First, find a user who is available for a bughouse partnership. The command "bugwho u" will list users with bugopen set to 1 but who do not have bughouse partnerships. Next, use the "partner" command to select a partner. After that, find an opponent team. You may use the Bughouse channel for this purpose (channel 24), and the command "bugwho p" lists players who are members of a current bughouse partnership.
Then, one of your team challenges his desired opponent on the other team to a "bughouse" match. (A useful alias for this is "alias bug match @ 3 0 bughouse" where "bug user_name" is all you would need to type in order to match user_name to a bughouse game having 3 0 time controls.)
When the match is accepted and all four players are present, then two games are initiated simultaneously: one between the challenger and the challengee with the desired colors, and one between the other partners, with colors opposite from their partners. The same time control applies to both boards, though "moretime" can be used independently on each board. Each player is notified of the game number of their partner's game, so he may observe it as well as playing in his own game.
To help you form bughouse partnerships and bughouse matches, a special channel is available: channel 24 -- Bughouse channel. To enter this channel, type "+channel 24".
During bughouse play, you will be periodically notified when your partner passes you captured pieces. You will be told the type of piece that was passed, and the set of pieces that you are currently holding. You are also notified when your opponent's holdings change. Both player's holdings are displayed whenever your board position is refreshed. Strength assessment takes held pieces into account, not just pieces on the board.
A special move notation is needed to drop one of your held pieces onto the board. The notation for making a drop is "P@fr", where P is a piece you are holding [PNBRQ] and "fr" is the empty destination square. Example: "n@f5" would drop a knight on square f5.
You may talk to your partner during a bughouse match. It is recommended to set up convenient aliases for common messages, such as "I need a knight!!", "Don't give him a bishop!", and "Are you out of your mind?!". The "ptell" command is used for this purpose; only your partner will hear a ptell.
The match is finished when one player is checkmated, resigns, or is flagged. At that point, *both* games end and the bughouse ratings of *all* match players are adjusted, whether or not the team result was because of their game. A draw request should be made and accepted at *both* boards before the match is ended as a draw [a near impossibility].
Note that checkmate is defined differently: there must be no *possibility* of avoiding checkmate by a drop interposition. Even if your opponent is currently holding no pieces that he can drop in order to avoid mate, he/she may later get a piece from his/her partner and use it to interpose the check. Thus, only contact and knight checks can give a "decisive" checkmate (meaning that no interposition or drops are ever possible).
Observers should observe both games in order to see the full match. You can observe your partner's game using several commands: follow, observe, pfollow or pobserve. Pfollow and pobserve are special commands especially for bughouse games, so become familiar with them.
Kibitzes and whispers go to observers (and players) of *both* games even if you are observing only one game. Observers will also be notified of pieces transferred to each player's reserves. (Note that kibitz can be used as a shortcut to tell your partner something if you don't mind your opponents hearing it. It also makes the game more exciting for the observers.) A "say" will go to your opponent, as well as to your partner and your partner's opponent.
(a) Pawns cannot be dropped onto your first or eighth ranks, although they may be dropped onto the seventh rank and promoted on the next move.
(b) Pieces that had been promoted revert to pawns when captured and passed to your partner.
(c) Your partner variable is not saved between logins. Use the partner command to get a partner after you log on.
(a) Bughouse is not be supported by all interfaces. Contact the author of your interface to determine if you can play bughouse with it. If an interface relies on the board position rather than moves, things should generally work out. No new styles have been added to support bughouse.
(b) Because bughouse is such a nonstandard type of play, there are a number of commands that are not applicable to a bughouse game:
1. Adjournments and disconnections end both games and the match cannot be resumed. (This leaves a lot of room for abuse, but hey, bughouse is just for fun, guys!) The "adjourn" command is disabled during play.
2. Simul commands cannot be used for bughouse games. [FDA regulation to avoid frying the brains of the participants. :) ]
3. Takeback is disabled (for now). At best, takeback would work only on noncapture moves (including drops) in order to avoid having to take held pieces away from the other game.
4. Switch is disabled (for now).
5. Moves, oldmoves, mailmoves and mailoldmoves do work during a game, but they now break the PGN format, which doesn't allow drops. Moves are shown as "P/@@-fr" and "P@fr" in the old and PGN formats. Only moves and drops are recorded, not changes to a player's holdings. Theoretically, knowing the duration of each move in both games allows you to reconstruct the holdings as well.
6. Except for commands that terminate a game or involve certain forms of communication, commands affect only one of the two games in a bughouse match.
Bughouse games are extremely dynamic. The position never simplifies since captured pieces are constantly being recycled. Draws are unheard of. Many of the strategies used in the Japanese form of chess, shogi, apply:
1. King safety is paramount, so don't leave weak squares next to your king. This applies in particular to KB2. Diagonal weaknesses are prey to dropped pieces.
2. Contact checks and knight checks are best because your opponent cannot drop a piece to interpose. This makes the knight a very powerful piece, often worth more than a rook.
3. Drop pawns near the back rank so they can promote quickly. Pawns are quite useful for dropping in, to attack and to defend. It is illegal, however, to drop pawns directly on the first or the last rank.
4. Always keep some pieces held in reserve, rather than dropping them in for no reason. "A knight in the hand is worth two on the board."
5. Be on the lookout for sacrifices to create weakness. The game ending combination often starts with a blitz of sacrifice drops to lure the king out of hiding, and ends with a mating net.
Bughouse chess is known by many names and has many of its own "special" terms and strategies, just as regular chess does. Before attempting to play bughouse, you should attempt to learn a fair bit of both. Just like real chess, it is better to learn through study than by experience!
Please note that some of this may not be especially common in real life bughouse, but is used quite often here on FICS.
Inject: Placing pieces into your opponents position on squares that cause him or her untold discomfort; used as "You got injected!"
Noodle/Spoon: Traditional FICS bughouse battle cries; one partner shouts "spooooon!!" and his partner replies "nooooooooodle"
Themed: Placing two pawns side by side on the seventh rank and promoting them; used as "I themed you!"
Rock: Used to express confidence in the defensive resources of your position; used as "I'm rock here"
Parachute, DoubleBlitz, Doublespeed, Siamese, Chok, Tjak, Choke chess: all synonyms for bughouse chess in various parts of the world.
Annoy: attempting to bother your opponent by projected a painful stream of babble across his or her screen; as in "I'm being annoyified!"
The above should at least ensure that you aren't completely confused when you start bughouse and your opponents start kibitzing at you. Now we move on to general strategy, followed by opening theory.
The above tips will get you started. Here are some advanced tips on bughouse strategy.
AVOID leaving any holes in your position. In real chess, it may take a while for your opponent to maneuver a good piece to occupy a hole. In bughouse, any hole can be occupied immediately. This rule basically makes fianchettoing out of the question for either side, as fianchettos can be easily occupied with pawns. For example after 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 white can place a pawn on h6 already, followed by another on g7 and then white can start shouting "Inject!" The main difference regarding holes in bughouse is that you also have to avoid leaving holes on your SECOND rank. The main effect of this is to eliminate the Sicilian and Queens Gambit from bughouse, as both openings leave holes on the c-file. For example, after 1.e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nb5 a6 white can place a pawn on c7 and win black's queen already! This applies to the f- file as well. A sample game once went 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.h4 d5 4.f3?? and black placed a pawn on f2 with mate! Reinfeld said it best: in bughouse, never move any pawns except the e and d pawns. (Well, maybe he didn't say it about bughouse!)
This is the key concept of bughouse. A common saying is "As long as he's in check, I'm winning". Often, new bughouse players are lured by the prospect of winning material instead of continuing attack. While this may help your partner in the short run, you and your partner will both be more comfortable if you are attacking. The best way to attack is through checks that have to be met with a King move. To accomplish this, checks should either be done with knights (which cant be blocked) or with "contact" checks (placing a piece within one square of the king). Once attacking, communication with your partner becomes crucial. You must tell him which pieces you need to finish your opponent off, and often, it is a good idea to warn your partner that you are about to begin sacrificing pieces to ensure that he is not under attack first. On occasion, your attack leads to your partner getting mated!
This is one you don't see in real chess. However in bughouse, without teamwork you will be cooked. Use the FICS command "ptell" to tell your partner details of your position. Even if you have nothing specific to say, letting your partner know if you are rock or injected can help him or her make decisions about what to do. Clock information is also quite good to tell your partner. This is as a result of another key bughouse technique: the stall. To see your partner's time, you can use the "ptime" command. To get an update of your partner's board you can use the "prefresh" command. You can also observe your partner's game using the "follow," "observe," "pfollow" or "pobserve" commands; pfollow and pobserve are specially for bughouse games.
In bughouse, you often need a certain piece to mate with. It is perfectly
acceptable to wait and hope your partner gets it to you. However, stalling
occurs more commonly when you are being mated by force. You realize that if
you move, you are mated in one. Therefore, you simply decide not to move and
let your partner try to win the game. Naturally, for this to work, you must
have more time than your partner's opponent, or he will also refuse to move
and your team will lose on time first.
Another element of stalling is if you know your opponent needs a certain piece to mate you, and your partner tells you that it will come to your opponent next move. It is good strategy to tell your partner not to move until your opponent moves, so that your opponent will be forced to move without that piece. Again, unless your partner has more time than your opponent, this will not work, as your partner will be flagged.
Please note that there is currently a bug in timeseal that affects bughouse: you cannot flag someone with timeseal until they move, so theoretically, they can stall forever and not be flagged. "Sealsitting" is unethical and frustrating. If you have timeseal and are trying to stall, once you are out of time, the accepted practice is to move or resign. Not doing so will cause a great deal of ill will. However, it is not currently considered abuse.
Most serious chess players are familiar with the Piece Value Table: Q=9, R=5, B and N=3, P=1. In bughouse however, the values are completely different. While there is no general consensus on bughouse values, here is an approximation.
Q=4, N=2, R=2, B=2, P=1
The knight and queen rule the bughouse chessboard. The queen can often be placed into a position with mate. The knight is useful as well because it can check from a distance and not be blocked. Many bughouse mating attacks begin with a sacrifice on KB7 followed by a knight check. For example, after 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Ng5+ all white needs is a queen for f7 and black will get mated. The bishop's value is seriously diminished, as it often performs no better than a pawn, and sometimes not even as well. The pawn's promotion abilities may in some positions be worth significantly more than a bishop.
The general strategy of bughouse is for the partner with white to go for mate, and the partner with black to try to hold it together. Black attempts to exchange pieces in order to reduce his opponent's attack, while strengthening his partner's. White therefore, attempts to keep pieces on the board to ensure attacking chances. Often in bughouse, space advantages built on pawns can reach epic proportions for white, so black would rather have fewer pieces to try and rearrange in the face of oncoming pawns.
These rules are obviously meant to be general. However, understanding and utilizing them will help you play much better bughouse chess!
Yes, sadly bughouse has some opening theory. However, most of it is very short, as new pieces appearing on the board begin to mess up opening plans! Mainly, there are two or three defenses black can try, and white generally attacks in one or two ways in response.
White -- White generally positions his pieces to attack the kingside, and especially the square f7. This approach may involve Bc4, Ng5, Ne5 or any similar methods. A common development scheme used is e4, d4, Bc4, Be3, Nf3, Nbd2, Qe2, known by some as the "Mongolian Attack". Please notice that white does not castle in this line. In fact, castling is generally bad in bughouse. It restrains your king to one side of the board, thus restricting its ability to escape from enemy pieces. This rule also applies to black. White may also play for massive central pawn advances, attempting black to either open the position so that white can attack, or force black to lock the pawn chain in the center so that white can build a long pawn chain into the center and into black's position. This would work best against a fianchetto. For example, 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.e5 and white attempts to place pawns on f6, g7 and inject black badly.
Black -- I have seen several defenses for black. I will list them by the names I have seen them referred to on FICS, although serious bughouse players may know them by other names in real life.
Federkevic defense: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 b6 -- Black attempts to keep his pieces out of the center, where they may be rolled back by white pawns. He also leaves the dpawn on d7, where it may support e6, preventing sacrifices. The drawback is that black may get injected along the queenside light squares.
Barbeau Counter Attack: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 Qh4 -- Black pressures e4 and attempts to force white to adopt an awkward development to protect the e4 pawn. For example, after 2.Nc3, 2...Bb4! exchanges a bishop for a knight. The drawback is that white often munches black's queen in the opening.
Fortress Defense: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d6 - Black attempts to simply huddle in the center behind a wall of pieces and pawns. By far the most common bughouse opening. The drawback is that black will be cramped, but black is always cramped in bughouse, so this is probably your best bet!
Bughouse is much more informal than regular chess and all four players generally kibitz about both games during play. Oftentimes, observers watch and kibitz along with the games. However, come into channel 24 and see for yourself. A good way to see some of the principles above put into action is to ask in channel 24 if anyone is playing, and then watch their games. Only then will you get a sense of what fun bughouse is! Happy bugging!