Just the other day I played my first game of Bughouse Chess and it quickly descended into a frenzy of piece sacrifices. It was a really fun experience even though my being new to the format got my teammate checkmated rather quickly. I was winning on my board but that was only making his life more difficult! How is this possible? The secret lies in the strange rules.
To play the game you need three friends and two boards since it’s played on teams. You’ll want a chess clock set for five minutes. Each team plays on one board as white and one as black, simultaneously. You play normal chess except that when a piece is captured on one board the owner passes it across to their teammate. The teammate can then use a move to place that piece on their own board. A player can shout out the pieces they need to be able to pressure their opponent, or even survive, and their willing partner can try to sacrifice that piece on his own board to assist them. The game requires attention to both boards and extreme cooperation.
Even in the bughouse some rules still apply however. A piece can’t drop into giving an opponent check and if one board loses the match concludes. If the first game is drawn then play will continue on the other board.
I really feel that playing this game can improve your standard chess rating; it rewards and encourages sacrificial play. No, they’re not always the soundest tactical maneuvers but repeatedly seeing how the pieces interact with one another can only be beneficial. So much of high-level chess play revolves around piece coordination. Many potential combinations in a standard game are overlooked because the player has not yet honed their creative talents, though they may have a good innate tactical sense. Bughouse will enhance the level of fine detail you can absorb as well as keep your love of chess fresh. Give it a try and I’d love you to post some of your game scores in the comments. Maybe we’ll analyze one in a future column.