Can You Play Checkers On A Chess Board?

If you’ve ever watched people playing checkers then you’ve probably noticed that the board has a very distinct similarity to a chess board and you may be wondering whether they are the same thing or do you need a different board to play checkers on? The good news is that you don’t need to fear for your wallet, and this is why.

Can you play checkers on a chess board? Yes, you can play checkers on a chess board, and you can play chess on a checkers board. The two boards are completely identical with 8×8 alternatively colored squares. The chess board becomes a checkers board when you play checkers on it but that’s just a technicality. You can play checkers on a chess board along with a host of other games.

Here’s what you need to know about them.

Can you play checkers on a chess board? -
Can you play checkers on a chess board? –

The Checkers Board and The Chess Board

When we talk about checkers here, we are talking about the American Version of the game. This is an important distinction because there are an enormous number of varieties of checkers around the world and not all of them use the same board to be played on.

This is also important when it comes to the rules if you find yourself, for example, being asked to play draughts (the British version of checkers) or Italian Checkers – then you will need to ask your opponent to explain the subtle differences in play between these games (though both of these games use the same board as American checkers).

American checkers is played on an 8 x 8 board and the squares, just as they are in chess, are made of two alternating colors. Traditionally, these colors are “black” and “white” but there is no rule of either checkers or chess that mandates this, and they can be made of any two distinct colors that you feel like.

Thus, we will, from now on, refer to “dark” and “light” squares where “dark” simply refers to the darker of the two colors that are on the board.

So, can you play checkers on a chess board? Yes. Though as soon as you start playing checkers on it, the proper name for it becomes a checkerboard. Thus, your board is simultaneously two things at once – which, fortunately, doesn’t seem to break any of the laws of physics.

How To Play Checkers (American Version) On A Chess Board

So, how do you play American checkers on a chess board? Well, you need 24 colored discs – 12 light and 12 dark (again, these are typically black and white but don’t have to be).

One player takes dark and the other takes light. Then with the board placed so that the light squares are in the bottom right hand corner as the players face the board, each player puts their pieces on to the 12 dark colored squares that are closest to them.

The darkest colored pieces get to move first (which is different from chess). Moves then alternate from here on between the players.

The objective of a game of American checkers is to leave your opponent with no available moves. In the vast majority of cases, this is when all of their pieces have been taken by the other player, but it is possible to win by blocking all the remaining pieces so that they are unable to move.

The Rules Of American Checkers On A Chess Board

  1. Pieces only move from one dark square to another – thus they move diagonally.
  2. A single piece may only move in a forward direction (that is in the direction of your opponent).
  3. A piece not capturing any others can only move a single square at a time.
  4. A piece captures another by jumping over it in a diagonal line.
  5. A piece may only capture one piece in any jump but if another jump is open to a piece when it lands, it may jump as many times as there are available jumps.
  6. A captured piece is removed from the board.
  7. If you can capture a piece, you must capture a piece. If there is more than one available piece to be captured – you may choose which you capture.
  8. If a single piece reaches the opponents first row (the one farthest away from its own player) it becomes a king and receives a crown of a captured piece. Thus, it is twice the height of other pieces.
  9. Kings may only move a single diagonal move when not capturing a piece, but they move both forwards and backwards.
  10. A king when capturing can jump forwards or backwards too and when jumping in multiple jumps they may vary their direction from forwards to backwards (or vice-versa) as many times as necessary to complete the jumps

And… that’s it! This makes American Checkers one of the easiest board games to learn and it’s often a great starting point before someone is ready to get to grips with the more complex game of chess. It also provides a nice break when you find you’ve played so much chess that you’re a little overwhelmed by it.

What Other Games Can You Play On A Chess Board?
American Checkers is not the only game that you can play on a chess board and while most of these games are more obscure than American checkers or chess, they are very much worth checking out.

You won’t need anything more than chess pieces or checkers pieces to play them, either which means your investment in a chess board can go even farther than you might have hoped.

The games are:

  • Arimaa – a strategy game invented in 2003 that uses a standard chess set but which is designed to be much harder than chess for computers to play
  • Breakthrough – this game was actually meant to be played on a 7 x 7 board but can be played on any sized checkerboard, it is a strategy game that employs 16 identical pieces on each side
  • Chapayev – this is played throughout the old USSR and it has more in common with say, tiddlywinks, than with checkers or chess. The main objective is to flick your pieces at the opponent’s to knock them off the board.
  • Chess variants – you can also play a wide-range of non-traditional chess on a chess board such as Fischer Random Chess, Almost Chess, Suicide Chess, Kreigspiel, Dice Chess, Dunsany’s Chess, etc.
  • Crossing – another strategy game using 16 identical pieces on each side, the rules are very simple to learn
  • Czech draughts – this is a minor variant of American checkers with some rule changes regarding multiple captures and the use of the king when capturing
  • English draughts – can be the same as American checkers but also may incorporate “huffing” a rule which does not require mandatory jumps but if a jump is not made, the piece which didn’t jump is removed from the board “huffed”
  • Gounki – this is a relatively new game, which we confess that we haven’t played yet, that is an abstract strategy game that aims to move all the pieces off the other end of the board
  • Italian draughts – also a minor variant of American checkers with a rule that prevents the king from being captured unless it is with another king and a limit to 3 jumps in any one turn
  • Makruk – this is technically a Thai variant of chess and which seems to have descended from the Persian Shatranj rather than modern chess
  • Mak-yek – a Thai game that has all pieces moving as though they were rooks in chess, it’s much harder to learn than it looks and there are several variants to master
  • Russian draughts – another minor variation on American checkers which allows a piece to jump to the king’s row, become a king, and then continue its jumping backwards if it can


Can you play checkers on a chess board? Yes, though as we said at the start, it becomes a checkerboard when you play checkers on it. The 8 x 8 board is a very versatile one and as you can see there are a huge number of different games that you can play on it. While chess and checkers remain the most popular options – serious gamers ought to try out some of the more unusual choices.

We can recommend Mak-Yek, Crossings and Chapayev from personal experience and there are probably several other great games in the list that we’ve yet to really get to grips with. It’s nice to know that an investment in a chess board can open up more ways to have fun though, given how cheaply you can pick up a chess board there’s really no excuse not to buy one!

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