Checkers Rules

While there are various rules for different variants of the checkers game, the official checkers rules are good to know. The American Checkers Federation, the overseer of all official checkers tournaments, maintains these rules.

The Board

A checkerboard must have 64 alternating light and dark squares, buff and green. The game is played on the green squares. Each square is 2” on a side, making a 16” board.

The board must be placed in between the players so that a buff corner on the right hand corner closest to each player. A dark corner square will be on the left corner closest to each player.

Game Pieces

Each player begins with 12 game pieces. One player is given white pieces and the other gets red pieces, although they are actually referred to as “black.” The American Checkers Federation, however, refers to the pieces as “red.” The game is prepared by laying each player’s twelve pieces, four on a row, on the dark squares closest to the respective players.

The checkers pieces must be 1.25 to 1.5 inches across. While the thickness is not specified, the pieces must be significantly wider across than tall.


Checkers RulesThe player with black pieces moves first. Choose who gets black by “toss.” In a series of games, players will take turns starting. Pieces can only move diagonally towards the opponent, one square at a time, remaining on the black pieces.

Pieces can move more than one square when capturing an opponent piece by jumping in a straight diagonal line over a single opponent piece. Multiple jumps are allowed in a single move, but only one piece can be captured per jump. When a piece is captured, it is removed from the board and set aside. A player may not jump over or capture his or her own piece.

Checkers rules require that any possible jumping moves be taken. This means that if a player has an opportunity to capture an opponent piece, he or she must take that opportunity. If more than one jumping move is available, the player can decide which one to take. Jumps cannot be made over empty squares.

Time Limits

Official games allow one hour per 30 moves. After 30 moves, the player adds one hour to the clock. The game is forfeit if a player runs out of time. If there is more than one jump available for a player to choose from, he or she must make the choice and move within five minutes. When only one jump is available, the player must take the jump within one minute. A warning is given and if the player fails to move after another minute, he or she forfeits for delay of game.

If the player is made aware that he or she has reached the time limit and is allowed one more minute. If the player fails to move, the player loses and the game ends.

Touching Pieces

Before either player makes the first move, the players can adjust the positions of pieces within their squares to their liking. Once the game begins, no player can touch a piece without announcing the intention first, known as “intimation.” Adjusting without intimation results in a warning on the first offence and a forfeit of the game for a second offense.

If a player accidentally touches or disturbs a piece that is not playable while making a playable move, there is no penalty. The disturbed piece is simply put back in position and the game continues.

When it is a player’s turn, he or she must move a piece once it is touched or forfeit the game. If a player inadvertently moves a playable piece over the corner of a square, he or she must continue and play the piece in that direction. The move is over when the player takes his or her hand from the board.


When a player’s piece reaches the other side of the board, or the crownhead, the opponent must “king” the piece by placing a previously captured piece on top of it. When no captured pieces are available for crowning, the referee will supply one. The king can now move in both direction on the board, but still must follow the rules of moving one square at a time or jumping to capture. A king is allowed to move or jump in any of the four diagonal directions within the limits of the board.


The game is won by either capturing all of the opponent’s pieces or by forcing the other player to have no moves left. Also, one player wins if the other player breaks the rules and forfeits. Neither player wins if neither one can force a win. This is called a draw.


Sometimes neither player has forced a win, but it is apparent that one player has a clear advantage and will win. The stronger player must show to the referee’s satisfaction that he will win within 40 moves. If the weaker player fails to prove the stronger player wrong, the game is a draw.


Once play begins, neither player can leave the game board without permission from the other player or referee. Someone may be designated to accompany the other player as he or she takes a break from the game.

Distractions are not allowed, such as sighing, pointing or making unnecessary delays. Smoking is allowed as long as the smoke is not blown onto the other player. Any initial annoyance results in a warning. A second offence results in forfeit. Spectators are bound to the same rules and must leave if there is a second offense.