Bughouse Survival Tactics

Bughouse Survival Tactics


In this blog post, I will talk about important bughouse tactics that you need to know if you want to survive dangerous attacks.

***First Rule of Survival - If you are Under Attack, Play FAST***

This post is going the be about defensive patterns. Defending is really hard in bughouse. There are many important rules you need to know about defending, but the most crucial aspect of defense is the UPTIME – when you have uptime, you can tell your partner to SIT while you fix your position. Good coordination is necessary for good defense. If you see you are about to get in trouble, tell your partner to not trade much or tell him to sit. Don't wait until you are already wide open!

First, to help you defend better, I am going to show you one important defensive opening configuration:

This setup is pretty easy to learn, is quite solid, and works against almost any White setup. You can search some games of its leading practitioner, VampyreSlayer, in the bughouse database (http://www.bughouse-db.org/) to see how it works in practice. VampyreSlayer plays it almost exclusively. Do take note of the importance of the Qe7 - f6 piece configuration; it is a very key defensive idea that works in many situations. Whenever your king is attacked, just hide it on d8 – the queen makes an excellent defensive piece. 

In the next diagram I will show you a typical situation:

You will get something similar very often when your g7 and f6 squares get infiltrated. Don't be a material hog! Just sacrifice your queen on f6; Ke7 would have grave consequences as it would make your king permanently unsafe. After you sacrifice your queen, launch a counterattack before White can exploit your weaknesses. In fact, your king will be fairly safe. Often in bughouse when you are under a big attack, your queen must be sacrificed. Do it quickly as it’s usually the best move.

The next tip is about the classical P@h3/P@h6 assault on the castled king: 

In P@h6 situations, you always take gxh6 and then put pressure on the bishop on h6 with Ng4/N@f5. If White gets a pawn to put on g7, Black should play B@g5; Black’s goal is to make White take on f8. After Black plays Qxf8, the threats are now over.

Remember: the lady loves the king! If you got your queen next to your king, there is no mate.

***Second Rule of Survival - Keep Your Queen Next to Your King***

In the next diagram, we will see a heavily attacked, castled king.

In this situation your opponent has a rook, a queen, and a knight because your partner traded the house. He has two threats: 1) 1. R@h8+ Nxh8 2. gxh8=Q+ Kxh8 3. Q@g7# and 2) N@h6#. How can you defend against both of them? Well, you can't! This situation leads us to the next rule of survival (This rule of course doesn't count for high level bughouse.):

***Third Rule of Survival - AVOID Castling as Black***

The next tips are about how to use your bishops to help you survive. Remember: Bishops are the best defensive weapons.

Here, playing Black, you have some pieces in hand but not enough to force mate; you will give some checks and set up a mate, but the problem is that your opponent has a  queen in hand and threatens Q@f8#. So, do you need to lose time to protect yourself instead of attacking? Not really - you got the critical move B@c5+!! This move secures f8 and it's a check. You just throw your bishop on c5 and continue your attack. This pattern is extremely important for your survival in wide open positions.

***Fourth Rule of Survival – Use Bishop Checks to Cover Weak Squares Around Your King***

The next situation I will demonstrate with 2 diagrams:

In the first diagram, Black just played Q@g5+ and will pick up the g7 pawn. In the second diagram, Black just played Q@a5+ and will take the h5 knight. Always take a look if you can capture an attacking piece with some kind of check fork. This kind of tactic can be done with every piece. This is a very important pattern: not only will it save you many times in hopeless positions, but it will also usually kill your opponent’s whole attack.

All these patterns will help you survive, but make no mistake: it's really hard to survive when you’re under a strong attack. You must know that unlike in orthodox chess, in bughouse there is only one real threat - the threat of checkmate. All other threats can be disregarded. Thus, don't waste your time trying to counter every minor threat especially with a hand full of pieces - counterattack instead!

Don’t forget: The more pieces you have in hand, the less your pieces on the board are worth.