Checkers, Chess, and Backgammon are some of the world’s oldest board games for two players in human history - It's not a coincidence that all three are strategy games! Checkers (or Draughts) and Backgammon are believed to originate as far back as Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), around 3000 BCE, but developed over time to the resemble the modern game as we know it today in the 16th and 17th centuries. Historians believe that early versions of chess were played in ancient India in 600 AD. Chess, as it is known today, was first found in Europe in the 9th century. Both Chess and Checkers reached worldwide competitive success near the end of the 19th century when the first world champions were crowned. Backgammon, however, developed into a competitive game of the elite due to strategic advancements in play throughout the early 20th century.
Checkers pits 2 opponents together on a 64-square board consisting of both light and dark colors. Each player begins the game with 12 game pieces, placed on the 12 dark squares on their side of the game board. Play consists of players alternating moves diagonally forward, one space at a time, or jumping over an opponent’s game piece. When a game piece is jumped, it is then captured and removed from the game board. If a player’s piece reaches the opposite side of the board then they are “kinged,” allowing them to move backward or forward on the game board. Players continue moves alternatively until all of one player’s pieces are captured or one player is blocked and can no longer move. Often when players both have one or two pieces, the game becomes monotonous and a draw is called.
While a chess board may resemble a checkerboard in that it consists of 64 alternating light and dark spaces, the gameplay is significantly different. Each player in chess begins with 16 pieces, these are one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights and eight pawns. Game pieces are aligned on the first two rows of the player's side of the board. The first row is set up from the edges, rooks, knights, bishops, then the king and queen. The queen is set up on the square that matches her color, white on white, black on black. Each piece in chess has specific moves that they are allowed. For example, pawns can only move forward one space at a time but can capture the opponent’s pieces diagonally. Pawns are also the only pieces that can be upgraded by reaching the opponent’s side of the board. Pawns can then become any game piece, usually a queen. Alternatively, knights move in an ‘L’ shape, two spaces in one direction and 1 space perpendicular. Additionally, knights are the only pieces that can move over other pieces. The most versatile piece in chess is the queen, she can be moved in any direction in one straight line; diagonally, forward, backward, and sideways. Like chess, captured pieces are removed from the board. The goal of chess is checkmate, which means that a king has no move to evade capture, thus ending the game.
Another board game that has been around for centuries but remains popular in many parts of the world is backgammon. Backgammon is played with two players that move their fifteen game pieces, called stones around a specially designed gameboard. Players take turns rolling dice to move their pieces around a square gameboard in opposing directions. The gameboard is designed with four sections. Each players side of the gameboard contains their inner and outer table. Two dice are rolled to determine the number of spaces a player can move their pieces. Players can choose to move their pieces one at a time or split their roll between two game pieces. If a player rolls doubles, identical numbers on each die, then the amount of spaces a player can move is doubled as well. For example, if a player rolls two 4s, then they can move a total of sixteen spaces. If a player’s role lands them on a spot occupied by their one of their opponents’ pieces, they then overtake the space and send the opponent’s piece back to their start position. Alternatively, if a space is occupied by two or more opponent pieces then the space is ‘made’ and cannot be taken. This can affect if a player is able to move a game piece onto the board, as they can only move to an open space or a space occupied by only one of their opponent’s pieces, determined by the roll of the dice. The primary goal is to move all of one’s pieces from their start point around the spaces of the board and be the first player to remove all stones from the play area. Wooden gameboards are especially popular as the gameboard has wedge-shaped spaces for the players to move. This allows for an intricately crafted wooden board.