Chess World Champion Plays 'Bongcloud Attack' Meme Opening in Tournament

Chess master Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura enjoy cackling as they start chess matches with the worst possible move.
March 16, 2021, 4:18pm
Laughing chess masters
Image: YouTube

At the recent Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, grandmaster Magnus Carlsen opened a game with fellow grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura by playing a meme. When Nakamura saw the stupid move, he couldn’t stop laughing and matched Carlsen’s stupid play beat for beat. The two chess champions laughed themselves silly while the commentators stammered in shock: Both men had deployed the Bongcloud Attack, one of chess’ worst possible opening moves.

The Bongcloud Attack is a meme more than a strategy. When it starts, it looks like a normal chess opening. Pawn e moves up to e4. Black matches by bringing its e pawn down to 5. Then white brings its king up to where the pawn had been, sliding it right into e2 and leaving it vulnerable to attack. It’s the kind of move you’d only think was good if you were playing through a cloud of bong smoke. It’s become a meme, one chess champions love to deploy on opponents as a laugh.

“WHAT? And Magnus … Don’t do this,” commentator Peter Leko said as the moves happened. “Is this, uhh, called Bongcloud? Yeah? Bongcloud. It was something like a Bongcloud business. Please definitely don’t try this at home. Guys just forget about it.”

At the Meltwater, both Carlsen and Nakamura laughed after deploying the Bongcloud Attack. Both of them had already qualified for the next stage of the tournament and, rather than playing real games, decided to mess around. It’s not always fun, though. Sometimes the Bongcloud is used to lord a Chessmaster’s prowess over their opponent.

Nakamura loves to do this, once deploying the Bongcloud Attack in the final round of an online tournament. He won the game. Nakamura typically uses the Bongcloud Attack in blitz or speed chess games where the matches happen fast and the stakes are a little lower.

“It’s kind of nice," commentator Tania Sachdev said, "to see two players having a laugh like this.”