Hippopotamus Defence

The “Hippo” defence by Black is to play Nh6 as the first move. This is an unsound and silly opening. Black puts the Knight on the edge of the board, and in some lines the Knight will be captured by Bc1xh6, leaving Black’s kingside pawn structure ruined, not to mention a threat of Qh5 mate in some lines. The ruination of the pawn structure can be avoided if Black plays “2..g6” (the Bishop on f8 can recapture now), but the opening is still poor, as it’s become a dubious line of the “Modern Defence” after Black plays “2..g6”.

Diagram: Hippopotamus Defence (Nh6 opening) after e4

Diagram: Hippopotamus Defence (Nh6 opening) after d4 (invites Bxh6!)

The Hippo is exceptionally poor against “1.d4”. Consider the line “1.d4 Nh6?!, 2.Bxh6 g7xh6, 3.e4”. Now White is threatening mate with Qh5 and although Black can avoid immediate mate (e.g. with “3..Bg7”), it’s going to be a massacre.

Diagram: Hippopotamus Defence (line after 1.d4 Nh6?)

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