THE CHECKERS FAMILY

Traditional

According to R.C.Bell, the original game was invented around A.D. 1100 somewhere in the south of France. The game was inspired on an older Arabic game, Alquerque, and the first name of Fierges. Later the game was called Dame where there was no compulsion to capture. This rule was only introduced on 1535 also in France. English draughts is the game of Dame. Notice that Checkers is not a single game, but a family of games. Here are a part of that big international family.

Checkers/Draughts are very widely played around the world. The regional variants are conceptually the same, but they differ in some details (that change the strategic and tactical planning). There are the following common ideas:

  • PIECES  - There are two pieces, called here soldiers and Kings. The game starts only with soldiers.
  • TURN - On each turn, each player moves one friendly piece. Piece may move into an empty cell or capture one or more enemy pieces.
    • Move - soldiers move to adjacent diagonal empty cells, Kings have more move range.
      • Soldiers promote to Kings when moving into the last row.
    • Capture - pieces capture enemy pieces by jumping over them and landing on an empty cell within the same line.
      • There are short jumps (the piece must land on the immediate next cell which must be empty) and long jumps (the piece may move one or more empty cells on a straight line before and/or after the jump).
      • Captures are mandatory, i.e., they have precedence over moves. Captures are multiple, a piece must continue capturing while there are captures available. A capturing piece may never jump twice over the same enemy piece, and the captured stones are only removed when the capturing sequence ends. Some variants demand that the sequence must (a) max-piece - maximize the number of captures, or (b) max-stone - maximize the number of stones (Kings have two stones).
      • If a capture sequence of a soldier passes thru the last row, the usual options are:
        • stop - the soldier stops moving and gets promoted;
        • skip - the soldier continues the capture sequence and does not get promoted;
        • adapts - the soldier continues the capture sequence and does get promoted
  • GOAL - Wins the player that stalemates the opponent. This is possible either by: (a) capturing all opponent's stones; or (b) blocking the remaining enemy pieces.
    • If neither player can accomplish this, the game is a draw.

I recollect most of these rules at Arthur Olsen's checkers website. There are lots of information about this game and other variants of the old game of Dame. Another interesting link is this.


ENGLISH DRAUGHTS (aka AMERICAN CHECKERS)

English Draughts is played on a 8x8 board with the following setup:

Regional features:

  • Soldiers capture only forwards.
  • Promotion is of type stop.
  • Kings have short jumps.
  • No maximized captures.

There is a ZRF to play Checkers with the Zillions original package.


INTERNATIONAL (or CONTINENTAL) CHECKERS

International Checkers is played on a 10x10 board with the following setup:

Regional features:

  • Soldiers capture forwards and backwards.
  • Promotion is of type skip.
  • Kings have long jumps.
  • Maximized captures of type max-piece.

You can also play and read extensive information about the game at the MindSports Arena.

An example

Red's move. He moves f8 to cell [1], forcing e6:f8. Then the reply is b8:c6:e4:d2 and promoting to King on the next turn.

This variant is also played in Poland (sometimes in a 8x8 board). Swedish and Brazilian checkers use the same rules on a 8x8 board (like the draughts setup).

Many checker variants suffer a big problem: the draw rate between good players. It is not unusual a draw at the endgame when one player has two or three times more material. Killer Checkers are a way to minimize this by making the following restriction over Kings' capture range: if the last captured stone is a King, the captor must stop at the immediate next cell after the last jumped stone. This simple rule eliminates most draws.


SPANISH CHECKERS

Regional features:

  • Soldiers capture only forwards.
  • Promotion is of type stop.
  • Kings have long jumps.
  • Maximized captures of type max-stone.

This variant is also played in Portugal. The Czech Republic's checkers (called Ceska Dama) is very similar with the addition: "If both, a soldier and King, can capture, then King has a higher priority, i.e., the jumping must be done by the King.".


THAI CHECKERS

Regional features:

  • Soldiers capture only forwards.
  • Promotion is of type stop.
  • Kings have long jumps but must stop on the immediate empty cell just after the jumped piece.
  • No maximized captures.

ITALIAN CHECKERS

Like English Draughts but soldiers cannot capture Kings. Promoted is of type stop

The sequence jump is more complex. It is defined by the following criteria:

  1. Jumps must maximize captures;

  2. If there are 2+ equal sequences, choose the King to capture;

  3. If there are 2+ Kings, choose the sequence that captures more enemy Kings;

  4. If still there are doubts, choose the sequence that captures the King in less jumps (!)


GERMAN CHECKERS

Regional features:

  • Soldiers capture only forwards.
  • Promotion is of type stop.
  • Kings have long jumps.
  • No maximized captures.

RUSSIAN CHECKERS

Regional features:

  • Soldiers capture forwards and backwards.
  • Promotion is of type adapts.
  • Kings have long jumps.
  • No maximized captures.

Pool checkers are similar to Russian checkers, but promotion is of type skip. Some words: It appears that this game comes from old Spanish or French checkers (or both), which was played in the southern states at the XVIIIth century. At this time, French checkers used a 8x8 board (now it is a 10x10 one), and the rules were very similar to pool (depending on the regions, but often using maximum capture compulsory). [...] Spanish and French game, played in areas different but close (Louisiana and Florida), were probably mixed to become pool checkers. http://perso.wanadoo.fr/alemanni/pool.html


CANADIAN CHECKERS

Rules like International Checkers:

Canadian Checkers is also played in India and Sri Lanka, check Thushara Wickramasinghe website.


FRISIAN CHECKERS

Regional features:

  • Soldiers and Kings can also capture orthogonally (backwards or forwards).
    • If the player still have soldiers, a friendly king can be moved only three times in succession. After that, the player should move another piece or use that King to capture.
  • Promotion is of type skip.
  • Kings have long jumps.
  • Maximized captures of type max-piece.
  • If a player has two kings and his opponent only one, he has seven moves to finish the match. Otherwise it is a draw.

This game is played mainly in Holland. Some words: Before 1700 people in Friesland played at draughts in a way we now call the Frisian draughts game. In those days matches were organized by innkeepers, especially to tempt customers to come to their inn. from http://www.friesdammen.nl/com/engels/index.html


TURKISH CHECKERS

Regional features:

  • Soldiers capture forwards and sideways.
  • Promotion is of type stop.
  • Kings have long jumps.
  • Maximized captures of type max-piece.

Check a related website

A similar game is Kens (I don't know the author) which uses the same setup. Soldiers move to an adjacent orthogonal empty cell (but not backwards) and may also jump (not backwards) over adjacent friendly stones landing on the immediate empty cell. If the soldier jumps over an enemy it captures it (it's valid to jump backwards when capturing). Capturing jumps are multiple and it's mandatory to maximize the number of captures after the player selects which piece he is going to move (in case of existing several stones able to capture). When a soldier reaches the last row it's transformed into a King. Kings may slide any number of empty cells in a straight (orthogonal) line or jump over adjacent friendly stones and then slide any number of empty cells. Kings also capture like soldiers. After a slide, they can jump over an enemy piece and then slide again. They obey the same capture rules (mandatory and max-capture after choosing the piece). Wins the player that stalemates the opponent (which includes capturing all enemy pieces).


OSSETIAN CHECKERS

Regional features:

  • Soldiers move forwards (orthogonally or diagonally).
  • Captures by short jumps on any direction but not mandatory (stones are immediately removed).
  • Does not have promotion (so, no Kings, and this game could be at Games of Soldiers section).
    • Stones at the last row can still capture.

Check a related website and also a ZRF to play this game (both by Mats Winther).


10 vs. 20 (by J. Boyler)

The International Checkers rules apply except: (a) Red must capture all black pieces, Black must stalemate Red (b) Red starts the game (c) Red must execute two movements (with one or two pieces).


ALBUQUERQUE

"I was first taught this variant of Checkers in the 1960s by my great-grandmother.  She learned it from her father who was an American Civil War veteran.  So, it must be over 100 years old.  I was told that it was named after the city in New Mexico, and was played by Texas oil-field workers. I always thought that this was a common variant, since it had only the addition of the slide move." - L. Lynn Smith

Basically, Albuquerque is the standard Checkers game (using the same setup), except that the pieces can slide. They slide diagonal forward until reaching the farthest row, then they are crowned and can slide in all diagonal directions. They capture by jumping adjacent opponents. Captures are mandatory. Both soldiers and Kings use short jumps. Soldiers can only jump forward.


GIVE AND TAKE

This is a checker variant from Christopher Elis, using the setup of Turkish Dama.

The goal is capture or block all enemy pieces. Soldiers move forward and sideways (no diagonals) to an adjacent empty cell, and capture by jumping, also forward or sideways (so, no backward move or capture). Capture is mandatory but does not need to be maximized. Soldiers promote at last row, but if a soldier visit the promotion row while in a jump sequence, it does not get promoted automatically (it is promoted if the last jump lands on that row). Promoted soldiers move like Chess Rooks, and they capture by long jumps (i.e., the jumped piece must not be adjacent, and the cell where the piece lands, must not be the immediate cell - but the piece cannot jump more than one piece at each turn). More information at ETEROSCACCO.


KHARBERG / DÂMMA

This is a modern Italian checker variant (check this website). The game is played on the following 5x5 board:

Soldiers move one cell forward (orthogonal or diagonal) and capture by jump on any direction. Jumps are multiple and mandatory. Soldiers are promoted on last row, and Kings may slide any number of empty cells (however they can only do short jumps). A bigger variant Dâmma is played on a 9x9 board with the same rules (with 40 soldiers each).

According to Ralf Gering, the second player has a strong advantage.


RING BOARD CHECKERS

This is a checker variant by Peter Aronson.

The rules of Draughts (American Checkers) apply except: the game is played on an enlarged board where the extra external cells can only be occupied via a capturing move. The King can move and capture diagonally forward and backwards, and capture (but not move without capturing) up, down, left and right by a jump of four cells. There is a ZRF file to play it with Zillions.

Some words from Peter: The ring board was inspired by the rule found in some of V.R. Parton's Checkers variants, such as Kinger and Dragon, that some pieces may only land on edge squares if that is the only way to make a capture. The King's orthogonal capture was inspired by Frisian or Babylonian Draughts, which allows such captures.


ACTIVATOR CHECKERS

This checker variant by Matthew Burke uses two sets of checkers playing two intermixed games causing side effects to each other. Matthew called them Light and Dark (if they are placed under the squares of a checkered board).

The rules of International Checkers apply except: a piece can only move or capture if it is orthogonally adjacent to another friendly piece, the subsequent cells of multiple captures are not affected by this rule. A player wins by leaving no valid moves to his opponent. Matthew also includes that on first turn, the first player just moves on piece. After that, each player moves two pieces, one from Dark and one from Light.


FASCINATION CHECKERS

This checker variant by Remco Industries (in 1962) is played in the following diagram. 

Checkers can jump orthogonally over enemies only. Jumping over a piece captures it. Multiple Captures are optional and it is possible to capture with several different pieces in the same turn. When no move is possible, the player must pass. When two consecutive passes occurs, the game ends. Wins the player with more stones.


Other Variants

Many other modern variants exist. Perhaps the most famous is Losing Draughts, where the player that is unable to move wins the game. Diagonal Draughts are played on the following setup:


Hide, is a 8x8 checkers variant, where each player starts with 8 stones each, placed on the first 2 rows. Stones cannot capture nor jump, but an isolated stone is removed from game. Wins the player that makes the last move. Ralf Gering suggests a 8x12 board (8 rows, 12 columns). It seems that there is a simple solution to this game. Gering's words: Black, the second player, must always imitate the last move of White in a symmetrical fashion. This ensures that Black is moving last and wins.

In Board Draughts, each player also starts with 8 stones of the first two rows. Stones cannot capture and just move and jump forward. The goal is to move all stones to the last row (where they are removed from board). Wins the player with no stones left. I don't have information about if jumping is mandatory, but I would guess that it is.

Contract Checkers, is an variant invented in Chicago, 1934, played like 8x8 Draughts, but each player has 2 more stones off board, that can be dropped on an empty cell on the first row, when the respective cell on the last row is also empty.

Chip, by K. Franklin in 2002, uses the same setup and rules of  English Draughts except: (a) the captured pieces are not removed, instead they change color (became friendly pieces); (b) A player wins by getting 6 Kings or reducing the adversary to less than 6 soldiers. (I'm not sure but I suppose a stalemate position can be achieved - the rules do not state what happens, but possibly the stalemated player loses).

Surround Checkers (author unknown), uses the same setup and rules of  English Draughts except: (a) there is no promotion or standard captures, (b) every diagonally connected group of friendly stones is captured, if there is no stone adjacent to a diagonal empty cell, (c) a stalemated player loses the game. This game is a mix of Checkers and Go. Eventually, it may be more interested on larger boards.

Other games can be found on the Zillions website. Check this page. Check also Dame, Frisian Draughts, Extreme Checkers, Ellen's Checkers, Fractagonals and Polarity.

Here are the rules of Military Checkers: