Here is part one of a multi-part series on the e6 nc6 set-ups. This is one of the mainstays of bughouse and I am sure you have opinions and I want to hear them!
From white's perspective:
This opening's pawn structure gives white space, and good control of f6 and g7. Along with h7, these are the natural targets white tries to exploit. Thematic attacks frequently involve white ideas of placing P@h6
From black's perspective:
Black cedes space in this opening and must always be mindful to find a way to develop the c8 bishop if given the opportunity. This is a perpetual thorn in his side. Black makes up for this for an active fight in the center and some thematic attacks of his own, involving a pawn placement on g4 or occcasionally e4, to open up P@f3
. Often times, black looks to play the double-edged f7-f5 at the opportune moment to stifle white's attacks and regain space.
Note: I put this together pretty quickly so there are lines missing. I did not go into the late-opening because there are numerous variations that get pretty complicated. I wanted to focus on the basics since bughouse is just starting here. The main line vs alternative lines are not ordered appropriately yet (for instance I strongly prefer 8. ... Qg5 to 8. ... Nxd4) but I am too lazy to fix them just now . I am still learning how to create these variations and annotate them. Does anyone know if you can modify the order of the presentation of candidate moves (alternate lines) or how to add alternate early moves after you have already constructed the whole line? It is frustrating to have to delete a bunch of variations and subvariations when you're 10 moves deep and want to add an alternate move to move 5
This opening will develop into the e6-d5 system for black. In a way it is like the french except the c pawns stay home since moving them frequently leaves tactical cheap-shots. When reviewing openings, one should be mindful of the pawn structure. This dictates the strong squares and weak squares which, in turn, can unleash or hamper a piece's potential.
Look at the pawn structure above. White has relinquished control of e4. In exchange, he is pressuring f6 and in turn g7. By placing his pawns on dark squares, he is exerting pressure on them, and his dark bishop does best staying on the c1-h6 diagonal to help undermine g7 or f6. You can imaging that h5 is a pivotal square for a knight, whereby it attacks both f6 and g7. You can also see that the light-squared bishop would be very helpful supporting this attack on the b1-h7 diagonal where it makes another target.
On the other hand, Black's pawns are on light squares. He owns e4 outright which looks like it would be a great knight outpost. Easy attacks on g2 or h2 are not as obvious as attacks on g7 or h7 but they are there if the opportunity presents itself. More often than not, however, black's plan revolves around occupying e4 and imposing control over the light squares in the center. Thereby, he might plug up some of White's plans while counter-attacking. There are many good squares for his dark-squared bishop but Black's pawns relegate his c8 bishop to the role of a helpless observer in most games.
Let us begin by analyzing the commonest lines and then considering some side-variations.
Bughouse openings follow the same fundamentals of chess openings. Develop your knights before bishops. This is because you don't want to move your bishop until you are certain which square will be best. Here, it becomes evident for white that his white bishop belongs on d3 and the b1-h7 diagonal will have the most impact. Be2 is too passive, Bc4 loses a tempo to 5. ...d5 and Bb5 inadvertently give black's c8 bishop a purpose at last with Bd7. White is building potential energy for a e4-e5 push to initiate a barrage of attacks on the black kingside.
Perhaps black could instead play for asymmetry with the dubious p@e4 which allows pxf6 and ultimately pxg7 in exchange for eliminating the d3 bishop but black stands to lose more than he gains. Instead, Black's knight can become a powerhouse on e4. Here, the knight is working well with the b4 bishop and allows for some tactical shots. The e4 square also serves to seal the powerful b1-h7 diagonal from the d3 bishop for the time being.
Several lines may emerge from here. First let us look at Bd2.
White has two options to recapture on d2. Nxd2 looks to be better (Qxd2 can be met with P@e4)
In these openings, black is frequently looking to place a pawn for e4 (or g4 in lines where the N stays on f3) to slow white's attack and allow counter attack by placing pawns on f3 and g2. This is ideal should white's king castle kingside and can be effective even if the king stay in the center. Clearly, he cannot castle queenside without running into black's majority of minors.
Black could have retreated with Qh5 but the queen ultimately will be chased while pieces are placed on the kingside both over protecting the white king and opening avenues for an assault. White hopes to compensate for the (poison??) pawn with an edge in development. If black runs out of steam, White's plans for the black king will quickly come to fruition. Black, however, is not dead in the water. There are several continuations, but only 2 have merit.
The alternative involves some flow but looks to take advantage by overworking white's knight and queen simultaneously.
With a mere pawn, black has thrown a wrench into white's plans. Options to proceed include Bxc3+ bxc3 Qxf2+ or bolder designs like Qxf3 Qxf3 Nxd4 or B@e3 if there a HIGH piece flow. White will likely try to retreat to c1 and attack on the kingside and pray he lives long enough. If white interposes with Qe2? a bishop and knight will mate.
All in 1 summary: **incomplete**