A positional squeeze in the Hippopotamus Defence

This week saw the hotly anticipated Division 1 clash between current league leaders Horfield A and second placed Clifton A.  In the end the match was decided by a single solitary win on Board 4.  Horfield’s Steve Dilleigh talks us through his game against Duncan Grossett, a lovely positional squeeze.  

Dilleigh, S (188)  – Grossett, D (178) [A42]

1.Nf3 d6 2.d4 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.e4 Nd7 5.Nc3 e6 6.Be2 Ne7!?


So its to be a Hippo System. I remember playing the Hippopotamus in a crucial schools match. One of the opposing team came up to me and accused me of getting my Kings Indian and Queens Indian mixed up. I still won and so did the team. Since then I have maintained a fair amount or respect for the Hippopotamus even though it’s not good enough to be a universal weapon. I rarely try to blast it off the board. I now prefer a wait and see strategy.

7.0–0 b6 8.Be3 Bb7 9.Qc2 h6 10.Rad1 0–0 11.Rfe1 a6


Here we have the Hippopotamus in all its glory but the trouble for Black is that none of the pawn breaks tends to be that convincing if White keeps his pieces on reasonably sensible squares. If White starts messing around, misplacing his pieces in search of active play that can be a completely different matter.

12.h3 What is Black to do now? I tend to take the attitude that White has more space and more flexibility and the onus is on Black to try to improve his position.

12…Qe8 Black continues to wait. This might have been one of the better points to play 12…f5 13.d5 (13.e5!? and 13.Bc1 were other options.) 13…e5 14.b4 which would be rather like the way the game ended up going.

13.Bc1 The Computer wants some more action here (e.g.13.d5, which may well be right) but I stick to my tactics which are gaining me time on the clock.

13…Rc8 14.b4 Preparing something a bit more active.

14…e5?! Finally Black is induced into doing something but it doesn’t work out too well. A more flexible course could have led to 14…g5 15.a4 c5 16.bxc5 bxc5 17.d5 Ng6 18.a5 which is only slightly better for White.

15.d5 I had the strong feeling that I should be capturing on e5. That gives certain chances but in the end I decided to close the position. I have lots of experience with closed positions and my intuition that this was the right way to go for practical purposes.

15…f5 16.Bd3 Trying to provoke my opponent’s next move.


16…f4? Black was no doubt intending to create attacking chances on the kingside by advancing his pawns but this is not so easy to achieve here. Black should stay more flexible with for instance 16…Qf7 17.Ba3 Rcd8 18.c5 Nf6 A complex battle ensues but since Black has maintained his pressure against e4 this is not all one sided.

17.Nh2 Rd8 18.Be2!

This is one of the problems with playing ..f4 prematurely. White may be able to activate his bad bishop via g4.

18…Bc8 Black can stop Bg4 but he then loses flexibility. After 18…h5 19.Nf3 Bf6 20.Na4 Kg7 (Or 20…g5 21.c5 bxc5 22.bxc5 dxc5 23.Nxc5 Nxc5 24.Qxc5 g4 25.hxg4 hxg4 26.Nh2 and Black’s unsupported pawn advances prove ineffective.) 21.c5 White gets his attack in first.

19.Bg4 g5?! Another pawn on a dark square. The cage is forming around the g7 bishop.

20.Qe2 Nf6 21.Bxc8 Rxc8 22.g4 White is well on his way to a strategic advantage but Black still has time to counter.



Here Black misses a big chance. Before White consolidates he can play. 22…c5! 23.bxc5 (23.dxc6 Qxc6 is double-edged and probably balanced.) 23…bxc5 24.Bd2 Rb8 25.Rb1 Qd7 26.Qf1 Rb4 27.a3 Rbb8 28.Rxb8 Rxb8 29.Rb1 White is still heading for a slightly better ending but Black has a lot more space and more activity than in the game.

23.f3 Rfd8 Play is always likely to gravitate towards the queenside so perhaps this isn’t a bad idea. Instead 23…h5 24.c5 hxg4 25.hxg4 Ra8 26.cxd6 cxd6 27.Bd2 Nd7 28.Rc1 is not too bad. White’s advantage looks manageable for Black. This is more or less a normal Kings Indian type position.

24.Ba3 This should be an unnecessary precaution but I was a bit wary of Black’s possible counterplay and indeed after the immediate 24.c5 c6!? (an inspired move in an otherwise bad position) 25.cxb6 cxd5 26.Nxd5 Nexd5 27.exd5 Qf7 (or 27…Rc2 28.Qxa6 e4 with counterplay)) 28.Qxa6 Ra8 29.Qc4 Rdc8 30.Qb3 Qb7 things are suddenly rather unclear and Komodo even prefers Black.

24…Qe8 25.c5 Now this is more playable.


25…b5?? Surely a very bad decision. Black needs to keep fighting chances for his pieces with 25…dxc5 26.bxc5 Bf8 27.Nb1 Qa4 28.Rc1 Ng6 when there is not much in it.



Now the Black bishop is caged in behind its pawns and the knights are not doing much better. White simple has to open up the queenside and exchange Black’s better pieces. Black can try to engineer a sacrificial counter but this is will probably only be speculative or sit back and wait. 26…Rb8 Black may have been counting on the plan of getting a knight to b6 but this is easily parried.

27.Rb1 Nc8 28.Bc1 Nb6 29.a4! White gives up a pawn temporarily. Black’s lack of activity means he cannot stop White regaining it and the open line will come in handy.

29…Nxa4 30.Nxa4 bxa4 31.Bd2 Rb5 32.Ra1 Ra8 33.Rxa4 Qb8 34.Rea1 Qb6+ 35.Qf2 Not the computer’s first choice but an exchange of queens just makes things increasingly easy for White.

35…Kf7 36.Qxb6 Rxb6 37.Nf1 Ne8 38.Bc3 Ke7 39.Nd2 Ready to chase the rook from b6 and win a pawn.

39…Rab8 40.Rxa6


Black doesn’t want to see any more. With his minor pieces virtually dead White can win at his leisure. 1–0

(Editors note – my thanks to both players for contributing their game).

steve circle

Steve Dilleigh

Probably the most active player in Horfield chess club, playing ten or more tournaments a year in addition to league chess.

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