Checkers is an easy to learn board game that many people played when they were children. The game has been around for longer than you might think. There have been some changes to the rules as time went on.
Checkers is also called English draughts (pronounced “drafts”), American checkers, or straight checkers. There is also a French version called Les Dames. The version you played as a child depends upon where you lived or what country your ancestors grew up in.
An archeological dig in the Iraqi city of Ur unearthed a game that looks very similar to checkers. Carbon dating puts the game around 3,000 B.C.E. It is impossible to know exactly what the rules were for this early version of the game. Egyptian pharaohs played a game called Alquerque on a five-by-five board. The ancient Greeks also had a version of checkers that goes back as far as 1600 B.C.E. It was mentioned by both Homer and Plato in their works.
The French version of checkers was originally called Fierges and was developed around 1100. The rules did not require players to capture the opponent’s game pieces (but they could choose to do so if there was an opportunity).
The game was played on a 64-square chessboard. Around 1535, the rules were changed to force players to capture the “enemy” pieces. The new version was called Jeu Force. After this rule change, the previous version of the game was called Le Jeu de Dames or Le Jeu Plaisant de Dames. The less combative version of the game was considered to be for women to play. Later, after additional rule changes, the name of the game changed to Polish Draughts or Polish Checkers. The new version was developed in France (not Poland).
Checkers requires two players. They sit on opposite sides of a square board that has 64 alternately colored square spaces. The board resembles a chess board but is usually red and black (instead of white and black).
Each player gets 12 disk shaped pieces to use. One player uses the black pieces and the other uses the red pieces. All the pieces sit on the black squares. Players move pieces diagonally across the board in a forward direction.
The goal is to eliminate the other player’s pieces by “jumping” them (and taking them off of the board). A piece that makes it all the way across the board is “crowned” king, often by having another checker placed on top of it. King pieces can move either diagonally forward or diagonally backwards across the board.
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