How to Play Bughouse Chess: The Complete Guide

Bughouse puts an exciting, fast-paced twist on standard chess. The game is a little more complicated, but you may not want to return to regular chess once you get the hang of it!

Today, we’ll talk all about how to play bughouse chess so you can look forward to a fun game at your next gathering!

What You Need to Play Bughouse Chess

Here are the things you need to start playing bughouse chess.

  • Four players split into two teams, with two members each.
  • Two complete sets of chess boards.
  • Two chess timers.

The boards are placed in a way such that opposite colored pieces are next to each other.


How to Win in Bughouse Chess

You can beat the other team in the following ways:

  • Your team checkmates at least one of the opponents.
  • Someone from the opposite team resigns.
  • An opponent fails to make a move within the allotted time frame.
  • The opposition makes an illegal move.

How to Play Bughouse Chess

Below is everything you need to know about playing bughouse chess.

Starting the Game

To start, place the two chess sets next to each other, then sit beside your teammate and across from your opponent. On each team, one player should be playing white and the other should be playing black.

See also  Is Chess Related To Math? Exploring Their Relationship

The rules of the movement and placement of each piece are the same as in classic chess. You can strategize with your teammate about which moves to take. However, you’re only allowed to touch the pieces on the board in front of you.

Also, changing seats or switching your board with your teammate are no-goes. Each game must run independently from the other board.

Timing Moves

Each board must be running on its separate clock to prevent teams from stalling. You should make it within the set time. You lose the game otherwise.

Bughouse chess typically follows blitz timing, meaning you get 5-10 minutes to think of a strategy. You have an extra 3 seconds to make a move in addition to this.

In the absence of a chess clock, you should make a move during the time it takes your teammate to make three moves.

Capturing Pieces

The same rules of classic chess apply when capturing pieces in bughouse chess. The catch is that once you get a chess piece from your opponent, you give this piece to your teammate.

All your captured pieces should be in front of your teammate. This is your teammate’s pool. Note that the chess pieces should be visible to your opponents.

Here’s where bughouse chess gets interesting: your teammate can use your captured pieces on their game, and vice versa!

On Your Turn

During your turn, you can do one of the following:

  • Make a move on your board as per the standard rules of chess.
  • Place a piece from your pool onto your board. This is one move, and you can’t make other moves until the next turn.
See also  Can King Move Like Horse In Chess?

Dropping Pieces

Placing a captured piece from your pool on your board is a move called dropping. There are some extra rules to follow here.

  • You can drop a piece anywhere on your board, even on check or checkmate positions.
  • You’re not allowed to place pawns on the first or eighth row of the chessboard.
  • If you drop a pawn on the second row, it can do a two-step move on its first move.
  • In case your pawn promotesbut gets captured, it reverts to being a regular pawn. Your opponent can only use it as a standard pawn piece until it gets promoted again.

Winning the Game

Your team only needs to beat one of your opponents to win, even if you haven’t checked the king on the other board.

Ending In a Draw

If both kings on opposing teams get checkmated simultaneously, the game will end in a draw. Consequently, you can tie with the other team if all players agree.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Two Different-Looking Chess Boards?

The chess sets you use don’t have to look the same. It may even be more fun and confusing if there are pieces with different shapes and sizes on your board!

Is Waiting for Pieces Allowed?

Yes! You can wait for your teammate to capture a piece and give it to you before you make a move. You can use a piece as soon as it’s placed in your pool.

However, it should be during your turn and within the allotted time frame.

How Can I Get Better In Bughouse Chess?

Bughouse chess has the same base rules as standard chess. Yet, the added element of using pieces from your teammate opens up more possibilities.

See also  Can You Get Good At Chess Just By Playing?

You can improve through practice, or you can brush up on strategies.

Is Bughouse Chess Harder Than Standard Chess?

It’s slightly harder since you’ll have to think about pieces that could get dropped on your board at any given time. Yet, you can play it as long as you know the basic rules of chess.

Plus, let’s not forget that it’s certainly more fun!

Can the Chess Clocks Have Different Time Limits?

If you’re up for a challenge, you could set different time limits on each board. One game could be going faster than the other.

What Is the Best Strategy for Bughouse Chess?

In this four-player game, communication is going to be your key to winning. This means that you should be telling your teammate which pieces you need to make your next moves.

A popular tactic is waiting for your teammate to give you a piece that you need. We call this move sitting or stalling.

The most common and effective strategy in Bughouse is to open lines in front of the enemy king by sacrificing your pieces. This helps to drag out the enemy king in order to deliver checkmate.

Sacrifices that may seem dubious in standard chess is perfectly normal in bughouse as the main strategy is to ruin the king’s shelter even as early on the first few moves.

Don’t be afraid to sac a piece in order to expose the enemy king


Teammates are allowed to help each other 


Is Bughouse Chess Fair?

Yes, many people argue that bughouse chess is fairer than standard chess. Usually, the person playing white has the advantage.

With bughouse chess, each team gets to start with both colors.

To Sum It Up

Teamplay adds complexity and inclusivity to games. Because of this, we believe that learning how to play bughouse chess is well worth your time.

The rules are simple and easy to teach. Playing bughouse chess will surely be an exciting event that’ll make your next gathering fun!

Related Post: How to play Antichess variant?