Weak and Strong Pieces in Bughouse

Weak and Strong Pieces in Bughouse


In this post, I am going to talk about pieces values in different situations. Most players are already familiar with the often-used piece values in bughouse:

N/B/R = 2 pawns

Q = 4 pawns

As in orthodox chess, these values of course depend very much on the position. Generally, in bughouse, quantity beats quality. It's better to have more pieces in hand than less pieces hand with a higher value, especially in the openings. Thus, in most openings, 2 pawns are slightly better than a piece and 2 pieces are slightly better than a queen. Let me drive the point home now by showing you some key positions:

In this situation, many people tend to pin the f6 knight with Bg5 and then trade it - this is, in fact, a pretty bad trade. First of all, after this trade, Black's bishop becomes really strong on f6. Besides, White is trading the dark-squared bishop, possibly White’s best piece in most opening setups, for the lousy f6 knight. Indeed, White’s dark-squared bishop is a key defensive and aggressive piece – it covers e3 and f4, which are critical squares for Black’s attack, and also attacks h6, which is a very important offensive square for White (when Black castles, P@h6 is a very strong move). Therefore, Bxf6 in the above position is a pretty bad trade. 

Now, let’s take a look at another situation in which Black offers to trade two pieces for a queen:

In this position, Black is offering a trade: 2 pieces for a queen after Nxe4. Unless your partner has mate with the queen, this is a pretty bad trade for Black. Usually, in the opening, trading 2 active pieces for a queen is a pretty horrible idea. Not only is Black giving up two crucial attacking pieces, but Black is also getting really exposed as he or she just gave up two vital defensive pieces, so N@h5 and P@h6 are two moves that will come with much greater effect. Furthermore, you also ruin your partner's game as the queen in his or her hand will be only useful if he or she has a good attack; otherwise, the minor pieces in your partner’s opponent's hand are going to dominate the board and it'll become increasingly less likely that your partner will create any attack at all.

Now I will show you diagrams that deal with minor piece vs. rook exchanges:

On paper, a rook is equal to a minor piece, but since in bughouse there aren’t any endgames (or, rather, rarely are endgames seen in bughouse), rooks usually don't do much on the board; however, they are pretty good to have in your hand (one reason might be to threaten a smothered mate). Thus, taking a rook with an active piece will usually screw up your position, but your partner may have some mating or 1st/8th rank threats with it. Make sure your partner has such threats before making the decision to swap an active minor piece for the inactive rook.

Let’s consider another common situation: 


Often, you have situations where you can win a piece of higher value in exchange for a piece of lower value or you can just take a piece of lower value for free. In the above diagram, if you take the queen, you would be 2 Ps up, while if you take the free rook, you would also be 2 Ps up. In most situations in bughouse, taking something for free really hurts the other board, so you would rather win a pawn for free than a piece for a pawn; you would also much prefer to win a piece for free than win a queen for a piece.

Having said all of this, I have to point out that the situational value of pieces depends so much on the other board. In other words, if you trade your strong bishop for a weak N or R, you must ask yourself if it is worth enough for your partner. If you make just a few bad trades, your position will become really difficult, quite often lost. Thus, when your partner wants you to feed him, make sure what you trade really is worth enough for your partner; otherwise you will lose before he wins.