The position of chess and draughts in some European countries after 1500

Stage 0: game with the leap capture < 2000 BC

 To invent a board game with the leap capture seems easy; therefore we may expect the leap capture is antique. The relevant features of this ancestor of draughts must have been:

Features stage 0

* leap capture

* piece moves and takes in any direction

* board: any shape and size

 

 In our eyes a game with these features was boring, with aimlessly moving back and forth. Click here for such a game.

 

Stage 1: introduction of promotion and a specific lined board 2000-1500 BC

 In the Near East a sophisticated rule was devised: promotion. The game without promotion died out. The new game was attached to a specific lined board, see the diagram below. Today we call this board alquerque board.

 This board was carved into the roofing slabs of the temple in Luxor (Egypt) about 1500 BC, see below. The peasant or slave who made it was mistaken: he carved six lines instead of five.

 The relevant features of this game must have been:

Features stage 1

* leap capture

* singleton moves and takes forwards and sideways

* promotion to short doubleton

* lined board (alquerque board)

 

 This game reached Athens before the 5th c. BC. The Greek name was Penta grammai, 'Five lines'. Not later than the 2nd c. BC the Romans played it under the name of Duodecim scruporum, 'Twelve pieces'.

 Greek poets called the horizontal centre line the holy line, obviously because the occupation of a point of this row guaranteed a certain immunity to an attack. It is possible that a singleton on this line could only be taken by a king, or by a simultaneous attack of two singletons.

 

Stage 2:  introduction of the long doubleton 300-800 AD

 Not later than the 8th c. AD, Arabic speaking people changed the short doubleton into a long doubleton, draughts splitting up into two branches. In 13th c. Spain the variety with the long doubleton was called alquerque de doze. What we see is the birth of two varieties of our days, Spanish draughts and English draughts. These varieties differ in only one aspect: the king, but as soon as one of the players has acquired a king we have to do with two totally different games. And probably this difference affects the strategy of the game from the very beginning.

 Relevant features:

Features stage 2

* leap capture

* singleton moves and takes forwards / sideways

* promotion to short / long doubleton

* lined board (alquerque board)

 

Stage 3: transfer from the lined board to the chess board 14th c. AD

 In the 14th c., draughts was transferred from the lined board to the chess board. Some civilizations played chess on unchequered boards, others on chequered boards; click here for more information. Where the chess board was unchequered, like in the Middle East, draughts became an orthogonal game. Where the chess board was chequered, like in France, Italy, England and Spain, draughts became a diagonal game.

                                                     ▼                                                                         ▼

                                              Orthogonal draughts                                                                                    Diagonal draughts

For the human eye,

 the unchequered board has a pattern of rows and columns

For the human eye,

the chequered board has a pattern of diagonals

                                     ▼                                                                          ▼

           Features stage 3 (Arabic)

           * leap capture

           * singleton moves and takes straight forwards and sideways

           * promotion to long doubleton

           * unchequered board of 8x8 squares

                   Features stage 3 (Roman)

                   * leap capture

                   * singleton moves and takes diagonally forwards

                   * promotion to short doubleton

                   * chequered board of 8x8 squares

 

 In the board game literature, the Arabic variety is called Turkish draughts. To demonstrate the rules a problem composed in the 20th c., see the diagram right. Please notice that these rules are identical with the rules of the variety we call Spanish draughts. In this attractive position White wins as follows: 1. 36-28 20x36 2. 41-33 25x41 3. 40-32 24x40 4. 50-49 [sideward moves are allowed] 41x57 [doubleton] 5. 45-44 36x52 6. 37-29 30x28 [a lateral capture] 7. 42-41 26x44 [Black has to take the most pieces] 8. 35-36 57x37 9. 38x4 [doubleton] 40x38 10. 46x10 [no backward captures] 9x11 11. 47-39 31x47 12. 54-53 52x54 13. 4x28 [capture of seven pieces] W+. A combination in 1999 demonstrated by Hamza Ahmed, a draughts master from Bahrain, during a tourney.

 

Stage 4: introduction of the obligation to take (in both the Roman and the Arabic variety) 15th c. AD

 In our days, draughts is a board game that combines strategic and combinational elements. In the Middle Ages the combinational aspect did not exist, as capturing was not obliged.

 In an unknown region (France?), probably in the 15th c., the obligation to take was introduced. French and English writers distinguished between two varieties: draughts without the obligation to take and draughts with the obligation to take on the penalty of the huff. In 1668, Pierre Mallet [:321] wrote in his draughts books "Le jeu de dames": "Draughts is played in two ways: one variety is called le forçat, the other le plaisant". He considered le plaisant as a children's game. The equivalents is England were checkers: a game without the huff, and draughts, a game with the huff. See for more information Stoep 2005:119, 160-163.

 Playing draughts with the huff demands more concentration, not only because the player has to attend to combinations but because he himself can weave combinations into the game.

 Only simple combinations, however. See the diagram left, a situation in Polish draughts. According to the present rules, Black's last move 24-29 is a blunder, as White has an immediate win: 1. 27-21 16x27 2. 38-32 27x38 3. 42x2 and with his mighty long king White easily wins the game. Played under the penalty of the huff, White cannot execute the combination: 1. 27-21 16x27 2. 38-32. Black "forgets" to take the white piece, better: he refuses to take it and plays for instance 8-13. His piece 27 is huffed: 3. 32x21,  but the position is equal. It is evident: the rule of the huff prevents long combinations.

 In England -I use England as an example, but the situation occurred in many (?) (all?) countries- there was made a difference between practice = playing a game and theory = combinations in books. Authors of draughts books presented nice, long combinations which could impossibly occur in a real game because of the huff rule. See the diagram right, a composition made by the strong English player William Strickland. Solution: 1. 12-8 3x12 2. 14-9 5x14 3. 13-9 6x13 4. 15x6 2x9 5. 17x3 26x17 6. 21x5 and White wins. In his time (Strickland was born in Leeds in 1849 and died in the same town in 1887) English players played with the huff rule (in official tourneys only abolished at the end of the 20th c., see stage 8), so that it is evident Strickland could not execute this combination in a game.

Features stage 4 (both Roman and Arabic draughts)

* leap capture

* singleton moves and takes forwards / sideways

* promotion to short / long doubleton

* obliged capture on the penalty of the huff

* chequered / unchequered board of 8x8 squares

 

Stage 5: introduction of the multiple capture in the Arabic variety c. 1500 AD

 In Spain (?) about 1500 the multiple capture was introduced: a player had (has) to do the move which gave (gives) him the most pieces. It was already a general rule in the first Spanish draughts books, dating from the second half of the 16th c., see the example below from the manuscript of Alonso Guerra, written c. 1595. White wins as follows: 1. 14-9 5x14 2. 23-18 30x6 3. 18x2 and Black is powerless because of the long White king.

 The introduction of the multiple capture guarantees more complex combinations; for this reason it is a new and important step in the evolution. But as long as in practical games the rule of the huff was maintained, this type of combination only occurred in books.

Features stage 5 (Spanish/Arabic draughts)

* leap capture

* singleton moves and takes forwards

* promotion to long doubleton

* taking the most is obliged

* chequered board of 8x8 squares

 This rule was not borrowed in varieties with a short king, and not in all varieties with a long king, as Russian draughts or Polish draughts played in African countries.

 

Stage 6: introduction of the backward capture of the singleton in the Arabic variety 16th c.

 In the Netherlands in the 16th (?) c. the singleton was allowed to capture in backward direction too. Unlike other innovations, this rule was not borrowed by other nations, it was and is only applied in Russian draughts. It cannot be excluded it regards a Russian invention, but the first Russian draughts books are not older than the 19th c. In the diagram below White wins by applying the rule of the backward capture. 1 22-18 13x22 2. 18x25 21x30 3. 14-10 30x19 4. 10x1 19x6 5. 1x3W+

Features stage 6 (Arabic draughts)

* leap capture

* singleton moves forwards

* the singleton takes forwards and backwards

* promotion to long doubleton

* obliged capture on the penalty of the huff

* taking the most is obliged

* chequered board of 8x8 squares

 

Stage 7: introduction of the 100 squares board in the Arabic variety 16th c.

 The number of combination structures considerably increased with the introduction of Polish draughts in the Netherlands in the 16th c. See for the birth of this variety Stoep 2005:68-69. Polish draughts is the most sophisticated draughts variety, result of an evolution that took 3.000 years.

 Later this game was transferred to the 8x8 board. In the USA Russian emigrants today play the game under the name of Pool checkers, but they introduced the rule of the flying king (see below).

 

Features stage 7 (Polish draughts)

* leap capture

* singleton moves forwards

* the singleton takes forwards and backwards

* promotion to long doubleton

* obliged capture on the penalty of the huff

* taking the most is obliged

* chequered board of 10x10 squares

 

 To illustrate the abundance of Polish draughts five simple compositions from the 20th c.

  A. van Rijn (Neth).

1. 33-28 22x42 [taking 6 White pieces] 2. 48x28 W+

 

G. Junca (France)

1. 29-23 18x40 2. 28-22 25x43 3. 22x2 37x46 4. 2x5 46x14 5. 5x16 43x32 6. 16x35 W+

F. Hermelink (Neth.)

1. 42-37 36x47 2. 32-28 47x35 3. 28x30 35x41 4. 34x21 16x27 5. 46x37 W+

  A.G. Noordhuis (Neth.)

1. 35-30 24x44 2. 33x31 44x42 3. 41-37 36x27 4. 37x48 27-32 5. 48-42 W+

    S. Kovalev (Russia)

1. 23-19 14x32 2. 25x3 36x47 3. 3x43 47x29 4. 43-34 29x40 5. 45x34 W+

 

Stage 8: abolition of the huff in both the Arabic variety (19th c.) and the Roman variety (20th c.)

 For centuries, draughts was played in public places like coffee houses for a stake and at a great pace. In such circumstances, the huff is a tactical weapon. Click here for a trick from games played according to the rules of Polish draughts.

 The Dutchman Ephraim van Emden, advocate of a scientific approach of the game, urged the abolition of the huff in his book of 1785, but only hundred years later there were enough supporters. It coincided with the first contest where several nationalities met: in the closing years of the 19th c. strong players from France and Holland measured their selves. They demanded time to consider their moves, so that a game could not be won with a knack allowed by the huff. The game gained by the abolition of the huff: the combination became a strategic tool, from now on a game could be won by a combination,  sometimes a simple one owing to a loss of concentration but also complex, deep ones. See two positions with complex combinations from games.

 At the diagram left a position that occurred in the game between A. Der (White, Senegal) and G. Valneris (Latvia), played in the World Championship in Amsterdam October 2005. Der's 22nd move 41-37 was wrong: 22...27-32 23. 38x27 14-20 24. 25x23 18x40 25. 27x7 24-30 26. 45x25 8-12 27. 7x18 13x44 and the Senegalese surrendered.

 The right position occurred in a game between two French champions in the first half of the 20th c. Black, A. Molimard, threatened to win a piece by 1...24-29 2. 33x24 17-21 3. 26x17 11x33 4. 38x29 23x25 B+. White, M. Bonnard, played 1. 44-39, speculating that Molimard could not take the combination to square 44. But Black did take the combination: 1... 24-29 2. 33x24 17-21 3. 26x17 11x44. White supposed that his opponent had missed the reply: 4. 30-25 19x30 5. 35x24 44x35 6. 24-19 13x24 7. 27-21 16x27 8. 31x4. Black, however, had looked further: 8...35-40 9. 45x34 23-29 10. 34x23 14-20 11. 25x14 10x46. Bonnard has to loose his king: 12. 4-27 12-18 13. 27x35 8-13 14. 35x8 2x13 and Black easily won because of his strong long king.

 

 But the combination especially became a tool to enforce a weak move, a move which affected the opponent's position. Two examples.

 The first position was sent to me by Alexandr Moiseyev, a Russian player who emigrated to the United States. In 2005 he played a match against Ron King for the World Championship 2005 Three Move. Variety: English (Roman) draughts.

King played 12...30-26. Moiseyev attacked with 13. 11-15, for White unexpectedly. The exchange 32-28 seems weak, but undoubtedly the man from Barbados had played it if he had not overlooked the combination that followed on his reply 11...32-27. 14. 15x24 27x11. Now his opponent combined to the king's row: 15. 2-7 11x2 16. 10-15 2x9 17. 5x30 26-22 18. 30-26 23-28 19. 26x17 18x11 20. 12-16 31-26 21. 16-19 13-9 22. 17-14 9-5 23. 14-18 and White resigned.

 

 The second position occurred in a game played by M Borghetti (White, Italy) and E. Buzjinski (Lithuania) during the World Championship in Amsterdam October 2005. Variety: Polish draughts. The Italian had only three moves: 36-31, 27-21 and 44-40. The move 32. 36-31 would be very weak, for it immobilises White's position. Also 32. 27-21 16x27 33. 32x21 23x32 34. 38x27 is weak because of the reply 11-16. So Borghetti played 32. 44-40, but was surprised by 32...17-22 33. 28x17 11x31 34. 26x37 4-10 35. 15x4 14-20 36. 25x14 19x10 37. 4x29 23x45. It is not easy to win the game, but the strong king was deciding: Buzjinski won. Because of this combination, Borghetti was obliged to play the weak exchange 32. 27-21 etc.

 

Features stage 8 (Polish draughts)

* leap capture

* singleton moves and takes forwards

* promotion to long doubleton

* obliged capture

* taking the most is obliged

* the singleton takes forwards and backwards

* chequered board of 10x10 squares

 

Particular boards and rules

[See for detailed information on draughts varieties from all over the world Jean-Bernard Alemanni (2005) and his site http://perso.orange.fr/alemanni.

 

Bigger or smaller boards. In Canada Polish draughts in its 8th stage was transferred to a 12x12 board, but as this did not create new combination structures it did not contribute to the development of the game. In Siberia some tribes play(ed) Russian draughts on a 7x7 board.

 

King halt. In Thailand (also elsewhere?) the long doubleton has to stop immediately after the piece it has taken. See the diagram below: the black king takes 31x17 and Black looses the game.

Capturing twice on the same diagonal. The composition below is taken from the book written by Wattana Prukpairotkoon, champion of Thailand in 1983, 1984 and 1985. The game is played with the rules of Spanish draughts. Solution: 1. 23-18 32x23 2. 10-7 3x17 3. 18-14 23x9 [The black king has to stop immediately after the piece on square 14]. In every variety we know, the white king has the choice between 2x4 or 2x29, capturing three black pieces. Not in Thai draughts, however, where the white king takes four pieces: 4. 2x13x22x4x29 W+.

 

King's protection. In Italian draughts on the 8x8 board, the Roman game with the short king, a singleton may not capture the (short) doubleton. See the diagram below, White to play. After White's 23-18 Black can safely play with one of his singletons, as the capture 30x23 is forbidden.

Flying king. In Russian draughts on the 8x8 board a singleton on promoting may immediately continue capturing as a king. It is remarkable that this rule was propagated in the first Dutch draughts book (1785). See the composition on diagram 1  below for an example. White wins as follows: 1. 18-14 9x18 2. 22x6 2x9 (Black has a free choice) 3. 27-23 13x31 4. 32-27 31x24 5. 25-22 19x17 6. 21x14 9x18 7. 28x3. The piece continues its capture as a king, see diagram 2: 3x27 W+.

             Diagram 1

           Diagram 2

Removal of pieces. In the diagonal varieties with a long king, captured pieces are not removed from the board until the end of the capture. See for an example the composition below from a Dutchman. In diagram 1 White plays 1. 32-27 26x37 2. 44-40 22x31 3. 47-41 37x46 4. 29-23 and see diagram 2. Black has to capture the most pieces he can, so 46x19x35x49x38x29 and see diagram 3. The black king has to stop on square 29. White takes 5. 34x3 15x24 6. 3x1, taking all black pieces W+.

            Diagram 1

            Diagram 2

           Diagram 3

In Turkish draughts, however, pieces are removed as captured, which means that in diagram 3 the black king might continue its capture with 29x40 or 29x45 B+.