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The strongest Bughouse tournament in the history of chess

February 26, 2023

Levon Aronian is not yet ready to call himself World Bughouse Champion. Although he won what is believed to be the highest-profile Bughouse tournament in chess history with his partner Wadim Rosenstein in Düsseldorf on Sunday, Aronian thinks it could have been even higher-profile: Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Alireza Firouzja are very, very good in tandem, he said. If you want to call yourself World Bughouse Champion, you have to beat these three.

WR Chess Masters 2023 – Bughouse Tournament
Team Wadim/Levon, unstoppable. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Three names for Wadim Rosenstein's list of potential participants in a new edition of the Düsseldorf Bughouse Tournament of Super Grandmasters. Does Rosenstein already feel like a Bughouse world champion after his triumph? Certainly, his success at Aronian's side has to be rated even higher than his last victory in an "official" championship so far. Almost exactly 19 years ago, Rosenstein and his partner Kevin Krug won the "Bughouse Nation Tournament" of the Chess Youth Association of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in Cologne-Mülheim.

Team McMülheimer 2004, Wadim Rosenstein and Kevin Krug. | Photo: Chess Youth Association NRWTeam McMülheimer 2004, Wadim Rosenstein and Kevin Krug. | Photo: Chess Youth Association NRW

Back then, on March 27, 2004, the teams were asked to come up with creative names. Rosenstein/Krug won the competition as "McMülheimer". On February 26, 2023, such creativity was not necessary. The eight teams were uniformly named after the first names of the players: Nodirbek/Andrey, Wesley/Pragg, Wadim/Levon or Peter/Jan.

Peter/Jan? Absolutely. After all, Peter Sauk won the 2022 Siegburg Pretzel Tournament and Jan Werner has won the office of chairman of the Düsseldorfer SK as well as chairman of the Lower Rhine Chess Association. Moreover, and this may be worth even more in the context of a Bughouse tournament, both have gone through the Düsseldorf Bughouse School. So no reason for the Nodirbeks and Praggs from the chess Olympus to take Team Peter/Jan lightly.

On the other hand, the super grandmasters had gone through an intensive Bughouse school themselves on the days before. Numerous video testimonies, some recorded in the early hours of the morning, prove that the 2700s played Bughouse with enthusiasm and great fun. Time to find out who was best.

WR Chess Masters 2023 – Bughouse Tournament
With enthusiasm, fun and flying pieces. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Two preliminary groups of four teams each were formed, then semifinals, then finals. Unfortunately, it was not enough for the brave Jan and the no less brave Peter to get through the preliminary round. In the semifinals Ian/Maxim (Matlakov, Nepo's second and by his own admission a patzer in tandem) won against Nodirbek Andrey. In addition, Wadim/Levon won against Wesley/Pragg. In the final for the two winner's trophies team Wadim/Levon prevailed against Ian/Maxim.

Along the way, a wonderful, joy-spreading live show emerged, showcasing some of the world's outstanding players as they are rarely seen. And it would have been a miracle if, thanks to the analyses of Anchor Yasser and outside reporter Anastasiya, a large part of the audience hadn't felt like trying this game too:

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