can suffice) 2. h4, we have the crab chess opening where a4 and h4 look like the pincers of a crab, raised above its head. This opening launches a bizarre attack on the queen-side that sees the a file open up maliciously. The rook remains uncastled and the White queen forms a battery on the file.

This opening which is rarely seen is mainly used by players with significantly higher gameplay strength than their opponents. By playing this opening, I guess you would be trying to tell your opponents “HEY BEWARE OF MY PINCERS! THEY CAN BE DANGEROUS!”


BOOM! Now, we have a gambit in a gambit! The mosquito gambit arises after 1. d4 e5 2. dxe5 Qh4. Surely, this kind of opening would be for beginners striving to do damage with their queen. It can also be used if you just want to tease your opponent. Like chasing a mosquito, White keeps swiping at the fleeing Black queen by attacking it with pieces and pawns with the intention to take down or repel the Queen. Of course, this desperation by White could be detrimental after ending up with a poor piece harmonization. The mosquito Black queen could dip its proboscis in the heart of White’s defenses and drain him of his fighting chances.


This variation is achieved after 1. c4 f5 2. e4 fxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. g4. I find this particular variation quite interesting and sharp as c4, e4, and g4 kind of represents the quills of a porcupine being shot at black. White sacrifices a central pawn to open up the game and execute an exciting attack. The g2-g4 move on move 4 threatens to repel the knight protecting the pawn on e4. More and more efforts to defend Black’s e4 pawn will lead to defensive exposure—further relinquishing the initiative to White. Playing flank openings could pay off in this variation as White seems to be launching an early attack using the flanking c and f pawns. Black has to be careful to avoid being impaled by the porcupine spikes!


The chameleon variation starts with 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nce2. This variation can lead to the open Sicilian where white achieves the d4 pawn break or the closed Sicilian with d3. This means that white has different options while black may not be sure of what system White is playing. The position is the most flexible variation of the Sicilian defense. Hence, the name THE CHAMELEON VARIATION.

Watch the video below for more insights on the Chameleon Variation.


This variation arises after 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. f3. This position has the semblance of a lion’s jaw. A lion’s jaw is broad and, it is a danger zone for any creature with flesh. The teeth signals caution to any creature not in the play group of the lion. Similarly, the development of the d, e, and f pawns signal danger to opponent pieces. The g4 and d5 squares are particularly made red areas for Black’s bishop and knight. White strengthens his central pawns with 3. f3 after grabbing a LION’S share of the center. However, this is a not-so-popular opening you can try out anytime you feel as brave as the king of the jungle.


 The Rat defense can occur in 10 different variations like English rat, Norwegian Rat, Spike Attack, etc. Black majorly responds to White’s opening move with d6 in most variations of the Rat Defense. A rat is known for its sneaky movements. It lurks in the shadows and waits for an opportunity to go for what it desires. The same can be said about this opening.

 Black seems to be sneaky and conservative but best believe that Black would take advantage of any slip-up by White. This opening draws its name from the context of the moves rather than the appearance of the position.


   A hippopotamus is famous for nursery rhymes probably because of its amusing pronunciation. “popo” kinda sounds playful. So a hippopotamus can easily be mistaken as a friendly animal, but the opposite is the case. The animal appears peaceful but is actually an element of terror. Similarly, the Hippopotamus Defense looks harmless for the opponent and easy to cope with. 

Black’s pawns strangely advance to the sixth rank. What might seem like an opportunity to explore Black’s poor developmental strategy might blow up on White’s face if not careful.


Main lines with this variation include; English Opening, Indian defenses (Nimzo-Indian, Queen’s Indian), Anti-Benoni, Rossolimo Sicilian. The a6, b6, d6, and e6 squares are occupied by pawns, and Black develops his pieces around the setup. The pawns on the sixth rank pose as the SPINES of the position, hence its hedgehog name. One main perk of this maneuver is that it is difficult to attack. If White tries to act bravely and carry out a swift attack on Black’s hedgehog, he could get fatally pierced and lose the game. 


  It is also known as the Dutch Attack. It is one of the most common flank openings that developing chess players ought to employ from time to time. The opening move is simply 1.f4. I know you might be examining the position to see if it really looks like a bird or if f4 makes White fly all through the game. Neither is the case this time around as this opening gets its name from its founder, Henry Bird. 


 Save the best for last, right? What better way to close an amusing piece than with a monkey’s bum?! This variation of the modern defense gets its funny name from the context of this opening. Black’s sluggish development appears taunting to White saying “Hey! Attack me if you can!”. White appears to have the majority of the space on the board under control and would relish the chance to attack. This confidence is shown early on when White goes for the Scholar’s mate. If done without enough care, the Monkey’s bum could even provoke more annoyance and drive Whites nerves over the edges. On the other hand, the Monkey’s Bum variation has been neutralized for White into the Monkey’s Bum Deferred variation which Judit Polgar used to convincingly thwart Alexei Shirov’s plans in Amsterdam 1995.

What do you think about these openings? Am I missing out on any important detail? I’ll love to hear your answers in the comment section!

1 comment

  • There is also the hippopotamus opening. Ex world champions like spassky and petrosian played it.

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