Draughts, a game played by two persons, on a checkered board like the chess board, with 12 or 20 pieces on each side, which capture each other by angular movements governed by certain rules, until the game ends by one player losing all his pieces, or by both players getting their pieces into positions from which they cannot be moved. In America the game is commonly called checkers. In France it is known as le jeu de dames, in Italy as dama, in Germany as Damen. It has been played in Egypt for more than 4,000 years, the Egyptian-Arabic name being damch, and made its appearance in Europe only three or four centuries ago, when there was much intercourse between southern Europe and Egyptian ports. In Polish, the game has, besides that of dama, the name of arcaby or warcaby, supposed to be equally of oriental origin. In Spanish, the word aje-drez, applied to both chess and draughts, is also of eastern derivation, and appears to be nearly equivalent to the American term checkers. - The origin of the game is uncertain.
It is supposed to have preceded chess, and it is certain that in Egypt, as appears from the monumental paintings, it was common under the earlier Pharaohs. It was played as now with pieces, all of which on the same board were alike in size and form, though on different boards they varied, some being small, others large and rounded at the top or carved into human heads. The kind used by King Rameses II., about 1300 B. C, who is represented on the walls of his palace at Thebes playing at draughts with the ladies of his household, resembled small ninepins, and seem to have been about 1 1/2 inch high, on a circular base half an inch in diameter. Some have been found of ivory, 1 3/4 inch high and 1 1/8 in. diameter, with a small knob at the top. The opposite sets of pieces were distinguished sometimes by their color and sometimes by their form, one set being black, the other white or red, or one set having round, the other flat tops. It is uncertain how the Egyptians played the game, though from the position of some of the pieces in the paintings it seems that they did not take backward, as is done in the Polish game.
The modern Egyptians, who use pieces similar to those used by their predecessors, play the game as it is generally played in Europe and America. By the Greeks the invention of draughts, as well as of dice and many other things, was poetically ascribed to Palamedes, one of the heroes of the expedition against Troy. - In playing draughts, the board is placed with a double corner on the right hand of each player. Each player places his pieces on the three lines of squares nearest to him. In England the white squares are played upon; in Scotland and America the black squares are generally selected. The game is begun by each player moving alternately one of his men along the diagonal on which they are first placed, one square at a time to the right or the left. When two hostile pieces encounter each other, the one that has the move may take the other, if there be a vacant square of the color played upon behind it, by leaping over the other into that square. The piece leaped over is removed from the board. If several pieces should be exposed by having alternate open squares behind them, they may all be taken at once, and the taking piece placed on the square behind the last piece captured.
When a piece has reached one of the four squares of the extreme opposite row, it becomes a king, and is crowned by placing one of the captured pieces upon it, or, as the men are now sometimes made, by turning it over and exposing a crown represented on the other side. Kings can move backward as well as forward, though only one square at a time. The principal laws of the game are these: If a piece is touched, it must be moved, if a move be possible; the player who has the move must take a piece which is exposed to capture; if he neglects to take it, his adversary may remove from the board the piece with which the capture should have been made; but a player has no right to decline to take under any circumstances. The first move of each game is to be taken by the players in turn; if lots are drawn for the move, he who gains the choice may move first or require his adversary to move. In Polish draughts, a variety of the game played not only in Poland, but in other parts of the continent of Europe, and sometimes in England and America, the •pieces are moved forward as in the English form of the game, but in taking they move like the kings of the English game, either backward or forward.
The kings in the Polish game have the privilege of passing over several squares at one time, and even over the whole length of the diagonal when no pieces obstruct the move. Polish draughts is sometimes played with 40 pieces on a board divided into 100 squares. - M. Mallet, a professor of mathematics, published' a treatise on draughts at Paris in 1668. Another teacher of mathematics, William Paine, published at London in 1756 an "Introduction to the Game of Draughts." The best work on the subject is the "Guide to the Game of Draughts," by Joshua Sturges (London, 1800), of which an improved edition appeared in 1835, the whole of which, with additions, is comprised in the "Handbook of Games" which forms one of the volumes of "Bonn's Scientific Library" (London, 1850).