Checkers, also known as draughts, is a strategy board game for 2 players that dates back to the 12th century. The game itself involves players performing diagonal moves with the same game pieces. You capture the other player’s pieces by jumping over them in a diagonal direction.
There are several forms of checkers but the most played is English draughts, also known as American checkers. This is a game that is played on an 8 by 8 checkerboard. As well as this, there is Russian draughts which is played on an 8 by 8 board and also international draughts which is on 10 by 10 table. Canadian and Singaporian/Malaysian checkers is played on a 12 by 12 board. All in all, there are nearly 20 versions of the game throughout the world, each with slightly different rules.
At checkers.org.nz we will be looking at how to play checkers, how to go about playing it in New Zealand as well as the different tournaments you can enter if you become a New Zealand checkers master.
How to Play American Checkers
The first step you need to take is setting up the game. You need to establish which player is going to go first. You could do this my tossing a coin or some other method. You need to be aware that the player going first must use the black pieces in American checkers. Other variations may differ but generally, if you are going first then you need to use the black pieces.
When you set up the board, sit across from your opponent and make sure the board has a light-coloured square on the corner of the board on your right side. Place the checkers on the black squares board. 6 rows are taken up with checkers and the 2 rows in the centre are open. You can then decide whether you time your moves or not.
The player with the black pieces starts. You can only move one diagonal space forward. The pieces must always stay on the black squares.
If your piece is placed in the diagonal space nearest your opponent’s piece then you can jump over and capture their checker. Simply jump over it by moving 2 diagonal spaces, like you are hopping over it. Once you capture it, you can take it off the board. Remember:
- The space on the other side of their piece needs to be empty to capture the piece.
- If you are able to jump over the piece then you must.
- If you have more than one chance to jump over you can choose what one to capture.
- If capturing a piece gives you the chance to capture another piece then you must keep going until you can’t capture anymore.
Once you get a checker that reaches the other side of the board, you can turn it into a king. Simply place one of your captured piece on top. When you have a king, you will improve your game because although kings can only move one diagonal space, it can move backwards and forwards to capture pieces.
To win, you keep jumping over and capturing your opponent’s pieces until they have all gone.
Checkers in New Zealand – Clubs and Tournaments
In New Zealand the game of checkers began in 1896 when the first National Championships were held at Wanganui. This was the start for New Zealanders who developed a growing fondness of the game. Because of this, championships were held regularly in different parts of the country. For a while, whilst the game developed, most of the tournaments were won by immigrants. However, after 50 years, the main centre eventually moved from Otago to Wellington.
Now, all the main centres have checkers clubs scattered around the country. However, there are also many players who don’t belong to clubs, but are members of the NZDA – the New Zealand Draughts Association. National tournaments take place every year alternately in the South and North Islands.
These tournaments are run on a ‘two move restriction’. Usually there are over 20 players drawn from the very best in the country that take part. However, there is no preselection, so any member of the association can enter. The tournaments each last approximately one week and include a sealed handicap.
There are other important fixtures also that include city, provincial, and North and South Island championships. There are also areas where junior and schoolboy championships are held.
Playing Checkers Online
If you aren’t near a club, or it’s difficult to get out, then there are always ways to play online. This is ideal as you don’t have someone you can play the game with. It’s a way to practice your tactics and hone your skills.
There are dozens of places for you to play online. You can choose to play against other human opponents or against AI opponents. You can now play on mobile apps as well as your laptop and desktop. Here are some of the best sites to play on:
- ItsYouTurn.com offers a number of variants including American checkers, Pro checkers, Anti-checkers, Sparse checkers, Crowded checkers and Mule checkers. It is a turn based website. Whenever you begin your game a game board will appear red. You can decide whether to make your move at that time or wait. You are then placed in a waiting room for an opponent to pick up with you.
- AOL Games has three versions of the game – American checkers, Casual checkers and a TweenSoft.com version that is played against a robot that offers skill levels of beginner, easy, normal and hard.
- Pogo.com checkers has a great number of potential opponents. However, it offers only American checkers. You can immediately play against robots, but to play against other people you must register for free. It offers multiplayer games, a choice of themes, bonus jumps and chat.