Rules of Draughts: Check Out This Guide

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Ever find yourself wondering how to play draughts? Read this complete guide to the game of draughts.

Draughts is known by a variety of names and has many variations, but this classic board game has been a source of entertainment for people in one form or another going back to ancient Egypt. Playing draughts is a family-friendly activity that still appeals to a global audience today.

For most of this article, I’ll be discussing English draughts and American checkers, but I’ll also cover some common variants. You’ll be ready to play draughts in no time!

Ready to get jumping? Keep reading to learn more.

What is the Game of Draughts?

Draughts, also known as checkers, is a strategy board game played between two players. Draughts is a capturing game, where players move pieces and capture diagonally forward until reaching the end of the board. At that point, the pieces are crowned “king” and can move forward and backward. Draughts is played on a checkered board, like chess.

What is the Difference Between Checkers and Draughts?

Rules of draughts board game on a round table

There is no difference between checkers and draughts. Both games are played on an 8×8 board with 12 pieces per side, and both games have the same set of rules. The only difference is the terminology. “Checkers” is more commonly used in American English, whereas “draughts” is used in British English. American checkers is also referred to as straight checkers.

What Are the Official Rules of Draughts?

The rules of draughts is fairly straightforward, although there are some possible variations in the rules. The objective of draughts is to capture all of your opponent’s pieces.

For a quick rundown of the game rules, check out this video by wikiHow:


The checkers/draughts board consists of 64 alternating light and dark squares, just like a chess board. Each player has 12 pieces of contrasting colors, identified as black and white (regardless of actual color).

Each player begins with their pieces on the dark squares of the three rows closest to that player’s side. The row closest to the player is called the “king’s row” or the “crown head.” All play happens on the dark squares. The player with the darker-colored pieces (black) moves first. Players alternate turns.

Move and Capture Rules

There are two ways to move in checkers or draughts: a simple move and a jump.

A simple move consists of moving a piece one square diagonally forward to an adjacent empty square. Uncrowned pieces can only move forward, whereas crowned pieces can move forward and backward.

A jump consists of moving a piece to a vacant square immediately beyond an opponent’s piece in an adjacent square. Your piece is “jumping” over your opponent’s piece. Men (uncrowned pieces) can only jump forward, but kings (crowned pieces) can jump forward and backward.

End Game

A player wins by capturing all their opponent’s pieces or by leaving the opponent no legal move. If neither side can force a win and there are no legal moves left, the game is considered a draw.

Rules Variations

In tournament play, a three-move restriction is utilized. The first three moves are drawn at random from a set of openings. Two games are played with the chosen opening. The three-move restriction is also used in the United States. This is done in such a way as to reduce the number of draws. Prior to this variation, championships were played without restriction. This style of play is called Go As You Please (GAYP).

The huffing rule, while not as common, has been used in the past. With this rule, jumping is not mandatory, but if a player refuses to make a jumping move when there is one available, the opponent may declare that the piece is blown or huffed.

That means the offending piece is removed from the board. After removing the opponent’s piece, the other player takes their turn as normal. The World Checkers Draughts Federation does not include huffing in the official rules.

A multi-jump rule is incorporated in some matches. This occurs when a man that has jumped to become a king can then continue to capture more pieces in the same turn.

Finally, in some variants, a capturing with a king precedes capturing with a man. Any available capture is up to the player.

Variations of Draughts

International draughts, or Polish draughts, is similar to English draughts and American checkers. The main differences are the size of the board (10×10) and the ability of regular pieces to move and capture backward. International draughts also includes flying kings and a requirement that the maximum number of men be captured whenever capturing is possible. The white piece makes the first move in this variation.

Finally, international draughts has mandatory capture. If it’s possible to capture your opponent’s pieces, you must. Mandatory capture is not present in English draughts.

Russian draughts is a variation of checkers that is played in Russia. Russian draughts is played on an 8×8 board and has mandatory jumping when capturing is possible. The white piece makes the first move in this variation.

There are other variations with similar rules. Most often, the board size, the powers of the kings, and the rules for capture have slight differences among the variants. Other popular variants include Italian draughts, Brazilian draughts, and Canadian checkers.

How Many Pieces Are in Checkers?

In straight checkers, players each begin with 12 pieces of the same colour. Regular pieces are called men, while crowned pieces are called kings. Players on opposite sides have contrasting colors, although they are always called black and white, regardless of their actual color. Most pieces are flat and cylindrical. Traditionally, pieces were made of wood, although most pieces nowadays are made of plastic.


Pieces that are uncrowned are called men. These pieces can move one step diagonally forward. Men can capture an adjacent opponent’s piece by jumping over it and landing on the next empty square. Multiple pieces can be captured in a single turn by using successive jumps made by a single piece. The jumps can be in a zigzag line and change direction, or they may be in a straight line.

In American checkers, men can only jump forward. In international draughts and Russian draughts, however, men can jump both forward and backward.


When a man reaches the other side of the board (kings row or crown head), it becomes a king. A king piece is marked by either flipping over the checker to display a crown or by placing an additional piece on top of the first man, thereby “crowning” it.

The king has the added ability to move any amount of squares at a time in international draughts and can also move backward. Kings can also capture backwards, although in some variants men can also do this. Kings can make successive jumps in a single turn, as long as each jump captures an enemy piece.

In international draughts, kings are also called flying kings. These pieces can move any distance in a diagonal direction. They may capture pieces at any distance by jumping to the unoccupied square beyond the piece. Captured pieces are removed from the board.

Flying kings are not used in American checkers. In that variation, the king’s singular advantage is the ability to move and capture backward.

Can a Single Piece Jump a Crown in Draughts?

Yes, a man (uncrowned) can jump and capture kings. A jumped piece is considered captured, and captured pieces are removed from the board. This holds true for any variant of the game.

Can You Jump Your Own Pieces in Draughts?

You cannot jump (capture) your own pieces in draughts, nor would you want to. The object of the game is to capture and remove opponent pieces.

What Can a King Do in Checkers?

For English draughts and American straight checkers, a king has the added power of moving backward as well as forward. A king is made when a piece is able to make it to the other side of the board in a forward direction. At the final square, that same piece is crowned.

In international draughts, a king is also able to move across multiple vacant squares instead of one square at a time. This is called a flying king. The flying king is not a common rule, and you’ll probably only use it if you play in a tournament specifically for international or Polish draughts.

Can You Jump Sideways in Checkers?

No. You can only jump diagonally in draughts. In English draughts, kings can move forward and backward, while men can only move forward. However, all moves are in the same direction, diagonal.

What Are Checkers Pieces Called?

A player’s pieces are called men until they reach the final row across the board. In that case, the piece is called a king. The general term for pieces is checkers or draughts, thus the name of the game.

Can You Move Backward in Checkers?

In English draughts and American checkers, men (regular pieces) cannot move backward, but a king can. In other variations, men can capture forwards and backwards, but this variant is not played as frequently in the West.

Do You Put Checkers Pieces on the Light or Dark Squares?

All games are played on the dark squares. The light squares are never used.

Can You Move More than One Square in Checkers?

Yes! You can make multiple jumps in a single move if the pieces are aligned in such a way that allows it. An example of a situation which would allow a double jump is shown in the diagram below.

Showing moves in checkers

Who Goes First in Checkers?

For English draughts and American checkers, black moves first. This isn’t always the case in other variations, however. For example, in Polish and Russian draughts, white moves first. Each variant has its own set of rules guiding the first set of moves.

There is a standardized notation for recording games. You might never notate a game if you’re playing for fun, but this system is great for tournaments or for those who are interested in improving their play. Here’s how it works:

All 32 dark board squares are numbered in sequence. The numbers starts in Black’s double-corner. Black squares on the first row are numbered 1-4, the next row 5-8, and so on. Moves are recorded with the starting position first and the final square last in a “from-to” pattern. Captures are notated with an “x,” and the game result is commonly abbreviated as BW (black wins), RW (red wins) or WW (white wins).

Below is an example of a notated board.

Sample of notated board game

How Do You Capture Your Opponent’s Pieces in Draughts?

You capture your opponent’s pieces by jumping over them to the next empty diagonally adjacent square. When a player captures a piece, they remove it from the board.

You can capture more than one piece if there is another piece immediately eligible to be jumped by the moved piece. If more than one multi-jump is available, the player can choose which piece to jump with and which sequence of jumps to perform. The one the player chooses does not have to be the largest number of jumps. Capturing multiple pieces can make the game more exciting and speed games up for faster gameplay.

How to Make a Draughts Board

If you don’t like the idea of buying a set of English draughts, or if you’re a naturally crafty person, you might be wondering if you can make your own board. The answer? Absolutely! All you need is a few basic tools and a dose of patience. Bonus! You can also use your homemade draughts board to play chess.

For a larger-sized draughts board for kids, I like the tutorial found over at Project Nursery+Junior. Here are the steps:

  1. Gather your materials. You’ll need 24 drink coasters of 4 inches (10 cm), red and black paint, a paintbrush, cardboard, small stamper sponge, a 50″x50″ vinyl tablecloth (or larger), scissors, ruler, pencil, painter’s or masking tape, permanent marker, and a hot glue gun.
  2. Paint your pieces. Paint 12 of the coasters red and 12 coasters black. Paint both sides of the coaster. These will be your game pieces.
  3. Add the crowned side. When pieces become a king, they traditionally have an additional piece placed on top. Instead of making more pieces, you can also make your pieces two-sided and flip it to the king side. You’ll need to paint a crown on one side of each coaster. Use a contrasting paint color and draw an outline. If you want crowns that are uniform in size and design, use a stencil.
  4. Make your board. Begin by cutting the vinyl tablecloth down to a rectangle that measures 36″ x 50″. On the plastic-feeling side, use a pencil and ruler to mark a line 7″ from one short side. From that line, draw a grid (8 squares x 8 squares) in which each square measures 4.5″. If you’ve drawn your grid correctly, you will have 7″ left on the opposite short side.
  5. Paint the black squares. Mark an “X” on half of the squares in a checkerboard pattern so you’ll know which ones to paint black. Go back and paint each square, using painter’s tape if needed to get clean lines. After painting the squares, you can outline the board with a Sharpie permanent marker for a crisp edge.
  6. Make pockets to store pieces. Use the excess fabric from the vinyl tablecloth to cut out pockets 6″x28″. Use hot glue to attach the pockets at the bottom and side edges to opposite sides of the outer rim of the board. These pockets can store your pieces when you’re not playing draughts.

If you prefer a video tutorial, watch the clip below for easy instructions on how to make a draughts board for kids. This board also uses basic materials you likely have at home.

Rules of Draughts & Checkers: Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve got the rules down, you’ll be ready to play this classic board game to your heart’s content. If you need more classic games to play, check out my complete guide to the game of Go or find games like chess. Or, if you’re interested in learning more about older classic games, visit my complete review of ancient board games