Basic Bughouse Tips
I have been playing for several days here and I decided to start up this blog to give all bughouse players some practical bughouse tips.
Glossary of Terms
Sit: To “stall,” or to not move (almost always when you have more time) so that one’s partner’s opponent doesn’t get a piece he or she really needs. See “diagonal clocks” and “uptime.”
Diagonal clocks: A concept used in bughouse to judge who is “up time.” In single-player chess and chess variants, the person with more time on his or her clock is the one who is up time. However, in bughouse, what matters is the time of one’s partner’s opponent – it is this time that will judge whether one can keep a piece from his or her partner’s opponent or if he or she has to move lest he or she loses on time.
Uptime: The extra time one player has compared to his or her partner’s opponent. Sometimes, one player could be up time while his or her partner is down time.
Go: A term used to tell one’s partner that he or she should move and to stop sitting.
+++: A term used to tell one’s partner that a lot of trades are helpful for one’s position.
---: A term used to tell one’s partner that a lot of trades are harmful for one’s position.
High flow: A synonym for “high trades.”
Low flow: A synonym for “low trades.”
Studying Bughouse Games
First of all, if you are fairly new to bughouse (below 3000 games), don't study top players’ games from http://bughousedb.com as it will only hurt your game. You cannot do what they do and get away with it. Instead, I recommend that you study the games of players with a rating of about 2000 because they will teach you practical things which will be useful to your game.
As far as openings are concerned, I see so many inexperienced players answer 1. e4 with e5 or even c5 – if you are rated under 2000, don’t ever do this! In 1. e4 e5 lines, the sacrifice on f7 is lethal unless you can defend really well, move really quickly, and coordinate very well. I recommend that all beginners and intermediate-level players play closed openings like the French (without c5, as c5, a move that leaves c7 horribly weak, is a very loose move in bughouse), Nf6 - d5, or e6 - Nc6. I also recommend that such players NEVER CASTLE unless absolutely necessary. Just stay in the center and put your queen on e7 as the queen on e7 makes it pretty hard to get mated. Top players, on the other hand, often play 1…e5 after 1.e4, castle, and play very sharply; they also defend very precisely and make use of their uptime – remember, though, that if you’re not a top player, you can’t play like them (yet)! Indeed, if you play really quickly, make good moves, always look at the other board, and communicate well with a partner whose also doing all of these things, you can of course afford to get mated by a knight or a pawn – simply because you and your partner will make sure that such a piece never comes. However, if you are not an elite bug player and try to do a sharp move, you will just get mated. It's as simple as that.
As a beginner and even as an intermediate player, your main goal is to play solidly - keep the king safe!
Listen to Your Partner
Another important tip I will give you is that, when your partner has a much higher rating than you (for example, you are 1300 and your partner is 1900), listen to his advice as best as you can! When your partner outrates you by a large amount, this makes you the support board, which means that you must play to support your partner. Look at the chat - if he feeds you any moves, play them right away! Remember: whoever attacks in non-elite bughouse usually wins, but that only means you must keep an initiative - DO NOT ATTACK WILDLY AND UNSAFFELY. DO NOT SIT FOR PIECES (unless your partner told you to do so). Just try to keep moving and trade a lot.
The uptime is one of the most important factors in this game (to have more time than your partner's opponent). Let’s say you have a strong attack and need just a pawn to mate your opponent; however, you are 10 seconds downtime, so that pawn will never come and, because you probably sacrificed a lot to get such an initiative, your opponent will likely start a counterattack of his own and you won’t be able to defend since the pieces you need will never come. That's why you should avoid sitting for no good reason – you lose time and time is extremely important. In time, you will have the intuition and knowledge needed to figure out when it is appropriate to sit for a piece and when to move, but as a beginner, you should keep moving and avoid sitting.
Let’s consider another situation: if you have a forced mate with some drop, first look at the other board and check the time and the position - if you are down time, keep moving as the piece won’t come. If you are up time, consider if your partner can get you that piece while you STILL have the uptime. If he can, told him to do so; if he can’t, don't bother him at all! Your bughouse motto should be: Just keep moving.
Another typical blunder happens when you are in a sharp position where a queen mates for both you and your opponent. It's your move and you tell your partner to trade queens but you do not check the TIME. He offers a Q trade and now the opponents SIT. Guess what? That queen will come right in your face on your opponent's move.
These are all the tips that came to my mind. They are just some practical pieces of advice to help beginners and intermediate-level players to improve their game.