Black and tan pieces on checkerboard

Checkers is a seemingly simple board game that has been around for thousands of years, but it has a complexity that makes it a classic.

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Checkers has been capturing the minds of board game fans around the globe for thousands of years. It is known as a mind sport of kings and men because of its depth and simplicity. Despite its apparent straightforwardness, the game has been studied and theorized to nearly the same extent as other classics such as chess or backgammon.

The earliest recognizable version of checkers dates back to an Egyptian game called Alquerque, which uses a five-square by five-square board and has similar jumping moves [source: Avedon]. The game has since traveled across the globe in different iterations, from the French version known as Fierges to the English version known as draughts [source: Walker]. It has even made an appearance in Greek literature, mentioned by Homer in the epic "The Odyssey" when some haughty suitors are caught "amusing themselves with games of draughts" [source: Homer].

The size of the board has changed over the course of history but has settled on two different variations: the 100-square board used in many European countries and the 64-square board used in American checkers. The rules of the game have also changed as the game has made its way from country to country, but the main rules have remained the same since the introduction of the mandatory jump, a rule we'll be looking at later on in this article.

On the surface, checkers may appear to be a simple game. It has no diversity in its parts, with just two colors and a seemingly simple premise: Remove your opponent's pieces from the board by jumping over them before he can remove yours. However, it is a game that combines strategy, forethought, mathematics and nearly 500 quintillion different combinations of moves [source: Cain].

Checkers can be as complicated of a game as you make it, and over the course of this article, we'll be looking at its basic rules and different strategies for approaching the game. But to get us started, we'll first take a look how to set up a board.