How to Fight the Hippopotamus Defense

The Hippopotamus Defense, or Hippo Defence, is a chess opening involving a series of 10 passive looking moves that can, surprisingly enough, pack a strong bite if not handled well. The Hippopotamus Defense looks to negate any attempt at opening the position by closing it, and then striking quickly on the flanks. What is shown first in this video is a poor setup against the Hippopotamus Defense so as to illustrate the failed attempts one can experience at trying to open the position. After this, we’ll see how you can develop, and a plan you can implement that will, by force, open the position and have your better positioned pieces benefit. With so many moves needed before the hippo defense is set up, it may be tough to know for sure that it’ll be the defense chosen by your opponent, unless you have an opponent you’ve played previously who you know uses the hippo. Feel free to give this setup a try for that “next encounter” and beyond. While there was an emphasis in the video regarding move order to highlight an issue that “could” arise, do know that there are of course several different move combinations to obtain the desired setup. For example: moving first with e4, c4 and then Nc3 with d4 to follow is just yet another one of many combinations you can begin with as you deploy your pieces and pawns. It’s worth noting that this setup is developmentally sound. Being fully developed with a strong presence in the center after only 9 moves is hard to argue with! 🙂 The pawn structure that is seen in this video is reminiscent to the one from the famous King’s Indian Defense, Mar del Plata variation. At the end of the day, there is an inherent “general” lesson (ideas/plans) to be learned from these similar pawn structures, despite the “specific” focus on the Hippopotamus Defense.


Internet Chess Club (ICC)


  1. You are such a good teacher. I really enjoy the explanations and their clarity

  2. White 1st move should be anticipating black's 1st move ? Lol

  3. Very nice. Would be also great to know how to Fight it when you already moved e4

  4. Not all players are comfortavle with playing 1.d4. Besides, it is not certain at all that the opponent will play hippo defense after 1.d4.

  5. Love this video. I am using to teach my brother the hippo defence for blitz games. 😀

  6. I love how everyone is interpreting this as "YOU MUST PLAY D4 followed by this rigid sequence of moves", that's not the point… don't memorize, learn the ideas and the tricks, then go from there.

  7. I Think after that C4 Move On 16:03 , The Computer's evaluation like -100063785 for Black and +100063785 for white and if the first pawn takes, we recapture, and if they take second time by black by Knight or Pawn, Computer's Evaluation is like -1,00000,0000000000000000000,00000000000 for black and white is like +1,0000000000000000000000000,000000000 and if Queen (white) played on Qb3, Knight takes, Bishop takes, Black Queen Plays D6, After Nc4 by White, Computer's Evaluation for Black is DEAD MEAT and For White Is Like The PRIMAL SURVIVOR OF THE CHESS!!!!!!!!!!

  8. 20…Ba6 with the intention to trade bishops .That seems to solve the position for black.

  9. It's odd to read comments saying that the video suggests abandoning e4 as opening move! The point is to play d4 against a known culprit – ie hippo user, although you might need to know how to play against the dutch, which has some similarities – if a hippo player can play f5 and then f4, that is what we want. It's also odd to read people decrying the hippo; Spassky played it in a World Championship game. I am around 1800-1900 elo, very amateurish! and play it all the time since it gets you out of complicated book openings and I obtain numerous wins with a crude king side attack once the centre is closed. I occasionally come unstuck against the queen side pawn advance if it's quicker than my attack and had not really understood why before seeing this video. I think the analysis fails however if black gets in c5 around about move 14; c5 from black is often the crucial move. If I was white, I would be thinking about castling queen side, though I have had some exciting wins against that too. Also interesting is when white castles king side and pushes the h-pawn. Black can have wins with the King on h8 sheltering behind the white pawn on h7 though its pretty easy to make mistakes and lose. Vive le hippo!

  10. having 3 pawns in the center….. it's an easy target for black.

  11. This is the best video available on YouTube on how to play against hippo. Other videos only show the games played between grandmasters with this opening. Those videos don't tell what's the purpose of the moves or what is the standard structure against hippo.

  12. Lost to a hippo today since I was clueless on what to do. I went online to search … awesome video!

  13. Very instructive analysis Jerry! White’s setup reminds me vividly of the deadly Bayonet Attack against the King’s Indian.

  14. Basically white while facing the hippo:
    Open the position. Stop having it be closed.

  15. Jerry, for the last 2 years I’ve watched a lot of online chess and a lot of online chess explanation videos and no doubt: you’re my favourite one! You’re explaining chess in such a calm, understandable, sympathetic and superb way, it’s unbelievable! I love your content!

  16. I play the Hippo since I was a youngster in the 80s thanks to Bernd Feustel. I have great success but I completely agree with you. If 1.d4 2.c4 don't play the Hippo. Go for Kingsindian, Benoni or Grűnfeld.Just like if white plays f4. Don't play the Hippo.
    Go for the Pirc. But most white people play 1.e4 2.d4 3.Nc3 4.Sf3 then the Hippo is great.

  17. Wow, really interesting to see my most favourite opening getting crushed, your ideas for white make sense. What I find so strong about the opening for black is that to refute it you have to be familiar with these ideas for white you mentioned because just natural looking moves can cause you equal or loosing position. But of course, it is a very stupid opening

  18. Thanks for the video and analysis, very good work!

  19. I played the hippo for about 10 games. One day my opponent uses it against me and I'm completely baffled. Really needed to learn how to defend my own strategy first!

    This video is awesome

  20. I think this video is just trying to say: play the king's indian white's side

  21. Now I know how to never lose with the hippo opening

  22. I play Bird’s opening so the Hippo would have a different look. Good vid tho. Explains well the key ideas.

  23. What if on move 12 knight to d2, and then black plays f4 and so we are forced to play bishop to f2? We just go on with the plan? minute 12:00

  24. refutation of the refutation : if they play 1. d4 , well…you are just not gonna play the hippo in the first place! This video just shows that the hippopotamus defence works best after 1e4, for good reason which you showed, thank you for that. So now interesting would be a video on how to bust this defence after 1e4!

  25. Reminds me a bit of me in the early 1960s, playing Stonewall attack with white and Stonewall defence with black when facing stronger players in 1/0 or 2/0 bullet tourney games, leaving opponents struggling with time controls when attempting to find a way in.

  26. Awesome video. But you can't just play d4 instead of e4 because you're scared of the hippo.

  27. This is GOLD, im still gonna play e4 though

  28. This is so clear. As a KID player it's easy to remember and very useful to know what to do. Coz Hippo is a impenetrable without knowledge.

  29. What range of rated players play hippo as black? Is the player of black rated 600-1000? 1000-1300?

  30. Thanks Jerry hiipo was a pain in the a$$ but not after this great video
    Thank you very much

  31. Here’s the problem with your starting line, you have to know it’s coming, the opening moves don’t just indicate a hippo, probably why it is affective.

  32. I play only the Hippopotamus Defense for white and black. So I am very excited to analyze white's attack in this video and see if I can somehow escape unscathed.

  33. So the way to beat the hippo is to just exclusively become a d4 player?

  34. Great teaching skill, great knowledge. Very helpful!

  35. What differences if White does this? And you are playing Black?:) thanks! I just had a draw cos I could not find a way through:)

  36. Some of this info is helpful. But not helpful at all to open with D4 considering the very obvious fact that black does not go first. You will not even know if they're doing a double finceto until a few moves in. And that is what needs to be explained from E4 opening how to proceed. And the answer to simply go back in time to change your first move is not valid. You have to presume E4 opening as the most common. And that response from black. And how to proceed from there.

  37. I'm confused as to the suggested attack against hippo though, how do i know the opponent is going to play the hippo, you're basically saying I shouldn't go for a kings pawn opening cus I might be worse if the opponent plays the hippo? I assume you just tried to present a perfect setup and comfortable situation against a hippo but it really overlooks that a lot of people will just encounter it after other opening moves so you need some more general rules of how to chip at the hippo.
    I realise the video is old and that's maybe corrected in a newer one.

  38. By the way, if you play e4 and face the hippo, you can play c4

  39. My dad plays this against me so much and i hate it. Finally i can open up the game ahah 8 years later thank you!

  40. I've seen the Hippo played occasionally at the GM level, it does have some weaknesses. There is a semi-hippo as well. For these ideas coming out of the Modern, it's imperative for Black to attack soon and not get stuck in that beginning position. There's a line where the Queen snakes around to assist. In some cases it might be better to transpose or trade in the center rather than lock it up. There are lines for White where a Bishop or Knight can kind of break in. In the ideal Hippo position, Black's Knights are not well placed and the Queen is basically out of the game. I've been testing it against the bots with some success, slightly better is a more King's Indian setup with sooner attacking possibilities. It seems to work best to go student body to one side or the other, oddly I find some chances advancing on the opposite of White's castled side, but this can lose tempi if not thought through. I don'tthink people under 2000 know these lines too well, so it might be a surprise against some intermediate players. I like it better than the Hedgehog for sure.

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