hist-games: kinging in Checkers

Christian Joachim Hartmann lukian at Null.net
Fri Oct 31 01:34:39 PST 1997

On second thought, why is it doubious that the idea of kinging comes from chess?
[Or to put it in another way:  I wholeheartedly retract all the statements I made in my last post on this matter. It was all because of lack of time. It is not my fault. ;-) ]

As I thought it over - whilst brouwsing a few books for ideas - I happened on an illustration of the famous "Libro de Juegos" (1283) of Alphons the Wise of Castilia showing two noblemen playing Alquerque.

This book represents a milieu where everything leading to checkers was present:

1. the knowledge of the game of Alquerque
2. the knowledge of the "old" chess
3. the chequered board, used for chess and invented sometime before 1100.

I think these to be the crucial ingredients for the development of chechers which took place about 1200 in the same area of Spain or the south of France.

You agree that the identity of names for the king-piece in checkers and the queen in chess in medieval Europe shows that one saw those two pieces as similar.

I think that they were indeed identical. The "old" queen, the "fers" moved to one of the diagonally adjacent squares as does the king in checkers.

Even more so. The men in checkers do nothing but move forward, as do the pawns in chess. As one of these pawns or  men reaches the last row it is promoted to king (checkers) or queen (chess), both being called "fers" at that time. Thus the kinging is the same process of promoting one of the simple pieces to a "fers" as in chess.

That is the point, at least for draughts or checkers.

One could think further along these lines.
The queen in chess changed to a piece with the power to move any number of squares in any direction; this is our modern version.
In some of the versions of checkers in Europe, notably in the French "dame polonaise" and the German Dame, the king can move any number of squares in the four diagonal directions.
The change isn't the same in both games, but in both cases the slow-moving "fers" is made into a commanding piece which can move any number of squares.

I am keen on your opinions,


At 14:37 29.10.97 -0500, Ed Hopkins <Ed.Hopkins at mci.com> wrote:
>> >   Brought back from the Crusades as a variant of Al-Querques
>> How about that:
>> Checkers developed in France or Spain of around 1100 when the
>> Moorish game of Alquerque - a game without the "king" and with a
>> board of its own - was transferred to the chess-board and
>> augmented with the "kings". This idea was taken from medieval/
>> Muslim chess, where the "Vizier" - now the queen - moved like a
>> "king" in checkers.
>Certainly the Middle English name for the came ("Ferses"), and
>the European names for it (variants of the word "Dames") come
>from the similarity of the moves, but I have not seen any evidence
>that the very idea of kinging comes from chess.
>-- Ed Hopkins
>Cary, North Carolina
**       Christian Joachim Hartmann 
**       lukian at Null.net
**       christian.hartmann at uni-duesseldorf.de

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