Guest Post: A Series of Inaccurate Moves
Written by the user RattleShakeFries.

Guest Post: A Series of Inaccurate Moves


The author of this post, RattleShakeFries, hails from an old site called FICS ((fantastically inaccurate chess site (not to be confused with FICS, the free internet chess server).

Most blogs on bughouse, I imagine, contain examples of patient positional play, followed by daringly speculative sacrifices, with some drama on the partner board where it seems that the material necessary to mate will not be forthcoming, but someone sees a barely discernible way to win a piece which forces a barely discoverable mate on the other board. Or perhaps they contain seven-move mating combinations involving only minor pieces and an underpromotion to a Rook. Maybe other bughouse blogs will teach you all about opening theory, with their various exotic names, like the Hyper Accelerated Knight Poke and the Deranged Flying Bishop variation of the Italian opening. If you wish to read such a post, you are in the wrong place. This post contains only the most dreadful moves, from third move queen blunders to self-mates, and it is my duty to chronicle them all. Reading the post may cause your rating to plummet without even playing any games, or it may cause you to forget how to play bughouse. It may also have some slight instructive value, but probably not nearly enough to make it worth all of the necessary despair. I can only suggest you read some other work of bughouse pedagogy, like The Pawn that Promoted, or The Knight that was Pinned but wasn't Captured Due to a Mouse-slip. With all of that said, let's look at our example game. 

Our players are ArenaFranklin (rated 1831), partnered to QueenCapturer85 (rated 1750), paired against WinimyQuitit (1820) and TiltedTuesday (1769). 

On the first board, the game between ArenaFranklin and WinimyQuitit commences in the following way:

 On the second board, the game between TiltedTuesday (White) and QueenCapturer85 (Black) features an opening only respectable at the supercomputer level.

At first glance, it may seem as if the unusually high number of question marks assigned is excessive, or hyperbolic. But it is not the case. In fact, it was an example of profound restraint to give as few question marks as I did. Both games are entirely wrongheaded. 

What can be said for the moves on the other board? 
Perhaps you are sufficiently discouraged from continuing. But unfortunately, we are not close to finished with out disheartening task of enumerating the flaws of 4...Nxd1???????

The rest of this game is too drearily depressing to look at. To spare the reader's eyes, we now turn to a possible alternative defensive setup. 

Perhaps there is something to be gained from all of these tangled and poorly considered maneuvers, but probably not, since these kinds of posts are overwhelmingly read by the same 17 players who already know how to avoid these sorts of pitfalls, and ignored by the rest. But in an optimistic (which here just means 'stubbornly delusional' spirit, we will try to enumerate some guidelines as to what to do, as opposed to what not to do. 

There are some chess variants which taken on very un-chess-like qualities. That is not to say that they are not interesting, but it is to say that their relationship to chess is more like that of a long distant second cousin three times removed than a brother or a sister. Atomic chess, wherein any capture explodes everything around it, is probably about as closely related to chess as human beings are related to goldfish. It is still chess, because the starting position is the same (please do not suggest that we introduce Atomic 960 in the comments--we are all already quite depressed enough), Bishops move like Bishops, Knights move like Knights, and the King is still the most important piece.  Bughouse is close to chess. It is like a brother or a sister who you see one or two times a year, perhaps exchanging items that each of you would both like to get rid of as gifts. Of course, there are many things that you should do in chess that you should not do in bughouse, but there are some good rules of thumb for both games. In many cases, setups which are good in chess are good in bughouse. (The main exceptions are moving the c pawn and moving the f pawn.)

1) In chess, when your opponent sacrifices on you in a such a way that you are forced to move your King, it is often a good idea to quickly artificially castle by moving your rook and then moving your King.

2) If you are unable to prevent a sacrifice, you should prevent the follow up. If the follow up is a Knight check, prevent the Knight check. Playing in this way will help you develop a good eye for controlling key squares, which will help you weather many storms, providing of course, that your partner does not give an unreasonable amount of material. Of course, hoping to be lucky in bughouse is often like hoping to be a cinnabon or an energy drink. 

3) If you must give up a valuable piece, try to do it while keeping the initiative. In the following position, White has a Queen and Knight in hand. Black has a lot of diags and other pieces, but no Queen. It is Black to move. 

It is better just to drop the pawn at e3 directly. If White takes the Queen, Black can attack, and plausibly win. White's King is hemmed in by White's own pieces. 
4) Defend while developing. This helps create space around your King
White places a pawn at d3...
Black drops N@h5
White drops B@g3
(I think B@e3 is better than B@g3.
It also seems that Qd2 would be a way to create room for the King while trying to cover some dark squares.)
Black drops p@h4
White drops N@f1, defending g3. White is then quickly massacred on the dark squares, which here means "N@f1 was probably bad, and the preceding moves were probably also bad."
In the final position, White is mated due to lack of space around the King, as well as lack of dark square coverage.

5) Blocking checks is often better than moving

This rule of thumb applies to all pieces except the Knight. You cannot block a Knight check, but you can block the Queen, Bishop, and Rook checks. Blocking checks reduces the number of squares that the opponent controls. In many cases, failing to block a check can turn an uncomfortable position into a lost one. It is of course, better to be uncomfortable than to be lost. If you are uncomfortable, you are still in the game, and it will be some time before the next game in which you have to defend an uncomfortable position. 

When you block checks, you usually reduce the co-ordination of your opponent's attacking pieces. 

Of course, these rules of thumb should be backed by solid calculation, which is very hard, especially when your partner is telling you that it's your move and you need to hurry up. But if you are an improving player, you should not only play to win, but to understand. You should try to calculate during the game, and you should review your games afterwards. Strong players are strong because they use rules of thumb and know when to break them.

All of these bad defending moves are undoubtedly demoralizing to look at. Although I did suggest that you read something more entertaining. I can only hope that this was instructive, and not a complete misuse of your time.