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World Teams R03: The tale of two Hedgehogs!

by Sagar Shah - 20/06/2017

The Indian men's team had their first victory of the event in the third round as they overcame stiff resistance from the Belarus team. It was the man out of form Adhiban Baskaran, who played a messy yet brilliant game to beat Kovalev and give India 2.5-1.5 win. In the women's section India lost to Ukraine 1.5-2.5. Three games ended in draws and all hinged on Tania's game. She lost to Gaponenko. The two decisive games of the round happened in the Hedgehog opening and we take a detailed look at that structure in this article.

Photos by Anastasiya Balakhontseva

Indian men beat Belarus 2.5-1.5; women lose to Ukraine 1.5-2.5

Look at this creature. It's called a Hedgehog. Doesn't it look cute. Some might not think the same, and say that it's ugly. But one thing that definitely no one would say is that this little guy is dangerous! But look closely. It has thorns all over its back. The Hedgehog is a peace loving creature. It will not harass you if you do not disturb him. But if you get too close to him, he fights for his survival. And the fight for his survival can result in grave damage for the opponent.


On the chess board the hedgehog is represented by the following pawn structure:

This pawn structure for Black is known as the Hedgehog. White on the other hand has a complete clamp on the position thanks to his e4 and c4 pawns. From White's point of view, it is known as the "Maroczy Bind structure."


If you show the above structure to a Master of the mid 1900s he would dismiss it as being just poor and horrible for Black. No breathing space for Black he would say! But modern day masters have understood the power of the Hedgehog. It is a counterattacking system. Which means that Black is lying low and building up his position on the first three ranks. The moment White does something drastic or comes to near, the Hedgehog unravels and the thorns come out. These thorns in Black's position are the breaks ...d5 and ...b5. When these breaks take place on the board, it's like the entire pent up energy of Black's position is released.

Black's main idea is to break the e4 and c4 stronghold. He can do it with ...d5 or ...b5 and sometimes even ...f5. In fact Black's position is very unique. Usually when you are low on space you want to exchange pieces. But in the Hedgehog, you want to keep the pieces as Black. That's because when you finally play a move like ...d5, you want all your pieces to create threats in the position.


Just to give you an idea of how potent this system is - Ulf Andersson, the Swedish legend, has played 56 games against Anatoly Karpov. Out of that he has won only one classical game. And that victory was from the black side of the Hedgehog structure! If you look at that game carefully, you will realize that Karpov could not really grasp what was going on. His opponent's ...d5 and subsequent exchange sacrifice was a little bit too much for the great Tolya. He went wrong and lost the game.


So why am I giving you such a huge introduction of this Hedgehog system in this article. Well, in the third round of the World Team Championship 2017, the fate of the Indian team was decided by this opening. Adhiban won it from the black side against Vladislav Kovalev and gave India a 2.5-1.5 victory over Belarus and Tania Sachdev lost against Inna Gaponenko and team India lost the match 1.5-2.5 against Ukraine.

Hedgehog game no.1: Kovalev vs Adhiban

Adhiban had a dismal start to his campaign at this event. He lost his games against Duda and Yu Yangyi.

The thing which has made Adhiban different from players of the same level is his attitude. He is just so positive. And you can follow the man's thought process through his Facebook page where he wrote before the round:

Adhiban did fire in the third round and he was the reason why India was able to beat Belarus.

All three boards ended in draws and Adhiban provided the win

The point to focus on this game is when Adhiban played the move ...d5! Turn off your engines and just look at the position. Just look at how one move can completely change the dynamics of a game. From being a slow developing battle, it is now filled with tactical opportunities on all sides. The h2 pawn is hanging, the e4 and c4 pawns are challenged and a6 will also fall. This is just too much information to take in! Somehow Adhiban was better prepared mentally for this change in the tempo of the game and managed to completely outplay his opponent.

[Event "11th World Teams 2017"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.19"]
[Round "3.2"]
[White "Kovalev, Vladislav"]
[Black "Adhiban, Baskaran"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B51"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "60"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 {Adhiban comes out in aggressive mood and this
move fits into that scheme much better than Bd7 or Nc6.} 4. O-O Ngf6 5. Re1 a6
6. Bf1 b6 {Adhiban would like to enter a Hedgehog structure.} 7. d4 cxd4 8.
Nxd4 Bb7 9. f3 e6 10. c4 Be7 11. Nc3 O-O {This is the exact location of the
Black pieces in the Hedgehog. The knights on f6 and d7, bishops on e7 and b7.
Now usually the rooks come to e8 and c8 and then the queen makes her way to b8
via c7.} 12. Be3 Rc8 13. Rc1 Qc7 14. Qd2 Qb8 15. b4 Bd8 $5 {This is another
plan that you must be aware of in the Hedgehog. Redirecting the bishop from e7
to c7. Then when the d5 break takes place, the bishop aims at the sensitive h2
point.} 16. Kh1 Bc7 17. Na4 {White's play is also very logical. Most of the
times he expands on the queenside with the move b4 Na4, Nb3 and aims for the
c5 break.} Ba8 {The bishop just steps back to give extra protection to b6. But
now the a6 pawn is not defended.} 18. Rc2 d5 $5 {Adhiban thinks that he has
all his pieces in place and breaks in the centre.} 19. cxd5 exd5 20. Bxa6 Rce8
$5 {This was Adhiban's idea and one of the reasons why he had not developed
the other rook to e8. Well, Black is a pawn down, but look at his pieces. The
bishops and queen are pointing towards the kingside, knights are well placed
and most importantly the king on g8 is very safe. Objectively White may be
better, But practically Black has good counterplay.} 21. Bb5 (21. exd5 Nxd5 $13
) 21... dxe4 (21... Bxh2 22. Nf5 $16) 22. f4 $5 {Good play by Kovalev. He
gives back the pawn, but keeps the position closed.} Rd8 23. Bc6 Ng4 24. g3 $6
{I don't really like this move. It weakens the light squares around the white
king.} (24. Bxa8 Nxe3 25. Bxe4 Nxc2 26. Qxc2 {would have been a decent
exchange sacrifice, where White has enough compensation.}) 24... Ndf6 (24...
Nde5 $5 25. fxe5 Bxc6 26. Rxc6 Bxe5 $19 {The piece will be recovered with
interest.}) 25. Bxa8 Qxa8 26. Rxc7 Qxa4 {Adhiban assesses this position
correctly. Essentially he has his pieces perfectly posted in the position.
White is badly pinned and his king on h1 is also not at all happy.} 27. Rcc1
Nxe3 28. Rxe3 (28. Qxe3 Ng4 29. Qd2 (29. Qc3 Nf2+ 30. Kg1 Nd3 $19) 29... e3 30.
Rxe3 Rxd4 31. Qxd4 Qxa2 $1 $19) 28... Ng4 29. Re2 Qa3 $1 {A powerful move
threatening Rxd4 and Qxc1 or Qf3+.} 30. h3 (30. Rf1 e3 31. Qd1 Qxb4 $19) 30...
Rxd4 {A great game by Adhiban, who should the true power of the Hedgehog.} 0-1

The beast mode is turned on! It's time for some fire works now!

Results of round three:

Rank Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 MP Pts.
1 POLAND *             3 6 8
2 CHINA   *     2       5 8
3 RUSSIA     * 2         5 8
4 TURKEY     2 *     2     4
5 UNITED STATES 2     *         3 6
6 INDIA       *       2
7 UKRAINE     2     *   2   2
8 NORWAY           *   2
9 BELARUS   ½       2   *   1 4
10 EGYPT 1   ½           * 0 3

Poland leads the event with 6.0/6. Surprise pack are the Turkish guys who haven't lost a game until now.

Hedgehog game no.2: Gapononenko vs Tania

Somehow the fate of the India team seems to depend upon the games of Tania Sachdev

Tania fired in the game between India and USA and we were able to win 2.5-1.5. In the third round she lost to Gaponenko and the Indian team tasted defeat with a score of 1.5-2.5.

One of the biggest mistakes in the game was ...Rd7 by Tania in the above position. Her situation is not a great one. The a-pawn gives White good chances. However, as long as she has the rook on the board she can create some counterplay. With the exchange of rooks, there can be only one possible result. White wins. And Gaponenko managed to do that in the game. 

[Event "11th World Teams Women"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.19"]
[Round "3.2"]
[White "Gaponenko, Inna"]
[Black "Tania, Sachdev"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B41"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "165"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
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. O-O O-O 12. Rc1 Nbd7 {We have another Hedgehog,
this time through the Paulsen Sicilian.} 13. Qe1 Rac8 14. Qf2 Qb8 15. b4 Bd8 {
Tania follows the same plan that was used by Adhiban.} 16. Na4 Ne5 $6 {I did
not really like this move by Tania. The c4 pawn is well defended. And there
does not really seem to be any point of moving the knight to e5.} (16... Bc7
17. Kh1 (17. Nb3 d5 $1 $17) 17... Rfe8 18. Nb3 d5 $1 $11) 17. Rfd1 Nfd7 18. f4
Ng6 19. f5 $5 {While this seems interesting, it gives up the e5 square.} Nge5
20. Qg3 Bxe4 $6 (20... Re8 {seemed like a safer move.} 21. Bh6 Bf6 $15) 21.
fxe6 fxe6 22. Nxe6 Rf7 23. Nc3 {Overall White has the better structure, and
more active pieces, and Black's entire concept of the hedgehog has gone wrong.}
Bf5 24. Nxd8 Rxd8 25. c5 $6 (25. Bh5 $16) 25... bxc5 26. bxc5 dxc5 27. Bf4 Re8
28. Bxa6 Qa7 29. Nb5 Qxa6 30. Nc7 Qc8 31. Nxe8 Qxe8 32. Bxe5 Nxe5 33. Rxc5 Nd7
{The position that we have reached here, cannot be worse for Black as long as
the queens are on the board. Because as long as the queens exist, there can be
some sort of an attacking on the white king and the a-pawn is not so dangerous.
But the moment the queens are gone, things become very tricky for Black.} 34.
Rcd5 Qe4 35. h3 h6 36. Qc3 Kh7 (36... Nf8 37. Qd4 Qc2 $13) 37. Qd4 Qxd4+ {
Black is already in trouble here. He can never think about winning now. It's
all about defending.} (37... Qc2 $5) 38. R1xd4 Nb6 39. Rb5 Nc8 40. a4 $16 Rd7
$2 {This is another error from Black. Exchanging the queens was bad, as the
attacking chances were gone. But exchanging rooks means that the a-pawn can
never be stopped.} 41. Rxd7 Bxd7 42. Rb8 (42. Rc5) 42... Be6 43. a5 Kg6 44. a6
Kf6 45. Kf2 (45. Ra8 $1 Nb6 46. Rf8+ Ke5 (46... Ke7 47. Rb8 Nc8 48. a7 Nxa7 49.
Rb7+ $18) 47. Rb8 Nc8 48. Rb7 g5 49. a7 Nxa7 50. Rxa7 $18) 45... g6 46. Rb7 Bd5
47. Rd7 Ke5 48. a7 Nb6 49. Rd8 h5 50. h4 Na8 {Black has blocked the pawn, but
the white king will now come in and lift the blockade.} 51. g3 Bh1 52. Rg8 Kf5
53. Rf8+ Ke5 54. Ke3 Bd5 55. Re8+ Kf5 56. Kd4 Bh1 57. Re5+ Kf6 58. Re1 Bg2 59.
Rg1 Bb7 60. Rf1+ Ke6 61. Kc5 Ke5 62. Re1+ Kf5 63. Kd6 Kg4 64. Rb1 Bg2 65. Rb5
Be4 (65... Kxg3 66. Rg5+ Kh3 67. Rxg2 Kxg2 68. Kc6 $18) 66. Rb4 Kf5 67. Kd7 (
67. Rxe4 Kxe4 68. Kc6 Ke5 69. Kb7 Kd6 70. Kb8 (70. Kxa8 $4 Kc7 $19) 70... Kc6
71. Kc8 Nb6+ 72. Kb8 Na8 $11) 67... Bg2 68. Rb5+ Kf6 69. Kc8 Ke6 70. Kb8 Bh1
71. Rg5 Kf6 (71... Be4 72. g4 hxg4 73. Rxg4 $18) 72. Rb5 Ke6 73. Rb3 Bg2 74.
Rb2 Bh1 75. Kc8 Bd5 {It's not so easy for White to breakthrough, so Gaponenko
makes a few moves to tire out her opponent. I do not believe this position is
a draw, because White also has the move g4 at his disposal at any point to
change the character of the game.} 76. Kd8 Kf7 77. Kd7 Be4 78. Rf2+ Bf5+ 79.
Kc6 Ke7 80. Re2+ Kd8 81. Kb7 Nc7 82. Rd2+ Bd7 83. Rd1 {An interesting fight,
but exchanging the queen and the rook was surely a big error by Tania.} 1-0

The Indian team lost the first match of the tournament

Results of round three:

Round 3 on 2017/06/19 at 15:00
No. SNo. Team Res. Team SNo.
1 2 INDIA 1.5–2.5 UKRAINE 10
5 6 CHINA 2.5-1.5 VIETNAM 7

For a board wise break down, click here

Indian women's team now faces Poland in round four.

Rank Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 MP Pts.
1 RUSSIA *       2   3 3     5 8
2 UKRAINE   *       2     5 7
3 GEORGIA     * 2   2       4 4 8
4 POLAND     2 *       2   4
5 AZERBAIJAN 2     ½ *         4 3
6 INDIA   2     *       3 6
7 CHINA 1 2         *     3
8 VIETNAM 1           *   4 2
9 UNITED STATES     2       *   1 5
10 EGYPT     0   0     0   * 0

Learn how to play the Hedgehog:

As you saw from the games above, Hedgehog is not just an opening but way of life! It's a pawn structure that if learnt well can be useful in many different systems. Hence, it would make good sense to learn all the possible motifs available to both sides in the opening. In his 12th DVD of the Powerplay series Daniel King teaches the Hedgehog in a detailed manner. You can get it from the ChessBase India shop for just Rs.999/-


Macro alias: EmbedProduct

Description of Power play 12: The Hedgehog

The Hedgehog is not just an opening, it is a system. A system that can be used against 1 c4, against 1 e4 and also 1 d4. Some players, such as the Swedish Grandmaster Ulf Andersson, appear to play very little else with the black pieces. Black’s pieces curl up behind a row of pawns on the third rank and invite White to attack – at which point they spring out from behind the barricades to give the aggressor a nasty shock. The Hedgehog can easily transform into a tiger... This is modern chess.


Karpov was one of the first great exponents of the counter-attacking Hedgehog, Kasparov was also a great devotee and Kramnik and Anand are also experienced users. This DVD not only gives you specific theoretical advice on the main Hedgehog lines, but also looks at general strategy for both sides. Whether you play with White or Black, this DVD will help your game. Throughout the DVD, specially selected positions will enable you to test your understanding of the subject. The Power Play series is suitable for anyone looking to improve their chess, but also provides ready-made lessons and exercises for a trainer. Video running time: 5 hours.

Live broadcast and GM commentary

Evgenij Miroshnichenko and Anna Rudolf are doing a great job giving the live commentary
ChessBase India has setup a live games page where you can not only listen to the GM commentary, but also play over the live games, and also check some light annotations by the Tactical Analysis feature.
Follow the games live with commentary

Previous reports on World Teams 2017:

India has excellent chances at World Teams 2017

From Moscow with love

Opening ceremony of World Teams 2017

Live Games from the World Teams 2017

Round one: Viji's unbelievable miss

Round two: Tania powers team India to a win over USA