Let’s Bughouse! Playing Against the Sicilian, Part 3
Hello again, and welcome to Part 3 of Playing Against the Sicilian. (Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.) Today we’ll discuss early pawn drops, as well as white’s Accelerated Attack. As @happytoad mentioned in a comment to Part 1, if pawns are traded early on the other board, black can play 3…p@e4 or 3…p@g4.
In bughouse, the middlegame starts when pieces are dropped, and they are notoriously difficult to analyze. Unlike crazyhouse, the pieces a player might get in any situation can’t be predicted. Instead, knowing the key ideas for no flow, low flow and high flow continuations take the place of deep critical line analysis. With so many options, focusing on a single line is often a waste of time.
(tl;dr? With early drops in the Sicilian, white focuses on gaining space on the kingside in preparation for a sacrifice on f7, while black also wants to drop pieces on the kingside to compensate for her problems with effective development.)
Dealing with Early Pawn Drops – 3…p@e4
This line begins 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. e5! p@e4. Every pawn move forward leaves a hole behind it. In bughouse, these holes are more easily exploitable due to piece drops, and black takes full advantage. By kicking the white knight from f3 and establishing a pawn on e4, black hopes to gain counterplay on the light squares around white’s king. This also undermines the pawn on d5.
In no-flow and low-flow continuations, this is easy to handle after 4. Ng5 Nxe5 5. Nxe4. White attacks the pawn on c5. If black defends it with 5…d6, white can play 6. p@f4 to harass black’s knight.
When pieces do start to come, white’s looking to continue to gain space on the kingside, in order to control the board and make trades to her partner’s advantage. A pawn injection along d5 and e6 is also a possibility.
If there are no pieces for a while, normal development and principled play work.
White's strategy is the same for high-flow games, with the acknowledgement that white will trade her queen at some point, usually for a minor piece and a few pawns. Warning her partner now is a good idea, so he can avoid queen-drop mates, as well as prepare to control space on his board. (A minor piece plus two pawns in hand is often a bigger advantage than queen in hand, especially in cramped positions.)
Black, in turn, jettisons the c5 pawn for attacks on g2 and c2. One representative line is:
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. e5! p@e4 4. Ng5 (attacks and protects f3) Nxd5 (protect f7) 5. Nxe4 p@f3 6. gxf3 N@h4 (threatens p@g2 and Nxf3)
7. p@g2 Nexf3+ 8. Qxf3 (not 8. gxf3, when after 8 …p@g2, white’s king is nearly smothered) Nxf3+ 9. gxf3
After the excitement, white has control of the center. With even trades on her partner’s board, she has enough to launch an attack of her own on f7, when black’s lack of development and pieces in hand become liabilities. With 9… Nf6 10. N@g5 N@d4 11. B@b3 (threatens mate and defends most weaknesses) p@e6:
…black does have chances around the idea of p@g2 Q@e2. Unfortunately, white’s extra pieces in hand allow her to defend, while f7 is likely to stay weak. If black drops B@g8 to defend, white will shore up her kingside and slowly squeeze black off the board.
Another representative line is 9…d5 10. Ng5 Nh6 11. p@e6 (taking advantage of black’s backward e-pawn)
White’s major weaknesses are covered for at least one move, she’s threatening the only defender on f7, and the c1 bishop is freed to aid in dark-square attacks on c7. Even better, she’s only dropped one pawn so has an army in hand ready to parachute into black’s position. Black will often sit for a defensive piece, then still have issues:
13…B@g8 14. Bxh6 gxh6 15. N@e5 (to attack both f7 and d7) B@g6 16. B@a4+ N@c6 17. p@d7+
Without any inroads towards white’s king, black’s position deteriorates quickly. Keeping a pawn on the light squares is important, which is why 3…p@g4! is a more vigorous try.
Dealing with Early Pawn Drops – 3…p@g4!
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. e5! p@g4! equalizes. Black has an extra pawn and an attack along the light squares. It can be very tempting for white to white to fight back with 4. p@d5?!, but that’s a mistake. Black has the initiative.
After 5…exf3 6. dxc6 fxg2 7. cxd7+ Bxd7 8. Bxg2, black is in control. Her threats attack white’s king, while white’s threats are on the queenside. Black still has pieces on the kingside; white doesn’t. Even if white wins the rook on a8, her king is far too loose.
Black’s idea is to weave a mating net, or possibly win white’s queen, depending on what’s best for her partner.
Position after 9…N@f4 10. Bxb7 p@e2:
Position after 9…N@f4 10. Bxb7 B@g4 11. p@f3 Ng2+ 12. Ke2 N@f4+ 13. Kf1 Bh3:
Position after 9… p@h3 10. Bxb7 B@g2 11. Bxg2 hxg2 12. Rg1 N@h4:
Black’s pawn on c5 helps control the center, and white’s major threats can be parried with a gain of time by sacrificing the rook.
Instead, white should continue to focus on f7 and kingside control.
After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. e5! p@g4! 4. Ng5 Nxe5, white needs to act decisively. The centralized knight on d5 protects f7 and the pawn on g4, and makes white think twice about developing a bishop to c4.
With no immediate weaknesses, black wants to get knights on f4 and h4, then drop pawns on f3, h3, e2 and g2. She can play B@h5 to overprotect f7 and intensify the pressure on the light squares, and as long as she leaves her pawn on d7, her light squares are safe.
In a no-flow position, white can fight back with p@f4. Black doesn’t have the pieces to make her attack work yet. If the e5 knight falls, white’s queen can pick up g4. Then, white controls space on the kingside until a queen sacrifice can open f7.
Position after 5. p@f4 h6 6. fxe5 hxg5 7. Qxg4 d6 (to prevent N@e5 later)
8. e6 Bxe6 9. Qxe6 fxe6 10. B@g6+ p@f7 11. p@f5 fxg6 12. fxe6
She can also play 5. Nxf7 Nxf7 6. Qxg4 to defend against immediate threats. And again, play keep away with the queen until pieces come.
Position after 5. Nxf7 Nxf7 6. Qxg4 Ngh6 7. p@g6
In a higher flow game, white pounds on f7:
Position after 5. B@h5 (to attack f7, control the light squares and prevent black from playing B@h5) B@g6 6. Bxg6 (not 6. Bxg4 Bxc2) hxg6 7. Nxf7 Nxf7
8. p@f5 B@h7 (not 8… gxf5 9. p@g6) 9. Qxg4 N@d4 (9...gxf5 10. p@g6) 10. B@b3 N@e5 11. p@e6
...and we have a game Whoever's best at navigating the complications will usually win the board.
Finally…White’s Accelerated Attack!
Because the early pawn drop on g4 is equalizing for black, there’s a looming question. Is there a way white can aim for the better positions while avoiding that? As it turns out, there is: the long-awaited Accelerated Attack.
This threatens the immediate p@d6, and because the knight is not yet on f3, an early pawn drop loses its sting. Normal development usually transposes into one of the other lines we’ve discussed.
Those positional and tactical themes are harder to see from this position, which is why I saved it for last. It’s one thing to say this move order is more aggressive and has long-term play along the dark squares, and another to understand why. If you’ve stuck with me this far, I’d like to make it worth your time.