How to Win At Checkers? Strategies from the World's Top Players
To the uninitiated checkers seems like a simple kids game comparable to tic-tac-toe but checkers is a deep game with serious enthusiasts and even an annual international championship. What exactly are these expert players doing during their matches and how can you use it to to dominate your friends? We outline the basic strategies and tactics used by serious checkers players to win more games and tip the scale in their favor.
Know your piece values
If you play chess you're probably familiar with the point values assigned to each piece: pawns are worth three, knights and bishops five etc. These values have no official role in the game but are crucial for evaluating potential piece swaps. In Checkers the importance of swaps is even greater because every capture has the potential to fire off a chain of back and forth forced captures. The pieces you start the game with, called "Men", are worth three points while kings are worth five. Using these values it becomes straight forward to evaluate possible piece exchanges. Swapping a king for the oponent's man is obviously a bad move, but swapping your king in exchange for two men gives you a slight edge (because two men are worth 3 + 3 = 6 which is greater than 5).
Protect your back row
You want to avoid letting your opponent promote his or her men to be kings (called crowning). If you hold some pieces back you can ensure the opponent cannot approach the back row without being blocked or captured. The ideal configuration is to always leave two men at the back in a position able to capture on any square in the second to last row.
Exploit forced moves
Use the forced moves rule to your advantage. You can plan a forced move so the piece exchange is equal (or even in your favor) but leaves your opponent in a weaker position. Redirecting a piece guarding the back row can allow your men free passage to crowning a king. Other strategies might involve forcing a move that sets your opponent up for a later exchange that leaves you ahead in material. You can try this move out by playing checkers online against our checkers bot on easy mode, which can only think one move ahead.
Fork pieces with your kings
Even novice players are smart enough to either get out of the way or capture a piece whose attack is imminent but it's much harder to plan several moves in advance. The fork tactic takes advantage of your opponents inability to think two moves ahead. The fork occurs when a piece is put into a position where two opposing pieces or threatened and the attacking piece cannot be captured. In checkers, this can only be done by a king approaching two adjacent pieces from behind.
Bully stranded pieces
A piece without supporting men nearby is very vulnerable in checkers. If one of your opponents pieces ends up in this situation it's usually possible to capture without an exchange. The trick is to threaten the piece from a protected piece that cannot be jumped (because another friendly piece occupies the square behind it).
Block enemy pieces
You can block pieces either directly, by making it impossible for the opposing piece to advance, or indirectly by making an advance impossible without immediately being captured. This is typically useful when you are ahead in material and want to make even trades to decrease the pieces in play.