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How to Win at Checkers

Basic Strategies for the Board Game Checkers

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Checkers is a classic board game with a number of variations, but the most commonly played version is standard Checkers on an 8x8 board, with 12 checkers per player.

While the game is technically a "solved game" -- which is to say, a computer has been programmed that will never lose a game -- most humans do not have such a computer at their disposal. For this reason, you might appreciate these tips for how to win at Checkers.

Control the Center.

For beginners, the first strategy one often figures out is to place your checkers on the edge of the board. This seems like a reasonable Checkers strategy, because your pieces on the edge cannot be captured. But as it turns out, while this may be a tempting strategy in your first games, pushing your checkers to the edges is a mistake.

Checkers is not a game that can be won by playing defensively.

Due to the possibility of forced moves, where your opponent presents you with a capture you must take, you cannot afford to sit back and fortify. You could be forced to jump your checkers into oblivion at any time, so no defense that you build can stand up over time.

Your goal should be getting a checker to the end of the board.

A kinged piece is incredibly powerful, and generally speaking, the player who kings more checkers will win. While capturing opposing checkers is generally a good thing, your biggest concern should always be kinging your own checkers.

Advance en masse.

A single checker advanced can easily be jumped and captured. A checker backed up by two more checkers is immune from capture. If you press forward with a few checkers at once, your advancing force will be much more powerful.

You can also use this method to build "bridges" -- a diagonal line of checkers two spaces away from your opponent's checkers. You can then advance a checker in front of this bridge, and your line of checkers will protect your advancing checker from capture.

Be willing to sacrifice a checker if necessary.

At the most basic level, this means you should be willing to trade a capture for a capture when it advantages you (such as when you can capture an opponent's advanced checker, or clear out some of his base row checkers).

But sometimes it can even be worth sacrificing for position. While new players should be careful not to sacrifice checkers needlessly, sacrificing a checker to clear a path to be kinged is well worth it.

Use forced moves to your advantage.

You may find a situation where a single opposing checker is all that stands between your checker and the king row. In this case, a useful thing to do can be walking another one of your checkers to the opposite side of the opposing checker, forcing a capture. You'll lose your sacrificed checker, but the opposing checker will now be out of your way, and you can quickly regain the advantage once you have a king.

Leave your home row checkers until you need them.

Your opponent cannot get any kinged checkers without advancing into one of your four home spaces. Keeping these spaces occupied guarantees that your opponent will get no kings until your checkers move. Generally speaking, you probably won't move these checkers until you are forced to capture an opposing piece, or if you are running low on checkers.

Trade pieces when you are ahead.

This is traditional strategy in many abstract board games relying on capture, but it is especially useful in checkers. With only 12 pieces on the board to begin with, it is quite possible that you may quickly end up with a 8-7 piece advantage. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you can trade four pieces, you suddenly have a 4-3 advantage, which is a tremendous amount of power.

Watch for kings in the endgame.

Once only a few pieces are left on the board, both players may be forced to move some home row checkers, and the path to kingship will be open. Don't trade pieces blindly (regardless of whether you're ahead) if it means that your opponent will be closer than you to getting a king when the trading is done.

Finally, remember the blocking option.

If you cannot move a piece on your turn, you lose. This means that if you can block in your opponent's checkers such that none of them can move, you will win.

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