Chess, revered for its strategic depth and intellectual demands, also has a place for humor.
A unique, and somewhat controversial chess opening embodies this spirit of humor – the Bongcloud Opening.
Known more for its unconventional and seemingly irrational approach than any strategic advantage, the Bongcloud Attack has carved a niche for itself, prompting debates, laughter, and occasional shock among players and spectators alike.
The Bongcloud is also sometimes referred to as a “meme opening” or a form of “troll opening.”
Move Order of the Bongcloud Opening
- e4 e5
The move Ke2, which signifies moving the King to e2, is usually considered a beginner’s mistake in standard chess theory.
In the Bongcloud Attack, however, it becomes an intentional part of the strategy.
The Bongcloud can, however, refer to any opening where the king is moved to the second rank on the second move (i.e., the first move could e4, e3, d3, d4, f3, f4).
Theory, Strategy, and Purpose of the Bongcloud Opening
The Bongcloud Attack flies in the face of traditional chess wisdom.
By moving the King early, it breaks several cardinal principles of opening theory:
- it obstructs the player’s own Bishop and Queen
- forgoes the chance to castle
- leaves the King vulnerable, and
- does not contribute to controlling the center of the board
The purpose behind playing such an opening can vary.
Some players use it to surprise or psychologically disrupt their opponents.
For others, it is a way to add humor and novelty to the game.
Variations of the Bongcloud Opening
The Bongcloud opening is typically associated with the 1. e4 e5 2. Ke2 sequence, but it’s not strictly limited to these moves.
Any opening that involves an early, unnecessary King move could potentially fall into the Bongcloud category.
For example, the move 1.f3 followed by 2.Kf2 is also sometimes referred to as a Bongcloud opening.
Evaluation of the Bongcloud Opening
The Bongcloud Opening is generally evaluated at around -1.70 to -2.10 for white.
Theory & Continuation Lines of the Bongcloud Opening
Below we have some common theory and continuation lines from the Bongcloud Opening starting move order 1.e4 e5 2.Ke2 that you would see at the highest level of play.
This assumes no double bongcloud and you wanted to use it to gain the upper hand.
The best response to the Bongcloud opening is 2… Nf6 or 2… d5:
2… Nf6 3. d3 d5 4. exd5 c6 5. d6 Bxd6 6. Ke1 O-O 7. Nc3 Bc7 8. h3 Re8 9. g4 Nbd7 10. Bg2 Nf8 11. Nge2 Ng6 12. Ng3
2… Nf6 3. Nc3 Bc5 4. Nf3 d5 5. d3 O-O 6. Bg5 c6 7. Nxe5 Re8 8. d4 Qb6 9. dxc5
2… Nf6 3. d3 d5 4. exd5 c6 5. Nf3 cxd5 6. Nxe5 Bd6 7. Nf3 Qe7+ 8. Be3 Nc6 9. Kd2 O-O 10. Be2 Re8 11. Ke1 d4 12. Nxd4 Nd5 13. Nxc6 bxc6 14. Nc3 Nxe3 15. fxe3
2… d5 3. exd5 Nf6 4. Nc3 Bc5 5. Ke1 O-O 6. Nf3 Ng4 7. Ne4 Bb6 8. h3 f5 9. Nc5 Bxc5 10. d4 exd4 11. hxg4 fxg4 12. Nxd4 Qxd5
2… d5 3. exd5 Nf6 4. d3 c6 5. dxc6 Nxc6 6. Be3 Ng4 7. Nf3 f5 8. Nc3 f4 9. h3 Nxe3 10. fxe3 fxe3 11. Kxe3 Bb4 12. Kd2 O-O 13. Kc1
2… d5 3. exd5 Nf6 4. d3 c6 5. d6 Bxd6 6. Ke1 O-O 7. Nc3 Bc7 8. g3 Bg4 9. Be2 Be6 10. Bf3 h6 11. Bg2
History of the Bongcloud Attack
The Bongcloud Attack owes its name to the Chess.com user “Lenny_Bongcloud”, who frequently used this opening with limited success.
Alternatively, it may derive from the reference to a bong, a device used for smoking a certain type of plant, and the cloud of smoke that accompanies it, humorously suggesting that one would need to be high to consider this a legitimate strategy.
The Bongcloud gained more mainstream attention when Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura started using it in online blitz games and streaming sessions.
Eventually, even former world champion Magnus Carlsen played it, and its usage in a major tournament was recorded.
Magnus Carlsen Plays Bongcloud Opening Against Hikaru Nakamura and They Laugh While They Are Playing
Is the Bongcloud Attack Good for Beginners or Intermediates?
While the Bongcloud Attack might seem like a fun and unconventional way to play chess, it is not recommended for beginners or intermediates.
The opening violates fundamental principles of chess, putting the player at a significant disadvantage from the outset.
Learning and practicing conventional strategies that aim to control the center, develop pieces, and maintain king safety are far more beneficial for developing players.
How Often Is the Bongcloud Attack Played at the Grandmaster Level?
Despite its reputation, the Bongcloud Attack has made multiple appearances at the grandmaster level, particularly in online and blitz games.
GM Hikaru Nakamura is known for playing this opening, often with success. Magnus Carlsen, another world champion, also used it in a game against Nakamura, resulting in a position known as the Double Bongcloud.
However, these instances are outliers, often occurring in situations where the game’s outcome does not influence tournament standings.
The Bongcloud is rarely used in serious competition due to the inherent risk and strategic disadvantages it presents.
FAQs – Bongcloud Attack
1. What is the Bongcloud Attack?
The Bongcloud Attack, also known as the Bongcloud Opening, is a unique and irregular chess opening that comprises the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Ke2.
This unconventional opening has gained notoriety in the chess community for its deviation from established chess principles, which include castling early, maintaining control of the center, and minimizing the exposure of the king.
2. Why is the Bongcloud Attack considered a joke opening?
The Bongcloud Attack is seen as a joke opening due to its glaring divergence from classical chess strategy.
It wastes a tempo, does not help in controlling the center, impedes the movement of the queen and the light-squared bishop, exposes the king early in the game, and generally doesn’t improve White’s position.
These attributes collectively make the Bongcloud Attack an unconventional choice, leading many to view it humorously or even as a sign of disrespect to the opponent.
3. Who are some well-known players who have used the Bongcloud Attack?
Famous chess players, such as Grandmaster (GM) Hikaru Nakamura and former world champion Magnus Carlsen, have used the Bongcloud Attack, primarily in online blitz chess games.
Nakamura, in particular, has employed this opening on several occasions, even against high-level opponents.
He managed to achieve a 3000 rating on a Chess.com account by exclusively using this opening.
4. Where does the name “Bongcloud Attack” come from?
The term “Bongcloud Attack” is believed to have originated either from a Chess.com user named “Lenny_Bongcloud,” who consistently used the opening, albeit with little success, or from a humorous reference to a “bong,” a device used to smoke weed.
The implication here is that one would need to be in an altered state of mind to consider this opening a legitimate strategy.
5. How does the Bongcloud Attack fit into conventional chess strategy?
In short, it doesn’t. The Bongcloud Attack stands in direct opposition to conventional chess strategy, which typically emphasizes early control of the center, swift and safe development of pieces, and protection of the king (often through early castling).
The Bongcloud Attack eschews these principles, making it an unusual, even shocking, opening choice in the eyes of many players.
6. Has the Bongcloud Attack ever been used successfully in high-level games?
Despite the Bongcloud Attack’s controversial reputation, it has seen some success at the highest levels of the game.
Notably, GM Hikaru Nakamura used this opening in various online blitz games and achieved victories against formidable opponents like GM Levon Aronian, GM Vladimir Dobrov, and GM Wesley So.
Additionally, Magnus Carlsen has also played the Bongcloud against Nakamura, in a game that resulted in a draw.
7. What is the “Double Bongcloud”?
The Double Bongcloud is a version of the Bongcloud Attack where both players move their kings on the second move (1.e4 e5 2.Ke2 Ke7).
This was notably played in a game between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura at the Magnus Carlsen Invitational in March 2021.
8. Can the Bongcloud Attack have a psychological impact on the game?
Yes, it certainly can.
Despite the Bongcloud Attack being objectively weak, it can serve as a psychological weapon, unsettling opponents and potentially causing them to deviate from their usual game plan.
For instance, GM Wesley So noted that losing a game to Carlsen, who played the Bongcloud, had a crushing psychological impact.
9. Has the Bongcloud Attack ever been played in a FIDE-rated game?
The first use of the joke opening in a FIDE-rated game occurred during the Chess.com Global Championship finals in November 2022.
Polish GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda, while trailing against Hikaru Nakamura, played 1.e3 and 2.Ke2, a version of the Bongcloud Attack.
Despite losing the game, Duda’s use of this opening in such a high-stakes context attests to the Bongcloud Attack’s place in the modern game – if not strategically, then certainly as a source of intrigue and humor.
The Bongcloud Attack is an unconventional and highly controversial opening in the game of chess.
It disrupts traditional opening theory and introduces a distinct element of humor into the game.
Although it has been used by top players like Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen, it remains a fringe strategy, often used more for its shock value than strategic depth.
As an emblem of chess humor and subversion of tradition, the Bongcloud Attack will continue to captivate, amuse, and surprise the chess world.