Checkers is one of the oldest and most popular board games in existence. This two player game is incredibly simple, and in many parts of the world children are taught how to play it from a fairly young age. Also known as draughts in some regions (such as the United Kingdom), it’s very much a game of skill with no luck involved. A winner is determined entirely by the moves that are made.
As such, there are strategies involved, but most of these are straightforward enough that children can learn them. The game can be played at a very high standard, such as in the World Checkers Championship which features the best players; this is where the strategies get a little more complicated.
Checkers is played by many purely for fun and entertainment, but it can be played for real money wagers too. If you are interested in playing this game, we have explained the rules below. We have also looked at the origins of the game.
As we have already stated, checkers is regarded as one of the oldest board games around. It’s believed that the game, or at least some version of it, was played as long ago as 3,000 BC. This is based on finds from archaeological digs in the ancient city of Ur, in what used to be Mesopotamia. Remains of boards and pieces very similar to those in checkers were found, although of course no-one knows for sure what rules were played with these, or even if they were part of a game at all.
It’s known that a game very similar to checkers, called Alquerque, was played in ancient Egypt from around 1400 BC. This game used a smaller board (five squares by five squares), but it’s believed the rules were along the same lines as the modern game we know to be checkers. A couple of thousand years later, in the 12th century, the game began to be played on a chess board (eight squares by eight squares) in France. It became known as Fierges or Ferses.
Over time the game evolved further, notably with the rule making jumps mandatory being introduced. Another name change followed, to Jeu Force. The game continued to be played around the world, and eventually a formal set of rules was written by an English mathematician. The game went on to become well established in England, where it became known as draughts, and in America where it became known as checkers.
In 1847, the first world champion of checkers was crowned, and the World Championship of Checkers is still held today. 1952 was another landmark year, when Arthur L Samuel created the first checker computer program. Today you can play the game over the internet, against other players from all over the world. It can also be played for fun or money.
The rules of checkers are really not that complicated, and the simplistic nature of this two player game is no doubt a major reason why the game has been so popular for so long. Checkers is played on a game board that’s the same as chess, containing an eight by eight grid of squares of alternating color: typically black and white.
There’s a total of 24 pieces used in the game. These are usually flat and cylindrical and are split into two colors; 12 darker pieces and 12 lighter pieces. Black and red are the most common colors used in most sets, although traditionally it was white and red. White and red pieces are still used in most official tournaments.
To start with, the two players assume their positions on opposite sides of the board and place their 12 pieces on the darker squares of the three rows closest to them on the board. The row that’s closest to each player is known as either the crown head or kings row. The player with the darker colored pieces is the first to move.
There are two different types of moves that can be made in checkers. The first is the “simple move,” which is moving a piece one square diagonally onto an unoccupied dark square. Pieces must always end up on a dark square and can only move forward. The second type of move is the “jump”, which is moving a piece from a square diagonally adjacent to an opponent’s piece to an empty square immediately beyond the opponent’s piece. The piece is effectively jumping over the square containing the opponent’s piece.
When a player makes a jump move, the opponent’s piece that’s jumped over is captured and removed from the board. Multiple jumps are permitted if, following one jump, the same piece can make another jump. Any number of jumps is allowed to take place in one move if they are possible. Any pieces that are jumped over are captured and removed from the board.
A player must always make a jump move if they can, even if making such a move is technically a bad one. For example, if a player can make a jump move to capture but doing so leaves they open for their opponent to make a move with multiple jumps, then they must still make that move.
If a player manages to move a piece to the kings row on their opponent’s side of the board, that piece is then kinged, or crowned. To show that a piece is kinged another piece of the same color (not one in play) is stacked on top of the original piece. This piece is now known as a king, and can move backwards as well as forwards. A player can have multiple kings if they move more than one piece to their opponent’s king’s row during the game.
A game of checkers is won if a player manages to capture all of their opponent’s pieces, or leaves them with no available moves. A game can also end in a draw if both players agree or if neither player can make a legal move.
There are a couple of rule variations that can be used. In the standard rules, a normal piece can capture a king and vice versa. Some people play to the rule that a normal piece cannot capture a king. Another non-standard rule is that if a piece is crowned as a king following a jump, it can go on to make another jump in the same move if one is available.
In checkers tournaments, a rule known as the three move restriction is often imposed. With this rule in place, the first three moves of a game are forced onto the players. These moves are chosen at random from a selection of accepted opening move combinations.