Checkers vs. Chess: Differences + Strategies to Succeed at Both

Updated September 14, 2021
Chess and checkers sharing the board

If you grew up in a household with multiple siblings, chances are high that you've fought over the age-old debate of checkers vs chess and made a valiant case defending your favorite of the two strategy games. While these games resemble each other in their aesthetics and vaguely in their goals, there are a number of differences in the strategies which people employ to win them. So, as long as you have a passable understanding of each game's nuances, no matter if you have to play your favorite or least favorite of these checker-board tabletop games, you'll be ready to dominate your competition.

Similarities Between Checkers and Chess

Checkers and chess have some obvious similarities, each stemming from historic origins and continuing to be considered popular pastimes today. Most obviously, the two resemble each other in the way that their boards look and the general set-up of the games. Each of the games is performed on a checkered board and has pieces which are set up on the first few rows of either side of the board. Similarly, each player of the game can remove their opponent's pieces by capturing them. However, beyond these generalities, the two games differ quite greatly.

Differences Between Checkers and Chess

Checkers versus Chess Infographic

While both checkers and chess are considered to be strategy games, the specific goals and ways that players achieve those goals differ quite greatly:

  • Goals of the Game - In chess, players are trying to 'check' their opponent's king to win the game, while in checkers, players are trying to collect all of their opponent's pieces.
  • Single Movements vs. Multiple Movements - Checkers tokens can only move onto the dark squares of the board and in a specific fashion, while the chess pieces differ in their movement capabilities and can move to any spot on the board.
  • Difficulty Levels - Checkers is undoubtedly the less complicated game to play, while success in the professional chess circuit can take thousands of hours of practice and extensive knowledge of chess theory.

Checkers: The Basics

If you're sold on checkers being the superior of the two games, then you want to be sure to fully understanding the game's rules and how to set up your board. Specifically, the object of checkers is to be the player with the last remaining game piece on the board. With multiple red and black chips distributed along the dark squares of the first three rows of the board as it faces you, checkers has pieces which can only move diagonally and one space at a time. When a player moves one of his pieces so that it "jumps" over an adjacent piece of their opponent and into an empty space, that player captures the opponent's piece. A player wins by removing all of his opponent's pieces from the board or by blocking the opponent so that he has no more moves.

Strategies to Win at Checkers

Although checkers isn't known for its strategic theory, there are a couple of plans you can employ during your next game to help you dominate your competition.

  • Forced Capture - A good strategy to use is the forced capture rule where you move your opponent into a position where he gives up 2 pieces for one of your own.
  • Prevent Opponents from Kinging - Be sure to keep the lanes near your king's row blocked to your opponent because once either side gets a king, any uncrowned chip in the open is very vulnerable.
  • Investigate Piece Formations - Take a look at checkers formations and see what kind of leading traps you can set up to lure your opponents into unwittingly giving up their pieces.
  • Control the Center - For nearly every strategy board game, controlling the center is fundamental to winning the game.
  • Stay Away from the Outside - The outer squares are considered the least safe positions on the checkerboard, so you should try to keep your pieces out of the side positions unless you can protect them.
  • Stay Away from the Four Corners - The four corners of the board are not identical since two of the corners are vulnerable to a dead end with only one pathway to move, so you should avoid getting trapped in these areas.
  • Stack Your Chips - Try to keep your checker pieces placed so that they're right behind each other; this way, they can't get captured by your opponent.
  • King as Quickly as Possible - Once you get your first king, use it to advance your other pieces and get more kings as you're in a much better position to make aggressive plays with two or three kings than with none.

Chess: The Basics

Chess distinguishes itself as an intricate game with a certain level of intellectual prestige. In the game of chess, you have 6 different types of pieces (King, Queen, Rook, Knight, Bishop, and Pawn), each with specific rules on how they move and can be played in the game. Since there are so many ways these pieces can be moved and shifted around the board, innumerable strategies have been created for people to employ in the game in order to 'check' their opponent's king in the least amount of moves as possible. Fascinatingly, these strategic theories surrounding chess are constantly evolving, with grand masters knowing how to expertly execute opening moves, mid-game formations, and ending strategies against any type of player out there.

Strategies to Win at Chess

People spend decades learning and devising chess strategies, so it's highly unlikely that you'll learn everything there is to know in one sitting. However, if you come to your next game of chess with a few theories under your tool belt and a better understanding of the segments of the game, you'll be able to hold your own.

  • Advance Your Pieces - You want to avoid moving a chess piece more than once during the opening of a game and instead try to get each of your pieces out of their starting positions as quickly as possible.
  • Control the Center - The center of the chess board is the meat and potatoes of the game, and most of the action happens here. If you can keep control of the center, you have a greater chance of winning the game.
  • Consider Common Opening Strategies - The way a chess game is opened will determine where the game is going to head, so you should know some of the more common openings and how to counter those in order to logically move your pieces about the board.
  • Castle Early - Castling is a unique move which allows you to make two moves in one and protect your king with your bishop; castling early advances your king while still keeping it protected.
  • Avoid Making Exchanges - When planning to take an opponent's piece, avoid making exchanges, which develops another piece for your opponent and removes one of yours off of the board.
  • Keep in Mind the Pieces to Protect - Don't exchange bishops for knights early in the game as bishops have the longer range which makes them more effective for attacking later.

It's All in Good Fun

The debate between checkers and chess isn't going to end anytime soon, but they're similar enough games that people who're interested in one are probably somewhat interested in the other. Take into consideration all of the unique, historic strategy games out of there and see if you can expand your board game horizons beyond chess and checkers with something like Go, for instance, which takes these strategic concepts and applies them in a slightly different manner. Or continue to try your hand at a round of checkers or chess and maybe discover that you're the best at the game that you thought you'd like the least.

Checkers vs. Chess: Differences + Strategies to Succeed at Both