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Checkers – also known as draughts – is a strategy board game characterized by its unique set of uniform pieces that can only move diagonally across a board. The Checkers board game is played by two players on a conventional 8x8 Chess board.
Called Checkers because of the pattern on the board, it originated from another middle eastern board game, Qirkat, with similar rules and layout.
The objective of checkers is to capture all your opponent's pieces on the board. This involves ’jumping’ over them to the next available square in a diagonal direction. This game differs drastically from chess in that all pieces are uniform and can only move forward and diagonally.
Understanding how to play Checkers and the game’s rules goes a long way to helping improve your skills and win more games. See some of the most important rules to help you improve your gameplay below:
Move only on dark squares – Checkers are laid out onto the black squares and can only move diagonally. This means you should never find a checker on a white square.
Black checkers lead – The person playing with the black checkers always leads unless specified otherwise.
Getting a piece to the end gives you a king – Getting a checker to your opponent's back row without being captured transforms that checker into a king, which can move forwards and backward.
'Capturing' is mandatory – No matter what, if you're in a position to take an opposing player's checker, you must do it and cannot make any alternative moves.
If the squares adjacent to your checker are occupied, that checker is considered blocked.
Only kings can move backward – Regular pieces can only move diagonally forwards.
Checkers is a simple alternative to chess, with the goal of both games being to clear the board or force the opponent into a position where they can no longer make any moves. Here, we've outlined how to play a game of Checkers for those seeking additional help.
The player who has the black checkers starts the game. From there, each player takes turns to advance one checker toward the opponent – one checker at a time.
The opportunity will eventually arise for one player to capture their opponent's pieces. This is done by ‘leapfrogging’ their checker by moving diagonally over it onto the square behind it. Where possible, players can make multiple moves at once – however, this is only allowed when they are able to take checkers in successive moves.
If you can remove an opponent's checker from play, you must do so. If you can take two or more checkers on a given turn, you must keep capturing until you can no longer continue to.
If a player's checker reaches the opponent's back row, that piece is ‘crowned’ and is now a king. The king has the bonus of being able to move and capture checkers in a backward direction – making them extremely useful.
When a piece is "kinged" there are certain things to bear in mind:
Kings can still only move one square at a time during a non-capture move – however, they can now traverse backward.
During a capture move, kings can move back on themselves to capture checkers one diagonal square behind it – opening up new routes for multiple captures.
There is no limit on how many kings a player can have on the board – all checkers on the board can be turned into kings.
The game is won when all the opponent's pieces are captured or if any remaining checkers are blocked from making any additional moves.
Understanding the rules of Checkers can only take you so far, so learning the best strategies can help you up your win percentage.
Some of the winning strategies used by the top Checkers players include:
Don't play defensively – Sitting back and attempting to play defensively doesn't work well in Checkers. Because of the mandatory capturing, you'll be quickly picked apart if you try to fortify. In Checkers, attack is the best form of defense.
Control the center – It's common for new players to hug the sides of the board because this only leaves one side exposed. This may seem the right thing to do, but going to the middle gives you more attacking opportunities while letting you move to cover weaker flanks.
Advance all together – Moving your pieces en masse is a great way to cover your weak points and swarm the enemy. It puts you in a great position to offer support to your own pieces and lead an almost impenetrable attacking formation at any part of the board.
Don't shy away from sacrificing pieces to open opportunities – Losing pieces isn't the be-all and end-all. In fact, baiting opponents into taking your checkers can be an effective way – and sometimes the only way – of opening opportunities for your support pieces to attack your opponent's formation.
Don't forget to block – Unlike many other games that often force you into a stalemate when nobody can make a move, blocking can win you the game in Checkers – so consider it a winning strategy.
Below is a list of terms commonly used when playing Checkers. We've also included their definitions for ease of comprehension when learning the game.
Blockade – A formation of pieces that prevents the opponents from advancing.
Bridge – A formation where checkers are positioned, one in front of the other, and separated with a white square. A bridge is a weak position that allows an opponent to capture multiple checkers and gets them one step closer to crowning a piece and creating kings.
Capture – Knocking an opponent's piece out of the game by jumping over it.
Cook – A move made to force a difficult position.
Crowning – When a piece reaches the opposition back line, they are 'crowned' to convert them into a king piece.
Double Hump – When a player captures two pieces in one move.
Draw - Situation where both players agree that neither has enough advantage nor time to win
File – Occupying a vertical row of squares.
Jump – A two-square diagonal move over an 'enemy' square occupied by the opponent's checker. The result is a 'capture' of the enemy piece, and the checker that's 'jumped' is removed from play.
King - A piece that can move and capture backward and forward.
King Row - First rank where the opponent forms kings.
Man – Alternative name for a checker piece.
Pin – A situation where any move results in capture.
Pitch – An alternative word for a sacrifice.
Quadruple Jump – A single move that captures four pieces.
Rank - Horizontal row of squares
Shot - A forced combination of moves in which a player sacrifices one or more pieces to capture more of the opponent's checkers
Trap – A set of moves that force the opponent into a pin.
Triple Jump – A move that results in the capture of three pieces.
Zugzwang – A rare situation where any move a player makes loses them the game.
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