Playing Checkers

Of all of the games that people have played over the course of human history, there are a few that can be said to have truly stood the test of time. One of the most ancient and honorable of these is checkers, known in years past as chequers and draughts.

A child who can play checkers is equipped for pleasure anywhere and anytime. Almost everyone has a checker set, and if one isn't at hand, it's simple enough to improvise a perfectly workable set on a moment's notice.

To make your own, you'll need a checkerboard and playing pieces. The board can be drawn on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil, using a ruler to keep the lines straight. The board should be 8 squares across in each direction, creating a large square containing 64 small squares. Color in every alternate square, leaving the bottom left and top right squares white. You don't have to be too thorough, as long as every other square is obviously shaded.

You'll need 24 playing pieces in all, 12 to each side; those for each side should be readily distinguishable from each other. If one side has pennies, the other should have dimes or nickels; if one side has white bottlecaps, the other can use red ones. The game should begin with all of the pieces placed uniformly: in other words, all coins should have the tails facing up, for instance, or all bottle caps should be right-side-up. Later, when pieces are "kinged," they can be flipped over.

Each player places his or her 12 pieces (or men) on the board on the uncolored squares of the first three rows. "Black" moves first (so players should switch colors or pieces with each succeeding game), and each move consists of sliding a piece forward one square diagonally into an empty square. When two opposing pieces are next to each other diagonally, the one whose turn it is to move jumps the other if there is an empty square beyond to land on, and the jumped piece is removed from the board. Although you won't hear this terminology much any more, two opposing pieces next to each other like this are said to be "en prise."

Any piece making it to the opposite side of the board is "kinged," gaining the power of moving and jumping backward as well as forward. This is the point at which coins can be turned heads up, or bottlecaps upside-down.

A game is won by jumping over and thus removing all of the opposing player's pieces. Everyone thinks they know how the game is played, but it is surprising how often families have slightly different rules from those adhered to by other people. In the interests of universal harmony, here is a list of official rules taken from the 1883 book, "The Universal Self-Instructor."

  1. The player who touches a man, excepting for the purpose of adjusting it, must move it, if a legal move can be made with that man.
  2. A man moved over the angle of a square must be moved to that square.
  3. A man en prise must be taken.
  4. If the man en prise be left untaken by accident, the adversary has the option...of compelling the capture of the offered piece; or of allowing the offending piece to remain on its square.
  5. Five minutes is the limit of time for considering a move.
  6. A player making a false move must either replace the men and make a legal move, or resign the game, at the option of his adversary.
  7. When only two kings remain on either side, if neither player can force a win within twenty moves, the game is a draw.
  8. When three or more kings are opposed to two, the player with the weaker force may claim a draw if his opponent fail to win within forty moves. Notice must be formally given of the intention to count the moves.
  9. When a man arrives at the last row of squares on his opponent's side of the board, it must immediately be crowned; and such king cannot be moved until a move has been made by the other player.
  10. During the progress of a game neither player is allowed to leave the room without the consent of the other.
  11. A breach of any of the above laws to be considered a loss of the game.

Knowledge of these time-tested basics should keep everyone on the same page and keep disputes to a minimum. And equipped with the basics contained in this article, anyone can be a checkers champion!

Article provided by Homesteader.

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