Hippopotamus Defense

1. e4 Nh6; 2. d4 g6; 3. c4 f6;

The Hippopotamus Defense is an unusual opening that I think is actually much better than it looks.

A good thing about this opening is that your opponent will think that you are an absolute beginner who hasn't got a clue what they're doing. This will give them a bit of a shock when they find out that you are actually a reasonably good player (try it in on the Internet against people you don't know for example).

It doesn't really matter what opening your opponent plays, it can be played against e4, d4, c4, Nf3 or any other opening. If your opponent plays 1. d4 then it is best to play 1....g6 and then 2....Nh6 as you don't want your opponent playing 2. Bxh6. Therefore if you're like me and never really know what to play against an opening such as the English Opening then this could be a good opening to play.

Black is looking to get a strong king side and castle king side very early on in the game and then attack early on the middle game with a move such as c5, d5, e5 or f5. A few quick attacking options that white has on move 3 after 1. e4 Nh6; 2. d4 g6; are 3. Bxh6 where black replies 3....Bxh6, or 3. Bc4 where black should reply 3....e6 and should still look to play 4....f6 after. Neither of these have done much to destroy black's defense.

The best move is probably 3. c4 to put even more control on the centre. Black will be looking to launch a counter attack on the centre early on in the middle game by maybe playing d6 and then e5, or not quite so good would be e6 then d5 or f5. If white exchanges off the e5 pawn then it is better for black to recapture with the f pawn. Black often has the option to then double up the rooks on the f-file and bring the queen out to the kingside which can be strong for black.

If black plays d6 and e5 and white plays d5 to refuse the exchange then I would recommend playing f5. This gives black many attacking possibilities after the pawns get exchanged off. If white doesn't exchange off the pawns then they might like to play Bg5 which threatens the black queen. Now I would recommend playing Qd7 to stop the threat of Nb5, Nxc7. Black should then be looking to play Nf7 and f4, h6 and g5 to attempt to trap the bishop and white is going to have great difficulty in stopping the black attack which follows.

The Bg5 move is a dangerous move for white after the f6 pawn has moved so black might like to play Nf7 before e5 to stop that threat. This also defends the e5 pawn with another piece.

A typical beginning to a game involving the Hippopotamus Defense would therefore be 1. e4 Nh6; 2. d4 g6; 3. c4 f6; 4. Nf3 Bg7; 5. Nc3 O-O; 6. Be2 d6; 7. O-O e5; 8. dxe5 fxe5; 9. Bg5 Qd7; 10. Qd2 Ng4; 11. h3 Nf6; (see picture below).

The position is now quite equal. White doesn't seem to have any easy ways of getting a good attack going while black still has an open f-file which they might like to try and take advantage off by doubling up the rooks. Black's undeveloped queen side knight can be brought out to c6, a6 and then c5 or d7 if the queen is moved. The bishop can be brought out to b7, a6 or e6 if the queen is moved.

Click here to view some matches involving the Hippopotamus Defense


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