Checkers: From Traditional to Computer Boards

Checkers history is a bit shadowy compared to its sister board game chess. Here's a quick account of how checkers started and ended up a computer game.

Some say that the earliest form of checkers was played in the ancient city of Ur, somewhere in northeast Mesopotamia. Ur today is said to be the country of Iraq. Some archeological findings verify this and experts say the game existed as early as 3000 B.C. However, other experts maintain that checkers was first played in Egypt in 1600 B.C. before it founds its way to India and later to Europe where its modern version first appeared.

The term "Alquerque" will appear each time we search out the roots of the game. It was supposed to be the name it went by in ancient Egypt in 1400 B.C. It was a board game using 5 rows by 5 columns of squares where the pieces were moved. How exactly the game was played is not clear but it was somewhat similar to how checker is played today. Alquerque quickly found its way to western countries and became popular there for years.

Then in 1100 a Frenchman came with a brilliant idea. Why not play the Alquerque pieces on a chess board? That would simplify everything and give players the bonus of enjoying two games with one board. Checkers history made a complete turn. Pieces were added to a total of 12 each player and called "Ferses." The evolved game was first called "Fierges" with an added feature of forced captures.

When checkers became fully developed as a board game it was brought to Great Britain and America where it was warmly welcomed. The British called it "Draughts" (pronounced "drafts") while the Americans called it checkers. It was also know as American checkers. The game also reached Spain and became popular there that a mathematician, William Payne, even wrote a long discussion on the game in 1756.

The year 1847 was very significant for players of checkers. It marked the first international checkers championship every held and at the same time the imposition of the two-move restriction rule to break certain opening advantages favoring a player. This rule enforced fairness through the use of a random opening selection.

Checkers history finally found its way into the computer age. In 1952 a checkers computer program was first introduced, though still in its undeveloped phase. Alan Turing and Arthur L. Samuel were pioneers in this.




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