How to Play Checkers

Checkers is a game for two players. You are probably familiar with the commonly seen black and red checkered board with black and red discs. The official checkers game actually uses a board of green and buff squares with white and red pieces. Regardless of the set you use, Standard American Checkers has a set of simple rules that anyone can learn.

Learn to Play Checkers

Each player starts with 12 discs, choosing either red or black. Toss a coin to decide which player gets to be black.

The board has 64 square, being 8 x 8. Regulation requires the square to be 2” on a side, but they are typically 1 7/8” on a side. The squares alternate in color, creating the “checkered” pattern that has drawn its name from this game.


To begin play, position the board so that the right corner closest to each player is red, or whichever color is lightest on the board you are using. Place your pieces on the black or darker squares in the three rows closest to you. You will have four pieces on each row. The center two rows on the board will remain empty.


How to Play CheckersThe player with the black pieces will take his or her first move, moving one piece. The players alternate turns until the one player either has no more pieces, cannot move, or the match ends in a draw. The initial moves are very important to the outcome of the game and should be scrutinized closely.

Checkers pieces can only move diagonally on the black squares, one square at a time, moving towards the opponent only. If a piece makes it to one of the final squares closest to the other player, the piece becomes a “king,” marked by placing one of the captured pieces onto the king. Kings can move either forward or backward on the board, but must remain on the diagonal squares, moving one square at a time, or jumping over other pieces to capture them.


Capturing takes place when one player jumps over one of the other players piece in a straight diagonal line. The other player’s piece is removed from the board and set aside. If the positions of the opponent’s pieces allow, a player may capture more than one opponent piece by making multiple jumps. Because the king can move forward or backward, he can make multiple jumps to capture opponent pieces moving both forward and backward.

If a player has the option to capture, he or she must make that move. If more than one capture is available, the player can choose which one to make. The player has only five minutes to decide which move to make and has an hour with which to make 30 moves.

These simple rules make for a complex game. Each move by one player limits to moves available to the other player. Each player must scrutinize the options available to the opponent to try to cut off the opponent’s strategy. When two great players face off, the game often ends in a draw.