If there are two board games that seem more similar than chess and checkers, we don’t know what they are. They both use the same board and though there is some variation in the pieces and rules, they look similar when players are actually playing. So, the big question is, which game is easier, and does it really matter when deciding which one to play?
Is chess or checkers harder? Chess is harder than checkers because there are far fewer moves and board combinations in checkers. Checkers has been solved by a computer, meaning that a perfect game can exist which forces one player to win. Chess cannot be solved in the same way because the possibilities are far more complex.
Let’s take a look at chess vs checkers and what you need to know.
The Variations Of Games: Checkers And Chess
Surprisingly, there are a huge number of different games that bear the title “checkers” and while they are all played on checked boards not all these boards are the same.
The most commonly played variant of checkers is known as American Checkers or Draughts (if you are an English speaking European) and this is played on an 8 x 8 chess board (though it becomes a checkers board when playing checkers).
Not All Checkers Games Are Equal
It is this variant we will consider during this analysis. There are larger games such as Singaporean Checkers which are played on 12 x 12 boards. We would note that the larger the board becomes the more complex checkers becomes. There is no doubt that when played on a 12 x 12 board, checkers is a harder game than chess but we’re not looking at that here.
American checkers is played to a standard rule set with minor variations the world over. As with chess the governing body for this sport is found in Europe, though in France this time, and the FMJD (French initials) is the World Draughts Federation. Thus, it is the FMJD rules that we shall consider when comparing draughts to chess.
Chess Is Simple
Chess has many variants, but they are mostly played around the world for fun and not for competitive play. When it comes to competitive play the International Chess Federation (FIDE which is based in French speaking Switzerland and thus, uses French initials not English ones, just like with draughts) provides a standard set of rules.
As nearly all chess games are played with these rules, it is these rules that we shall take as a guide to our question of which sport is harder.
Therefore, you can learn American Checkers or chess anywhere in the world from a standard set of rules. Thus, there’s no advantage here in picking one sport over the other.
The Rules Of The Game: Checkers And Chess
Checkers has 48 pieces when compared to chess’s 32. However, as all 48 pieces are identical (24 of each color) and may all move in exactly the same way – it takes rather less time to learn to identify a checkers piece than a chess one.
A checkers’ piece may become a “king” by reaching the opponent’s final row but even this is only marked by adding a second checker to the original one to make it taller. The king does have a slightly different pattern of moves but not much.
Chess has 6 individual pieces each with its own move set. In addition, there are three special moves in chess that are only applicable in certain situations on the board (promotion, castling and en passant).
When we compare the rules, there are more rules in chess than there are in checkers. You can learn the rules of checkers in about 15 minutes. It will take a day or two to learn the rules of chess.
Thus, chess is harder to learn in the first instance than checkers.
Tactics And Strategy: Checkers And Chess
It is absolutely fair to say that both games have highly complex levels of strategy and tactics and it can take a lifetime to understand them all (or possibly, even longer) as we shall see.
There is a huge amount of debate as to which sport is more complex when it comes to this area and even some chess grandmasters will argue that draughts is harder to learn when they have to visualize the board.
Others argue that given the complexity of chess when compared to checkers, chess must be harder to master the strategy and tactics of. It seems logical to us that chess is probably harder than checkers when it comes to this part of the game.
Why? For the same reason, as we will see in a minute, that checkers has been “solved” where chess has not and is unlikely ever to be solved. When played on 8 x 8 boards there are fewer possible moves and board positions in checkers than there are in chess. This means that if you had unlimited brain power and unlimited time – it would take longer to understand all possible tactics of chess than all possible tactics of checkers.
The Solution: Checkers And Chess
In 2007, checkers was “solved”. It was, however, “weakly” solved. That means that they built a computer model of two computers playing a perfect game (that is making no mistakes) from the start of a game of checkers in which either player can force a draw and thus, no player that plays perfectly against a perfect checkers partner can ever lose a game of checkers.
Of course, the good news is that in real life no player can play perfectly – so, competitive checkers is still a thing. Though, as you can imagine, they don’t invite computer players to checkers tournaments as they can absolutely thrash all human opposition.
It is true too, that if you brought chess computers to a chess tournament, they would thrash the best human players. In fact, it’s been more than 20 years since Deep Blue conclusively beat Gary Kasparov the then World Champion.
However, chess has rather more potential moves and board positions than checkers does and this matters. There are 10120 potential positions and an incredible number of moves. It has been calculated that to “solve chess” (e.g. for a perfect player to force either a win or a draw against another player) it would take 1080 years and this is using the most powerful theoretical computer possible.
Given that the universe will die in less time than 1080 years, the game of chess is never going to be solved by computer.
This means that definitively, chess is harder than checkers. Even if from a human perspective it would take a player longer than they have to live to learn all the potential positions, etc. in checkers let alone chess.
Mastery: Checkers Vs Chess
However, when it comes to mastering chess and checkers, we find ourselves in something of a quandary. Given that both games are hugely complex and that there aren’t enough years of our lives to learn everything about them – from a human perspective they are both equally difficult to master.
Yes, while chess may be objectively harder than checkers from a player’s perspective, this doesn’t matter very much at all.
Chess is definitely harder and more complicated than checkers. We know that checkers has already been solved by a computer and though the solution is “weak”, it is more than what will ever happen with chess. This is because there is a far greater number of potential board positions and moves in chess. However, there are some important caveats to this.
This does not mean that playing checkers is easy or that you will find it easier to play checker than chess. Some chess grandmasters swear that playing checkers is harder for them because they say it’s harder to visualize the board when all the pieces are the same. It’s also true that the order of magnitude difference between the two games total moves, etc. doesn’t make checkers any easier to memorize a perfect game in.