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Chess vs. Checkers: Comparing and Contrasting

Both are excellent and classic games loved by millions around the world and played for centuries. But which is truly better? Here we take a look at chess vs. checkers.

History of Checkers

History of Checkers

Checkers dates back almost 5000 years. The first game was unearthed in the city of Ur and looks surprisingly similar to our modern checkerboard. However, there’s no way to know how the game was played.

The Egyptian pharaohs played a five by five board game, and we know from both Homer and Plato’s writings that they played a game similar to checkers that dates back about 3500 years.

The French also developed a version of checkers roughly 3000 years ago called Fierges. These rules didn’t require you to capture your opponent’s pawns to win, but you could if you found an opportunity to do so.

About 500 years ago, the rules changed to incorporate capturing the enemy to win and the name was changed to Jeu Force. The previous version was less combative, and played mostly by women while the new version was for competitive play by men.

History of Chess

History of Chess

Chess dates back 1500 years. It started in India, but quickly spread to Persia. As the Arabs invaded, the Muslim community took up the game and it spread through Spain and Southern Europe.

Another version of the game spread from the Khanates Muslim territories throughout Russia.

Our modern chess game comes from the piece changes in Europe in the 15th century. Modern tournaments began in the late 19th century. In 1883, chess clocks were developed for competitive play. The first world chess championship took place in 1866.

Chess theory deepened and expanded in the 20th century with the establishment of the World Chess Federation.

About Checkers

“Big Game Today” by MTSOfan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Checkers is a two player game. The players sit opposite one another and play on a 64-square board. Checkers is almost always red and black, but it can be played with any two colors.

The rules require moving pawns diagonally across the board with the objective of making it to the opponent’s home row in order to be “kinged.” A normal pawn cannot move backwards or jump, but once “kinged,” pawns can move diagonally in any direction and capture the enemy.

About Chess

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Chess is also a two player game where players sit opposite one another across the board. The board resembles the checkerboard, but is typically white and black rather than red and black.

The pawns are also very different. Chess includes pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, queens, and kings. Each piece has its own movement. Some can move in any direction, like the king, while others can only move a certain number of squares in a certain direction, like pawns.

The game involves using these moves to capture the opponent’s pieces in order to win the game.


Chess vs. Checkers

While the games are very similar, there are a number of differences. Some are obvious while others may not be.

1. Colors

Typically checkers is played on a red and black board while chess is played on a white and black board. While these colors are traditional, it doesn’t necessarily matter, and they could be played on any two-color board.

In fact, there are chess boards that are brown and ivory rather than black and white. Other decorative chess sets may be made of glass or porcelain.

Conversely, you can find checkers games made of different colors like white and black, white and brown, or any other two colors you might like. While they’re not as common, it really doesn’t matter what two colors you choose.

2. Theory

Chess theory runs deeper than checkers. The rules are different, the pawns are different, and the gameplay generally takes quite a bit longer. A lot of studies have helped to expand upon chess theory.

Chess competitions are much more popular than checkers tournaments, and many people even play against computers that are programmed to learn the game.

3. Pawns

The pawns are different when it comes to chess and checkers. While checkers uses eight identical pawns of each color, chess has a variety of different pawns that can move differently across the board.

Checkers pawns are small round discs. Chess pawns are upright pieces with more definition.

4. Movement

Checkers pawns can move diagonally across the board toward the opponent’s home row, one square at a time. They cannot jump until they are “kinged.” Once “kinged,” checkers pieces can move diagonally in any direction and jump opponent’s pieces to capture them.

Chess pawns move differently depending on what type of piece they are. Some move one space at a time while others can move two or more spaces.

5. Difficulty

The difficulty of chess lies in learning how the pieces move and how the game is played. The difficulty of checkers doesn’t seem as apparent on the surface, but can be very complex when played by adults.

While checkers is generally thought of as a children’s game, the nuances of the game are intricate, especially when it comes to evading your opponent with limited moving capability.

6. The story

For many players, the game is about the story. Checkers games tend to be the same every time you play. There are a limited number of moves, and games go very quickly.

Chess is different every time. Every game is its own story, which makes it more complex, but more interesting.


In spite of all their differences, chess and checkers have some similarities worth noting.

1. Game board

Both game boards have 64 squares set in an 8×8 grid. They feature two colors. While those two colors vary, the differentiating factor between opponents is that there are only two colors.

2. Number of players

Each game is played by only two people. They sit opposite one another across the board.

3. Player wit

Both chess and checkers require wit on the part of each player. Checkers is typically learned as a child because of its simplicity, but it’s this simplicity that makes it deceivingly complicated. Simple moves mean fewer ways to escape the opponent and more creativity on the part of each player to evade getting captured.

Which is Harder

Many people build chess theory up in their heads to be much more difficult than checkers. In reality, while the game pieces and rules are slightly more complicated in chess, there’s plenty of difficulty in checkers when you play as an adult.

In fact, there are a lot of people who prefer the game of checkers to chess, not because it’s easier, but because the simplicity of the game play makes it much harder and more interesting.

Both games can be equally as difficult, depending on who you play against. With that, keep in mind that checkers is still a much easier game to teach to children and is typically thought of as a fun family game.

Which Game Should You Play?

If you want to play a game with your growing family, checkers is a great place to start. It’s simple to learn and fun to play. You can take it easy or challenge your kids to get better.

However, if you are looking for something with more complex theory and you’re up for the challenge, learning chess can be a lifelong journey that most people don’t ever truly master.

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