The Bughouse Sicilian
Can the double-edged opening of chess be used in bughouse?

The Bughouse Sicilian


The Sicilian Defense in Chess is a double-edged fighting weapon. Whenever a strong Grandmaster is in a must-win situation as Black, they will often respond to 1.e4 with 1...c5. 

This move controls the d4 square, without being vulnerable to attack by 2.Nf3. It disrupts the symmetry immediately, and gives Black long-term prospects on the Queenside. Many games are exciting races between White's Kingside attack, and Black's Queenside attack. 

In bughouse, there is an immediate problem with 1...c5. 

With a pawn and two Knights, White can just play 2.p@c7, and after 2...Qxc7 3.N@b5 Qb6 (or any Queen move) N@c7 and Black is already losing material, and forced to move the King. Perhaps this is the worst case scenario. But there is a remedy for it: speed! If you are sufficiently fast, you can cover c7 before you are killed on the dark squares. 

In Chess terms, this would be a Kan transposing to a Scheveningen with e6 and d6. Ideally, you get something like this. 

In bughouse, weak squares can be exploited much more easily than in Chess, but they can also be repaired by the defender. While early high flow can be bad for Black, well timed flow can give Black fighting chances. I often play an early B@b6, covering c7 while considering sacrificing on the f2 square. 

You might wonder, even if the Sicilian is playable, what's the point of it? What actual benefits does Black get? First, there are some move order cheapos, which I can't resist pointing out. 

There is also the fact that if you are a French player, or a 1...e5 player, then you will have to deal with a lot of theory, a lot of which gives White a nice edge. In the random pool, the Sicilian can be a good way to get the opposing team to play against you, which may direct some of the heat away from your partner. 

But enough trickery, what is black actually getting? 

I think the bughouse Sicilian at its best is an improved e6/d6 defence. Sometimes you can do the chess-like Rc8-Rxc3 sacrifice, allowing Nxe4. Sometimes you can play b5 and Bb7. Although this is risky because White can play p@f5 and Black may come to regret removing a defender of e6. 

I have looked through the FICS database, and there is no-one who plays the Sicilian at every opportunity. But some strong players employ it occasionally. Puressence and MiniGreat use it occasionally. ChickenCrossRoad uses it rather sparingly. MysteryShuttler tells me that in over the board bughouse, it is used by even more players, including Firefly.

I will give three of my notable wins with the Sicilian, but in all cases, the flow was unreasonably in my favor, since I was taking on much stronger, higher rated players. You can look at the partner's games by going to the info section. 

A win against AtrophiedCrazyhouse:

Some pressure against YaMutt, but then my team switched to playing for the other board: 

Managed to mate Raise4Info in a time scramble: 

How should you play against the Sicilian? It depends on your approach to the game in general. My style is always to be flexible and as non-committal as I can be, while asking as little from my partner as possible. So I tend not to go in for a quick kill. But others may feel that the Sicilian should be punished, and will ask for high trades. 

I hardly play 1.e4 anymore, but if I did, and was met with a Sicilian, I would play something "chessy" like this...

MysteryShuttler also suggests to me that Kh1 in conjunction with f4-f5 is a strong idea for White, which seems right, as it doesn't depend on high flow.

I would be very happy to hear from any strong players, and I am sure that this post will undergo many revisions.