Advanced Opening Analyses in Bughouse: The Exchange French
In this post, I will describe one of the most common bughouse setups – e6 - d5.
Unlike in chess where the exchange French is a calm and relatively boring opening, in bughouse this is one of the sharpest lines there is. It's a pretty forcing line and Black’s options are fairly limited. I will start with some common tricks that often happen here.
Here you can see why you can't play c6 because an early N will wreck your position with N@c7:
Covering the check with 4…Bd7 just loses the d5 pawn:
Thus, only one option is left:
After Qxe2+, again you pretty much can only cover with one move, Be7 - everything else is more or less bad. Dropping a piece or pawn on e4 will usually lose material after d3, 5…Be6 will lose material after P@f5, 5…Qe7 loses the d5 pawn, and 5…Ne7 is really passive and puts the knight on an awkward square. An early N@h5 is possible for White now, but it's not so scary as it can be countered with B@f8 or N@f5. However, if your partner sacrificed a knight for a pawn, you would be in trouble since you have no really good way to cover the threats N@h5 creates – this would be a good lesson showing how sacrificing material in the early opening might cost your partner a lot.
Thus, the best line for Black is as follows:
If available, an early N drop to e5 is pretty much the best thing White can hope for (7. N@e5). Black can't answer with 7…Bd7 because at this point the N sacrifice on f7 is really dangerous and thus 0-0 must instead be played. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you would know how dangerous 0-0 could be especially as Black. So first thing you should do is to tell your partner “No Queen” because if White plays P@h6 and has a Q in hand, you are pretty much dead.
I will now show you the sharpest line in the exchange French in bughouse:
Black sacrifices a whole rook and a minor piece for decent counterplay. Very important to mention is that with a lot of trades, the lost material doesn't hurt the other board that much, so this line is totally playable for Black and it has been played by the very best players.
If White doesn't get that early knight drop, the position is not as sharp:
There’s nothing really dangerous for White here unless, of course, a queen comes. Nf3 is usually avoided because of the Bg4 pin. h4 is common move in such positions, but it's countered by c5, a fast poke in the center - if the c5 pawn is taken, d4 comes and White would have some big problems to solve.
It's important to note that if White wants to go for the exchange French, they will play Nc3 on the second move instead of d4 because of the tricks I showed you with that N there (without the N being there, White wouldn’t have all those forcing lines available to him).
Now, I will analyze the closed French.
This is pretty much what Black wishes to accomplish. There are some important things to understand about this position. Both bishops must stay undeveloped. White plans to play P@f6 or N@h5 and if no pieces are available, White hopes to run his or her bishop to g3, play Bb5 or Be2, and 0-0. Black plans to drop pawns on e4 or e3, and if no pieces are available, Black plays Nce7 followed by Ng6. Here are some tricks to be cautious of:
N@c5 is countered by B@b4+
If, to avoid B@b4+, Nc3 is played instead of Nf3 (planning to go N@c5), an early pawn drop on g5 solves all of Black’s problems.
Now I will show you another critical position of the closed French:
Do note that an early P@f6 is not as scary as it looks. It's important to know that you don't take such drops; rather, you let your opponent take so that he will run out of pieces in hand sooner. You might be afraid that if many pawns come you are in trouble; for example, White might play P@f6 again and P@e7, but there is no way your opponent can get 3 pawns that fast unless you play in the random pool of chess.com with a partner who does not listen.
Finally, let’s take a look at another key position of the closed French:
N@h5 is countered by N@f5. Again, you might be scared that if a lot more material comes, you will die, but don't forget that Black can abandon their defense at any time if enough material comes and go P@e3 to hunt White's king.
You will need a lot of practice to get used to this opening, but once you master it, you won't be an easy target at all.
This concludes my analyses on the French setups in bughouse; I hope you will find them useful!