Bughouse Openings Synchronization
I bet that most of you have been in the following situation: you play a pretty good opening, but still you lose in 10-15 moves. How is this possible? Easy: bad synchronization with your partner's opening is one of the main causes of quick losses. Sometimes, the flow hurts you instead of helping you. For that reason, you should have a decent opening book in your head so that you can adjust your openings to mesh well with that of the other board.
There is one very important general rule you have to know: In open positions, high flow favors White, while in closed positions, high flow favors Black since Black usually relies on piece drops.
If you've read my latest post about the e6-d6 system, you should have noticed that an early pawn helps Black a lot (Black intends to strike with P@b4 / P@g4). Such "early pawns" could come if the other board is playing the following openings (this is not an exhaustive list!): the Exchange French, the Leaf Gambit, and the Nf6-d5 system.
An early pawn drop (3...(or 4...)P@b4 instead of 3...Bb4) also tremendously helps Black in the e6-Nc6 system. When available, these early pawn drops equalize the opening for Black, sometimes even allowing Black to achieve a winning opening position.
If you notice some very low flow opening being played on the other board and you also note that no early pawns are coming, the otherwise very dangerous 1. e4 e5 opening suddenly becomes a pretty good option for Black as the sacrifice on f7 isn't scary when there are no pawns in hand. Furthermore, with the low flow, the castled Black king can't be easily breached, so 1. e4 e5 could really work well when there's a low flow of pieces.
In contrast, if a high flow opening is being played on the other board, all lines where you sacrifice material for the initiative become much stronger. Indeed, in order to synchronize your openings with the incoming flow, you need to have a pretty good grasp of all openings. When you see what opening is being played on the other board, you must know what's coming and adjust your decisions accordingly.
Generally, 1. d4 systems are too passive for bughouse, but if you and your partner are very good at orthodox chess / blitz, these systems are a good option for your team as with the low flow of material, the bughouse games become much more "chessy." To achieve such chessy bughouse games, a good option for White is to play the London System (same as in orthodox chess, but without c3), while Black should aim for the e6-a6-b5 setup or 1. e4 e5. Less trades and closed positions are much more comfortable for chess players without much bughouse experience.
It should go without saying that a very important factor in online bughouse is lag. It cannot be ignored! If you and your opponent lag much more than your partner and his or her opponent, both you and your opponent will be able to sit for pieces most of the time because the action on your board will just be slower. If that is the case, you must always pick initiative-based openings where you sacrifice material for a better position and the initiative.
Just to reiterate a point I mentioned earlier: if your blitz skills are superior than your opponent's, you should play low flow openings; if they're inferior, you should play high flow openings since are likely to get outblitzed should you choose low flow openings instead.
Now, let me try to show you the practical side of all of this theory that you just got done reading (I hope ). In most lines, you have a move which allows you to change the game's course toward high or low flow. Let me give an example to better illustrate my point:
In this e6-Nc6 system, this is White's go-to line when there's a high flow of material coming. Of course, White avoids the 0-0 line or the Bd2 line where a lot of material will badly hurt White (refer to this blog post again). Instead, in this line, White can harass Black with N@h5, P@h6, P@e5, etc.
Now, let's consider another line:
Here, White would prefer to play with a low flow of material since Black's P@g4 wouldn't be very dangerous without too many pieces in hand.
In general: White, when playing the French, usually picks the Exchange French if there's a high flow of material (wild & open position); if there's a low flow of material, White most often prefers to play the closed French.
Let's consider another line:
In this Nf6-d5 system, Black, trying to get some initiative, would prefer the e5 gambit if there's a high flow of material. while if there's a low flow of material, Black would just play the calm e6 line.
Finally, let's take a look at this line:
In this 1. e4 e5 line, if there's a high flow of material, White would sacrifice on f7, play P@h6, and create a dangerous attack, while if there's a low flow of material, White would simply castle and continue to blitz out the position.
Some of the beauty of bughouse lies in its vastness: indeed, there are so many other examples of opening synchronization and I can't really cover them all, but I hope you, my dear reader, got the general idea!
Don't forget: depending on the incoming flow of material, different lines work well or don't work at all. Thus, when you're playing a series of games, keep adjusting your openings to those of the other board so that you can have the edge over your opponents.