Thursday 29 March 2018

Preview of Round 2 of the Crazyhouse World Championship

In the round of 128, we avoided too many stunning surprises, with most of the top boards progressing serenely to round 2 which is underway. While we can still bank on the tournament favourites to go forward unscathed, we can nevertheless expect some high-class and thrilling matches.

The most interesting challenge to the top 10 boards we expect to come on board 9, where the theoretical tactician Vempele is facing off against Alexnader123 (#73), who surprised in round 1 with an 8-1 demolition and openings clearly inspired by World Champion JannLee. Alex, who according to his profile is quite new to the ZH world, has risen quickly into the top 50 leaderboard. Will Vempele, who will surely test his opening knowledge, be a hurdle too high for him?

The masters of regular chess have a tough challenge ahead of them as GM Arka50 (#51) faces off against JohnStuckey on board 14, while board 19 will feature the lichess regular FM MagicAndy (#46), who will clash with atamek. According to the seeding, the most balanced battle will be between the streamer IM larso (#32) and the crazyhouse veteran mathace (#33). 

Some other intriguing match-ups to look out for are pknm (#24) – burpcow (#41), crosky (#27) – ciw (#38) and terra87 (#30) – NM ArtOfDeception (#35), the latter match just played. We will report on the results and offer some in-depth analysis at the completion of the round as we did for round 1.

To conclude, we would like to remind players to announce the times they arrange their matches in advance on the relevant CWC forum thread. These will be updated on the calendar. That way, spectators and fans will be able to follow the matches by clicking the tv icon of the relevant player on lichess, and live-chat with each other on Discord

See you soon with the recap and analysis of round 2!

MMichael (with okei)

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Round 1 Recap of the Crazyhouse World Championship

There were over 150 players who signed up for the 2018 Crazyhouse World Championship (CWC), so a qualifying tournament was organised with over 1000 other participants to reduce the field to 128. A double-elimination knockout among these 128 seeds is now underway to choose 8 to join TwelveTeen and opperwezen in the Candidates round-robin Tournament, the winner of which will face off against Champion JannLee to crown the 2018 Crazyhouse World Champion. The players themselves are responsible for organising their matches against their assigned opponents and notifying the time they have scheduled in the official thread so that it can be added to the calendar and fans can watch. In round 1 it was seed 1 against seed 128, seed 2 against 127 and so on. This means that the first rounds should be rather easier on the really strong players, while lots of tight games are expected in the middle of the draw. 

Crazyhouse can be a brutal game against a stronger opponent, so as expected a lot of the top boards made a clean sweep winning their matches 10-0. Players can stop playing once the match is decided but playing all ten games is encouraged for the sake of spectators of the game and playing a stronger player, while humbling, is also a good learning experience. In my own match, I (okei) lost 0-10 to profz, flagging with mate on the board in game 9 with what would have been a nice consolation. See if you can spot the mate in 4:

The toughest challenge to the top seeds was given by Simba7 (#116), who managed to score 3 wins out of 10 against #13 seed IM gsvc. See if you can find his winning move in the following position:

If black flees his king to a8, then a queen drop on a6 would have carried a double mate threat on a7 and b7. IM gsvc bounced back however, converting game 9 particularly elegantly with a triple smother:

Other underdogs who caused headaches to their opponents were RussianDragun (#103) against TaylorEternity (#26), opening up game 1 of their match with a smothered mating combination:

But he missed the winning move in another game. What to play instead of R@g8+?

Another player who scored 3 wins against a much stronger opponent was Schachmalanders (#102) against crosky (#27), the founding father of the /r/crazyhouse subreddit. Crosky was black in the following position with an unstoppable mating attack of his own so long as he could get his own king out of checks. Where is safe to run? 

Crosky did what any crazyhouse player intuitively would: try to avoid losing the queen with check. But a deeper calculation shows Kxf7 and running to g8 is perfectly safe while the other way the queen will fall anyway with check. Schachmalander made no mistake although overall crosky proved too strong for him.

The biggest upset of the round was LegionDestroyer (
#93) beating #36 seed matser 7 games to 3. See if you can find his sweet combination as black in the following position:

Another strong performance was from Karagialis (#81) who beat the #48 I0euros. Leading 5-4 and in a completely winning position, Karagialis flagged leaving the match tied at 5-5 after 10 games. But he continued to play solid crazyhouse, exploiting pins to set up big attacks to take Games 11 and 12 and so win 7-5. Most memorable was the second game of their series, annotated in detail below.

Note in particular the desire from both players to avoid opening theory, the interesting rook lift from Karagialis and the imaginative way he brought his queen into the attack, sacrificing the rook in the process.

The biggest upset scoring-wise was Alexnader123 (#73) who took an unassailable 8-1 match lead against anduchess (#56). His style and opening play seem to draw inspiration from JannLee and we think he is one to watch for the future. He did leave chances however. Can you see the mating combination anduchess missed in their first game:

Game 8 however was an attacking masterclass from Alexnader123, annotated here:

Not taking the pawn on h6 on move 12 and not taking again once it got to g7 proved to be lethal.

Knowing when to take and when not to take is an important skill at the intermediate to advanced level. This CWC round 1 position between Ominous and the strong terra87 is another good example of this. What would you play as white here?

Ominous played 16. gxf3 and the end was swift. Can you see black’s mate in 5B@g3 or even Bxf3 would have been safer because the h3 square remains defended after Black recaptures.

The game of round 1 however would have to be this 92-move epic between Bofrostmann and esken, in which esken ultimately triumphed, winning also their match 6-3 in a closely-fought contest.

To complete this round-up, the match of round 1 was the two-hour battle that went four games into over-time between KyleLegion and PawnInTraining. First, KyleLegion found a cool mating sequence starting from this 

PawnInTraining bounced back with a neat mate:

From 2-5 down, PawnInTraining levelled the match at 5-5 and then took a 6-5 lead. But KyleLegion then pulled out three games in succession to take the tie 8-6. The following position was critical with PawnInTraining having a subtle mating idea as black, but the move he played was too slow.

The key question one has to ask oneself is which move leads to mate in the fewest moves? B@h3, which he played, carries mate in 2 threats. Moving the knight on g2 by contrast threatens mate in 1! This mate can easily be blocked by dropping on g2, but there is one knight move which weakens white's back rank, creating a second more complex mate threat that cannot be blocked. Because he was a tempo behind, KyleLegion had time to play fxg7 and his attack ended up breaking through faster, a real lesson in the importance of tempo and keeping initiative!

Puzzle Solutions: You can see the detailed analysis of all the above positions in chapters 1-15 of the CWC Round 1 study 

Some of the matches in round 1 were live-streamed and you can watch them here (update — linked videos were removed from Twitch and will be re-uploaded if possible on YouTube): 

Mugwort - just2play

okei - profz
KyleLegion - PawnInTraining
Simba7 - gsvc & matser - LegionDestroyer
the-lone-wolf - ArtofDeception
Chucklemagne - broskall6

The CWC is now entering round 2. Do join the House Discord: and check out the unofficial calendar and CWC team page to stay updated. We will continue to keep you posted here too on the crazyhouse blog. 

okei (with MMichael) 

Sunday 25 March 2018

2018 Crazyhouse World Championship: An Introduction

Over a year has passed since the Crazyhouse World Championship (CWC) was created by FischyVishy on Lichess. The first CWC was 2017 when we had a qualification round to reduce the field to 64 players, then three knockout rounds after which eight Candidates remained. Each match was a head-to-head of 10 games of 3 minutes each no increment (3+0) with matches continuing another 2 games in case of a tie. Those final eight players then played a round-robin Candidates Tournament, in which ties stood. The top Candidates were TwelveTeen and JannLee who then played 60 thrilling games over three weeks to decide the Championship. There were long streaks when TwelveTeen dominated tearing up the board with his attacks, then JannLee fought his way back with masterful play. After the dust settled on this epic showdown, the final score was 31.5-28.5 in favour of JannLee, making the Australian (real name Justin Tan) the first Crazyhouse World Champion. 

Now, since February 2018, the second iteration of the CWC has begun. Will there be new theoreticians of the game that break through or will the old guard be wily enough to maintain their dominance? As before, each match will consist of 10 games (plus two in case of a tie until the tie is broken), but the time control is 3+2 (2 seconds extra per move) to avoid chaotic time scrambles and dirty flagging techniques, making the ending of games higher quality and more spectator-friendly. In 2018, the Candidates Round will consist of 10 players: TwelveTeen as the runner-up last year, opperwezen as the wildcard who finished third last year and 8 more players who have to qualify from a double-elimination knockout tournament which is on-going. The current standings can be seen here. The winner of the round-robin Candidates will play the incumbent World Champion JannLee in a grand final. The loser will qualify automatically to next year’s Candidates. Again, we have FischyVishy to thank for both funding and organising this spectacular event. 

We hope to keep you updated on this blog as the tournament progresses, both the matches to look out for, and to keep you updated on matches you might have missed. The top 10 seeds still seeking to qualify through to the Candidates are led by FM gnejs (2878), who is known to be an elite bughouse and crazyhouse player for over a decade now. He is followed by allyouneedisluft (2870), mastertan (2837), xuanet (2748.5) and blitzbullet (2739), who were all playing in the 2017 Candidates Tournament. It’s quite clear that any of these players have the skill and ability to progress far this time as well. Seeded 6th is GM FeegLood (2717), who recently confirmed his title on Lichess, a very talented chess-variant player, as they also managed to reach the semi-finals of the Atomic World Championship before being taken down by the current Atomic King GM Arka50. Seeded 7th seeded is littleplotkin, who despite his moniker “little” is quite a giant when it comes to playing crazyhouse and was runner-up to JannLee in’s 2018 Crazyhouse Swiss championship. 8th seed is GM-elect and popular streamer penguingim1 (real name Andrew Tang). 9th seed is a new player from Finland, Vempele, who despite only joining Lichess at the end of July 2017, has quickly rocketed to be among the top crazyhouse players and is highly respected as a great theoretician and artist of the game. Last but not least among the top 10 is B0N0B0, who has been playing crazyhouse for many years and is a familiar name in the community.

From last year’s top 10 rankings, JannLee is obviously the Champion, while TwelveTeen and opperwezen are directly through to the Candidates, so only FM chickencrossroad and eekarf are absent. Chickencrossroad was the runner-up to JannLee in the 2016 Swiss Crazyhouse Championship, but pulled out of the Crazyhouse World Championship because of other commitments and has not returned this year. Other top players from last year who have not returned include saturos, Atrophied, IM Bugzilla, puressence, ikaravodah, sharkmeister and Lance5500, while mariorton, YScorpion and trataredeganart, have never taken part. Nevertheless, these are the exceptions. And we are glad to see a lot of new names this year, among them FM gnejs and Vempele already mentioned but also FM garnek123 (#12), IM gsvc (#13), JohnStuckey (#14), and the popular streamer helmsknight (#16). Some other well-known names: IM HighContrast (#18), atamek (#19), apterigo (#20), profz (#21), Kleerkast (#22) and pknm (#24) are also taking part for the first time in this pinnacle of Crazyhouse talent. Crazyhouse has clearly been attracting virtuosos of standard chess too, as there are many titled chess players, among the participants such as NM chewythechewer (#29), IM larso (#32), NM ArtOfDeception (#35), FM amaidel (#40), FM MagicAndy (#46), GM Orlando_Gloom (#59) and IM lovlas (#100). The size of the competition has doubled, going from 64 players to 128 players, which is a clear sign that the crazyhouse community is growing. The first round (Round of 128) of this tournament has already been played and currently round 1.5 of those who lost their first round is underway with the round of 64 beginning next week. 

If you want to follow the battle for the craZyHouse crown, we recommend you join the House: Chess Variants Discord Server. There you can chat in real time about the tournament and matches, receive notifications when games are being played and once they are in play, you can join the voice channel to listen in and discuss the games with other spectators. On the server you’ll also find links to the draw, the calendar, the rules and the official website of the competition and the crazyhouse community blog. As an aside, if you are new to Discord, we’d also recommend you to join the Lichess Discord Server to keep yourself updated about the Lichess community and developments. If Discord is not your thing, all the information you need can also be found on the official CWC team page on Lichess where the tournament organiser FischyVishy will post updates and where players schedule their matches and post their results. To watch the live games, click on the player tv (the tv icon) of the player on the Lichess website. We will continue to post updates on
with round previews, match analysis and much more — stay tuned!

Let’s make crazyhouse chess flourish!

MMichael (with okei)

Friday 23 March 2018

Beginner's Guide to Crazyhouse

You know the rules of crazyhouse, but how to actually play the game?

Crazyhouse is fast-paced, so it needs strong tactics as well as good awareness of positional weaknesses. Unlike regular chess, draws are rare because pieces keep being reintroduced to the board. Check out Crosky’s crazyhouse overview.

Here are some tips to improve: 

 • As GM Yasser Seirawan would say, first and foremost is king safety. This does not necessarily imply castling – you can also drop pieces around your king to guard it from serious threats. 

Develop your pieces in the opening and control key squares, especially around your king. 

Beware of holes in your position. A hole can be an opening for an opponent piece which can then support another and another. If pieces do enter, chase them away. As helmsknight would say, “get out of my house!”. 

Beware of piece sacs, for example on f2/f7 or g2/g7, especially if the opponent has pieces to follow up the attack. For more on this, see the tactical motifs videos of Nikolas Theiss: #1 and #3

 • Crazyhouse is a very attacking game and almost every move should have attacking purpose. Often the best defence is counter-attack! As Vempele says, if you are worried about @h3, maybe play @h6. You can sometimes defend by creating an attack which is faster and cannot be ignored. 

Initiative is more important than material. If a player has initiative they can drop their pieces in hand with check or with threats and dominate the board. It’s important to cash in on this dominance because if the initiative runs out, the opponent can take back the initiative with their pocket full of pieces in hand to take back control. 

• As for material, because pawns can drop anywhere on the board including the seventh rank, they are more valuable than in regular chess, so minor pieces are worth about 2 pawns. Because the queen can be hit with tempo by minors, it is worth less, so a queen is worth about 2 minors

Knights are wonderful attackers because their threats can’t be blocked and bishops are good defenders

Bishops control channels of a single colour so they can combine defence with attack. For example Ba5+ can cover c7, or Bxa8 continues to defend g2. • Pawns and bishops are known as diagonals because they penetrate an opponent position along diagonals of a single colour. If all your pawns are on light squares, you must take care to defend dark square weaknesses, perhaps with bishops on dark squares and knights on light squares. For more on the importance of colour complexes, check out mastertan’s visual guide to colour complexes

• Unlike chess, doubled pawns are less of a weakness because pawn structures can be fixed with pawns in hand, and can even be a strength because a doubled pawn controls squares of both colours. 

• Crazyhouse is still chess, so common chess tactics still apply:
—not hanging pieces, 
—not blocking in your own pieces, 
—trapping opponent pieces, 
—discovered checks, 
—forks, and 

Because pieces can land anywhere on the board, one must be even more alert. For example a queen on g3 might fall to Ne2+ if the king is on g1!
Become familiar with common mating patterns. The classic example of this is the smothered mate: N@h6+ Kh8 R@g8+ RxR Nxf7++ See the motif video #2 by Nikolas Theiss. 

For more examples of mating patterns, check out forthcoming blogs on this website. For advanced puzzle training, check out the Chess Variants Puzzle Trainer

—okei (with MMichael & theLazyMD)

What is Crazyhouse?

Crazyhouse (ZH for short) is a chess variant in which an opponent's captured piece can be dropped onto an unoccupied square of the board instead of playing a piece already on the board. Crazyhouse is a chess variant similar to bughouse, but with only two players. Other names for this variant are drop chess, mad chess, reinforcement chess, turnabout chess and schizo-chess. It is also known as wild 23. The exact origins of the game remain veiled in mystery, but with the birth of online chess, it has taken off in popularity among a niche of enthusiasts, including many international masters and grandmasters of the regular game.


All the rules and conventions of standard chess apply, with the addition of drops, as explained below.

• A captured piece reverses colour and goes into the capturing player's pocket which you can see beside your board. Instead of making a move with a piece on the board, a player can instead drop a piece from their pocket onto an empty square on the board. 

The notation for drops uses the @ : for example B@g5 denotes a bishop drop on g5, while @g5 where the piece is not specified means it was a pawn drop.

• Pawns may not be dropped on the players' 1st or 8th ranks.

• Promoted pawns when captured revert to being pawns in the opponent's pocket.

• Drops may put the opponent into check or even checkmate.

Rules-page on lichess with video:

WHERE TO PLAY?, and the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS)

—Compiled by MMichael

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