Space and potential (mud, mud, glorious mud)

How do you play against the Hippo? It's all about Space and Potential. At risk of sounding like an estate agent, I propose to describe my limited understanding of these issues...

Space

All else being equal, it's an advantage to have more space. More space means you can get about the board more easily, organise an attack more easily, and sometimes all your opponent can do is sit tight while you work out how to win:

 
[Event "Top 10 endgames: "]
[Site "Arnstadt"]
[Date "1926.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Hage"]
[Black "Nimzovitch, A."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A80"]
[PlyCount "84"]

{I have a vision of a perfect game, where on move one I lay claim to a square,
and I keep collecting squares until my opponent resigns on move 63, facing
inevitable mate. This is the nearest I can think of: with every exchange White
gets more cramped!} 1. d4 f5 2. e3 d6 3. Bd3 e5 4. dxe5 dxe5 5. Bb5+ c6 6.
Qxd8+ Kxd8 7. Bc4 Bd6 8. Nf3 Nf6 9. Nc3 Ke7 10. a3 Rd8 11. Bd2 b5 12. Ba2 a5
13. O-O b4 14. Nb1 c5 15. Bc4 e4 16. Ng5 Ba6 17. Bxa6 Rxa6 18. axb4 axb4 19.
Rxa6 Nxa6 20. c3 h6 21. Nh3 Ng4 22. g3 Ne5 23. Kg2 g5 24. Bc1 b3 25. Nd2 c4 26.
Ng1 Nc5 27. Ne2 Rg8 28. Nd4 f4 29. Nf5+ Ke6 30. Nxd6 f3+ 31. Kg1 Kxd6 32. Rd1
Ke6 33. Nb1 Ncd3 34. Na3 Kd5 35. Nb5 Rb8 36. Na3 Ra8 37. h3 Kc5 38. Kf1 Nxc1
39. Rxc1 Nd3 40. Rb1 {[#]} Nxb2 41. Rxb2 Rxa3 42. Rb1 b2 0-1


Giving up the centre -- Nimzowitsch again

 
[Event "Karlsbad"]
[Site "Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) AUH"]
[Date "1911.08.31"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Richard Teichmann"]
[Black "Aron Nimzowitsch"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C41"]
[PlyCount "113"]
[EventDate "1911.08.21"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 Nbd7 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Qe2 c6 8. a4
Qc7 9. Bb3 a6 10. h3 

{Black now gives up the centre, accepting a lesser share of space, which is often commented on as though
it's obviously a bad idea and needs no further comment. Well, Black lost
this game, but not because of this move! Black was able to handle any pressure, probe for
weaknesses, and eventually hit back with a bid to establish their own stake in the centre.}

10...exd4 11. Nxd4 Re8 12. Bf4 Bf8 13. f3 Nc5 14. Ba2 Ne6 15.
Bxe6 Bxe6 16. Qd2 Rad8 17. Rfe1 Bc8 18. Rad1 Nd7 19. Nf5 Ne5 20. Nd4 f6 21. Kh1
Qf7 22. Qf2 Qg6 23. b3 Nf7 24. Kh2 Re7 25. Nde2 f5 26. Ng3 fxe4 27. Ncxe4 d5
28. Nc5 Rde8 29. Nd3 Rxe1 30. Rxe1 Rxe1 31. Qxe1 Qe6 32. Qxe6 Bxe6 33. Be3 Bd6
34. f4 Kf8 35. Kg1 g6 36. Kf2 h5 37. Nc5 Bc8 38. a5 Nh6 39. b4 Kf7 40. c3 Ng8
41. Kf3 Nf6 42. Bd4 Bxc5 43. Bxc5 Be6 44. Bd4 Ne4 45. Ne2 Bf5 46. g4 hxg4+ 47.
hxg4 Nd2+ 48. Kg3 Bc2 49. Ng1 Ke6 50. Kh4 Bd1 51. Nh3 Ne4 52. f5+ gxf5 53. Nf4+
Kf7 54. g5 Bg4 55. g6+ Ke7 56. g7 Kf7 57. Ng6 1-0


What's going on here?

We have two very different cases: more space with a fixed pawn centre, and more space with a fluid centre. When things are not fixed, the side with more space may have to watch out for counterplay right across the board. There are half-open files, sort-of outposts, and the possibility of a break on the side you take your eye off! These days, the half-open centre is often contested in the Scotch, Caro-Kann and sometimes the French Defences.

Half-open centres

  • ...e5xd4, Nxd4 in the Scotch Game
  • ...d5xe4, Nxe4 in the French and Caro-Kann
  • ...c5xd4, Nxd4 in the Sicilian

White has more space, and, while Black has counterplay, sometimes that's what decides the game. White can organise an attack, and if things break open, can occupy key squares and lines more easily. White can add importantly to the space advantage with f2-f4 or c2-c4.

[Event "exeter univ. chp."]
[Site "exeter univ. chp."]
[Date "1986.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Spice, Alan"]
[Black "Regis, David"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B85"]
[WhiteElo "1935"]
[BlackElo "1940"]
[PlyCount "55"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. f4 Be7 7. Be3 a6 8. Be2
Nc6 9. O-O O-O 10. Kh1 Bd7 11. Qe1 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 Bc6 13. Qg3 b5 14. a3 g6 15.
Bd3 Nd7 16. f5 e5 17. Be3 Bf6 18. Rf3 Kg7 19. Qh3 Bg5 20. f6+ Bxf6 21. Qh6+ Kg8
22. Rh3 Re8 23. Qxh7+ Kf8 24. Rf3 Ke7 25. Rxf6 Nxf6 26. Bg5 Ke6 27. Qh3+ Ke7
28. Rf1 1-0

On the other hand, as Tarrasch said, "Chess is a terrible game. If you have no center, your opponent has a freer position. If you do have a center, then you really have something to worry about!"

We'll have one more advertisement for the centre before considering its burdens.

The Maroczy Bind: c4 and ...c5xd4

Black's counterplay in the Sicilian often comes from a Queen's-side push with ...b5 (minority attack) or a well-timed counterblow in the centre with ...d5. Why doesn't White stop both of these ideas with c2-c4? (The Maroczy Bind). It can be crushing...

 
[Event "Biel"]
[Site "Biel"]
[Date "1983.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Nunn, John DM"]
[Black "Gheorghiu, Florin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B42"]
[WhiteElo "2590"]
[BlackElo "2475"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "1983.07.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "SUI"]
[EventCategory "10"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O d6 7. c4 b6 8. Nc3
Bb7 9. f4 Be7 10. Kh1 O-O 11. Qe2 Nc6 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 13. b3 Qc7 14. Bb2 Rad8 15.
Rae1 Bb7 16. Bb1 Nd7 17. Qh5 Rfe8 18. Re3 Nf6 19. Qh3 g6 20. f5 Bc8 21. Rg3 Kg7
22. Qh4 Rf8 23. Bc1 Rde8 24. e5 dxe5 25. Qh6+ Kh8 26. Rh3 Rg8 27. Bg5 Rg7 28.
Bxf6 Bxf6 29. Ne4 Qd8 30. fxg6 Be7 31. Qxh7+ Rxh7 32. Rxh7+ Kg8 33. gxf7+ Kxh7
34. fxe8=Q 1-0

Ah, if only life was always so simple. In most lines of the Sicilian, White is not allowed time to get in this c2-c4 move at all. In others, White has time for c2-c4, but Black has time for development and counterplay. In only one or two lines of the Sicilian has the Maroczy proved to be a lasting test of Black's resources, and even there Black can play with hopes of equality or even turning around the game.

The Accelerated Dragon is the most common place where we see Binds, and Black can hope to restrain the White structure, swap off all White's best pieces, and go for a QN vs QB endgame. That happens perhaps more often in Black's head than on the board, but this might do as an exanmple:

 
[Event "Buenos Aires Grafica Yael 1st"]
[Site "Buenos Aires"]
[Date "2010.07.27"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Rodriguez Vila, Andres"]
[Black "Perez Ponsa, Federico"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B38"]
[WhiteElo "2522"]
[BlackElo "2390"]
[PlyCount "111"]
[EventDate "2010.07.24"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ARG"]
[EventCategory "6"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2010.09.01"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nf3 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. e4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 d6 7. Be2 Nc6 8. Be3
O-O 9. O-O Bd7 10. Nc2 Rc8 11. f3 a6 12. Qd2 Ne5 13. Na3 Be6 14. Nd5 Nxd5 15.
exd5 Bd7 16. h3 Be8 17. Rac1 Nd7 18. Rfe1 a5 19. Bf1 Nc5 20. b3 Bd7 21. Bg5 Re8
22. Kh1 Bf6 23. Bxf6 exf6 24. Rxe8+ Bxe8 25. Nc2 Kg7 26. Re1 Bd7 27. Re3 Qb6
28. Qe1 Kf8 29. Qc3 Kg7 30. g4 h6 31. Kg2 Re8 32. Rxe8 Bxe8 33. Qe3 Qd8 34. Nd4
Bd7 35. Kf2 f5 36. gxf5 Bxf5 37. Nxf5+ gxf5 {And here we are.} 38. Qc3+ Kg6 39. Ke2 b6 40. Kd1 Qh4
41. Qh8 Qf2 42. Be2 Qg1+ 43. Kd2 Qb1 44. Qg8+ Kf6 45. Qd8+ Kg7 46. Qxb6 Qxa2+
47. Ke1 Qxb3 48. Qxd6 Qe3 49. Kf1 a4 50. Qg3+ Qg5 51. Qe5+ Qf6 52. Qe3 Qa1+ 53.
Kf2 a3 54. Qxc5 a2 55. d6 Qf6 56. Kg2 0-1


Maroczy Bind with g3 and ...g6

We often see this line arising from English Opening lines, mainly the Symmetrical Variation. White has long been thought to have good chances of an advantage, and I have enjoyed playing it as White:

 
[Event "(CORR-92)devon vs. glos. (ward-higgs I)"]
[Site "devon vs. glos. (ward-higgs I"]
[Date "1993.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Regis, David"]
[Black "Dixon, Richard "]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A36"]
[PlyCount "83"]

1. c4 g6 2. g3 Bg7 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nc3 O-O 5. e4 d6 6. Nge2 c5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d3
Ne8 9. Be3 Nc7?! 10. d4! cxd4 11. Nxd4 Ne6 12. Nde2! {Avoiding exchanges} 12...Ne5 13. b3 b6 14. h3 Bb7 15.
Rc1 Nc5 16. f4 Ned7 17. g4 a5 18. Ng3 Bc6 19. a4 Rb8 20. Rf2 Qc8 21. Nd5 Re8
22. g5 Qb7 23. f5 Bf8 24. Bd4 Ne5 25. Rc3 Bg7 26. f6 Bf8 27. fxe7 Bxe7 28. h4
Bxd5 29. exd5 Bf8 30. Rf4 Bg7 31. Qf1 Re7 32. Bxc5 bxc5 33. Ne4 Rd8 34. Nf6+
Bxf6 35. gxf6 Ree8 36. Re4 h5 37. Rce3 Kh7 38. Qf4 Qc8 39. Bh3 Qb8 40. Kh1 Qc7
41. Bf5 Qb8 42. Qg5 1-0

It's mate in 6...

I've often had Black knights crawling all over the dark squares on the Queen's-side, but still won the game, because Black lacked the capacity to follow through with anything meaningful.

The Hedgehog: Maroczy Bind with g3 and ...e6

"Playing against the Hedgehog requires forthright planning -- grabbing space and then doing something with it." says Mark Ginsburg https://nezhmet.wordpress.com/2007/06/11/attacking-the-hedgehog/

[Event "Las Vegas Open"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2007.??.??"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Ginsburg"]
[Black "Chiang"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B41"]
[Annotator "DrDave"]
[PlyCount "41"]

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 d6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. e4 Be7 7. Be2 O-O
8. O-O a6 9. Be3 Qc7 10. f4 Nbd7 11. Rc1 b6 12. b4 $1 Bb7 {"I learned this simple and strong method (f2-f4 and b2-b4 together) from GM Jaan Ehlvest, who used it with great strength vs me in a 2005 World Open G/30 encounter, where I was lucky to draw. Can you guess white’s next move?"} 13. f5 $1 exf5
({Mark proudly published this convincing win on his website, but some
pesky commentator pointed out} 13... e5 $1 14. Nd5 Qd8 15. Nc2 Nxe4
{whence Mark analysed} 16. Bf3 Bxd5 17. Qxd5 Ndf6 18. Qd3 d5 19. cxd5
Nd6 {"and Black stands very well". This is a nice illustration of
White's dilemma with more space -- going forwards can leave holes and
targets in a previously ideal set-up.}) 14. Nd5 Nxd5 15. cxd5 Qd8 16.
Nxf5 Re8 17. Bd4 f6 (17... Ne5) 18. Bh5 $1 Rf8 ( 18... g6 19. Qg4) 19.
Qg4 g5 20. Qxg5+ $1 fxg5 21. Nh6# 


Hedgehog with Bb7 and Nc6

I had the privilege of watching the following game. I have a feeling that ...Nc6 is a bit in the way. but there's more going on here than I can follow...

 
[Event "London Chess Classic"]
[Site "London ENG"]
[Date "2012.12.07"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Magnus Carlsen"]
[Black "Judit Polgar"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A33"]
[PlyCount "105"]
[EventDate "2012.12.01"]

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. a3 Bc5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. e4
O-O 9. Be2 b6 10. O-O Bb7 11. Bf4 d6 12. Rc1 Rc8 13. Re1 Ne5 14. Nd2 Nfd7 15.
Be3 Qc7 16. b4 Qb8 17. f4 
{The Ehlvest/Ginsburg plan again}
17...Ng6 18. g3 Rfe8 19. Bf3 Qa8 20. Bf2 Ngf8 21. Qe2 Qb8
22. Red1 g6 23. e5 Bc6 24. Bd4 Red8 25. Bxc6 Rxc6 26. Nf3 dxe5 27. fxe5 Rdc8
28. Ne4 Qc7 29. Nfd2 a6 30. Nf2 Bg5 31. Rf1 Bxd2 32. Qxd2 Nxe5 33. Bxe5 Qxe5
34. Ng4 Rd6 35. Nh6+ Kg7 36. Rxf7+ Kh8 37. Qf2 Qd4 38. c5 bxc5 39. Qxd4+ Rxd4
40. Rxc5 Rcd8 41. Rcc7 Rd1+ 42. Kg2 R1d2+ 43. Kh3 R2d5 44. Ng4 Rh5+ 45. Kg2
Rd2+ 46. Kf3 Rf5+ 47. Ke3 Rxf7 48. Rxf7 Rd8 49. Nf6 Rb8 50. Kf4 h6 51. Ke5 a5
52. bxa5 Ra8 53. a6 1-0


Hedgehog with Bb7 and Nbd7

Mihai Suba wrote an amusing book about the Hedgehog, Dynamic Chess Strategy. He suggests that White can easily and quickly adopt 'perfect' but unimprovable position, and, while Black may be cramped, can always find ways to improve things. It's a psychological problem as much as a chess one, but it is a problem, and no more clearly seen than in this game from Chess for Tigers:

 
[Event "BCF-ch"]
[Site "Clacton-on-Sea ENG"]
[Date "1974.08.14"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Simon Webb"]
[Black "William Hartston"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A31"]
[WhiteElo "2380"]
[BlackElo "2480"]
[PlyCount "74"]
[EventDate "1974.??.??"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 c5 3. c4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 b6 5. Nc3 Bb7 6. f3 d6 7. e4 e6 8. Be2
Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Be3 Nbd7 11. Qd2 a6 12. Rfd1 Qc7 13. Rac1 Rac8 
{White has a nice position but doesn't know what to do with it.}
14. Bf1 Qb8
15. Qf2 Rfe8 16. Kh1 Bf8 17. Nc2 Ne5 18. Bxb6 Nxc4 19. Bxc4 Rxc4 20. Ne3 Rc6
21. Ba5 d5 22. exd5 exd5 23. Nf5 d4 24. Nxd4 Rc5 25. Bb6 Rh5 26. h3 Ng4 27.
fxg4 Rxh3+ 28. Kg1 Qh2+ 29. Kf1 Rg3 30. Rc2 Rxg4 31. Qg1 Qh6 32. Nf5 Qf6 33.
Rf2 Qxb6 34. Qh2 a5 35. Qh3 Rg6 36. Nd5 Qb5+ 37. Kg1 Bxd5 0-1


Much the same point is made by Sielecki in recommending the Hedgehog [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YARzPWgDSQ ] (or 'headshock') against the London: Black can find ways to improve and expand more easily than White.
 
[Event "d-Pawn Specials"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2011.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "London System"]
[Black "vs ...e6"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A47"]
[Annotator "DrDave"]
[PlyCount "26"]
[EventDate "2011.??.??"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 b6 4. e3 Bb7 5. Bd3 $1 c5 6. c3 Be7 7. h3 d6 8. Nbd2
cxd4 9. exd4 O-O 10. Qe2 a6 11. O-O Nbd7 12. Rfe1 {White is looking pretty,
but Black may prove to have more potential.  Sielecki gives the ideas:} Re8 (
12... b5 13. Rad1 Nb6 (13... Qc7 14. Bh2 Qc6)) 13. Rad1 Bf8 *


Double fianchetto hedgehog

It exists, but you don't meet it very often, as it's something of an extravagance. d5 is very inviting for a Knight, and if chased off with ...e6, the Black dark-squared Bishop cannot cover d6, f6 and h6 all at once.

 
[Event "East Devon Premier"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1998.02.27"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Regis, David"]
[Black "Menadue, Jeremy"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A34"]
[WhiteElo "1912"]
[BlackElo "2064"]
[PlyCount "38"]

1. c4 c5 2. Nc3 b6 3. e4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bb7 7. Be3 d6 8. Be2
Nf6 9. f3 O-O 10. Qd2 Re8 11. O-O Nbd7 12. Rac1 a6 13. Nd5 e6 14. Nxf6+ Bxf6
15. Rfd1 Be7 16. Nc2 {Hey, where's that going?} 16...Qb8 17. Nb4 Qc7 18. Nd3 Rac8 19. Nf2 Qb8 1/2-1/2

I had some ideas of probing the dark squares with Ng4 which may have made my illustrious opponent nervous, but Stockfish is unimpressed.

The Hippopotamus: double fianchetto with a full board

The Hippopotamus is often used in this formation:
r--qk--r
-bpnnpb-
pp-pp-pp
--------
Black has the entire second rank covered, has no obvious weaknesses and can probe with any pawn at any point.

Double fianchetto systems are as old as chess, but the Hippo looks and feels a bit fishy to many when adopted by Black and with the half-smothered Knights.

Yet, there are many great players who have tried it as Black and even more great players who have made no progress against it as White. Keene and Botterill give as evidence a game of Keres who drew against Navarovsky's Hippo (1/2-1/2, 27 moves) and Petrosian's two draws against Spassky's beasts.

 
[Event "Luhacovice"]
[Site "Luhacovice"]
[Date "1969.06.03"]
[Round "13"]
[White "Keres, Paul"]
[Black "Navarovszky, Laszlo"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B06"]
[PlyCount "46"]
[EventDate "1969.??.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "15"]
[EventCountry "CZE"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Nf3 a6 5. Bc4 e6 6. Bg5 Ne7 7. O-O h6 8. Be3
Nd7 9. a4 b6 10. Re1 Bb7 11. Ra3 Nf6 12. Bd3 O-O 13. h3 c5 14. dxc5 bxc5 15. e5
dxe5 16. Nxe5 Nfd5 17. Bxc5 Nxc3 18. Rxc3 Qd5 19. Bf1 Qxd1 20. Rxd1 Bxe5 21.
Bxe7 Rfe8 22. Rc5 Bxb2 23. Rc7 Be4 1/2-1/2


Spassky had a game with the Hippo against that great hypermodern innovator Ujtekly, which, although he won, may have given him some respect for its resilience -- enough to try it in the greatest arena of chess.

 
[Event "World Championship 26th"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1966.05.06"]
[Round "12"]
[White "Petrosian, Tigran V"]
[Black "Spassky, Boris V"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A42"]
[Annotator "DrDave"]
[PlyCount "77"]
[EventDate "1966.04.11"]
[EventRounds "24"]
[EventCountry "URS"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

1. Nf3 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. d4 d6 4. Nc3 Nd7 5. e4 e6 6. Be2 b6 7. O-O Bb7 8. Be3
Ne7 9. Qc2 h6 10. Rad1 O-O 11. d5 e5 {A transition to a King's Indian type of
centre. I believe Petrosian liked to play both sides of this formation.} 12.
Qc1 Kh7 13. g3 f5 14. exf5 Nxf5 {Going forwards, but giving away the e4 square}
15. Bd3 Bc8 16. Kg2 Nf6 17. Ne4 Nh5 18. Bd2 Bd7 19. Kh1 Ne7 20. Nh4 Bh3 21. Rg1
Bd7 22. Be3 Qe8 23. Rde1 Qf7 24. Qc2 Kh8 25. Nd2 Nf5 26. Nxf5 gxf5 {The
formation that he could have had at move 14!} 27. g4 {Petrosian has allowed
Black the centre, only to undermine it.} e4 28. gxh5 f4 {Spassky was striding
about, looking confident...} 29. Rxg7 $1 {Should be winning. Bd4 is a big idea.
..} Qxg7 30. Rg1 Qe5 31. Nf3 exd3 32. Nxe5 (32. Qxd3 $1 Bf5 33. Nxe5 Bxd3 34.
Bd4 dxe5 35. Bxe5+ Kh7 36. Rg7+ {with a windmill...} Kh8 37. Rxc7+ Kg8 38. Rg7+
Kh8 39. Rxa7+ Kg8 40. Rg7+ Kh8 41. Rg3+ Kh7 42. Rxd3 f3 43. h3 Rxa2 44. Bd4 {
and White's many pawns are too strong.}) 32... dxc2 33. Bd4 dxe5 34. Bxe5+ Kh7
35. Rg7+ Kh8 36. Rf7+ Kg8 37. Rg7+ Kh8 38. Rg6+ Kh7 39. Rg7+ 1/2-1/2


 
[Event "World Championship 26th"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1966.05.18"]
[Round "16"]
[White "Petrosian, Tigran V"]
[Black "Spassky, Boris V"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B06"]
[Annotator "DrDave"]
[PlyCount "97"]
[EventDate "1966.04.11"]
[EventRounds "24"]
[EventCountry "URS"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

{This game is more cautiously played.} 1. d4 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Be2 e6
5. c3 Nd7 6. O-O Ne7 7. Nbd2 b6 8. a4 a6 9. Re1 Bb7 10. Bd3 O-O 11. Nc4 Qe8 12.
Bd2 f6 13. Qe2 Kh8 14. Kh1 Qf7 15. Ng1 e5 16. dxe5 fxe5 {The centre has
settled, and given each player some clues about which minor pieces to keep.}
17. f3 Nc5 18. Ne3 Qe8 19. Bc2 a5 20. Nh3 Bc8 21. Nf2 Be6 22. Qd1 Qf7 23. Ra3
Bd7 24. Nd3 Nxd3 25. Bxd3 Bh6 26. Bc4 Qg7 27. Re2 Ng8 28. Bxg8 Rxg8 29. Nd5
Bxd2 30. Rxd2 Be6 31. b4 Qf7 32. Qe2 Ra7 33. Ra1 Rf8 34. b5 Raa8 35. Qe3 Rab8
36. Rf1 Qg7 37. Qd3 Rf7 38. Kg1 Rbf8 39. Ne3 g5 40. Rdf2 h5 41. c4 Qg6 42. Nd5
Rg8 43. Qe3 Kh7 44. Qd2 Rgg7 45. Qe3 Kg8 46. Rd2 Kh7 47. Rdf2 Rf8 48. Qd2 Rgf7
49. Qe3 1/2-1/2


Potential

"Never mud-wrestle with a pig. You both get filthy and the pig enjoys it!

The Hippopotamus is one of chess's dirty little secrets. In a repertoire book by White, you will rarely (never?) see a recommendation of how to play against the Hippo -- for example, it failed to make even the chapter titled 'Garbage' in Sam Collins' 2004 book -- but players at all levels wheel it out and survive and even thrive with it. Black's position is 'cramped but not compromised', in the words of Keene and Botterill, and White can easily over-stretch, just as against the the Hedgehog. Every advance by White loosens the position, and Black may be well-placed to take advantage of new opportunities.

Jonathan Rowson wondered aloud if the Hippo has now just about made it onto the 'respectable' list, where Black's potential is compensation for White's space or initiative (Chess for Zebras, page 237) -- the argument here is similar to Suba's point about the Hedgehog. As Tartakower once remarked, White has their initiative to defend!

So far, so general. It's probably better to look at some specific formations.

The two-pawn centre hippopotamus

r--qk--r
-bpnnpb-
pp-pp-pp
--------
---PP---
--N--N--

With Black having full pawn control of the fourth rank, it's almost certain that White will have to break through with a pawn move. However, e4-e5 can be readily met by ...d6-d5, getting into a sort of French Defence centre with White's pieces in front of the c- and f-pawns, which they might want to move. Black can quickly follow up with ....c7-c5 and perhaps ...f7-f6, and White may regret pushing the e-pawn!

Similarly, after d4-d5, Black can reply ...e6-e5, getting a King's Indian sort of centre where ...f5 is easy for Black to achieve, while c2-c4-c5 may be a long way off for White.

 
[Event "Doha"]
[Site "Doha"]
[Date "2006.12.13"]
[EventDate "2006.??.??"]
[Round "8"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Irine Kharisma Sukandar"]
[Black "Koneru Humpy"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2239"]
[BlackElo "2545"]
[PlyCount "54"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Bc4 e6 5. Nf3 Nd7 6. Be3 a6
7. a4 b6 8. Qd2 h6 9. h4 Ngf6 10. O-O Bb7 11. d5 e5 12. Nh2
Qe7 13. Rfe1 Nh5 14. g3 f5 15. exf5 gxf5 16. Qd1 Qf7 17. Be2
Nhf6 18. Bc4 O-O 19. Qf3 Qg6 20. Rad1 Kh8 21. Bc1 e4 22. Qg2
Ne5 23. Bb3 Nfg4 24. Re2 Nxh2 25. Kxh2 Nf3+ 26. Kh1 Qg4
27. Bd2 Rg8 0-1

White can hope that Black's weaknesses on the wing where White gets more space (King's-side in the French, Queen's-side in the King's Indian) are enough to override any inconvenience from advancing a pawn. Whizzing through a number of 2500-level White wins in the Hippo, this seems the most common way of winning.

Transfer to King's Indian formation

[Event "London Classic op"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "2009.12.10"]
[Round "3"]
[White "McDonald, Neil R"]
[Black "Rudd, Jack"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2412"]
[BlackElo "2296"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "2009.12.08"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2010.01.05"]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Be3 a6 5. a4 b6 6. Nf3 Bb7 7. Bd3 e6 8. O-O Nd7
9. Qd2 h6 {And without undue fuss:} 10. d5 e5 11. a5 b5 12. Ne2 Ne7 13. Ng3 c5 14. dxc6 Nxc6 15. Rfd1 Qc7
16. Bf1 Bf8 17. b4 h5 18. c4 h4 19. cxb5 hxg3 20. bxc6 Bxc6 21. Rdc1 Qb7 22.
fxg3 Bxe4 23. Ng5 Bc6 24. Qf2 f5 25. Ne6 Ke7 26. Rxc6 Qxc6 27. Rc1 Qb7 28. Nc7
Bg7 29. Qa2 Qe4 30. Bg5+ 1-0


Transfer to French formation

 
[Event "FIDE GP"]
[Site "Dubai"]
[Date "2002.04.04"]
[Round "2.2"]
[White "Karpov, Anatoly"]
[Black "Zhu Chen"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B00"]
[WhiteElo "2693"]
[BlackElo "2505"]
[PlyCount "73"]
[EventDate "2002.04.03"]
[EventType "rapid"]
[EventRounds "5"]
[EventCountry "UAE"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2002.08.12"]

1. d4 b6 2. e4 Bb7 3. Nd2 e6 4. c3 g6 5. Bd3 Bg7 6. Ngf3 Ne7 7. Qe2 d6 8. O-O
a6 9. e5 Nd7 10. Re1 d5 11. Nf1 c5 12. h3 Nc6 13. N1h2 h6 14. h4 b5 15. Bf4 Qb6
16. Qe3 c4 17. Bc2 Ne7 18. b4 cxb3 19. axb3 b4 20. cxb4 Nc6 21. Rec1 Nxb4 22.
Bd1 a5 23. Be2 Nb8 24. Ng4 h5 25. Nf6+ Bxf6 26. exf6 N4c6 27. Rc5 Nd7 28. Rxd5
Nxf6 29. Rb5 Qa7 30. Bd6 Ba6 31. Qf4 Ng4 32. Rc1 Qd7 33. Rb6 Bxe2 34. Rcxc6
Bxf3 35. gxf3 e5 36. Bxe5 f6 37. Re6+ 1-0


Black keeps the tension after a White advance

 
[Event "BCF-ch"]
[Site "Brighton"]
[Date "1984.??.??"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Plaskett, Jim"]
[Black "Martin, Andrew D"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B00"]
[WhiteElo "2470"]
[BlackElo "2445"]
[PlyCount "75"]
[EventDate "1984.08.??"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1998.11.10"]

1. Nf3 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. d4 b6 4. Nc3 Bb7 5. Bg5 f6 6. Be3 Nh6 7. Qd2 Nf7 8. h4
e6 9. O-O-O Qe7 10. Bc4 d6 11. h5 Nd7 12. Nb5 Kd8 13. d5 Nde5 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 15.
Bb3 exd5 16. exd5 g5 17. Nd4 Bc8 18. Ba4 h6 19. f4 gxf4 20. Bxf4 Bd7 21. Bxd7
Qxd7 22. Qe2 a6 23. Rh3 Re8 24. Ra3 Kc8 25. Rxa6 Kb7 26. Rxa8 Rxa8 27. a3 f5
28. Ne6 Ra4 29. Rd4 Ng4 30. Rxa4 Qxa4 31. Qd3 Nf2 32. Qe2 Ng4 33. Qd3 Nf2 34.
Qf3 Bd4 35. c3 Bc5 36. Nxc5+ bxc5 37. Qxf2 Qe4 38. Bxh6 1-0

This maintenance of tension gives White the chance to swap an advanced pawn for a Bishop's pawn -- not usually a good idea, but might allow access to lines or squares.
 
[Event "Sousse Interzonal"]
[Site "Sousse TUN"]
[Date "1967.10.25"]
[EventDate "1967.??.??"]
[Round "8"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Laszlo Barczay"]
[Black "Borislav Ivkov"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "42"]

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 a6 5.O-O e6 6.Bg5 Ne7 7.Qd2 h6
8.Be3 Nd7 9.Nc3 b6 10.Rfe1 Bb7 11.a4 Nf6 12.e5 Nfd5 13.Bf4
Nxc3 14.Qxc3 O-O 15.exd6 cxd6 16.Qa3 Nf5 17.c3 Bxf3 18.gxf3 e5
19.Bg3 h5 20.dxe5 dxe5 21.Kh1 Qg5 0-1

White gets in with a break

White can try and arrange some other sort of breakthrough, perhaps using some other pawn. Sometimes the breaks work, sometimes they don't; sometimes one or other side gets in on the wing, even while the central situation is unresolved:

 
[Event "Barcelona Sants op 09th"]
[Site "Barcelona"]
[Date "2007.08.29"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Cuartas, Jaime Alexander"]
[Black "Saravanan, Venkat"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2504"]
[BlackElo "2355"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "2007.08.24"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2007.11.01"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 a6 5. a4 b6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O Ne7 8. Re1 O-O
9. Bf4 h6 10. Qe2 Nd7 11. Rad1 Bb7 12. h3 g5 13. Bg3 Ng6 {And the break:} 14. e5 Bxf3 15. Qxf3
d5 16. Bd3 c5 17. Nxd5 cxd4 (17... exd5 18. Qxd5 Kh7 19. Bf5) 18. Nb4 Nc5 19.
Bxg6 fxg6 20. Qg4 h5 21. Qxd4 Nxa4 22. Qc4 Qe8 23. Rd6 b5 24. Qxe6+ Qxe6 25.
Rxe6 Kf7 26. Rxa6 Rxa6 27. Nxa6 Nxb2 28. Nc7 Ke7 29. h4 Rc8 30. e6 Rd8 31. Nxb5
Nc4 32. hxg5 Rd5 33. Nc7 Rc5 34. Rd1 1-0

Black successfully anticipates a break:

 
[Event "El Sauzal op 7th"]
[Site "El Sauzal"]
[Date "2006.11.04"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Leskovar, Mario Leopoldo"]
[Black "Rivas Pastor, Manuel"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2373"]
[BlackElo "2511"]
[PlyCount "60"]
[EventDate "2006.11.04"]
[EventType "swiss (rapid)"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2007.01.10"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Bc4 e6 5. Bg5 Ne7 6. Nc3 h6 7. Be3 a6 8. a4 b6
9. Qd2 Bb7 10. O-O Nd7 11. b4 Nf6 {Better for White, says Stockfish, but not by much.} 12. e5 

{Interesting: Stockfish immediately reassesses the position as slightly better for Black after this move.  But I doubt that 
engines are a very reliable guide in Hippo positions.}

12...Nfd5 13. Nxd5 Nxd5 14. Be2 Nxe3 15.
Qxe3 O-O 16. Rfd1 Qe7 17. c3 Rfd8 18. a5 b5 19. Rd2 Rd7 20. Re1 Rad8 21. Red1
Qf8 22. exd6 cxd6 23. c4 bxc4 24. Bxc4 Bxf3 25. Qxf3 d5 26. Bxa6 Qxb4 27. h4
Ra7 28. Bd3 Rxa5 29. h5 g5 30. Rb1 Qxd2 0-1

White holds the tension

There is a long and interesting lecture about this game by the winner, available on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-c-_QLCzc0

[Event "US Championship"]
[Site "St Louis, MO USA"]
[Date "2014.05.13"]
[Round "6.4"]
[White "Joshua E Friedel"]
[Black "Timur Gareyev"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2505"]
[BlackElo "2653"]
[Annotator "DrDave"]
[PlyCount "149"]
[EventDate "2014.05.08"]

1. Nf3 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. d4 d6 4. Nc3 a6 5. Be2 Nd7 6. O-O e6 7. Bg5 Ne7 8. Qd2
h6 9. Be3 Nf6 10. h3 b5 11. Bd3 Bb7 12. b4 Bc6 13. Rfe1 Qd7 14. Rad1 Bb7 15. a3
Kf8 16. Bf4 Kg8 {A common idea in the Hippo: castling 'by hand' as they say.  White is in no rush to force matters, and continues to manoeuvre to improve their position.} 17. Bh2 Nh7 18. Ne2 Nc8 19. h4 Nb6 20. Qc1 Nf6 21. Nf4 Ng4 22.
Bg3 h5 23. c3 Qe7 24. Qc2 Rd8 25. Nh3 e5 {After all that, Black is the first to push in the centre, upon which the first material leaves the board.} 26. dxe5 dxe5 {A type of centre we have not yet discussed.  White changes the formation on the Queen's-side, offering the Bishop pair in exchange for saddling Black with pawn weaknesses.} 27. c4 bxc4 28. Bxc4
Rxd1 29. Rxd1 Nxc4 30. Qxc4 Bf6 31. Nfg5 Kg7 32. Rc1 Rd8 33. f3 Nh6 34. Qc5 Rd7
35. Qxe7 Rxe7 36. Nf2 Kg8 37. Rd1 Bc6 38. Rd8+ Re8 39. Rxe8+ Bxe8 {A minor piece ending has arisen.} 40. Nd3 Be7
41. Kf2 Bd6 42. Ke3 f6 43. Ne6 Bb5 44. Nec5 Nf7 45. Kd2 Bxc5 46. Nxc5 Nd6 47.
a4 Bf1 48. Ke1 Bc4 49. f4 exf4 50. Bxf4 Kf7 51. Kd2 Ke7 52. Kc3 Bf1 53. g3 c6
54. Bxd6+ Kxd6 {Exchanging into a fairly-bad-bishop endgame.  The Knight proves better able to make threats on both sides of the board, or, at least, threaten to make threats.} 55. Kd4 Be2 56. a5 Bb5 57. Nb3 Bf1 58. Na1 Be2 59. Nc2 Bd1 60.
Ne3 Bf3 61. Nc4+ Ke6 62. Nd2 Be2 63. Kc5 Ke5 64. Kxc6 g5 65. Kc5 g4 66. Nb1
Kxe4 67. Nc3+ Kf3 68. Nxe2 Kxe2 69. b5 axb5 70. a6 Kf3 71. a7 Kxg3 72. a8=Q Kf2
73. Kd4 g3 74. Qa2+ Kf3 75. Qd5+ 1-0

White hesitates and is lost:

If White just sits on their pretty development and does nothing with it, Black can undermine the White centre with flank blows like ...c5, and even advance and take over the centre in Hypermodern style.

 
[Event "Biel MTO op 40th"]
[Site "Biel"]
[Date "2007.07.24"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Nezad, Husein Aziz"]
[Black "Tseshkovsky, Vitaly"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2355"]
[BlackElo "2513"]
[PlyCount "40"]
[EventDate "2007.07.23"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "SUI"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2007.09.04"]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Bc4 e6 4. Qe2 Bg7 5. Nf3 Ne7 6. Nc3 a6 7. a4 b6 8. Bf4 Bb7
9. Qe3 h6 10. h4 Nd7 11. Rd1 Nf6 12. Nh2 d5 {Hitting back.  White's response improves all Black's pieces...} 13. exd5 Nfxd5 14. Bxd5 Nxd5 15.
Nxd5 Qxd5 16. Nf3 O-O-O 17. O-O g5 18. hxg5 hxg5 19. Bxg5 Rdg8 20. b3 Bh6 0-1


Black succeeds with wing play:

Black may be tempted or obliged to advance a pawn to the fourth rank on the wing. ...b5 is a common idea in the Modern, and more typical of the Hippo is ...g5 with the idea of ...Ne7-g6-f4.

 
[Event "British Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2005.08.02"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Greet"]
[Black "Conquest"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B06"]
[Annotator "DrDave"]
[PlyCount "98"]
[EventDate "2005.??.??"]

1. d4 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Be3 a6 5. Nf3 Nd7 6. Bc4 e6 7. a4 b6 8. O-O Ne7
9. Qd2 h6 10. h3 Bb7 11. Rfe1 Nf6 12. Bf4 g5 $1 13. Bh2 g4 14. hxg4 Nxg4 15.
Bg3 Ng6 16. Nh2 h5 $1 17. Rad1 Kf8 18. Qe2 Qg5 19. Nf3 Qe7 20. Nh2 Nf6 $1 21.
Nf1 h4 22. Bh2 Bh6 23. Qf3 Nh7 24. Qh5 Nf6 25. Qf3 Kg7 26. Qh3 Rag8 27. d5 e5
28. Ne3 Bxe3 29. fxe3 $2 Bc8 30. Qf3 Bg4 31. Qf1 Bxd1 32. Nxd1 a5 33. Nf2 Kf8
34. Be2 Rg7 35. Bf3 Qd7 36. b3 h3 37. g3 Nh4 38. Qe2 Nxf3+ 39. Qxf3 Rh6 40. c4
Ke7 41. Kf1 Ng4 42. Nxg4 Rxg4 43. Ke2 Rf6 44. Qh1 Rgg6 45. Rf1 Qg4+ 46. Kd3
Rxf1 47. Qxf1 Rf6 48. Qe2 Rf3 49. Qe1 f5 $1 0-1

White succeeds with wing play:

Obliged or tempted Black may be, but once such an advance has happened, White has something to aim at. ...g5 invites the f2-f4 break, ...b5 invites a2-a4, and ...h5 invites g2-g4.
 
[Event "East Devon Open"]
[Site "Exeter"]
[Date "2017.03.11"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Nunn, John DM"]
[Black "Paulden, Tim"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Annotator "DrDave"]
[PlyCount "53"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 a6 4. Be3 d6 5. h4 h5 6. Qd2 b5 7. O-O-O Bb7 8. Nh3
e6 9. Ng5 Nh6 10. f3 Nd7 11. Kb1 Nb6 12. Qf2 b4 (12... Qe7 13. Ne2) 13. Ne2 Nc4
14. Bc1 d5 15. Nf4 Qd7 {Ready or not, here I come.} 16. g4 hxg4 17. h5 Bf6 18. exd5 Bxd5 19. Ne4 Bg7 20.
hxg6 f5 21. Nc5 Qc6 22. Bxc4 Bxc4 23. Nfxe6 Bxe6 24. Nxe6 Kd7 25. d5 Qd6 26.
Nxg7 Qxg6 27. Ne6 1-0


The main line?

Tiger's Modern gives best play against White's best set-up as notes to this game:

 
[Event "USA-ch Seattle"]
[Site "Seattle USA"]
[Date "2000.02.10"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Alexander Vladimirovich Ivanov"]
[Black "Joel Benjamin"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2567"]
[BlackElo "2577"]
[Annotator "Tiger Hillarp Persson"]
[PlyCount "134"]
[EventDate "2000.??.??"]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Nf3 a6 5. a4 b6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O Nd7 8. Be3 Ne7
9. Qd2 h6 10. h3 Bb7 11. Rae1 Nf6 $6 (11... g5 $5 12. d5 $5 e5) (11... c6 $5)
12. Bd3 $6 (12. d5 $1 e5 {and Black will be late with ...f5}) 12... Qd7 $1 13.
b4 $5 (13. e5 Nfd5 14. Be4 $14 {Interesting: according to THP, on move 12, White should push the d-pawn, but, one move later,  it's best to push the e-pawn!}) 13... Rd8 $6 14. b5 a5 15. Nh2 $1 Qc8 16. f3 (
16. f4 $1 O-O 17. f5) 16... Nh5 17. Ne2 $6 (17. g4 $1) 17... e5 18. f4 exf4 19.
Bxf4 Nxf4 20. Qxf4 O-O 21. Ng4 Kh7 22. Nf6+ Kh8 23. Ng3 Ng8 24. e5 dxe5 25.
dxe5 Qe6 26. Kh2 Bxf6 27. exf6 Qd6 28. Re5 Rde8 29. Rxe8 Rxe8 30. Bc4 Qxf4 31.
Rxf4 Rf8 32. Ne2 g5 33. Rf2 Be4 34. Nc3 Bg6 35. Nd5 Kh7 36. Bb3 Rc8 37. g4 h5
38. Kg3 Nh6 39. gxh5 Bxh5 40. Kh2 Bg6 41. Rg2 Nf5 42. Rxg5 Rd8 43. Rg4 Kh6 44.
Rf4 Re8 45. Bc4 Re1 46. Kg2 Ne3+ 47. Kf2 Nxd5 48. Bxd5 Re5 49. Bb3 Kg5 50. Rc4
Rc5 51. Rxc5+ bxc5 52. c3 Kxf6 53. h4 Kf5 54. Kg3 Bh5 55. Bc2+ Ke5 56. Bb3 Ke4
57. Bc2+ Ke5 58. Bb3 Ke4 59. Bc2+ Ke3 60. Bf5 Bd1 61. Bd7 c4 62. Be8 f5 63. h5
f4+ 64. Kh2 f3 65. h6 f2 66. h7 f1=Q 67. h8=Q Qf4+ 0-1


The three-pawn centres against the Hippo

With the adjustment of a Knight and the advance of the c- or f-pawn, we have a three-pawn centre hippopotamus, and now Black needs to take notice, as the White centre is much more solid. Black can hope that while White is arranging all this, Black can sort out some way of meeting it, or provokes White into advancing before they are quite ready by some wing advance of their own.

Some of the most critical lines against Hippo structures start by White aiming at a three-pawn centre from the very start.

def centre against the Hippo

I would have guessed this was risky for Black. Nigel Davies has made a good case for it but Tiger Hillarp Persson doesn't recommend it in his book on the Modern, preferring to expand while possible with ...b5, and only permitting the luxury of the Hippo once White has committed to blocking both Bishop's pawns.

 
[Event "*Gausdal Peer-Gynt ,"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1990.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Engedal, N."]
[Black "Davies N"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B06"]
[PlyCount "64"]
[EventDate "1990.??.??"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. f4 Nc6 {A bid to stay out of Pirc lines.} (4...e6!?) 5. Be3 (5. Bb5!) 5... Nf6 6. Nf3 e6 7.
Be2 O-O 8. O-O Ne7 9. Nd2 (9. Nd2) 9... b6 10. a4 a6 11. Qe1 c5 {Softening up the centre.} 12. Qf2 Bb7 13.
Bf3 Qc7 14. a5 cxd4 15. Bxd4 b5 16. Bb6 Qc8 17. Rac1 Nd7 18. Bd4 (18. Be3)
18... e5 19. Be3 f5 $1 20. g3 exf4 21. gxf4 b4 22. Nd1 Nf6 23. Qg2 fxe4 24.
Nxe4 Nxe4 25. Bxe4 Bxe4 26. Qxe4 Qg4+ 27. Kh1 (27. Qg2 Qf5) 27... Nf5 28. Qxb4
Ng3+ $1 29. Kg1 Nxf1+ (29... Qh3) 30. Kxf1 Qf3+ 31. Kg1 Rae8 32. Qd2 Rxf4 $1
0-1

cde centre against the Hippo

This can arise from the English Defence

Miles and Short have both dabbled in it, pointing at White's slow 3.a3 as justification.

 
[Event "4NCL"]
[Site "Birmingham ENG"]
[Date "2000.09.24"]
[EventDate "2000.09.23"]
[Round "2"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Alexander Yevgenyevich Baburin"]
[Black "Anthony Miles"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "2590"]
[BlackElo "2584"]
[PlyCount "60"]

1. d4 e6 2. c4 b6 3. a3 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. e4 Ne7 6. Nf3 Bb7
7. Bd3 d6 8. O-O Nd7 9. Re1 h6 10. h3 a6 11. Be3 g5 12. Rc1 c5
13. d5 Ng6 14. Bc2 Qe7 15. Qd2 O-O 16. Rcd1 Nde5 17. Nxe5 Bxe5
{White's space seems to count for little.  Black offers a pawn}
18. Bd3 Qf6 19. Na4 Rab8 20. Nxb6 Bc8 21. Na4 Bd7 22. Nc3 Rb3
23. Rb1 Rfb8 24. Nd1 exd5 25. cxd5 Nf4 {Black has the initiative on both sides of the board.} 26. Bxf4 gxf4 27. Bc2
Rxh3 28. gxh3 Kh8 29. f3 Rg8+ 30. Kh1 Qh4 0-1


 
[Event "FIDE World Cup-B"]
[Site "Shenyang"]
[Date "2000.09.04"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Xu Jun"]
[Black "Short, Nigel D"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A40"]
[WhiteElo "2668"]
[BlackElo "2677"]
[PlyCount "104"]
[EventDate "2000.09.01"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "5"]
[EventCountry "CHN"]
[EventCategory "17"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2000.11.21"]

1. d4 e6 2. c4 b6 3. a3 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. e4 Ne7 6. Nf3 Bb7 7. Be3 d6 8. Qd2 h6
9. Bd3 Nd7 10. O-O g5 11. d5 Ng6 {White has deadened Black's Bb7 but Black has good play on the dark squares.} 12. Bd4 O-O 13. Bxg7 Kxg7 14. Ne2 c5 15. dxc6
Bxc6 16. Bc2 Nde5 17. Nxe5 dxe5 18. Qxd8 Rfxd8 19. Rfd1 Kf6 20. f3 h5 21. Kf2
Nf4 22. g3 Nxe2 23. Kxe2 g4 24. Ke3 gxf3 25. Kxf3 Rd4 26. b3 a5 27. Rxd4 exd4
28. Ke2 e5 29. Rf1+ Kg6 30. Bd3 f6 31. Kd2 Bd7 32. Rc1 h4 33. c5 bxc5 34. Rxc5
hxg3 35. hxg3 Ra7 36. Bc4 Kg5 37. Ke2 Bg4+ 38. Kf2 Rh7 39. Rxa5 Rh2+ 40. Ke1
Bf3 41. Bd3 Kg4 42. Ra6 Rh6 43. Kf2 Rh2+ 44. Ke1 f5 45. Rg6+ Kh5 46. exf5 e4
47. Rg8 Ra2 48. Bxe4 Bxe4 49. g4+ Kh4 50. Rd8 d3 51. Rd4 Re2+ 52. Kd1 Kg5 0-1

In Danny King's book on the English Defence, he suggests an early h2-h4 can critically restrict Black's chances to expand, as shown in a couple of Milov-Miles games.

Nakamura rather provocatively tried it against Kramnik when White had wasted no time at all... In a King's Indian formation, the typical advance c4-c5 arrived with lightning speed.

 
[Event "Geneva Chess Masters"]
[Site "Geneve SUI"]
[Date "2013.06.29"]
[Round "1.4"]
[White "Vladimir Kramnik"]
[Black "Hikaru Nakamura"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A10"]
[WhiteElo "2803"]
[BlackElo "2784"]
[PlyCount "65"]
[EventDate "2013.06.29"]

1. c4 b6 2. Nf3 Bb7 3. Nc3 e6 4. e4 g6 5. d4 Bg7 6. Be2 Ne7 7. O-O d6 8. Be3
Nd7 9. Qd2 h6 10. d5 e5 11. b4 f5 12. c5 bxc5 13. bxc5 dxc5 14. Rab1 Rb8 15.
Bb5 O-O 16. d6 cxd6 17. Qxd6 Nb6 18. Bxc5 Bf6 19. Nxe5 Qxd6 20. Bxd6 Kg7 21.
exf5 Rbc8 22. Bxe7 Bxe7 23. Nxg6 Rxc3 24. Nxe7 Kf6 25. Rfe1 Rd8 26. a4 Ra3 27.
Re6+ Kf7 28. Rbe1 Nxa4 29. Rxh6 Be4 30. Bc4+ Kxe7 31. Rxe4+ Kd7 32. Rd4+ Kc7
33. Rh7+ 1-0


Move orders

People that know me won't be surprised that I wonder if the Hippo can be move-ordered. I haven't hit on anything yet, but there are some specific move orders that Black is well-advised to avoid:

Click [. . .] to list games

 

[Event "BCF-chT 0405 (4NCL)"]
[Site "West Bromwich"]
[Date "2004.09.18"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "4"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "John K Shaw"]
[Black "Andrew David Martin"]
[ECO "B00"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "108"]

1. e4 b6 2. d4 Bb7 3. Nc3 e6 4. Nf3 d6 5. Bd3 Nd7 6. O-O g6
7. a4 Bg7? 8. a5! bxa5 9. Be3 Ngf6 10. Nd2 

{"I'm not sure how big White's advantage is here -- somewhere between substantial and life-threatening"}

10...O-O 11. Nb3 c6
12. Nxa5 Qc7 13. f4 Rab8 14. Qe2 Ba8 15. Nb3 c5 16. dxc5 dxc5
17. Ra2 Rb4 18. Nd2 Qb8 19. Nc4 Nd5 20. exd5 exd5 21. Nxd5
Bxd5 22. b3 Re8 23. Qd2 Bxc4 24. Bxc4 Rxc4 25. Qxd7 Rxe3
26. bxc4 Bd4 27. Kh1 Qxf4 28. Raa1 Bxa1 29. Rxa1 Qxc4 30. Qxa7
Qxc2 31. Rf1 Qc4 32. Qa8+ Kg7 33. Qa1+ Qd4 34. Qa7 Qf6 35. Kg1
Qe7 36. Qa1+ f6 37. h3 Re2 38. Kh1 Qe5 39. Qa7+ Kh6 40. Qf7
Re1 41. Rxe1 Qxe1+ 42. Kh2 Qe5+ 43. g3 Qe2+ 44. Kg1 Qd1+
45. Kf2 Qd4+ 46. Kf3 c4 47. g4 Qd3+ 48. Kg2 Kg5 49. Qf8 Qe2+
50. Kg3 Qe3+ 51. Kg2 c3 52. Qc8 Kh4 53. Qc7 Qxh3+ 54. Kf2 Kxg4
0-1

[Event "Dos Hermanas Internet f 4th"]
[Site "ICC INT"]
[Date "2003.03.22"]
[Round "3.1"]
[White "Zarnicki, Pablo"]
[Black "McShane, Luke J"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2536"]
[BlackElo "2568"]
[PlyCount "64"]
[EventDate "2003.03.21"]
[EventType "k.o."]
[EventRounds "5"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2003.05.09"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. f4 e6 5. Nf3 Ne7 6. Bd3 b6 (6...Nd7, 6...a6) 7. O-O 
(7.Qe2)
7...Nd7 8. f5!
exf5 9. exf5 Nf6 10. Bg5 O-O 11. Ne4! Nxe4 12. Bxe4 d5 13. Bxe7 Qxe7 14. Bxd5
Rb8 15. fxg6 hxg6 16. c3 {±} Ba6 17. Re1 Qd6 18. Qb3 c6 19. Bc4 b5 20. Bd3 Bc8 21.
Ne5 Be6 22. Qc2 c5 23. dxc5 Qxc5+ 24. Qf2 Rfc8 25. Nxg6 b4 26. Rab1 bxc3 27.
Qxc5 Rxc5 28. bxc3 Rxb1 29. Bxb1 Bxc3 30. Re4 Bf6 31. Bd3 Bxa2 32. Nf4 a5
1/2-1/2

[Event "Politiken Cup 24th"]
[Site "Copenhagen"]
[Date "2002.07.23"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Turov, Maxim"]
[Black "Hillarp Persson, Tiger"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2518"]
[BlackElo "2461"]
[PlyCount "17"]
[EventDate "2002.07.15"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "DEN"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2002.09.10"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Be3 a6 5. a4!? b6!? (5... Nf6!) 6. f4!
Nd7 7. Nf3 e6 (7... c5?! 8. d5!) 8. Bd3 Ne7! (8... Bb7 9. O-O Ngf?!
10. e5 Ng4? 11. Bd2 c5 12. Ng5! {±} cxd4 13. Nce4 Bxe4 14. Nxe4  {+- 1/2-1/
2 (55) Anand,V (2766)-Hillarp Persson,T (2512) Benidorm 2003 CBM 099 [Erenburg,
S]}) 9. Ne2?! (9. f5! exf5 10. exf5 Nf6 11. fxg6 hxg6 12. Bg5 $36 {with the initiative}) {...) 1-0


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