Recently IM Eric Rosen played the Cow Opening every game in Titled Tuesday, scoring 6.5/11 and increasing his rating. He streamed it and put it on YouTube. It is a Hippo style opening which can play as both black and white. The structure you are aiming for is this:

[Title "Cow Opening"]
[fen ""]
[Startply "15"]

1. d3 null 2. e3 null 3. Nd2 null 4. Ne2 null 5. Nb3 null 6. Ng3 null 7. Be2 null 8. Bd2

What are the ideas behind the opening apart from confusing the opponent and / or just surviving? Rosen seemed to do quite well with it.?

3 Answers 3


From what I can tell, this opening will probably require white to go for either c4 or f4 to break open black's center (assuming black takes the center, which black definitely should). Stockfish suggests for black to just take the center and develop normally, though it does seem to think going for h5 after the knights have gone to d2 and e2 is the best move.

However, black can still get a -1.5ish position just by playing solidly and castling, so if someone were to play this against me I would just go for a setup like this:

[FEN "r2q1rk1/pp2bppp/2n1bn2/2ppp3/8/1N1PP1N1/PPPBBPPP/R2Q1RK1 b - - 7 9"]

From here I would probably go either b6 a5 or a5 right away then try to break open the queenside.


I believe that Anna Cramling invented this in jest and challenged Eric to play it in a speed event (Titled Tuesday) It creates no threats, and I imagine that almost any reasonable system of development would at least equalise. Meeting it for the first time in a speed game, however, one might waste time looking for a refutation, which I think did happen once or twice.


The theory behind it is to take the opponent completely out of book very early, so they have to spend time thinking on move 1. And the opening may also feed the opponent's paranoia. "What the heck? Is this a trap?" There's no trap.

It's hard to refute openings like this, but it is very tempting to try. And, as Ben Finegold says "trying is the first step to failure".

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