Chinese Checkers and traditional Checkers are two of the most popular board games globally. Both board games share similar names/rule sets and are often compared. However, although these games may share multiple similarities at face value, they are very different from one another.
Checkers is the English/Anglicized name given to an ancient board game that has hundreds of global variants, all of which arose independently from one another during different eras. Chinese Checkers was an original, manufactured game with no relation to Checkers.
Understanding the different histories between Chinese Checkers and traditional Checkers is essential in having a reference from which to compare all the similarities and differences between the two games. Let’s explore these twelve considerations in greater detail below:
1. Checkers Is An Ancient Game
Although the modern variant of Checkers is usually an 8×8 board that involves two players competing against each other with twelve pieces each, this is simply the common variant that arose from the game of draughts during Medieval England.
Instead, it is believed that Checkers is an ancient board game that predates written history, meaning that it may be over 5000 years old! In support of this theory are archeological findings of games that represent checkers from the Sumerian city of Ur from 3000 BC.
Furthermore, the British Museum is home to ancient Egyptian checkerboards originally found in the burial chambers of Eighteenth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaohs.
2. Chinese Checkers Originated In The 1920s
Unlike Checkers, which has no known date of origin or creator, the history of Chinese Checkers is accurately documented as being a product of variations on existing games and marketing schemes.
Namely, Chinese Checkers was the American name given to the German board game Sternhalma, which was a variant of a board game from the 1820s known as Halma.
Sternhalma was a six-sided board game in the shape of a star that involved players attempting to move their pieces to the adjacent side of the board before other players.
Chinese Checkers was given the name instead of Sternhalma by the Pressman Company to entice American audiences to play an “exotic” game, which spoke to the American public’s obsession with all things “Oriental” during the 1920s.
Consequently, Chinese Checkers is considered a form of cultural appropriation, as its links to Asian culture were disingenuous and entirely manufactured.
3. Checkers Is Usually Played By Only Two People
Despite hundreds of known variants of Checkers globally and throughout different eras, the vast majority of Checkers rule sets involve a game between two competing players.
While the traditional method of distinguishing players usually involves white pieces versus black pieces, other forms of identification have been used, such as pieces with different colors, shapes, and/or symbols.
The game’s goal usually involves players taking turns eliminating another player’s pieces. The winner is declared once the other player’s pieces have all been taken or the player is blocked, meaning their pieces cannot be moved.
4. Chinese Checkers Can Be Played By Up To Six People
Chinese Checkers, originally called Sternhalma, was invented as a variant of Halma because of the game’s popularity in Germany. Namely, unlike Halma, which only allowed for four players, Sternhalma allowed for up to six players to play at once.
Unlike traditional Checkers, which results in players eliminating the other player’s pieces to secure victory, the goal of most variants of Chinese Checkers is to move all of a player’s pieces to the other side of the board.
Consequently, while Checkers involves jumping pieces as a form of elimination, Chinese Checkers uses the jumping mechanic to speed up the movement of their pieces subject to a rule set that mirrors a race.
Therefore, while traditional checkers have a single winner, Chinese Checkers has different player ranking depending on the number of people playing the game.
5. Checkers Is Considered A Very Easy Game To Learn
Although traditional Checkers and Chinese Checkers are casual/easy games to play, the primary goal of traditional checkers and the one vs. one ruleset is considered a more straightforward game than Chinese Checkers.
However, while traditional Checkers is considered a more straightforward game than Chinese Checkers (with a suggested age range of 4+ years), the advanced play has several layers of complexity.
The complexity of traditional Checkers is best illustrated by the presence of various international federations and competitions (see consideration nine below for further details.)
6. Chinese Checkers Has Some Complex Variants
The complexity of Chinese checkers is often subject to the variant played and whether there are multiple players or not.
Therefore, while Chinese Checkers is generally believed to be more complex than traditional Checkers (with a suggested age range of 7+ years), this is subject to multiple variables and rule set variations.
7. Checkers Is A Universal Game
Checkers is unique because it is one of the very few games/sports in the world that arose organically across different jurisdictions at different eras, without a single creator or place of origin (similar to other popular children’s games like tag or hide-and-seek.)
Thus, Checkers is considered a universal game void of corporate/commercial interests and ownership.
8. Chinese Checkers Is Patented
Due to the growing popularity of Chinese Checkers in the 1930s and the rise of various variants/copies, Milton Bradley decided to patent Chinese Checkers and all its variants in 1942.
Consequently, Milton Bradley (Hasbro) holds the rights over the advertising, production, and sale of Chinese Checkers and any/all variants globally.
Therefore, Chinese Checkers is a distinct product/brand similar to popular board games like monopoly, while traditional Checkers is an independent board game like chess.
9. Checkers Has Multiple Federations
Despite Checkers’ status as a casual board game for people of all ages, there are multiple international federations and tournaments that uphold set rules and regulations for international play.
Some examples of international federations and tournaments include:
- World Checkers/Draughts Championship started in 1840,
- Draughts World Championship started in 1885,
- Women’s World Draughts Championship started in 1873,
- Draughts-64 World Championship started in 1985,
- World Draughts Federation was established in 1947 by four European Federations,
- International Draughts Federation was founded in 2012 in Bulgaria.
Note: “draughts” in the tournaments mentioned above/federations is the British name for traditional Checkers.
10. Chinese Checkers Is A More Casual Game
Despite being a more complex game than traditional Checkers, Chinese Checkers has a limited professional scene, as evident by fewer recognized international federations and tournaments.
Specific variants of Chinese Checkers, such as Fast-paced or Super Chinese Checkers, have a competitive following in France and China.
11. Checkers Has Been “Solved”
A game is considered “solved” when an AI can run trillions of mathematical algorithms, which create a scenario where the result is always a win/draw, provided a player follows a set of “perfect moves” in any given scenario.
In 2007, and after 18 years of running computations, Checkers was declared “solved” by Jonathan Schaeffer at the University of Alberta in Canada. The result is Chinook, a Checkers software that cannot be beaten, but only drawn against, provided you play a “perfect game” of Checkers.
12. Chinese Checkers Is “Solved” Up To Three Players
In contrast to traditional Checkers, Chinese Checkers has been solved for up to three players. A win between two players can be mathematically calculated, while three players can exhibit a three-way draw.
However, the results for four players or more has yet to be determined.
Chinese Checkers and traditional Checkers have very few things in common. However, they are both universally loved board games that can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities!