I've been playing Kraton Chess, which is basically standard chess except there are 96 different possible starting positions that are similar to the standard starting position. All the rules of standard chess are in Kraton Chess including castling with no additional rules.

I have some interest in studying the possible starting positions in order to play quicker and stronger in my openings. I might memorize some potential moves to play, but I'm mostly interested in understanding the elements of the position. Understanding elements of a position would help me understand what I should be thinking about in my openings. For example, a pawn having no support in the starting position might be an element worth remembering. Does anyone have any advice on how to go about this? Also, if I do memorize moves, should I just memorize whatever an engine suggests?

It's not critical to know what Kraton Chess is to answer the question. But if you're interested, Kraton Chess has two main differences to Chess960. The king must start on the E file, and rooks can't start on the D or F files. (This improves castling.) The possible starting positions must have an equal chance of being chosen for each game, and the game must start right after the position is chosen. Kraton Chess is more thoroughly described in this post, although it is long: https://www.reddit.com/r/chessvariants/comments/f20xgw/kraton_chess/.

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This seems to just be a version of Chess960 restricted to certain openings to make castling more like "normal". Thus the positional considerations should be identical to regular chess, and regular chess principles (e.g. control the centre, develop your pieces early, gain space, etc.) should apply with equal force here.

What does change is the pattern recognition, to an extent. Particularly for how to handle the minor pieces, the intuition built up by playing normal chess (put knights on f3/c3, bishop to c4/b5, etc.) is gone.

Undefended pawn in the starting position: Obviously this can be a target for early attacks. Watch out for these, and be alert for tactics that could win/lose you a pawn.

Generalised opening principles: The usual chess opening ideas of controlling the centre, developing minor pieces and getting the king to safety should still apply. However, some of those ideas are specific cases of principles applicable to other chess types and variants:

  • Mobility. In the overwhelming majority of chess variants, mobility is the key principle, I would say even the most important one. Development is about improving your pieces' mobility. Controlling the centre is also about getting more mobility. Having more material means you have more pieces, and hence more options (more mobility!) than your opponent. Aim always to improve your pieces' mobility.
  • Speed. In developing your pieces, you want to do so as quickly as possible. Finishing development first means you can start to increase the pressure on your opponent before they have the chance to react.
  • Piece coordination. This is less focused on in regular chess than in other chesses like xiangqi and shogi. It ties in with the previous two points: you want to get your pieces to their optimal locations quickly (speed) such that they don't get in each others' way, and hopefully work together to control some squares (mobility).

So for the opening phase of Kratos chess, for instance, you'd want to look at your position and identify some kind of deployment of forces that, as a whole, brings your army to life. Try to identify the pieces that seem the hardest to develop, and work out a plan to get them active; don't neglect it and focus too much on your other pieces to the point where they get in the way of the neglected piece.

And of course plans must change with enemy contact. At every move, try to make sure your moves give you the flexibility to satisfactorily develop the rest of your pieces in as many ways as possible, so that you can adapt your plans if necessary.

  • This is certainly useful information for my first question. But it is quite difficult to know which of those ideas you mentioned are most important in certain positions. I figure a chess engine would be used to figure out which ideas are most important in a position, but I don't know how to do this. In any case, I've recently been playing Centari Chess instead of Kraton Chess. Centari Chess is basically Kraton Chess with B+N, B+R (aka the queen), and R+N pieces. If you're interested, Centari Chess is discussed here
    – UnderTiger
    Jun 11, 2020 at 19:03
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    @UnderTiger I would point you to Fairy-Stockfish as an engine that can handle those pieces and 960 castling rules. You can use it with an interface like XBoard/Winboard or Pychess. You could also theoretically try it against an engine online at Pychess-variants, using the board editor there to set up the appropriate position (in S-Chess mode) and playing against the engine there.
    – Remellion
    Jun 12, 2020 at 10:52

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