Advanced Opening Analyses in Bughouse: The Bxf7+ Sacrifice

Advanced Opening Analyses in Bughouse: The Bxf7+ Sacrifice

Dec 7, 2016, 3:31 PM |

It is time to advance my blog to more complicated stuff that will reach higher level players. In this post I will do some analysis on the Bxf7 sacrifice in 1. e4 e5 setups with Be7 for Black. Let’s discuss this position further in the following diagrams:

This is one sample line. Many players prefer Be7 instead Bc5 in 1. e4 e5 setups because the bishop is a really good defender on e7, securing f6 and potentially g7.

Before continuing with the correct way to follow up the Bxf7+ sacrifice, let’s first talk about a very important position that occurs in these types of sacrifices. Most inexperienced players love to follow up their f7 sacrifice with Ng5+. It just seems like a very strong and a very natural move: 

However, unless a queen is coming, White’s attack is nonexistent. On 7. N@f7,  Black just replies with 7…Qf8 8. Nxh8 Kxh8 and Black’s king perfectly safe and up material (Don’t forget to read my blog post on piece values in bughouse.). If 7. N@f5, Black just plays 7…d5 and eliminates the N. Unless you have a hand full of pieces (which is highly unlikely that early in the game), the attack is over and you sacrificed a piece for no reason. Thus, 6. Ng5+ is proven to be an ineffective means of following up White's attack after the Bxf7+ sacrifice. What to do then? 

Well, P@h6 is the most effective way to continue the attack after sacrificing on f7. From this moment on, Black’s survival really depends on very fast play and good coordination. If too many pieces come, Black will die. If not too many pieces come, Black will eliminate the attacking pieces and enjoy a safe position with extra material. The position in the following diagram occurs after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bc4 Be7 5. Bxf7+ Kxf7 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 Rf8 8. P@h6:

Note: In this particular line, some Black players take Nxd4 because they fear Nf5, which is actually best met with d5 when the f5 knight is about to get eliminated.  Yes, after Nf5 d5, White can sacrifice the f5 knight on g7, but now 2 pieces have been sacrificed and still there is no mate coming anytime soon. Therefore, Nf5 should not be feared at all. 
The following position occurs after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 Rf8 8. P@h6 gxh6 9. Bxh6 Kg8 10. P@g7 Ne5:
White gets back the material he or she sacrificed after 11. gxf8=Q+, BUT material recovered later isn't as valuable because if your partner's position is already horrible, it's too late for that material. Don’t forget that for this line to occur, you need 2 pawns to come really quickly; if they don't come, you cannot continue your pressure. Therefore, a strong Black player will tell his partner to SIT before P@g7 so that he or she can get away with a safe position with extra material. Black can also play Rf7 after P@g7 and take on g7 twice, but this is playing with fire – Black’s partner needs to sit if Black chooses to play that way.

Here is another very common Black line that is played after the sacrifice. In this line, Black plays 7…Nxd4 (note that here, in comparison to the “Note” above, Black plays Nxd4 before @h6 Rf8):

In comparison to the line with 7…Rf8, this line is worse for Black because they need a P@e6 drop to cover the check and P@h6 will come after that anyway. Thus, the 1st line with 7…Rf8 is more common.

With all of that said, you must realize that allowing this sacrifice is really dangerous and unless you know exactly how to defend, can play really quickly, and have a strong partner with whom you can effectively communicate, you will lose more often than not. On the other hand, if you sacrifice your bishop by playing Bxf7+ against a strong team, it's very likely that you won't get your 2 pawns in time to get your attack going, and they will eliminate your attacking pieces very quickly. You will also usually lose on time waiting for pieces to attack with.

Therefore, in conclusion, one should consider wisely if he or she can afford to actually play 1…e5 in bughouse (Read my “Basic Bughouse Tips” to find out if you should play 1…e5 after 1. e4).