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Master the Hedgehog Structure

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Knowing how to play the Hedgehog System is a useful tool for every player. English Opening, Nimzo-Indian, Anti Benoni, Queen's Indian Defense and Rossolimo Sicilian are among the popular openings which might lead to a Hedgehog pawn structure. That is why it is likely that you might be able to play this system more than once. However, for the Kan player, this system is the core of his repertoire against e4. Therefore is necessary to learn the deep secrets of this legendary setup. The hedgehog for the Kan player can arise from many move orders, for example, this one:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.a3 b6 8.Be3 Bb7 9.f3 d6 10.Be2 Be7 11.0-0 Nbd7 12.Qd2 0-0 13.Rfd1


In this survey, we will dedicate our analysis to the structure with the white pawn on f3. Note that there are other positions in which White plays with f4 and these positions are a completely different story. Let’s go one step at a time and start by the positions with f3. From the position in the diagram, the first and basic thing to know is where our pieces go. You can almost play automatically up to this point. I will start pointing out 3 key points that are obvious to strong players but not so much to beginners in the Hedgehog.

A-) Rooks always on e8 and c8

Very rarely we place our rooks elsewhere. As a player gains experience and confidence in the system he can opt for alternative plans such as doubling rooks on the c-file, placing the rooks on d and c-files or even in c and b. However, the most effective setup is a rook on c8 and the other on e8.

B-) Queen will go to b8 but almost never goes to a8

In some other Hedgehog structures, for example, when White has a fianchetto on g2 we can see Black playing Qb8-a8 but not here. We almost never play this move. The main point of Qb8 is to get out of the heat on the c-file while keeping close enough to the action.

C-) Bishops

The bishop from e7 is often brought to c7 via d8. This is known as the Saemisch Maneuver. We will talk more about it later. The bishop from b7 is often placed on a8 when necessary. For example to allow the queen to defend the b6 pawn or even to support the rupture b6-b5.

Those are the key marks you must know about the development for Black in this structure. So we continue with the natural

13...Rac8 14.Rac1 Rfe8 15.b4


Let’s talk now about what are the plans for Black in this position. First of all, our play is based on a counter-attack. Black has less space but the Hedgehog is not easy to crack. Our main goal would be to play d6-d5 in good conditions, opening the position and taking over the initiative. However, such central rupture needs a lot of preparation since White is well placed. The key point to know here is that Black has a few pre-determined ideas but then the character of the play is very static. This means that Black plays solid moves that don’t change much his position and keep him ready to counter. You should be patient when playing this system.

Black’s Main ideas:

A-) The Saemisch Maneuver

The bishop transfer to c7 is essential but as we will see in the examples sometimes the best is to keep it on d8 where it has a scope to both flanks.

B-) The Ljubojevic Plan

The advance of the h - pawn, as far as you can go in order to weaken the pawn chain g2-f3-e4 and make the d6-d5 break more effective. The good thing about this advance is that very often it comes at a moment where Black does not have any other useful move, so he simply advances this pawn and sees what new ideas can show up.

C-) The Fischer Plan

Fischer plan is based on moving the king to h8 followed by Rg8 and then g5-g4. Although this looks attractive at first sight, I do not recommend it. If White plays accurately the normal thing is that his attack on the queenside and center arrives before our attack has even begun. However, there are occasions in which White plays very slow and then, is good to remember this very aggressive idea. Having mentioned what I consider the fundamentals in order to understand the hedgehog it is time to see some examples. I invite you to examine closely each position in the database. I have selected from classics to most recent games and games of my own in this structure to help you learn more about the wonderful Hedgehog System.

The Saemisch Maneuver and the d6-d5 Rupture. A Classic Mating Combination.

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