Bulletin No.26 – Animal Openings Part 3: The Weird and Wonderful

Image (cropped) by Jan van der Crabben under CC BY-SA 2.0


Did you know?

There are at least 24 recognised openings and variations with animal names – and that excludes dubious ones you can find in some corner of the internet but won’t find in any book. This makes animals one of the most popular themes for naming openings along with grandmasters and places.

In Part 1 we covered the mammals and last week in Part 2 we covered the birds. This week we cover a whole menagerie of creatures, real and imaginary. Next week in Part 4 we will feature some animal opening games from local players.


Creepy Crawly Opening

Thanks to Tony Pritchard for identifying this one, which starts with a3 and h3 in either order for white, usually followed by a quick c4. It was one of the many weird openings played by IM Michael Basman.

Of course it looks like rubbish but equally it is not trivially refutable. Here is Basman using it to beat a 2500+ player.


Our verdict: Objectively dodgy but fun and good for bamboozling your opponent.
Strength: 4
Fun Factor: 8


Dory Defence

This is named after Ladislaus Döry rather than the fish. Unlike Bird we have no idea if the surname and creature are related, so this might be regarded as our biggest naming cheat. The opening goes 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 Ne4 or 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 Ne4. There was a Dory Defence thematic tournament held in Vienna in 1937 which was won by Paul Keres.

It may transpose to the Nimzo Indian, Queens Indian, Bogo Indian, QGD or Dutch. The opening has not been at all popular but equally is not competely daft. White can claim a small advantage in the lines below but nothing more; our feeling is that there should be a way for white to squeeze out a decent advantage but it is not so easy. It is hardly likely to be as good as a Nimzo or QID but offers the chance for both sides to go exploring.

Our verdict: There is probably a catch with this opening but we can’t see it!
Strength: 7?
Fun Factor: 4


Dragon Variation

The Dragon is the famous variation of the open Sicilian with 5…g6, whilst its counterpart the Accelerated Dragon has 4…g6.

It is razor sharp when white castles queenside and its fortunes have varied through the decades. Fischer crushed it a few times, it got resurrected, and then Karpov crushed Korchnoi in perhaps the most famous Dragon game ever, given below. It has been resurrected again, has been analysed almost to death and current theory regards it as sound as long as you have a phenomenal memory. Indeed GM Gawain Jones says he plays the Dragon if he wants a draw and the Caro-Kann if he wants to win. You wouldn’t have heard that said in the 1970s!

Our verdict: Sound if you have a great memory, fun if you don’t!
Strength: 8
Fun Factor: 8 as long as you don’t mind the occasional memory test!



A variation of the Modern where black plays 1…g6 2…Bg7 3…c5 and on move 4 or soon after Qa5. It is a favourite of British FM Charlie Storey (who lumps it together with similar lines without Qa5 and calls them together the Sniper). In practice white has scored well against it.

Our verdict: Unusual and not that bad objectively
Strength: 5
Fun Factor: 7 if you like ragged positions.


Raptor Trompowsky

To be honest we are not sure if this is named after the velociraptor or the class of birds, but we had enough birds so we put it in here! It’s a line in the Trompowsky that goes 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.h4 (as opposed to the more common 3.Bf4 and 3.Bh4). It has been played by Hodgson, Rapport and Mamedyarov amongst others.

Our verdict: Nowadays everyone knows about 3…c5 so not as much fun at it used to be.
Strength: 5
Fun Factor: 6


Snake Benoni

This is basically a Benoni where black plays Bd6 before d6 and dispenses with g6. He then either plays Bc7 or Re8 and Bf8 before finally playing d6 (if white allows him). Theory holds that white has a comfortable advantage.

Our verdict: What’s the point? If you want to play a Benoni play a proper one!
Strength: 5
Fun Factor: 4



Like the dragon a woozle is a fictional rather than real animal. Nonetheless an opening was named after it so we think it counts! By the way, woozles are deceitful weasel-like creatures and love honey, as readers of Winnie The Pooh will know.

In the chess world it is yet another Benoni offshoot and no better than some of the others. It goes 1.d4 c5 2.d5 Nf3 3.Nc3 Qa5 and is best met by the obvious 4.Bd2 when white claims a clear advantage.

Our verdict: Why would you?
Strength: 4
Fun Factor: 3


We have covered 7 assorted creatures today. The Dragon is probably the strongest and the most fun whilst the Woozle is the shakiest.

But do you agree with our assessments? Have we missed any animal openings in our three parts? And do you have any games we could publish featuring these openings?

We would love to hear from you. If you have any feedback or a game please send it to us using the form below.

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