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I've heard that it helps your tactical skills, but can a chess variant really help you in tactics more than simply playing standard chess.

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Bughouse really doesn't. What can help you is shogi. Shogi is similar to chess but with complications that start almost immediately and become much more crazy than in chess. The reports that I have had from multiple players who went from chess, to shogi, back to chess is that the chess tactics suddenly seem exceedingly easy when you return.

To speculate for a moment, bughouse is harmful because it is similar enough to chess that it interferes with your thinking about chess. Shogi is sufficiently different to be separable.

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    Is shogi too different from chess for it to benefit chess players. The tactics are different at times and shogi seems more like bughouse than chess. I do not know much about shogi. Can you give some examples on how shogi could help? – CognisMantis Sep 28 '14 at 18:59
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    and your answer is supported by what? What exactly makes you think that shogi helps to improve chess tactics and bughouse does not (except that some people said that it helped them) – Salvador Dali Sep 29 '14 at 4:13
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    That's about it, really. Those players were all strong (2300 FIDE+) and I wasn't able to find any other evidence online. – Cleveland Sep 29 '14 at 12:39
  • +1 to this answer. @SalvadorDali, GM Jonathan Tisdall has made the same claim (in one of his books, not sure which) about the study of shogi aiding in his chess development. Sure, these are only anecdotes from individual people, but Tisdall is certainly an accomplished player and writer, and anyway no particular method of improvement will work for everyone. – ETD Oct 7 '14 at 1:03
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In my opinion it might be okay. Playing bughouse develops your imagination in some way. You might be a little bit better at attacking. But... such a slight improvement is obviously not worth investing that much time, that's for sure.

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I initially felt bughouse (or crazyhouse) would definitely help improve one's chess. I thought this since you have to do the extra thinking of where you would optimally place the captured pieces that you have. But when I tried playing it, its way different and difficult and went out of hand pretty quickly for me. So I feel there's hardly any use trying to play bughouse inorder to improve your regular chess, as it is a completely different game altogether.

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No. It will likely hurt your OTB ability. If you want to really improve then play Go. Go is so much harder than chess that when you come back to chess you will feel much more confident with your moves.

It is like bulking up at the gym.

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