Hello everyone! My name is Dan, I work at the Main Library, and I love games. In this series of posts, I’m going to be teaching you how to play some classic games that are easy to learn, fun to play, and quite possibly already in your home! For today’s post, we’ll be turning to the world of board games with Checkers!

Games like checkers have been played for thousands of years. Boards have been found in the ancient city of Ur and Egyptian tombs. The modern version that we play today comes from England, where the game is called draughts. While the game is sometimes criticized for its simplicity (particularly in comparison to chess), it’s a classic for a reason, combining simple rules with the potential for deep strategy.

In order to play checkers, you’ll need two players, a checkerboard and a set of pieces (checkers) in two colors. The checkerboard consists of an 8×8 pattern of squares of alternating colors. Red and black are a typical choice for both the squares and the checkers, although other colors may be used. Checker sets are pretty easy to find, often paired with chess pieces as well, but if you don’t have one, they are easy enough to improvise with coins, buttons, or pebbles. In a pinch, you can even create your own board by drawing one on paper, or by using a conveniently-tiled floor!

To set up, orient the board between the two players so that a black square is in the lower left from each player’s perspective. Then, set a checker of your color on each of the twelve black squares in the first three rows. Don’t use the other squares (red in the board pictured, often white in others), in fact, they won’t be used for the whole game!

The game setup (black & red set)

Starting with the player playing black, the two players will alternate turns. On a turn a player will either move or capture with one of their checkers. Moving and capturing is always done diagonally. A move is one square on either diagonal, always forward (toward the other player) and into an empty square. If a checker is diagonally adjacent to an opponent’s piece with an empty space beyond it, a capture can be made by jumping over the opposing checker to the next space and removing it from the board. If a capture move is possible, it must be made, although the player can choose one if multiple capturing options are available. This may not be beneficial to one’s future plans, and knowing when to sacrifice a piece is a key part of the game’s strategy.

A move.

 

A possible capture.

 

The aftermath of a capture. Note that the black player can immediately capture back next turn.

 

You may find that after capturing a piece, another capture is available. You must take that capture as well, and you may change directions to do it.

A multiple capture is available for red…

 

and the aftermath

If one of your checkers reaches the last row (either by regular move or by capture, as in the example above), it is made a “king.” Usually this is done by putting another checker on top of it. As a king, this piece can now move and capture both forward and backward (but still diagonally). It has no special immunity to capture, however, so be careful with your kings!

The game continues until either: 1. All of one player’s checkers have been captured or 2. A player has no legal moves, due to being completely blocked by their opponent. That player loses the game.

Red is completely blocked and cannot move. Black wins!

Previous readers of this series will not be surprised that a number of variants of checkers exist. Here are a few:

  • “Flying Kings”: A king can move any number of squares on a diagonal to capture a piece. However, captured pieces stay on the board until the end of your turn, and may potentially foil multiple jump attempts. In this version, kings are quite powerful!
  • International (or Polish) draughts: Played on a 10×10 board with 20 pieces to a side. Ordinary, non-kinged pieces can capture backward (and must, if possible). The flying king rule is in effect.
  • Canadian checkers: Same rules as international draughts, but played on a 12×12 board with 30 pieces to a side. You’ll need a lot of table space for this one!
  • Turkish draughts: Regular pieces move and capture directly forward or sideways (not diagonally). Kings are flying and can capture backwards as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this classic game! For more information, check out these KCKPL resources:

24 games you can play on a checkerboard by Carol Lynch Williams: Yet more variants on checkers, including Fox and Geese, Pyramid Checkers, and Giveaway Checkers. Available to put on hold at any KCKPL branch.

Win at Checkers by Millard Hopper: An advanced strategy guide to the game. Available on Hoopla.

Music to Play Checkers By by Danny Gould: An album of traditional songs, perfect for those lazy game sessions. Available on Hoopla.