How to Play Checkers

By James Holloway
Britain, checkers
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Checkers is a strategy board game for two players. The game board consists of eight rows of eight alternating light and dark squares. Each player controls 12 identical pieces, although a new type of piece can appear during the game. Although the rules of checkers are straightforward, the resulting strategies can be very sophisticated.

Getting Started

To begin the game, each player places his or her pieces. One piece goes on each dark-colored square of the three rows nearest to the player's side of the board. Pieces come in sets of contrasting colors, typically black and red, white and black, or black and red. The darker of the two colors moves first.

Moving Pieces

Starting with the dark player, each player takes it in turn to move one piece. In a normal move, a piece can move diagonally forward into an empty square -- that is, it can move into either of the dark squares that touch the front corners of the square it is currently in.

Taking Opposing Pieces

Pieces can also "jump" opposing pieces. To do this, there must be an opposing piece in a square that connects with a front corner of the square the piece is currently in. There must also be no pieces in the square beyond. The moving piece moves over the opposing piece and into the empty square. The opposing piece is removed from the board. If the moving piece can jump again, it must do so. This allows a piece to move several times in the same turn.

Jumping Rules

Unlike a normal move, jumping is required if possible. If a player has a piece in a position to jump, he or she must take the jump. If multiple pieces can jump, the player can choose which one to move. Forcing an opponent into a disadvantageous jump is a key part of checkers strategy.

Crowning a Piece

A piece that reaches the starting row on the opponent's side of the board becomes a King. The player puts a second piece on top of it to indicate that it is a King. This piece can now move both backward and forward, taking regular moves and jumping in any direction.

Winning the Game

The game ends when one player has removed all of the opposing player's pieces. Alternatively, if one player has no possible moves remaining -- for instance, if the only remaining piece is cornered by a double row of opposing pieces -- the opposing player wins.

Variant Rules

Many variations of checkers exist. Some involve new boards, while others use the existing board and pieces to play new games. Variants include "pro" or "tournament" rules, in which the first two or three moves are randomized. Other variants include Spanish Checkers, in which crowned pieces, called Queens, can move any number of squares and jump in the same move.

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.