Please, Do Not Bother the Hippo
Hippopotamus in Botswana. Photo by "Diego Delso, web:, License CC-BY-SA"

Please, Do Not Bother the Hippo

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In this post we are going to talk about hippopotamus. You know them, right? They may seem like friendly animals but in reality they are aggressive, and cause the death of hundreds of people every year (more than wolves, lions, sharks ...), being one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. This is due to its territorial behavior in the water. They even capsize boats!

You may be wondering: what does this have to do with chess? The Hippo Defence exists, and it is one in which Black places his pieces in the following way:

Ideal setup for the Hippo defence
Hippo defence. Ideal Setup.

The pieces are developed, and pointing to the center, although without occupying it, so it is classified as a hypermodern defense. Black's king can go to either side (king's or queen's), or stay in the center. The idea is to attack the center later with one of the 4 possible pawn breaks against the most common white center of e4 + d4:

Pawn breaks in the hippopotamus (hippo) defence
The four pawn breaks

In addition, the structure allows the position to be blocked as soon as the white pawns touch the black structure, making it difficult to open lines. For example, if the white's h-pawn goes to to h5, black will play g5. If they play e5, they will play d5 (always as a general rule, each specific position must be assessed).
But at the same time, it is very flexible, and allows the position to be opened if possible, making the 2 fianchettoed bishops very powerful.

Once we have seen the basics, I will remember a post in which I also commented about the hippo defense (by the way, one of the most viewed on my blog ). Sorry, but this one is only in spanish... Try with google translator

I remember how Tiger Hillarp Persson, author of one of the best books on the modern, explains the Hippo:

The Hippo lies low in the water. It looks almost ridiculously passive and many theoreticians consider the Hippo to be a peaceful, almost meek animal. But nothing could be further from the truth. On closer scrutiny the animal, the position, and the statistics look almost entirely different. The Hippo is a fierce animal; ready to crush anyone who gets too close.

Hippopotamus lies down in water
Hippopotamus seems a calm animal Autor: MozamPete

In this post we are going to see what happens when you upset the Hippo defense, watching a few games in which the hippo destroys White in less than 30 moves. You can change the game by selecting it at the bottom of the viewer.


  • Do Not Bother the Hippo
  • As you have seen, they are very territorial.


By last, there is a club on with this defense, if you are interested, you can ask questions there:

Also you can play Vote chess, where they play it even with white pieces.

Hippo club logo,
def Hippo Club, Just below the surface.

(maybe one day I'll post how to beat the hippo ... when I know how to )

TL;DR: a summary of the post in 23 seconds:

This is the translation of my post (in spanish):

For more info (in english):

Post with a lot of info:


Collection in chessgames with nice games:

If you are brave enough (or crazy ) to play this defense (it is difficult to master) and you achieve a miniature, share it, for example with a gif like this: 

Miniature game hippo defence

If you see any mistake in the post, tell me, I want to improve my english

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