The Hippopotamus is a strange opening, and by no means as bad as it looks. Black sets up his pieces on the first two rows and waits. It's easy for White to get excited and overextend - Andrew Martin's book gives you a good overview of the possibilities for both sides.
I played against the Hippo for the first time ever in a Swiss club match last week. Here's the game:
Manny Rayner - Marc Furrer
I hadn't slept well, and my initial plan was to play quietly and if necessary go for a short draw. But...
2. e4 Bg7
3. d4 d6
4. Nc3 Nd7?!
After four moves, I'm already slightly better, so I revised my plans accordingly.
5. Be3! e6!?
We enter Hippo territory. I was expecting 5... Nf6, when I was planning 6. Qd2 and a kingside attack.
I am unfamiliar with the nuances of the opening. 6. Qd2! is better here as well. Black will probably play ... h6 to stop Bh6, but then he can't castle easily.
7. OO h6
A good regrouping. I can support my center with c3 if Black plays c5, and the N on g3 stops Black's counterplay.
9. Qd2 Kh7
A pure Hippo position.
10. Ng3 Nf6!
I thought his next few moves were very good.
To stop Ng4
I want to advance with f4 and get some space, but I hadn't seen his manoeuver.
Reculer pour mieux sauter.
13. c3 Kh8!
The black king is often uncomfortable on h7, so he retreats to a safer square.
14. f4 f5!
15. Nf3 Nf6!
He has found an excellent defensive setup. I wondered for a moment if I could even be worse, but with all my extra space it seemed impossible. What would Karpov do?
16. e5! Nd7?
A clear mistake - he had to go Nd5. I was planning 17. Bf2, and then he was worried that his N had no squares. But after 17... c5 he has counterplay, and I am at most a little bit better.
17. Rad1 d5?!
Now his position has lost all its dynamic potential and I am clearly much better.
A strong preparatory move. I'm going to attack on the kingside, but first I want to kill his queenside counterplay. My idea is that if he plays ...c5 and takes on d4, I can recapture with a piece, and he won't have ...Nc5-e4.
19. Ne2 Bf8
20. Kh2 Rg7
He rearranges his pieces to try and meet my attack, but he's too short of space.
21. Rg1 Ng8
22. g4 c5
23. gf gf
24. Rg7 Kg7
25. Rg1+ Kh8
26. Ng3 Qe8
27. Qg2 Qf7
I have nearly every piece in play against the Black king, but I still need to find a way through.
I thought the idea of my last move was obvious, and was very surprised when he allowed the sacrifice. He had to play ... Ne7, after which I still have plenty of work to do.
Of course. "In a position like this, a combination should be as natural as a smile on a baby's face" - Reuben Fine.
30. Ng6+ Kh7
Maybe this is what he missed, though it's pretty obvious. All his moves are forced.
32. Nf8+ Qf8
33. Bf5+ Kh8
34. ed Bb7
White has regained the piece with a completely crushing position.
Missing my threat, but he is lost anyway. I have f5 and Bf4-e5 coming.
36. Qg8+ resigns
My pawn is going to queen.
We won the match 7-1, which means we move up to the second division of the Swiss league. Yay!