History of Checkers
The origins of many board games are shrouded in mystery and checkers, or draughts as it is known in Europe, is no exception. It is generally believed that the game may have been invented as long ago as 1000 A.D., although some experts think it is of more recent origin, maybe early 13th century. Most authorities are of the opinion that draughts was invented in southern France, although again, not all agree, some believing that the game originated in Spain. One intriguing theory, is that the inventor was probably trying to gure out how to play alquerque (an early middle eastern strategy game) on a chessboard while using backgammon pieces. Whatever the accuracy of this theory, checkers became a very popular game. The precise form of play varied then and varies now, different versions of the original game are played in different countries. The English version, which was later adapted by North America, was fixed by about 1800.
In the original game of checkers, capture was optional, as it is in modern chess. Compulsory capture was introduced early in the 16th century- if a player neglected to capture, he was penalized by being “hued.” This “new” game became known in France as jeu force’, and it is this game which is usually known today as English checkers. In France, jeu force’ was replaced by another form of checkers known as le grand forcat. This, too, became obsolete and in the 1720’s it was replaced by the game we now know as Polish or continental checkers and which is played throughout mainland Europe. Once again, various authorities offer slightly different theories as to the origins of this version of checkers. Circumstantial evidence points to the fact that Polish checkers was devised at the court of Philippe the 11th of Orleans (regent from 1713-23) by an oce of the court. The latter collaborated with a Polish gentleman, who thought the game could be made more interesting if a piece could take diagonally backwards as well as forwards. The officer then suggested that the game might become still more interesting if it were played on a bigger board. Further modications, mainly concerning the powers of movement and capture by the king, were later made. The increased powers of capture, particularly by the king, make Polish checkers a more tactical game than other variations. This is indicated by the fact that the game is organized on the lines of chess, with clubs and competitions at various levels up to, and including, a world championship. This variation can certainly be considered one of the great board games of the present day.