Bulletin No.26 – Animal Openings Part 4: Wrap Up and Local Games

Image (cropped) by Mark Wagner based on photo by Lilly M (Wikimedia) under CC BY-SA 3.0


Thanks to everyone who has contributed to these articles and especially Tony Pritchard who identified some extra openings and all those who contributed games. We finish with

  • Three openings that were missed or miscategorised on the way through
  • Some animal opening games by local players.
  • A quick list of the animal openings that we rightly or wrongly rejected as not “real” openings

Extra Openings

The Gibbon

A variation of the Grunfeld with 4.g4 which is a pretty horrible move.

Our verdict: There are many offbeat lines for white against the Grunfeld that are better than this.
Strength: 4
Fun Factor: 4


Kangaroo Defence

1.d4 e6 2.c4 Bb4+ Also known as the Keres Defence and the Franco-Indian Defence. I have to confess I intially had this in Part 3 until someone pointed out that a Kangaroo is a mammal.

It will often transpose to a Bogo-Indian, a Nimzo-Indian or a Dutch Defence. Some people regard a Kangaroo as anything that starts with these two moves and does not transpose to another opening, others regards Nh6 (as opposed to Nf6) as an essential ingredient of a Kangaroo. It generally gives rise to sedate positions but Tony Miles played a few wild games with it. Regardless of all that, 3.Bd2 is generally reckoned to give white an edge.

Our verdict: Not usually very exciting as an independent opening.
Strength: 6
Fun Factor: 4


Porcupine Variation

An aggressive line in the Anglo Dutch starting 1.c4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g4 Not highly regarded by theoreticians or engines, it is nonetheless quite playable and can lead to positions that are hard to evaluate and play (at least to my eyes).

Our verdict: Good surprise value but the resulting positions are more likely to appeal to a Dutch player than a typical English player.
Strength: 5
Fun Factor: 7 if you like murky positions


Here are a small selection of games with animal openings from local players.


John Weatherlake annotates a Black Lion

White tries to disrupt the Black Lion with an early Bxf7 sac. Michael Litchfield shows how to parry it and plays a delightful miniature.

Martin Simons plays the Elephant Gambit and shows how dangerous even dodgy gambits can be.

Richard Ursell plays the Orangutan resulting in a fascinating game with many twists and turns which are easy to spot with an engine but not so easy over the board. A complicated game with chances for both sides, with a draw seeming like a fair result in the end.

Peter Anderson plays a Tiger’s Modern and survives a sticky moment

Animal Openings That We Rejected

The openings below and probably a few more were rejected variously because 1) it’s a proper opening but we weren’t convinced the name had really caught on, or 2) there was no opening theory we could find and/or 3) the opening simply had not been played enough in serious games to count.

  • Black Mustang Defense 1.Nf3 Nc6
  • Bullfrog Gambit 1.d4 Nf6 2.g4
  • Canard Opening 1.d4 Nf6 2.f4
  • Chameleon variation of the Sicilian 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nge2
  • Chameleon variation of the Slav 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6
  • Clam Variation 1.e4 e5 2.d3
  • Crab Opening 1.a4 e5 2.h4
  • Double Duck Formation 1.f4 f5 2.d4 d5
  • English Orangutan 1.c4 Nf6 2.b4
  • Fried Fox Variation 1.e4 f6 2.d4 Kf7
  • Great Snake 1.c4 g6
  • Halibut Gambit of the English 1.c4 b5
  • Lizard Attack of the Dunst Opening 1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 d4 3.Nce2
  • Lobster Gambit of the Latvian Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.g4
  • Mad Dog Attack of the Blackmar Gambit 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 g6 6.Bg5 Bg7 7.h4
  • Mad Dog of the Modern Defence 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3/f3 d6 4.Bc4
  • Mongoose variation of the Sicilian 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Qa5
  • Mosquito Gambit of the Englund Gambit 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Qh4
  • Polar bear system in Bird’s Opening (1.f4), a system devised by GM Danielsen
  • Scorpion-Horus Gambit of the Caro-Kann 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d3 dxe4 4.Bg5
  • Snail Variation of the Benoni 1.d4 c5 2.d5 Na6
  • Tortoise Opening 1.e4 e5 2.Bd3
  • Wasp Variation of the Elephant Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nxe5 dxe4 4.Bc4 Qg5 (though the variation is covered)
  • Whale Opening 1.e4 e5 2.c4
  • Wild Bull Defense 1.e4 Nh6
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