Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023

Monkey’s Bum, And Other Chess Moves 

Monkey’s Bum, And Other Chess Moves 

With the Chess Olympiad underway in Mahabalipuram, a look at some of the game’s quirky stratagems.  

Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand is handed over the Chess Olympiad torch in Mamallapuram.
Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand is handed over the Chess Olympiad torch in Mamallapuram. PTI

India is in a mood for some chess these days. The Chess Olympiad has begun in Mahabalipuram, home of the great Vishy Anand. The event has been promoted well, too, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Anand and Rajinikanth lending it their name and time. (More Sports News)

Chess is a game rich in history and peculiarities. Among its quirks are the colourful names of some moves and protocols.  

A few examples.  

The Monkey’s Bum  

Ranveer Singh’s recent photos have nothing to do with it. In the early 1970s, British IM (International Master) Nigel Povah came up with a new technique to breach the Modern Defence. He ran it by his friend Ken Coates, who said, "If this works, then I'm a monkey's bum." 

The name has sustained. However, its variant, Monkey’s Bum Deferred, is more respected among players.  

Learn it and kick some butt.  

The Frankenstein-Dracula Variation 

The title track of ‘Aahat’, the 90s horror show on Indian TV, might be the apt background music while practicing this move. It is so violent, according to chess author Tim Harding, that "a game between Dracula and the Frankenstein monster would not seem out of place." 

The Frankenstein-Dracula is described as a bold version of the Vienna Game. Alexei Shirov was among the stars who favoured it, presumably leaving opponents drained of blood.  

The Hippo Defence  

Animals are rather well represented in the chess glossary. According to, the Hippo Defence is more of a hidden trap than a proper opening. It became popular after Boris Spassky employed it in his 1966 World Championship against Tigran Petrosian. 

The move operates like a hippo – which often lies submerged in water. The hippo looks harmless, even cute. But it crushes anyone who ventures too close.  

Proceed with caution if you don’t want bits of your brain on the chessboard.  

The Sicilian Najdorf 

Ah, Sicily. Its mention causes the ‘Godfather’ tune to start playing in the head, with a vision of Vishy Anand in slicked back hair and cigar giving a mean stare from across the board.  

Italian players in the 16th century would reportedly use this opening. Later, the Polish-Argentine master Miguel Najdorf fine-tuned it. Thus the name Sicilian-Najdorf. Among its other exponents were Anand, Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.  

Such is the popularity and smoothness of the Sicilian-Najdorf, it has been called the Rolls Royce of chess moves.  

The Italians might not take kindly to that. Call it the Maserati of chess moves, capiche? 


This is a German term for “finger mistake”. A fingerfehler happens when a chess piece is accidentally touched or moved. According to the rules of the game, a piece once shifted cannot be moved back.  

Closely linked to fingerfehler is j’adoube. The French term translates to “I knight”, but in practical chess parlance means ‘I adjust’. A player must say this before adjusting a piece on the board. Else it might be counted as a move, and make the clumsy player feel like a monkey’s bum.