Moshe Callen
Israel
Jerusalem
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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1. Introduction


My elder daughter, who is all of two years old, has since infancy seen her mommy and daddy plying board games; in our house, reading and playing board games are just simply normal things people do. So, not surprisingly, my daughter wanted to play too. At first, we pushed her to play with the games she had been given for her own by various friends and family, mostly a couple of card games for children. Being a toddler though, even a relatively sweet, kind and well-behaved toddler, she naturally has more or less scattered and destroyed these. That's fine because we as parents had made the conscious decision to allow this since the only alternative seemed to not let her play with toys specifically given to her to play with, not given for future. So one day when our beloved elder daughter (OBED) asked to play a game, I went to the games cabinet and found one of my multiple copies of Chess. Basically, I described to her how pieces moved and would let OBED choose among options on each turn. We played a couple of games this way, and OBED enjoyed it, but clearly it was not ideal. Then my ever wise wife suggested that we instead play this game, as she proceeded to do. What sealed the deal is that we call this game "draughts" (pronounced "drafts" for Americans), a word then totally unfamiliar to OBED. Her toddler ears made the word "giraffes", which is how she still calls the game at times. She has three toy giraffes, two of her favorite stuffed toys and a Lego giraffe. Certainly the game is easier for her to grasp, She simply has to pick a piece and move it. Besides, she likes jumps and doesn't care whose pieces are taken. This turn of events has me playing this game far more than I ever had previously in my life, part of the reason playing this game did not immediately occur to me.

I find myself reflecting on my history with this game. On the one hand, I do not remember ever learning the rules for this game as boy; it was always assumed that I knew them. So, I must have at times played the game with my older sisters who by then knew how to do things where my father could not see and would leave us alone. My mother simply never played games of any kind. As for my youngest sister, if she and I played this game, my father would berate us how the game was only for people who were in his words "too stupid to play chess". Yes, dad was like that; if he did not like something, then no one about him could enjoy it either. This trait is perhaps one of the less obvious forms of abuse my father engaged in, but to me it seems in retrospect one of the most insidious. As my older sisters moved away, I no longer had anyone interested in playing this game with me, and I was constantly taught if reference was made to the game that I must despise it.

Yet I always had about the equipment to play the game. Of course I had a chess set and someone had given my a set for Backgammon at some point. The truth is that after so many years of dismissing the game, playing it simply no longer occurred to me. Then one day, I as in graduate school doing a course on group theory and one o the problems set to students was to prove that two tactical situations in a game of checkers (since it was an American university) were in fact identical. To do the problem set, I had to refresh myself on the rules by looking them up on the internet. So, I read over the rules and considered them as if I had never encountered the game before. That was when I probably for the first time in my life looked at the merits of the game for myself, and I liked what I saw.

Still, I never much got the opportunity to play the game. Even once I married, although my wife is much more familiar with this game than chess, we simply played other games. Yet from the day my wife suggested playing draughts with OBED, I will usually play a game almost everyday, my wife somewhat less often. My daughter is already adept at seeing jumps; she just likes jumps happening and doesn't mind whose pieces are jumped. I take for granted that OBED will probably beat me at this and a number of other games I want he to learn young. For me, playing with her is about spending time with my daughter and letting her appreciate a game which I feel I was not allowed to enjoy as a child.

2. Appreciating the game at many levels

For most people perhaps, this game will always be played at the simplest level, thinking at most a turn or two ahead. Frankly the game is excellent for enjoyment at that level, but there is more to it. That does not mean, the game lack more depths. What one gets out of the game tactically reflects what one puts into it. If one doesn't think about the game much, it will seem to lack strategic depth, but if one thinks about the back and forth of the game as much in advance as one can, then one will plumb its depths and slowly learn to see farther ahead.

In objective terms, this game is simply a timeless classic. Yes, people like my father will contrast the game with chess, but the games have little in common as games apart from being traditional 2-player pure abstracts played on a similar physical board. Yet topologically, the boards are markedly different since this game only uses the dark squares. As I described above, the game can be enjoyed at a number levels. At the moment, I'm enjoying playing with a two year old who delights in the game and doesn't yet "get" winning or losing. My advice to everyone is to play this game with someone you love.

3. Sharing the game with my daughter

So, how does a game proceed for me these days?

BED always wants to be black. She likes going first. (I must have been distracted the day I asked my wife to take these pictures, because OBED is clearly playing red in them. She didn't say anything.) Normally, we'll play on the table, but on this occasion, that as occupied and so we played on a spare chair. The question I ask repeatedly is, "Which one do you want to move?" This may be followed up by "That one doesn't have a move yet, dear," as I point out to her all the pieces which do. Then she will pick a piece that can move, and I'll give her the options. The main pattern I have noticed is that OBED likes to move the pieces at the back. If a jump has to be made, I will point that out. OBED likes jumps and making kings-- mine as well as her own. OBED tends to laugh excitedly after jumps.

On my turn, I try to think about the move, albeit not too hard nor too long. In many ways, I'm learning the game too. At this point, I mostly want OBED to have fun and to get used to things like taking turns and that games have rules. That she only uses Daddy's games under supervision is also important. Did I mention having fun?

When the game ends, I'll put the board and pieces away, but we don't often mention who actually won. We don't make a point not to either. Mostly I'll ask if OBED had fun, and help her down from her chair.
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p55carroll
United States
Minnesota
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Smooth seas make the voyage more pleasant.
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A ship in port is safe, and that's just what ports are for.
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Quote:
my father would berate us how the game was only for people who were in his words "too stupid to play chess"

I guess my father would have agreed. We played Checkers when I was a kid, and when I asked him about Chess one day he said, "I don't know how to play that. You have to be really smart to play Chess."
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
United States
Corvallis
Oregon
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The Herbie Nichols Project - Dr. Cyclops' Dream
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Checkers has a lot more depth than most people give it credit for. Those who think it's trivial might be very surprised, and perhaps drawn in, if they played a series of games against a strong player.

My granddaughter started kindergarten this year, and some of her classmates play so she has taken an interest. I've played several times with her, and she's improving rapidly. I can still beat her when I choose to, but she's entirely capable of beating a careless adult.

I wish I could find a good option for playing online with her. The Yahoo client has blown up on us more than once, and there are many unpleasant sorts posting in the game rooms. We tried another site, GoldToken.com, but that's a horribly archaic implementation. Moves are updated slowly, and you have to scroll to hit a save button after making a move. If somebody knows of a better option for playing remote games with a child, please let me know. (We don't have iPads or Androids; we'd be playing on Windows laptops.)
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Jon
Canada
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Traditional games that have survived the test of time and ancient games that have not are a part of our heritage.
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m'n - the Egyptian hieroglyph for board game, also signifying "stability" and used phonetically as in the last syllable of "Tutankhamun"
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Sphere wrote:
I wish I could find a good option for playing online with her. The Yahoo client has blown up on us more than once, and there are many unpleasant sorts posting in the game rooms. We tried another site, GoldToken.com, but that's a horribly archaic implementation. Moves are updated slowly, and you have to scroll to hit a save button after making a move. If somebody knows of a better option for playing remote games with a child, please let me know. (We don't have iPads or Androids; we'd be playing on Windows laptops.)


igGameCenter has a good interface and a lack of unsavory characters chatting on the site. 8X8 checkers is listed as English Checkers while 10X10 checkers is listed as International Checkers.
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Bill Anonymous
United States
Maryland
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Nice review. I like how it touches on several approaches to the game.

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Bill
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Nathan James
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Covington
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whac3 wrote:
My daughter is already adept at seeing jumps; she just likes jumps happening and doesn't mind whose pieces are jumped. ... OBED likes jumps and making kings-- mine as well as her own. OBED tends to laugh excitedly after jumps.

I think the excitement of jumps is major factor in an adult's enjoyment of the game also. We just tend to have more mixed feelings when the pieces jumped are our own.
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