1902 Encyclopedia > Draughts


DRAUGHTS, a game of unknown origin. Some consider it to be a very old game, but Strutt (Sports and Pastimes) calls it a "modern invention." It is not mentioned in the older editions of the Academie des Jeux, nor in the Compleat Gamester, so, if an old game, it was not formerly an important one. As early as 1668 M. Malelt published a treatise on draughts, at Paris, and the game was played in Europe at least a century earlier. The Romans played a similar game called latrunculi, the men moving diagonally, capturing by leaping over, and obtaining superior power when they arrived at the furthest row of squares. The board, however, consisted of only sixteen squares. It is believed that among the Greeks was a similar game with a central space "called the sacred barrier;" and representations of a kind of draught game are frequently found on the monuments of the ancient Egyptians (Wilkinson).

Draughts Board diagram

Draughts is played by two persons. A board (see diagram) is required, and twenty-four men-twelve white and twelve black-which at starting are disposed on the board as in the diagram. Either the white or black squares may be played on (the latter being now more usual). If the black squares are used the board must be placed with a black square in the left hand corner; if the white squares are used, it is placed as in diagram.

The game is played by moving a man, one square at a time, along the diagonal to the right or left. Thus a man placed on square 18 in diagram cam move to 15 or 14. Each player moves alternately, the first move being decided by lot.

As soon as a man is moved on the square adjacent to an opponents man, and there is an unoccupied square beyond, the unprotected man may be captured and removed from the board. Thus, if there is a white man on square 18, and a black man n square 14, square 9 being vacant, and white having to move, he jumps over 14 and remains on square 9, and the man on 14 is taken up.

If two or more men are so placed that one square intervenes between each they may all be taken at one move. Thus if white having to move has a man on 29, and black men on 25, 18, and 10, the intermediate squares and square 6 being vacant, white could move from 29 to 6, and take the men on 25, 18, and 10. In making such a move with a man, all the steps must be forward, that is, in the direction away from the player, just as in making simple moves and captures.

It is compulsory to take if able. If a player has a man en prise, and makes a move that does not capture, his adversary may allow the move to stand without penalty, or he may have the move retracted and compel the player to take, or he may allow the move to stand and remove the man that neglected to capture from the board (called huffing). "Huff and move" to together, i.e., the player who huffs then makes his move. The huff must be made before the move. If the adversary of the player who fails to capture allows the move to stand, without huffing, and the player who can capture moves again without taking, the adversary again has the options he had before. If a player can take one man in one place and more than one in another, he may take in which place he pleases not being obliged to capture the larger number of men. But if he elects to take the larger number, he must take all of that lot that are en prise, or he may be huffed from where he stands when he has taken a portion of the men, or he may be compelled to take the remainder or the incomplete move may be allowed to stand.

As soon as a man reaches one of the squares furthest from his side of the board e.g., when a white man (see diagram) reaches square 1, 2, 3, or 4, or a black man square 29, 30, 31, or 32, he is crowned by placing one of the captured men of his own color on him, and becomes a king. A king has the additional power of moving and taking backwards, i.e., toward his own side of the table, as well as forwards. But on becoming a king the move ends, notwithstanding that there may be an adverse man en prise. Thus if there are black men on squares 7 and 6, a white one on 9, and squares 2 and 11 are unoccupied, white having to move takes the man on square 6 and becomes a king; but he cannot take the man on square 7 at the same move. A king can be huffed for not taking, the same as a man, with the exception just pointed out.

The game proceeds until one of the players has all his men and kings taken, or has all those left on the board blocked, so that he has no more left. If it should so happen that neither of the players has sufficient advantage in force or position to enable him to win, the game is drawn. The player having the stronger force may be required to win in forty moves (i.e., forty on each side), computed from the move on which notice was given; if he fail, the game is drawn.

The game of draughts has been exhausted, i.e., the reply to every possible move is known by all proficients, and as there is no advantage in moving first, every game ought to end in a draw. Under these circumstances rules for playing are of but little use; the only way to become a player is to study the analyses laid down in works on the subject, and to know them by heart. For beginners, however, it may be stated that men should as a rule be played to the middle of the board rather than to the sides, as in the middle the man attacks two squares, at the side only one. It is good play to push for a king early in the game. Also, as soon as player has any advantage in force, he should exchange whenever he can. When the forces are equal the position of having the move should be striven for. To have the move means to occupy such as position as to be able to secure the last move. For example, place kings of opposite colors at 19 and 12. if the king at 12 is next to move, the king at 19 has the move and must win; but if the king at 19 is next to move, the other king has the move and the game must be drawn. Having the move does not always win. Thus at the beginning of a game the second player has the move, but at this stage it is of no use to him. When a player is in a cramped position it is often disadvantageous to have the move.

In order to ascertain who has the move, divide the squares into two systems of four columns each, the columns of one system being those which commence with the number 29, 30, 31, and 32 (see diagram), and end with the numbers 5,6,7, and 8, the remainder being the columns of the other systems. And together all the men and kings which stand in either system, and if their sum is odd the next player has the move, if even the last player has the move. For example, white has men or kings at squares 26 and 32, black at 28 and 19. there are three pieces on one system and one on the other, both odd. If white is the next player he has the move. An exchange generally, but not always, changes the move; so, when about to exchange, the player should prefer an exchange that will keep the move, or, not having it, an exchange that will gain it. T discover whether an exchange will change the move and together all the capturing pieces in both systems, and if they are odd and the captured pieces are also odd, the move is not changed by an exchange; the same rule applies if they are both even; but if one is even and the other odd, an exchange changes the move.

The laws of draughts used in match play are Anderson’s, but so few matches at draughts are played that there is scarcely any demand for them, and they are out of print . omitting those which relate only to match play the following is an abridgement of Anderson’s laws.

1. In a series of games the players take the white and black men alternately. Black has the first move, whether the previous game was won or drawn. 2. An player whose turn it is to play touching a man must move it, except he gives notice of adjusting the man; if it cannot be moved, he loses the game. 3 If a man is moved over an angle of the square on which it is stationed, the move must be completed in that direction. 4. The move is completed as soon as the hand is withdrawn from the man played to another square. 5. If a player who has the option of huffing touches the man he is entitled to remove, he must tuff. 6. A false move loses the game. 7. If a player capture one of his own men by error, the adversary may have it replaced or not. 8. When more than one man can be taken at one move, the player must not remove has hand from the capturing man until he has taken all he can; if he does so the move is completed, and he is liable to be huffed. 9. When a player pushes a man to king, his adversary is bound to crown it. 10. Each player must move within a specified (the time is generally three , five, or six minutes by previous agreement unless there is only one way of taking or one move on the board, when only two minutes are as a rule allowed. 11. The player having the stronger force may have notice given him to win in forty moves; when two kings remain against one, in twenty moves. When the odds of the draw are given, and the situations may be rendered equal by repeating the same maneuvers, the player giving the odds may be required to win in twenty moves.

POLISH DRAUGHTERS was formerly played on a board of a hundred squares with forty men; but it is now more frequently played with an ordinary draught-board and men, the men being placed at starting as at draughts. The men move and take as at draughts, except that in capturing they move either forwards or backwards like a draught king. A man arriving at a crowning square becomes a queen, and has the move of a bishop at chess. In her capture she takes any unguarded man or queen in any diagonal she commands, leaping over the captured man or queen and remaining on any unoccupied square she chooses of the same diagonal, beyond the piece taken. But if there is another unguarded man she is bound to choose the diagonal on which it can be taken. For example, place a queen on square 29, and adverse men at squares 22, 16, 24, 14. The queen is bound to move from 29 to 11, 20, 27, and having made the captures to remain at 9 or 5, which ever she prefers.

The capturing queen or man must take all the adverse pieces that are en prise, or that become so by the uncovering of any square from which a piece has been removed during the capture, e.g., white queen at square 7, black at squares 10, 18, 19, 22and 27, the queen captures at 10, 22, 27 and 19, and the piece at 22 being now removed, she must go to 15, take the man at 18, and stay at 22, 25, or 29. In consequence of the intricacy of some of these moves, it is the rule to remove every captured piece as it is taken.

If a man arrives at a crowning square when taking, and he can still continue to take, he must do so, and not stay on the crowning square as at draughts. Passing a crowning square in taking does not entitle him to be made a queen.

In capturing, the player must choose the direction by which he can take the greatest number of men or queens, or he may be huffed. Numerical power is the criterion, e.g., three men must be taken in preference to two queens. If the numbers are equal and one force comprises more queens than the other, the player may take whichever lot he chooses.

A single queen against three queens can draw. If one player has a queen and man, and the other three queens, the best play is to sacrifice the man, as the draw is more certain with the queen alone.

When two men of one color are played on a diagonal with one vacant square between them, (e.g., squares 16 and 23), the position is called a lunette. If the adversary enters the lunette he must capture one of the pieces which compose it. Before entering, a lunette it is advisable to calculate what the position will be after a capture, as the position is sometimes intentionally left as a trap.

Books on Draughts

William Payne, Introduction to the Game of Draughts, London, 1756; W. Painter, Companion to the Draught Player, 1767; Joshua Sturges, Guide to the Game of Draughts, London, 1800 (re-edited by Walker, 1835; reprinted with additions by Martin in Bohn’s Handbook of Games, 1850); Henry Spayth, The American Draught Player. (H. J.)

The above article was written by Henry Jones ("Cavendish"), M.R.C.S.; author of The Laws and Principles of Whist by "Cavendish"; and of guides to croquet, bézique, eucre, and other games.

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