The black pawns resemble the spikes of a hedgehog, not letting white cross the 5th rank without getting hurt! The so-called Hedgehog System is one of those mysterious ways to play that captivate every chess player. There is certain beauty on how one side can concede so much space and then strike with all his power destroying the enemy’s pretentions. It’s a universal system that can be obtained from several openings, for example, the English Opening, the Nimzo-Indian, but also in the Sicilian and from several other transformations in the middlegame.
Generally speaking, it is a system that comes in handy in several situations and one that is easy to learn. No matter what your usual opening repertoire is, the fabulous Hedgehog should be among your resources, ready to be tried when the situation comes.
Employed by legendary players like Portisch, Suba, Adorjan, Ljubojevic, Kasparov, and Karpov, the three rank system is one excellent way to fight with black for the full point. It allows you to keep the battle tense and avoid simplifications.
In my career, the Hedgehog has served me quite well and we will have a look at some positions from my own practice. It is true that I have no doubt that the side with more space has better prospects in the long run.
However, at a medium-lower level it is not easy to be on the better side; with great space also comes great responsibility and inexperienced players tend to over-expand, which is just falling into black’s trap.
Guerrero,A – Castellanos,R
Position after black’s 14…Nfd7
I have just played Nfd7, trying to confuse my opponent a little with the move order. The idea is to delay the development of the b8 knight and then decide if it will be developed via c6 or d7 (after removing the d7 knight).
My opponent seems to have felt the need for a quick attack on the queenside due to the optical passivity of my position and continued with 15.b4?
A horrible move that allows black to take over the initiative in just two moves. It is a weak move, but don’t be fooled; this kind of mistakes are seen every day in this type of positions and my opponent was a fairly good player. I replied with 15…Ne5! Attacking c4 and after 16.Nd1 a5!
Black obtained a very nice game.
The spikes get bristly!
It is well known that the main ideas in the Hedgehog are to free black’s position by means of d6-d5, b6-b5, or f7-f5. These ruptures are black’s main sources of counterplay.
One of the main practical problems white has is that in every turn he will need to check for black’s d5 or b5 and it is not easy to be aware of this all the time.
Vega,S – Castellanos,R
Position after 17.Qf2
White just played 17.Qf2, putting pressure on b6 and perhaps also with some aspirations on the kingside with Qh4-Ng5, but totally missed black’s counter here.
I replied with the move 17…b5! And suddenly white is in trouble; all the x-rays along the C file and the a1-h8 diagonal are starting to show and white is very vulnerable.
There is no doubt that this system is a great practical weapon for the tournament player. To learn more about it we recommend you go straight to the specialists of the system such as Suba, Ljubojevic, Adorjan, Kasparov, and Karpov.
The latter was a great Hedgehog player; perhaps his static style helped with this, as he mastered the art of making moves without changing your position and didn’t miss the opportunity to counter-attack.
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