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The History of Draughts

Draughts, or as it is commonly known by its American name checkers, is an amusing pastime, enjoyed by people of all ages.The aim of the game is to leap over your opponent’s pieces in order to capture them all.It might surprise you to know that this quaint English game has been around for many millennia.

The earliest mentions of the game were by the famous philosophers Plato and Homer. They detailed a game originating in ancient Egypt, which involved capturing your opponent’s pieces. Their claims were verified after the discovery of pieces of a game greatly resembling draughts were found within the burial chambers of the Egyptian Queen Hatsu.

The oldest known versions of the game were found during an archaeological digin Ur, now present-day Iraq and dates back to 3000 BC. Although very similar to modern draughts these early games included the element of chance. Many drawings found nearby the ancient draught playing-kits, showed men playing the game along with a set of dice. One can infer that the roll of the dice determined the movement of pieces on the board.

The game evolved during the great Roman era. There are many historical references which imply that an earlier counterpart of draughts was played by Roman soldiers during the Trojan war. Similar game sets, which date back to around 5000 years ago, were also found in Italy, China and India. These games, which did not involve any dice or luck, are the true ancestors of the colourful game we now know as draughts.

Despite many modifications, the basic concept of the game has remained constant. So too has the shape and nature of the checkerboard on which the game is played.

A similar game called Alquerque, derived from its Egyptian counterpart was played throughout the Middle East. It features the principle of leaping to capture your opponent’s pieces. During the rule of the Moors the game entered Europe firstly via Spain, later France, and thereafter the rest of the European continent.

During 1100 AD, the French further modified the game to include a much bigger 64-sided square board and increased the number of pieces held by each player. They also introduced the concept of crowning, which involves topping a game piece with another piece, thus making it a ‘king’.

By the 17th century, draughts had become a much-loved game in Britain. During this time many Britons decided to try their luck in the “New World” i.e. the Americas. The beloved game emigrated across the Atlantic, and continues to be highly a highly popular past time of both British an American alike.

1952 marked a new era in the history of the game, when Arthur L Samuels invented the first Draughts program. Today’s checkers computer programs can analyse huge amounts of data to calculate the perfect move. The inclusion of checkers programs in computers and the advancement of the internet has meant that the game has travelled to millions of homes all around the globe.

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