Four-Player Chess/Common openings
This section is about openings that are commonly played in four-player chess. Since opening theory is not really applicable to FFA games, this section will only focus on the Teams variant. Each position has its own subpage.
Red's first move
Red has the first move and like in regular chess, statistics appear to suggest that this gives Red and Yellow a small advantage over Blue and Green. The winning percentages are approximately 52-48 in Red and Yellow's favour. Draws are exceptionally rare and percentage-wise close to zero. So, what is the best opening move to try and retain the first-move advantage? Red has 20 different first moves to choose from, but in the vast majority of games Red chooses to play 1.h3, the King's Pawn Opening.
The move h3 is by far the most popular move among Red players. It opens up the dark-squared diagonals for the queen and bishop, which are both very powerful pieces, particularly in the opening. Not only that. It creates attacking opportunities against both opponents. The bishop is staring at Blue on the left and the queen is eyeing Green on the right. After h3 Red has gained control over 7 additional squares, which is the most of all the opening moves, apart from h4.
As opposed to h3, the move g3 opens on the light squares and it only opens up a diagonal for the bishop, eyeing Green. Usually Red follows up with Qg2 to develop the queen on the light squares. Compared to h3 it is slower in terms of queen development and it gives Red control over fewer squares. It also gives Blue the opportunity to open with the stronger move c8 to develop the queen and bishop. Therefore, it kind of gives away the initiative to Blue and Green and hence g3 is considered weaker than h3.
If h3 is such a good move, then why not push the pawn one square further to gain more space and control more squares? Generally, it is considered better for king safety to keep the pawn on h3, where it can block possible checks from either side. Moreover, on h4 the pawn is undefended. Thus, pushing the pawn to h4 weakens Red's position.
As opposed to h4, in this case the pawn is supported by the queen, so it is not as weak. Red might even consider trying to push the pawn to promotion, although that is very difficult to achieve with accurate play from Blue and Green. It does open a check line to the king, but Red can follow up with Qg2 or Bg2, for example, or develop the knight to f3 to block the diagonal. Nonetheless, this move has the same disadvantage as g3, namely that it allows Blue to open with the more active c8.
This is a slightly offbeat opening that intends to develop the queen in a different way. Red can bring the queen to f2 or e3 next. That is, only if Blue allows it, because this opening may also lead to a very fast queen exchange, if Blue replies with d6 or c6. If Yellow and Green exchange queens in similar fashion, that can make for an interesting queenless game. However, any first-move advantage Red and Yellow may have had, is probably gone.
With this opening Red may try to go for an early Nk4, threatening a potentially dangerous check on Green, if coordinated with Yellow's queen. However, Green can easily meet this threat by developing his king's knight to l6 or pushing the rook pawn to k4. So, Ni3 is actually more of a waiting move. The knight is usually developed to i3 later on anyway, so Red decides to do it immediately and leave his options open to see what Blue and Green will do first. This does give away the initiative to Blue and Green.
Other opening moves
The following table contains all possible opening moves for Red.
Winning chances: Red and Yellow win (52%), Blue and Green win (48%), Draw (0%)