Monday, January 27, 2014

My favorite variant of chess is bughouse because it is fast, exciting, and requires good teamwork and partner coordination.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with bughouse, it is basically two players (partners) playing chess against two opponents, and if one partner jumps an opponent's piece, the other partner can place it anywhere on his board on his move.  There are endless possibilities of  what can happen in a bughouse game.
  I am definitely not an expert, but I love to play it at tournaments with other chess players, at home with my family, and online on FICS where I have played 6500+ bughouse games and gradually worked my rating up from the 800s to 1400s.  

Below are a few points which are important for improvement at my level and below, and a few observations on related life-lessons.  

1.  Speed for Survival
Most online bughouse games are played with a time control of 2 0.  3 minutes is considered painfully slow, but it's tolerated; anything slower is out--though 5 minutes is an acceptable time control over-the-board.  This means you play fast or you lose because whichever side has more time can "sit" on one board if one of the players is in trouble.  

Speed tips:  Use a good mouse, not a touchpad.  Mice are a lot faster.  Make sure pre-move is on and use pre-moves to anticipate jumping pieces back, when you are sure of what your opponent will do and what your response will be, and in a time scramble.  Do not use pre-moves in dangerous situations or when fast moves (hovering your piece over the square you're moving to and clicking as soon as your opponent moves) would work just as well and be twice as safe (fast moves can save you from queen blunders caused by pre-moves).
Life lesson: Our lives, just like bughouse games, are short.  Make the most of the time you have; don't waste it.   Get everything important done; fulfill God's calling in your life.  You want your task to be completed when your time on earth is done.  Defeat your opponent the devil, and serve the Lord.  Some people say, "Oh, I'll wait till later to make things right with God."  The clock ticks down, later, later, later.  Then time is up, and they forfeit on time to the devil.  No fun.    

2. Initiative is Essential
Initiative is perhaps the most essential factor in bughouse.  It's usually traded off between the players during the game, but the one who has it in the end is the one who wins.  It is routine to sacrifice major and minor pieces alike to get the initiative (check), because the player who is checking his opponent can often find a checkmate with pieces his partner gives.

Initiative tip: Watch the f2 and f7 squares like a hawk.  They are the most common squares used to attack kings in the opening.  Keep your king well defended, and do your best to make sure your opponent's king is not safe.  If your opponent can't check you, you have a much better chance of gaining the initiative.

Life lesson: Seize the initiative.  Take control of your situation with the help of God, and improve it.  Don't let opportunities slip away.

 3. Good Partners
 Choosing a good partner is necessary, not only to win, but to maintain sanity.  Compatibility is important.  You will learn that some partners compliment your style, and with a compatible partner you can beat higher rated opponents who don't work together as well.  Other partners may be very good in their own right, but so incompatible with you that you couldn't win a game against lower rated opponents if your life depended on it.  Besides over-the-board compatibility, dispositional compatibility is essential.  Some bughouse players have a very unpleasant disposition (to say the least) while others are nice to work with. You suffer and die, or flourish and survive depending on your partner.  Choose carefully!

Life lesson:  Choose your friends, business partners, and spouse wisely.  Ask the Lord to give you wisdom.  Good choices will help you greatly, and bad choices will hinder you tremendously.  
I still have a lot to learn in bughouse; there are a lot of tricks of the trade which only higher rated players can explain.  If any readers are in this category, feel free to comment with additional pointers.  Thanks!

Have fun & Enjoy the game!


  1. Bethany, you may be interested in Paul Fleeman's blog Life Lessons From Chess, which is very similar to your topic. Paul is the Salvation Army District Commander for Iowa and Nebraska and I am hoping he can find the time to visit Marshalltown next Saturday.

  2. Thanks for the link Hank; it looks very interesting. Hope he can make it to the tournament. Really looking forward to next Saturday!