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Advanced Opening Analyses in Bughouse: The Leaf Gambit 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 e6

Jan 13, 2017, 12:02 PM 5

In this post, I will do a deep analysis of the so-called Leaf gambit in bughouse, an opening characterized by the moves 1.e4 d5 2. exd5 e6. Although this is not my weapon of choice, it is a common system in bughouse and it deserves some extensive analysis. I will first of all show all the incorrect ways to play the opening, and I will end my post by showing the reader the only correct way to play this opening. Let’s continue our discussion by making use of some diagrams which will show the important lines and ideas of this opening.

This is the most common mistake White commits. By taking the e6 pawn, the c8 bishop becomes very active, which would make this gambit completely justified.

Instead of 3. dxe6, the key move for White in this gambit is 3. Bb5+.

If Black chooses to play this line with 5…Bc5, they have to sacrifice on f2 as well because d4 is coming and a tempo would be lost if Black just continues to develop normally. At the beginner and intermediate levels, this line is fine for Black; however, at high level, it's not playable since Black gives to his partner just 2 pawns while White gets 2 pawns and a bishop. If you have read my flow control article, you already know exactly how your team will get punished. This line is just a pure piece down for Black and Black can only attack with piece drops, thus severely limiting his or her ability to play quickly.

You should be aware of the following trick if you play 3…Bd7:

Almost every experienced player got mated like this once in his life. In the final position, N + diagonal mates:

If an early pawn is coming to drop on d5 (P@d5), this position is pretty good for Black – e5 will soon be played after P@d5 and Black will get a big center in compensation for this pawn. Thus, White must ask his partner to not give White’s opponent a pawn. If no pawn comes, Black would be forced to play e6, and thus the key idea of this line, which is to get e5 in (thus liberating the Black light-squared bishop), would be prevented.

I will also show you some other lines where e5 is played. The problem with these lines, though, is that after Qe2, there is no good way to protect the e5 pawn because d4 and Nf3 are coming. Do note that Black can’t take White’s bishop because of the c7 weakness (@c7 and N@d5 are strong threats).

Another common line is the following line. Black is doing OK at the beginner and intermediate level, but a pawn down and the stupid c8 bishop are the main reasons that make it unplayable for elite players. Indeed, Black has gambited a pawn and did not receive an active light-squared bishop as compensation, so this line doesn’t make much sense.

The following line is OK for Black since the c8 bishop's problem is solved.

However, if an early bishop comes for White another problem comes up:

In the diagram above, Black is going to lose even more material since there is no way to counter the threats of Bxa6 and Bxc6+ (and, depending on your partner’s position, Bxa8 might be considered a threat; for more information on the topic of the value of the rook in bughouse, read my blog post, “Weak and Strong Pieces in Bughouse,” at: https://www.chess.com/blog/Sorsi/weak-and-strong-pieces-in-bughouse).

Due to all those problems there is just one line which is playable at the highest level, but I wouldn’t recommend it for most players:

Usually, P@f7+ Ke7 is coming next because if Black manages to castle they have good compensation for the pawn. It's important to note that when a lot material is traded sacrifices don’t hurt your partner as much because if you have 4 pieces in hand and your opponent has 5 you won’t feel it much, but if you have 2 pieces and your opponent has 3 it will hurt a lot.

I only recommend this line to chess players with supreme bullet skills. This line is all about out-blitzing and out-coordinating your opponent. Furthermore, it is a typical wild position.

Finally, I will say that many people just premove Nc3 especially in a series so they won’t take your d5 pawn which will solve most of your opening problems as Black. Therefore, keep the d5 move in your arsenal even if you are not very pleased with any of these lines.

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