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bughouse strategy


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, so 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 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, but is used quite often here on FICS.

Placing pieces into your opponents position on squares that cause him or her untold discomfort; used as "You got injected!"

: Traditional FICS bughouse battle cries; one partner shouts "spooooon!!" and his partner replies "nooooooooodle"

Placing two pawns side by side on the seventh rank and promoting them; used as "I themed you!"

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.

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.

Advanced Strategy

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 blacks 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 dont 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.

The Stall:

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 you will flag 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 flag.

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.

Piece Values:

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=10, N=7, R=4, B=2, P=1

The knight and queen rule the bughouse chessboard. The queen often can 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 bishops value is seriously diminished, as it often performs no better than a pawn, and sometimes not even as well. The pawns 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 to reduce his opponents 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!

Opening Theory:

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 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 it's 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 blacks 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 blacks 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 while they are on. 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!

[Strategy written by IanO; Advanced strategy written by dogdog; editted by Friar - December 17, 1995]

See also: bughouse

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Next: help channel Up: Informational Files Previous: bughouse

Klaus Knopper <>