Last night, some friends and I invented a new chess variant: Duckhouse Chess. It’s a fusion of Bughouse Chess and Duck Chess. It’s not completely novel, as this tweet indicates, but I’m glad we came up with it: It’s a lot of fun!


Duckhouse is played in two teams of two players each over two chessboards. On each team, one player plays White and one plays Black.

Each move consists of one Bughouse move, follower by relocating the duck. A Bughouse move can either be a normal chess move, or placing a piece from the reserve onto an unoccupied square. Whenever your partner captures a piece, it goes into your reserve.

The duck is inviolable: it cannot be captured, and it cannot be moved through. Relocating the duck consists of moving the duck to any other unoccupied square, besides the square it was previously on.

Duckhouse is played with clocks, so players don’t just wait for the other board to make captures. We found that 8 minutes per side was a good time control for our first few games.

We play that the game ends when someone’s clock reaches zero. However, we play that it is not legal to leave your King in check. If you are checkmated, you must let your clock run to zero, unless your partner can make their opponent’s clock run out first, perhaps by a checkmate of their own.


Duckhouse is a fast-paced, aggressive game, just like Bughouse. Attacking is favored, and the duck can aid the attack. However, the duck does guard against sacrificial opening attacks, reducing the chaos of the opening somewhat.

Attacking with the duck

  • The duck can aid in trapping pieces or giving smothered mate. This is especially powerful in concert with dropping pieces from the reserve, particularly knights and pawns.

  • The duck can hold squares open for future moves, especially future drops. Remember, the opponent is compelled to move the duck every turn. This can allow one to invade with a pawn chain, by using the duck to hold open the next square in the chain.

  • The duck can cut off the opposing king’s retreat. An important strategy in Duckhouse is sacrificing material to draw the opposing king into the open. The duck can be placed behind the opposing king to force it farther and farther out.

  • Distance checks can be bridged with the duck. In Bughouse, giving check when there is an open square between the checking piece and the opposing king is often not that effective, because the opponent can drop a piece to block. However, by giving check at distance 2 and placing the duck in the middle, the check is effectively converted into a contact check: the opponent cannot block the check, and must either move the king or capture the checking piece.


Duckhouse is lots of fun! You should try it, and I know I’ll be bringing my ducks to the next board game night!