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. Parachute,
DoubleBlitz, Doublespeed, Siamese, Chok, Tjak, and Choke chess are all
synonyms for bughouse chess in various parts of the world.
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
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.
Annoy: attempting to bother your opponent by projected a painful
stream of babble across his or her screen; as in "I'm being
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"
Rock: Used to express confidence in the defensive resources of your
position; used as "I'm rock here"
Themed: Placing two pawns side by side on the seventh rank and
promoting them; used as "I themed you!"
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
Holes: 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
Initiative: 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!
Teamwork: 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
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 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.
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=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.
White/Black: 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
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 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 has several common defenses.
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
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
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
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!
bughouse follow observe pfollow pobserve prefresh ptell ptime
Created: 24 January 1998 IanO
Last Modified: 27 February 2008 mhill