Hippopotamus Defense

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  • The Hippopotamus is effective against closed positions and where White does not present a 3 or 4 pawn center. Consequently Black will strive to keep the position closed until ready to launch flank attacks.
  • Black will alter move order in response White’s actions.
  • Black will sometimes delay or even omit the …Bb7 move in favor of attacking along the c8 – h3 diagonal.
  • Typically Black does not castle until White does.
  • 1… g6 is the best way to start out with the Hippo. It is also a good way to start out playing the King’sIndian Defense, Robatsch (Modern) Defense, or even Bird’s Defense.

Click here for an excellent introduction into the Hippopotamus defense.

Starting Out

At this point White has 9 moves options ( 4.f4, 4.Be3, 4.Nf3, 4.Bg5, 4.g3, 4.Nge2, 4.Be2, 4.Bc4 4.h3) that Black can respond with by playing the Hippo.

4.f4 is called the Austrian Attack and needs special care by overloading the defense of f5 and by delaying the …b6 and …Bb7 set up.

4.Be3 will require some creative waiting moves to prevent White from playing 5.f4! or 6.f4.


Critical Juncture – remember that Black needs to keep the position closed, and can do so by sidestepping White’s pawn advances. So if White plays h5, Black plays g5 – White plays g5 Black plays h5 – White plays d5 Black plays e5 – White plays e5 Black plays d5. The point is to lock down the center so that Black can initiate an attack from the wings, e.g. …f5 or even …c5.

Example Games

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