Checkers, anyone?

Checkers (or “draughts”) dates back 5000 years to the Egyptians, shows up in the writings of Homer and Plato, with variations played by Romans (Latrunculi), Arabs (Alquerque), Chinese (aptly titled Chinese Checkers), and even Hawaiians (Konane), let alone Canadians, Germans, Russians and more, sometimes on boards of 10×10 or even 12×12. Regular but not boring checkers, 8×8 board, captures necessary when possible, “King”ing peiece when they reach the last row, no moving backwards (except for Kings), etc.

We use the 1957 classic “How to Win at Checkers” by prolific chess author Fred Reinfeld

Notation can be tricky to follow when reading, with the movable squares numbered 1-32 as shown above, beginning from the top left corner. However, Black moves first, it seems unintuitive to learn Black’s main strategic opening strategies (“openings”) from the perspective of the defender, White, at the bottom of the board, unless one prefers to play from the opposite side of the board from one’s pieces … so we will here show opening strategy sequences of moves from the perspective of Black, who (unlike in chess) moves first.

checkers discussions much more complicated than the game itself
(one might argue)

Our board puts Black at the bottom, but reverses the numbering; no compromise is perfect.

(Black) Squares are numbered Above game begins 1. 9-14 22-18

Seven opening systems are shown, ranked from best to not-so-best, as follows

  1. 11-15 Single Corner Group (Glasgow, Old Fourteenth, Souter, Dyke, Ayrshire Lassie)
  2. 9-14 Double Corner (Pioneer, Defiance)
  3. 11-16 Bristol Group (Bristol, Bristol Cross, Millbury, Paisley)
  4. 10-15 Kelso
  5. 10-14 Denny
  6. 12-16 Dundee Group
  7. 9 -13 Edinburgh Group

If that was not overly informative, then the following graphic representation may be slightly more helpful

1. 11-15 Single Corner/Glasgow 2. 9-14 Double Corner
3. 11-16 Bristol 4. 10-15 Kelso
5. 10-14 Denny Group 6. 12-16 Dundee Group
7. 9-13 Edinburgh Group

1. Single Corner Group: 1. 11-15

Glasgow 1. 11-15 … … 23-19; 2. 8-11 22-17; 3. 11-16

This thrust at the center, 1.11-15, is considered Black’s best opening move, and is so popular that it has produced more variations than any other opening move. Best replies for White challenge in the center, as with 23-19 (shown above), 23-18, 22-18 and 22-17; responses on the periphery are chosen unwisely (24-20, 24-19, 21-17).

Black may transpose early into other openings such as after 1. 11-15, 21-17; 2. 9-13 (the advantageous “Switcher”) or after 1. 11-15, 23-19; 2. 8-11, 22-17; with 3. 9-13, 17-14; 4. 10-17, 21-14 (the “Laird and Lady” which “leads to lively” play).

Glasgow 1. 11-15, 23-19; 2. 8-11, 22-17; 3. 11-16

The Glasgow proper continues, as shown below

… 24-20; 4.16-23 27-11; 5. 7-16 20-11; 6. 3-7 28-24;

White could also lure Black’s 4 out of the corner with 11-8 here.

7. 7-16 24-20; 8. 16-19 25-22; 9. 4-8 29-25;

Play can then continue with 10. 19-24, 17-14; 11. 9-18, 22-15; 12. 10-19, 32-28; 13. 6-10(!), 25-22; 14. 5-9, 22-18; etc.

(though this picture is slightly off, White needs a piece on 17, 25; Black all sorts of stuff is wrong )

Old Fourteenth 1. 11-15, 23-19; 2. 8-11, 22-17; 3. 4-8

Old 14th deviates from Glasgow on the 3rd move, advancing the entire diagonal forward.

Alternatively, moving the 3 piece onto the strong diagonal with 3. 3-8 constitutes the “intricate Alma opening,” which continues with 3. … 24-22; 4. 11-16, 27-23; 5. 7-11, 24-20;

Otherwise, Old Fourteenth continues with 3. 4-8, 17-13; 5. 15-18, 24-20; with a plausible continuation of
6. 11-15, 28-24; 7. 8-11, 26-23; 8. 9-14, 31-26; (… 30-26? 9.6-9!) 9. 6-9, 13-6; 10. 2-9, 26-22;

Now, 11. 9-13?? “loses by one of the most spectacular shots known on the checker board:”
11. 9-13, 20-16!!; 12. 11-20, 22-17!; 13. 13-22, 21-17!; 14. 14-21, 23-14; 15. 10-17, 25-2 (K)

Otherwise, sensible play such as 11. 1-6, 22-17; 12. 18-22, 25-18; 13. 15-22 leads to an even game.

Souter 1. 11-15, 23-19; 2. 9-14, 22-17; 3. 6-9

Souter deviates with 2. 9-14 and 3. 6-9, buttressing the companion center square 14.

Instead of 3. 6-9, Black may deviate with 3. 5-9 (the “Fife”), “another ancient but lively line” which continues
3. … 17-13; 4. 14-18, 19-16; 5. 12-19, 26-23; 6. 19-26, 30-5;

Further, 3. 7-11 (the “Whilter”) may continue with
3. … 25-22; 4. 11-16, 26-23; 5. 5-9, 17-13; 6. 3-7, 29-25;

The Souter then continues
3. 6-9, 17-13; 4. 2-6, 26-22; 5. 8-11, 22-17;

(If now 6. 4-8?? 27-23; 7. 15-18, 32-27; 8. 11-15, 30-26; 9. 8-11, 26-22; 10. 3-8, 31-26; 11. 11-16 and brilliancies abound:
11. … 24-20!! 12. 15-31 (K), 22-15; 13. 31-22, 20-2(K); 14. 10-26, 17-10!; 15. 6-15, 13-6; 16. 1-10, 25-4(K) )

Otherwise, 6. 14-18, 25-22; 7. 18-25, 29-22; and an even game.

Other Variations begin with White’s deviation from the initial move, 1. … 23-19. Thus

Cross 1. 11-15, 23-18

White gets “excellent counter-attacking chances” by this direct challenge to the Black piece at 15:

2. 8-11, 27-23; 3. 4-8 23-19; 4. 10-14, 19-10; 5. 14-23, 26-19; 6. 7-14, 24-20; 7. 6-10, 22-17; 8. 9-13, 30-26
and after simplifying exchanges 9. 13-22, 25-9; 10. 5-14 the game is even

Single Corner 1. 11-15, 22-18

White induces Black’s 15 piece to trade, yielding a slight initiative but with a resourceful position:

2. 15-22, 25-18; 3. 12-16, 29-25; 4. 10-14, 25-22; 5. 16-20, 24-19; 6. 6-10, 22-17 “even game”

Dyke 1. 11-15, 22-17; 2. 15-19

Upon White’s 1. … 22-17, Black may continue with 2. 15-19 (Dyke) or 2. 8-11 (Maid of the Mill).

2. 15-19, 24-15; 3. 10-19, 23-16; 4. 12-19, 25-22; can continue to an even game after
5. 8-11, 27-23; 6. 4-8, 23-16; 7. 11-20, 22-18; 8. 8-11, 32-27;

Maid of the Mill 1. 11-15, 22-17; 2. 8-11

2. 8-11, 17-13; 3. 15-18, 23-14; 4. 9-18, 26-23; 5. 10-14, 24-20 with “even prospects”

Ayrshire Lassie 1. 11-15, 24-20

This and its companion 1. … 24-19 (“Second Double Corner”) give slightly inferior prospects.

2. 8-11, 28-24; 3. 4-8, 23-19; [3. 9-13?? is humiliated by … 20-16!! 4. 11-20, 22-17; 5. 13-22, 25-4(K)]
4. 15-18, 22-15; 5. 11-18, 26-22; 6. 7-11, 22-15; 7. 11-18, 30-26; 8. 8-11
[another trap, as 8. … 26-22?? allows 9. 11-16!!, 20-11; 10. 3-7!, 22-15; 11. 7-23, 27-18; 12. 10-28]
8. … 25-22; 9. 18-25, 29-22; 10. 11-15, 27-23; with a slight initiative for Black

Second Double Corner 1. 11-15, 24-19

2. 15-24, 28-19; 3. 8-11, 22-18; 4. 9-14, 18-9; 5. 5-14, 25-22

2. Double Corner Group: 1. 9-14

Moves from Black’s right side (where the squares 1,5 straddle the “double” (?) corner,
unlike Black’s left corner in which the 4 squares cleanly occupies the single corner),
constitute the Double Corner group of opening beginning with 1. 9-14.
Black’s weakest opening, 1. 9-13 (the “Edinburgh” group), is covered last.

Best lines for White oppose the 14 piece with that from 22 (22-17!, 22-18!).
Cross board responses (23-19, 24-20) are playable.
Strong defense is offered by 23-18 (“Double Cross”) and 24-19.

Double Corner 1. 9-14, 22-18!

2. 5-9, 24-20; 3. 11-16, 20-11; 4. 8-22, 25-18; 5. 4-8, 28-24; 6. 8-11, 24-19; 7. 11-16, 29-25; 8. 7-11

Now White relieves his position with
8. … 18-15!; 9. 11-18, 21-17; 10. 14-21, 23-5; 11. 16-23, 26-19

Pioneer 1. 9-14, 22-17!

2. 11-16 forms the popular “Pioneer” (though Black is said to be better off with
2. 11-15, 25-22; 3. 15-19, 24-15; 4. 10-19, 23-16; 5. 12-19, 17-10; 6. 6-15)
2. … 25-22; 3. 8-11, 22-18; 4. 16-20, 18-9; 5. 5-14, 29-25; 6. 11-15, 25-22; 7. 7-11, 17-13;
Now, careful play might give an even position, such as
8. 4-8, 22-17; 9. 15-18, 24-19; 10. 18-22, 19-16; 11. 12-19, 23-7; 12. 2-11, 26-23;

Defiance 1. 9-14, 23-19

Interesting battle, as the name suggests, results from

2. 11-15, 27-23; 3. 8-11, 22-18; 4. 15-22, 25-9; 5. 6-9, 25-22; 6. 9-13, 24-20; 7. 11-15, 32-27

Also “Playable” 1. 9-14, 24-20

2. 5-9! 22-18! 3. 11-16, 20-11; 4. 8-22, 25-18 gives an “even game”

Double Cross 1. 9-14, 23-18

2. 14-23, 27-18; 3. 12-16, 18-14; 4. 10-17, 21-14; 5. 6-9 is good for Black

Another Black Fave 1. 9-14, 24-19

2. 11-15, 22-18; 3. 15-24, 18-9; 4. 5-14, 28-19; 5. 8-11 and Black has some initiative

3/4. Bristol Group 1. 11-16

Ranked as Black’s 2nd/3rd best opening (along with 1. 10-15 Kelso just below).
1. … 24-20 (“Bristol”) gives an even game.
1. … 23-18 (“Bristol Cross”) can give White a slight initiative, while 1. … 23-19? is a mistake
Best replies include 1. … 22-18 (“Millbury”) and 1. … 24-19 (“Paisley”).
1. … 22-17 gives Black a slight initiative, 1. … 21-17 is about even.

Bristol 11-16, 24-20

2. 16-19, 23-16; 3. 12-19, 22-18; [3. 8-11?? leads to a trap] 4. 9-14, 18-9; 5. 5-14, 25-22;
6. 10-15, 22-17; 7. 7-10, 20-16; 8. 2-7, 30-25 with an even game

Bristol Cross 1. 11-16, 23-18

White can gain an initiative with
1. 11-16, 23-18; 2. 16-20, 24-19; 3. 10-14, 18-15;
[Note: 3. 8-11?? leads to a trap; also, 3. … 26-23; 4. 8-11, 22-17; 5. 7-10, 30-26 is a good alternative]
4. 7-10, 22-17; 5. 9-13, 27-23; 6. 13-22, 25-9; 7. 5-14, 29-25

Mistake 1. 11-16, 23-19?

Millbury 1. 11-16, 22-18

better than 2. 16-19, 24-15; 3. 10-19, 23-16; 4. 12-19, 25-22 is
2. 8-11, 25-22; 3. 16-20, 22-17; 4. 9-14, 18-9; 5. 5-14, 29-25; 6. 11-15, 25-22; 7. 7-11, 17-13

and “White has a slight initiative”

Paisley 1. 1-16, 24-19

White similarly obtains a slight initiative with

2. 8-11 22-18; 3. 10-14, 25-22; 4. 4-8, 27-24; 5. 16-20, 31-27; 6. 6-10, 19-16

“Good One” for Black 1. 1. 11-16, 22-17

Just as Inspector Clousseau’s butler Cato got a “Good one!” for his surprise attacks, so does Black here upon White’s subpar response:

2. 16-19, 23-16; 3. 12-19, 24-15; 4. 10-19, 25-22

OK after 1. 11-16, 21-17

2. 9-13, 25-21; 3. 5-9, 23-18; 4. 10-15, 18-11; 5. 8-15 “with about an even game”

3/4. Kelso Group 1. 10-15

Tied with the Bristol Group (1. 11-6) as Black’s 3rd best move.
White’s best replies are 1. … 21-17! (Variation I) and 1. … 22-17! (Variation II).
Even play results from 1. … 22-18 (Variation III), 1. … 23-19 (Variation IV) and 1. … 23-18.
Black gets the best game with White’s opening moves of 1. … 24-19
and 1. … 24-20.

Variation I 1. 10-15, 21-17!

Variation II 1. 10-15, 22-17!

Variation III 1. 10-15, 22-18

Variation IV 1. 10-15, 23-19

Variation V 1. 10-15, 23-18

Variation VI 1. 10-15, 24-19

Variation VII 1. 10-15, 24-20

5 Denny Group 1. 10-14

The 5th best opening move for Black, Black does best when White responds with 23-18 or 24-20.
White’s best responses are 22-17!, 23-19! or 24-19!

6 Dundee Group 1. 12-16

White’s best response is 24-20; of the alternatives, only 23-19? is said to be “bad enough to be unplayable”

7 Edinburgh 1. 9-13

The weakest opening for Black as it cedes the center to White.
White’s best responses are 22-18! and 24-19!, while 21-17? (the “Switcher”) is better for Black.

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