The Orangutan Opening

I just came across the most interesting history behind a chess opening I’ve ever read.  From Game of Kings: A Year Among the Oddballs and Geniuses Who Make up America’s Top High School Chess Team:

This name, the Orangutan, traces its roots back to New York in 1924, to an idiosyncratic Polish grandmaster named Savielly Tartakower, who was visiting the Bronx Zoo on a day off during a tournament called the New York International.  Tartakower passed the monkey cages, where an orangutan moved closer as he approached.  This orangutan’s name, according to Tartakower, was Susan.  It was then that he had a brainstorm: He showed Susan a chess set.  He asked her what opening he should play in the next round.  Somehow, Tartakower insisted, the orangutan told him to play b4, and because the climbing movement of the pawn to b4, and eventually to the b5 square, reminded him of Susan’s movements, the name stuck.  Tartakower played the Orangutan to a draw, and while other masters and grandmasters have dabbled in the possibilities, the opening remains a novelty, an irregularity, its strength lying largely in the element of surprise.

I admit, I’m curious to try it now.  It doesn’t hurt that orangutans are my favorite creatures.  I’m not very brave or exploratory with my openings.  Out of my 18 completed games as White on, I’ve started 14 with e4, and the other 4 with d4, possibly while suffering from severe hallucinations.  It might be worthwhile to give something like the Orangutan a try, and less common openings in general.  Has anyone had any success with the Orangutan?

This entry was posted in Chess, History, Interesting Things, Orangutans and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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