I have several great loves in my life. Two obvious ones are my wife, Jenny, and the royal game of chess. However, my son, Michael, means everything to me too, and I can honestly say that good people, beautiful Mathematics and faith in God are also vital. For me, they all help bring peace, harmony and happiness.
I don’t mean to sound like a ‘Pious Math Pop’, but since I also can’t resist puzzles, will you indulge me and try to find a proper 12-letter English word that is an anagram of the words in bold above? The answer happens to be the name of one of the most fascinating and flexible of all chess openings, the Hippopotamus. I enjoy experimenting with the ‘Hippo’, having already been inspired by numerous model games, many of which can be found in IM Andrew Martin’s The Hippopotamus Rises, formerly published by Batsford Chess. Let’s plunge straight into a heavyweight Hippo encounter between GMs Arthur Kogan and Boris Spassky from a 1997 tournament in Corsica.
White: A Kogan; Black: B Spassky. Opening: Hippopotamus
1 e4 b6 2 d4 Bb7 3 Bd3 e6 4 Ne2 d6 5 0-0 Nd7 6 f4 g6 7 f5 At first sight this case of ‘f for forward’ may look dangerous, but Spassky reacts in a very cool way. 7…gxf5! 8 exf5 e5 9 Ng3 Ngf6 10 Nc3 White plays bravely, but perhaps unwisely, given that Black will now capture the central d4-pawn with gain of time. 10…exd4 11 Nce4 Be7 12 a4 a6 Black is ready to answer 13 a5 with …b5. 13 Re1 Hoping to start the sequence 14 Nxf6+ Nxf6 15 Bg5 on his next turn, but Spassky immediately counters those plans with an interesting move which combines prophylaxis and active play. 13…Rg8!? 13…Ne5 is possibly even safer, as it rules out 14 Qf3. 14 Nh5 Ne5 15 Bh6 Kd7 Black’s ‘heavy’ pieces are now connected along his first rank, and although the king has given up the right to castle he remains very safe. 16 Nhxf6+Bxf6 17 Qh5 Rg4 Suddenly White’s knight is feeling extra pressure, and his queen is facing the embarrassing threat of 18…Rh4. It’s easy to miss that one, though… 18 Rad1? Rh4 19 Nxf6+ Qxf6 20 Bg5 Rxh5 21 Bxf6 Rg8 Another very simple yet strong move from Black, whose threats now include 22…Rxg2+ and 22…Nf3+. 22 Bxe5 Rxg2+ 23 Kf1 dxe5 24 Rxe5 Rhxh2 25 Bb5+ Hoping for 25…axb5 26 Rxd4+ Kc8?? 27 Re8 mate, but instead… 25…Kd6! 26 White resigned, facing multiple horrors including 26…Rh1 mate.