You start by moving the knight's pawn on either side to b3 or g3. Then you do the same on the other side. Ideally, you fianchetto the bishops into both triangle pawn formations.

 [FEN ""]

1. b3 null 2. g3 null 3. Bb2 null 4. Bg2

I tried to use it as Black, but I am still struggling to make it into a strong defense, as it appears to be rather a powerful offensive opening. This opening seems to be gaining popularity at least for White, but I struggle to find information about it on the Internet.

4 Answers 4


This set up is often called "The Hippo", a possible reason is that bishops look like the eyes of a hippopotamus.

For example: Eric Rosen: Don't Mess With The Hippo

  • 4
    The phrase "Hippopotamus Defence" goes back over 50 years. I don't know about your eyes etymology. Seems reasonable, but it also strikes me as maybe a folk etymology. I always thought it was because hippos lie low in the water, and the defense lies low in the first 3 ranks. Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 13:13
  • "I had mate in 2, but hungry hippo." 😆 Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 19:09
  • @JohnColeman, good point.
    – Akavall
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 19:23
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    @JohnColeman If you squint your eyes just right and let your imagination do the rest, you can see a hippo lying in the water with the eyes just above water level.
    – Mast
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 20:31
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    @Mast That made me smile. On the other hand, maybe the person who first thought of the name "Hippopotamus Defence" was a fan of the light verse of Hilaire Belloc: "I shoot the hippopotamus with bullets made of platinum, since if I had used leaden ones, his hide would surely flatten 'em." As more than one White player has discovered, it can be a tough nut to crack. Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 20:56

The setup after b3+Bb2 or g3+Bg2 (or on Black's side b6+Bb7, g6+Bg7) is called a fianchetto https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fianchetto. Doing this on both Kingside and Queenside is thus called a "double fianchetto"; I don't think there's a more specific name than that.


1.b3 is Nimzo-Larsen attack. You can check with Lichess database.


1.b3 is called Larsen's opening, while 1.g3 is Benko's opening. They are examples of openings that are collectively called modern or hypermodern.

If you have doubts about opening names, I think the easiest thing to do is play them on a chess engine. Usually the engine will then tell you what is the corresponding name of the opening.

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