Checkers Around the World
French Draughts/Checkers Game
Le Jeu de Dames
The game of French checkers, now popular all over
the world, is known as Les
Dames in France. As in many countries,
this game has a history within the French
culture. The first version was developed in
the south of France ca. 1100 when the ancient
game of Alquerque was
played on a checkered chessboard using twelve
pieces on each side of the board. This game
was then called ‘Fierges’ or ‘Ferses’,
later called ‘Dames’.
The rules of the old game of Le
Jeu de dames á la française did
not include forced capture of the opponent’s
game pieces, even when there was an opportunity
to do so. This compulsory rule of capture ~
forcing a player to take ‘enemy’ pieces
~ was introduced into France ca 1535 and the
new game became known as ‘Jeu
Force’. The old game without ‘huffing’ was
given the name ‘Le
Jeu Plaisant de Dames’ or simply, ‘Plaisant’.
The author of the first French work published
on the original game in 1668 was Pierre Mallet.
Although his knowledge was very basic compared
to others of that era, his rules and historical
notes formed the foundation of numerous later
publications, which established the game of
checkers in French society. ‘Jeu
Force’ later became ‘Draughts’ in
Britain and ‘Checkers’ in
the U.S. In France, the game of Checkers became
known as ‘Le
Jeu de Dames’. ’Le Jeu
Plaisant de Dames’ is now recognized
or Polish Draughts’ and is superior
in complexity to British draughts in that it
uses a slightly different rule set, which gives
the element of capturing the opponent’s
checkers greater scope. This version also differs
with respect to the power given a player’s
checker once it has been crowned. ‘Continental
or Polish Draughts’is played in
France, Belgium, Holland and Poland in Europe
and likewise on some of the islands in the
West Indies. Although the name is often referred
to as ‘Polish
Draughts/Checkers’, the game was
not invented in Poland, but according to historical sources, in France.
French Checkers Rules of Play:
~ The Game Board ~
The French checkerboard consists of a 10
x 10 pattern (100 squares) of alternating
light and dark squares.
Two opponents face each other with 20
checkers aside, placed on the first four
rows of the board on the squares nearest each player.
The checkers used are contrasting colors,
usually referred to as ‘black’ and ‘white’,
though often are actually colored red and
~ Object of the French Checkers Game ~
Each player uses strategy to out maneuver
the opponent so that he/she cannot make a
move on his/her turn.
To prevent the opponent’s further
movement is accomplished by capturing all
his/her checkers or by blocking their position
so that no move can be made.
The player who achieves this outcome,
wins the french checkers game; if neither
player can accomplish this tactic, the game is a draw.
~ Game Starting Position ~
The board is positioned squarely between
the two opponents and is placed so that a
single dark corner is on the player’s
left side and a double corner is on the player’s
The opponent with the light checkers begins
the game with the first move and then the
players alternate turns thereafter, making
only one move at a time.
~ Game Moves & Captures ~
The checkers can only move forward one
square at a time either diagonally left or
right to an unoccupied square.
Capturing is mandatory but the player’s
checker may capture forward or backward in
a diagonal path.
If a continuous capture is possible, then
the opponent must make this move until the
run is complete as long as there are empty
squares immediately adjacent to the checkers
~ Crowned to become ‘Queen’ ~
When a checker reaches the opponent’s
last row, it is crowned by that player and
becomes a ‘queen’.
This ‘queen’ can
move any number of squares along the diagonal on any given turn.
The ‘queen’ may
capture any unguarded checker or queen piece
in any diagonal path she takes in a move
by leaping over the captured piece and remaining
on any empty square that the queen chooses
along the same diagonal beyond the piece that has been captured.
If the ‘queen’ has
the opportunity to take another unguarded
checker, then she must choose the diagonal
where the capture can be made.