Clear communications in bughouse is vital. You want to encourage your partner to communicate with you. For example, if you say, "Is a queen trade okay?" then you have to wait for your partner to answer before you act. There also isn't any urgency for your partner to answer. On the other hand, if you ask, "Is a queen trade bade?" then no answer implies that you can go ahead with the queen trade. This creates a strong incentive for your partner to respond if they want you to do something different.
What kinds of things should you communicate with your partner? Generally, the three things you want to communicate with your partner are: queen trades, material that you would like to get, and material that your opponent shouldn't get.
Optional queen trades were already covered. If you are forced to trade queens, you should let your partner know: "Queen trade!" And for unequal exchanges, "Free queen" or "Oops, I dropped my queen." This can be shortened to just "Oops"--your partner will figure it out quickly.
There are three forms of asking for pieces. You can ask for a piece to help your game, or you can ask for a piece to win the game or to avoid losing on time.
Asking for a piece to help your game means that your partner should not sacrifice position, material, or an attack for the piece, but reasonable exchanges are okay. This is generally phrased something like, "I would like a knight." This allows your partner to do even exchanges (bishop or knight for a knight in this case).
Asking for a piece to avoid losing the game is a step up from this. The phrasing is something like, "I need a piece to block." Your partner should try for an even exchange, but in a pinch anything will do.
Asking for a piece to win the game is the highest level of this. You should only ask this when it is your move and the requested piece will checkmate your opponent. Your partner is allowed to sacrifice anything and everything except for the king to get you your piece. You should say something like "Rook or queen for game!" If you are given a request like this, and there is no easy way to accomplish it, you should say something like, "Can't get you either one" so that your partner doesn't wait unnecessarily.
If you have a strong attack going, you may want to ask your partner to stall, especially if your partner is in a bad position. On the other hand, if you are stalling because you are in a bad position, you should let your partner know.
Following these guidelines will help you play more successful bughouse games.
Last updated: December 6, 2003
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