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Chess | Draughts | Backgammon | Belot |

English |

 
Draughts / English
       Though most people do not know it, the game we know today as Checkers has a long and storied history. From ancient Egypt to your own living room, Checkers has remained a popular pastime for most of recorded history.

Ancient Alquerque
     Checkers, as we know it, probably began as a game called Alquerque, or Quirkat. Alquerque boards and pieces have been found in archeological digs dating as far back as 600 BCE, and images of Alquerque have been found carved into temple walls dating as far back as 1400 BCE. It was played throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin. It was enjoyed by the Ancient Egyptians, mentioned by both Plato and Homer, and even made its way into India.
     While we do not know exactly how the ancients played Alquerque, what we do know about the game strongly resembles modern Checkers. Like Checkers, Alquerque features round, flat pieces divided into light and dark colors, the capture of opponent pieces, and a grid-based board. Unlike Checkers, an Alquerque board is only a 5x5 grid and sports intersecting diagonal lines; and in Alquerque, there are only 10 pieces per side, moving along the intersections of lines instead of within squares.

From Fierges to Draughts
     Historians place the invention of "modern" Checkers in the 12th century CE, when someone, somewhere (probably in the south of France) combined the rules and pieces of Alquerque with the 8x8 grid of a common chessboard. They called the game Fierges, and the pieces "ferses," the same name given to the queen in Chess; at that time the queen moved like a Fierges piece, one space at a time. Later, Ferses also became a name for the game, and by the 15th century both Fierges and Ferses had been replaced by the name Jeu De Dames, or simply Dames.
     By the 16th century, Dames was hugely popular in France. Formalized rule sets began to appear. In 1535 the Forced Capture rule was introduced to Dames, and players began to call Forced Capture Dames "Jeu Force." It was as Jeu Force that the game made its way to England, where it was renamed Draughts, and eventually to North America, where it was renamed Checkers. Along the way the rules adjusted and variants rose, but the basic form of Jeu Force remained surprisingly intact.
     Dames without the Forced Capture rule remained popular in France, under the name Le Jeu Plaisant De Dames, or Plaisant. In the 18th Century, Plaisant replaced the 8x8 grid with a 10x10 grid and expanded the piece count to 20 per side. This variant likely came out of Holland.

Checkers Around the World
     Checkers is only called "Checkers" in North America. In most other English-speaking places, the game is called Draughts, and in much of Europe the game is called "English Variant Draughts." Today, 10x10 Plaisant is known as International Draughts or Continental Draughts.
     Countries around the world also have their own local names for the game, as well as their own local variant rules, boards, and even pieces. Many European countries use a local variant of the name Dames, such as the German name Damenspiel. Many European variants, including International Draughts, use a "flying king" that can move more than one square at a time, while in both Germany and Italy, kings can only be captured by other kings. In Turkey, they use both dark and light squares, and pieces can move either forward or side to side. Canadian Checkers, or Jeu De Dames Canadien, uses a 12x12 grid with 30 pieces per side!
     Both Checkers/Draughts and International Draughts remain popular games to this day. National and international tournaments exist for each version, with the first World Championship tournament for English Draughts taking place in 1847.

What about Chinese Checkers?
     Despite its name, Chinese Checkers is not Chinese (it originated in Germany), and it has nothing to do with Checkers. The name "Chinese Checkers" was chosen as a marketing strategy in the early 1900s, to lend it some Oriental mystique and to connect it to a game consumers were already familiar with.
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