History of Checkers: From Ancient Roots to Modern Play

Checkers, a classic board game beloved by many, has a rich history that spans centuries. The game’s origins can be traced back to ancient times, and its evolution over the years has led to the familiar game we know today. In this article, we will delve into the history of checkers, exploring its ancient roots and the various developments that have shaped the modern play of this timeless pastime.

Ancient Beginnings

The origins of checkers are believed to date back over 3,000 years. The earliest predecessor of the game was known as Alquerque, which was played in ancient Egypt around 1400 B.C. Alquerque used a board with 5×5 squares and featured pieces that were moved and jumped similarly to modern checkers.

The game spread across the Mediterranean and evolved into different versions in various regions. In ancient Greece, a game called Petteia resembled checkers in some aspects. Similarly, the Romans had a game called Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum, which used a board with 3 rows of 12 squares and featured the movement of pieces in a manner reminiscent of checkers.

Medieval Checkers

During the Middle Ages, the game of checkers continued to evolve. The game’s name is derived from the Old French word “eschequier,” which means a chessboard. The game’s name eventually evolved into “checkers” in the English language.

One of the most significant developments during this period was the introduction of the 8×8 game board. This larger board size allowed for more complex strategies and is the format used in modern checkers. Pieces were typically called “men,” and the goal was to reach the opponent’s side of the board to become a “king.”

English Draughts and American Checkers

In the 18th century, checkers underwent further refinements in both England and the United States, leading to the distinct versions known as English draughts and American checkers, respectively.

English Draughts: In England, the game became known as English draughts and was played on an 8×8 board. English draughts introduced the concept of “crowning” pieces, turning them into “kings” that could move both forward and backward. This addition added a layer of complexity and strategy to the game.

American Checkers: In the United States, the game developed into American checkers, which also used the 8×8 board. American checkers retained the basic movement of pieces without introducing the concept of kings. The rules and gameplay of American checkers were later standardized in the 19th century.

Checkers in the Modern Era

Checkers continued to gain popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1847, the first American checkers tournament was held in Pennsylvania, marking a significant milestone in the game’s history. The American Checkers Federation (ACF) was established in the 1930s, further promoting the game and organizing competitions.

One of the most notable moments in checkers history occurred during the mid-20th century when American player Marion Tinsley became a dominant force in the game. Tinsley, considered one of the greatest checkers players of all time, held the world championship title for a remarkable 40 years.

International Checkers (10×10)

While American checkers and English draughts remained the most popular versions of the game, another variant known as international checkers (also called Polish draughts or 10×10 checkers) gained prominence in some parts of the world. In international checkers, the game is played on a larger 10×10 board, and players start with 20 pieces each.

One distinctive feature of international checkers is the mandatory capturing rule. If a player has the opportunity to capture an opponent’s piece, they must do so. This rule adds complexity and depth to the game, making international checkers a preferred choice for those seeking a more intricate and challenging version of checkers.

Online Checkers

In the digital age, checkers made a seamless transition to the online world. Various websites and mobile apps offer the opportunity to play checkers against computer opponents or challenge players from around the globe. Online checkers has become a convenient and accessible way to enjoy the game, whether for casual play or competitive matches.

The Enduring Appeal of Checkers

The enduring appeal of checkers can be attributed to its simplicity and accessibility. It’s a game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and it doesn’t require expensive equipment or a vast knowledge of rules to get started. Checkers is a game that transcends cultural boundaries and is recognized and played in various forms around the world.

Whether played casually among family and friends or in competitive tournaments, checkers continues to captivate players and stimulate their minds. The game’s rich history, from its ancient beginnings to modern online play, serves as a testament to its enduring popularity and status as a classic pastime.


The history of checkers is a journey that spans thousands of years and multiple continents. From its origins in ancient Egypt to its evolution into various regional versions, checkers has remained a beloved and timeless game. Whether you prefer the strategic complexities of international checkers or the traditional charm of American checkers, the game continues to offer endless opportunities for players to test their wits and enjoy the thrill of competition. As checkers remains a steadfast source of entertainment and intellectual challenge, it’s clear that this classic board game will continue to be cherished by generations to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *