There are a lot of Chess variants out there, some very wild like Cirondo. Yet, so far it seems no one has ever thought to combine the “Greatest Game” with its great rival here in the West, Checkers (a.k.a. Draughts). Well, a few evenings ago, my classmate Sander and I did precisely that while sitting over a beer and cup of tea. The result was quite stunning.
The premise is simple. First, take a regular and fully set up Chess board and move every other pawn up one square. Then insert a Checkers piece in the empty square. There should be eight of either color or sixteen in total. Look at the image at the top of this post to see how the pre-game board should appear, depending on which color you choose for the Checkers pieces.
The standard rules for both Chess and Checkers remain the same. Keep in mind that this isn’t two games happening simultaneously: the Checkers pieces have been fully integrated into the Chess world, so moving one of them counts as a turn, and, of course, they can (and will) be killed by the Chess pieces according to the traditional methods.
The salient changes to the mechanics are: (a) as in traditional Checkers, the Checkers pieces cannot jump over pieces of the same color, including their fellow Chess pieces; but (b) the Chess pieces of the opposite color are treated like gaps, so Checkers pieces can actually kill in a fashion similar to a Knight piece, i.e., by landing on the opponent piece. For example:
The players have to decide before the game whether Checkers pieces (c) kill everything under and at the terminus of the jump (“terror from the skies”); (d) kill other Checkers pieces only by jumping over them and Chess pieces only by landing on them (“assassination”); or (e) kill both Checkers and Chess pieces by jumping over them but only if there is a true gap (“empty squares only”).
Whichever method the players decide upon, the Checkers piece always needs a gap to land upon, whether that gap be an empty square or an opponent Chess piece. By the way, (d) creates a meta-rule: which opponent piece is killed would depend upon the target. Also, in the above example, if the opponent pieces were switched (a black Pawn piece on f4 and black Checkers piece on g5), then the white Checkers piece could not attack.
The players can also decide to (f) simply do away with the notion of having opponent Chess pieces become gaps. However, we don’t recommend this because then the Checkers pieces can become immobile and clog up the game. We advise (b) + (d) or just (e), in which versions the Checkers pieces become real menaces, as though they were the progeny of a late night dalliance between a Bishop and a Knight piece that both would like to forget about.
The players also have to decide what happens to the rare Checkers piece that manages to survive long enough to reach the crownhead row. Does it simply (g) gain the power to move backward (“traditional kings”) or (h) can it “fly” (“intercontinental ballistic missile”), hence becoming the most dangerous piece on the board? We don’t recommend (c) or (h) because then the Checkers pieces become too powerful and kill the fun.
Sander and I will play more games of “Chessers” to make sure there aren’t any unhappy kinks, but so far the results have been rather incredible. As in Checkers, the balance of power can change in a flash, checkmate can take on bizarre new forms, and the whole notion of defending a piece changes. Players really need to keep their guards up in this game.
I’m sure any number of house rules for both the Checkers pieces and the Chess pieces can be applied, resulting in even further wild variants. We invite adventurous fans of both games to try “Chessers” out and see what they find.
On a final note, “Chessers” should not be confused with the variants proposed by either Hans Multhopp or V.R. Parton. Their variants simply borrowed rules or attributes from Checkers and applied it to Chess. Our variant, however, is a hybridization of the two games. Checkmate!