Attacking the Hedgehog

Playing against the Hedgehog requires forthright planning – grabbing space and then doing something with it.

Let’s take a look.

National Open, Las Vegas, 2007. Round 1.

M. Ginsburg – S. Chiang

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 d6?! This passive and unnatural move leads to an overly passive Hedgehog formation. 3…e6 is the usual way to reach a Hedgehog which we will deal with in a separate installment. Black also has 3…Nc6 and 3…d5 leading to entirely different types of positions.

4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. e4 Be7 7. Be2 O-O 8. O-O By roundabout means, white has reached a favorable Maroczy Bind structure that would normally arise from 1. e4. 8…a6 9. Be3!

In this particular position, the white queen bishop is better on e3 than b2. The b-pawn can go to b4 in one move.

9….Qc7 10. f4 Nbd7 11. Rc1 b6

Now it’s important to find a direct plan that challenges black’s slow setup.

12. b4! Bb7 I learned this simple and strong method (f2-f4 and b2-b4 together) from GM Jaan Ehlvest, who used it with great strength vs me in a 2005 World Open G/30 encounter, where I was lucky to draw. Can you guess white’s next move?

13. f5!

This is the key move. By forcing the e-pawn to give way, white gains d5 for his knight and gains an overwhelming superiority.

13…exf5 14. Nd5! Everything with gain of time! 14… Nxd5 15. cxd5 Qd8 16. Nxf5 Re8 17. Bd4! f6?! (17…Ne5 was tougher but white still retains a big plus.)

And now we reach another important moment. White has an obvious edge with much better piece placement. In addition, he has already clearly forced some weaknesses but must keep momentum. Can you see the way to go forward? The right move leads to a quick win!

18. Bh5!

A very surprising motif that I remember the great Estonian GM Paul Keres used in Sicilians. The move really has the point of opening the march of the white queen from d1 to g4. Black must now succumb to further weaknesses and this spells disaster.

18….Rf8 (18…g6 19. Qg4 is clearly hopeless as the decisive sacrifice on g6 is unstoppable or a simple win via 19…g6 20. Nxe7+ and f6 falls.) 19. Qg4! Black could resign already but allows a nice finish.


Can you see the finish?

20. Qxg5+! Of course white could have won with 20. Nh6+ Kg7 (or Kh8) 21. Qxg5 exploiting the pin on the f6-pawn, but the text is more pleasing and mates faster.

20…fxg5 21. Nh6 mate.

This is not a pure mate, where every flight square is covered once and only once. Nonetheless, it’s nice.


3 Responses to “Attacking the Hedgehog”

  1. oleg Says:

    Great attack! But what’s the idea behind 12.b4? Why not f2-f4-f5 immediately?

  2. pierre Says:

    1) space
    2) stops counter play with Nc4 which would block the c-file. we want the c-file to be opened after f5.

  3. lgbarn Says:

    13 … exf5 is wrong. The correct move is 13 … e5! 14. Nd5 Qd8! winning the pawn at e4

    Right you are. White doesn’t lose a pawn but things don’t go very well after 13…e5! 14. Nd5 Qd8! 15. Nc2 Nxe4 and now 16. Bf3 forces 16…Bxd5 17. Qxd5 Ndf6! (not 17…Nef6 18. Qxa8) 18. Qd3 d5! 19. cxd5 Nd6! blockading and black stands very well.

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