Draughts is a very ancient game indeed, the origins of which, like Chess, aren't completely clear. However, early forms of Alquerque, its venerable ancestor, have been found in Egypt dating at least as early as 600BC. Alquerque boards can be seen carved into the stone slabs which form the roof of the great temple at Kurna, Egypt, which was built in 1400BC (of course, they might have been carved at any point since). The game of Alquerque was played like Draughts on a 5 x 5 point board with the pieces starting in a non-symmetrical pattern. The game clearly had staying power - it is mentioned under the name of Quirkat in the Arabic work Kitab-al Aghani, the author of which died in 976 AD. Quirkat was first brought to Europe by the Moors during their invasion of Spain. It was recorded as Alquerque (Spanish form of El-Quirkat) in the Alfonso X Manuscript which was written between 1251 - 1282 at the command of Alfonso X, King of Leon and Castile. [From]

Alquerque is played on the following 5x5 square board:

where the stones are placed in the following way:

There is no general agreement about what were the rules of Alquerque. These next rules are a possible interpretation:
  • MOVE - Stones may move to one empty cell through the lines displayed on the board.
  • CAPTURE - A stone capture by jumping to the opposite cell of the captured stone (if there is a straight line connecting those 3 cells, and the final cell is empty).
    • After the first capture, the stone may continue to jump (not necessarily on the same direction) until there is no more captures to be done.
  • GOAL - Wins the player that captures all enemy stones, or with the greater number of stones, if no more captures are possible.

The rule that state the captures are mandatory is more recent, and together with the use of a Chess board to play Alquerque, produced in Medieval Europe (around AD 1100) the game of Checkers. More information about Alquerque can be found here.

There are several other possible boards. There is the quintuple Alquerque:

The center board starts empty, and each half of the board is covered with stones of the same color, like in Alquerque.

Many other games of the same family exists around the world, with different boards, but with the same game mechanism. Awithlaknannai (see next game) in Central America, Egara Guti and Lau Kati Kata in India or Felli in Morocco. Murray in his book "A history of board-games other than chess" have more than 40 regional variants.


Kolowisi Awithlaknannai is a traditional game of Native American tribe Zuni. "Kolowisi Awithlaknannai" means "Fighting snake". Kolowisi is a mythic snake. The goal is to capture all enemy stones. White begins. First, White has to move one of his stones on the cell in the middle. Then, black can jump over the stone on the middle cell and capture it or move another stone. Afterwards, players alternate turns. A stone can be moved on an adjacent empty cell, or it can jump over (capturing) enemy stones. Multiple jumps are allowed.

Another related game is "Vietnam Chess" (this may not be the original name) played in the Alquerque board with the following setup:

All pieces can move to adjacent (along the lines) empty cells. Kings can jump over an adjacent friendly soldier landing on the immediate cell which must be occupied by an enemy piece (which is captured). Captures are not mandatory and soldiers cannot capture. The goal is to capture the enemy King.

Check also a ZRF implementation by Mats Winther of Dablot Prejjesne.

Damiano (check Mats Winther's website is a checker variant played in an extended alquerque board

Mats Winther's words: While the pattern restricts piece movement one can introduce orthogonal movement without making the game too complicated. The idea is to propose a less forced form of Checkers. Pieces move forward, either straight or diagonally. They may capture (jump) only diagonally forwards (like in Checkers). Goal is to capture all the opponent's pieces. Pieces are promoted to kings at the last rank. Kings move and capture in all directions. Capture is obligatory. Stalemate is a loss. The game starts with the initial two rows of each player filled with friendly stones.

Also on this site there is Zamma:

Mats Winther's words: Zamma (Damma, Srand, Dhamet) is played on a quadruple Alquerque pattern (Arabic Alquerque is the forefather of checkers). The Zamma board is quite old. It is believed to be the precursor of the Alquerque board pattern. A Zamma board survives among the roof-slab scribings at Kurna (c. 1400 BCE). However, the present version of Zamma is believed to rely heavily on developments in draughts since the 17th century (a supposition that could be challenged). It is still played in North Africa, where the black pieces are called men, and the white pieces are called women. When played in the Sahara, the men are represented by short sticks, whilst the women are pieces of camel dung. Black makes the first move.

This game is called Srand (or Dhamet) in Mauritania, where it is the national game. In the particular variant played the captured counters are removed instantly from the board. In other variants the removal of captured pieces is deferred.

Pieces are obliged to follow the pattern on the board. They can only move in the forward directions, however, they can make multiple captures, by the short leap, in any direction. Goal is to capture all the opponent's pieces. Note that one must always choose the line with the most captures. Pieces are promoted to Mullahs (also called Sultans) at the last rank. If the counter, during a capturing sequence, makes an intermediate landing on a promotion square, it does not promote to Mullah. The Mullah moves and captures in all directions. It can move any number of squares, like the King in international draughts, and land anywhere behind the captured piece. In one variant it cannot jump repeatedly over an enemy piece, in another variant it can (that is, the captured piece has already been removed). Capture is compulsory.

A piece moves to an empty adjacent point. If an adjacent point is occupied by an enemy piece and the point directly behind is vacant, then one must jump over it and capture it, as in checkers. Several pieces may be captured like this in a single turn.

By way of combinations one must try to attain material advantage, by exchanging one piece for two, or two for three, etc. In the endgame, material advantage generally leads to a win. Mullahs are very powerful, and one can sacrifice pieces to achieve promotion. Remember that men standing on the diagonal matrix have greater scope.

This is an intriguing checkers variant. The counters have different scope depending on which squares they are positioned. On half of the squares they can capture in eight directions, in the other half they can capture in four directions and move in only one. The board pattern allows this freedom of capture directions while half of the diagonals are removed, compared with a checkers board. Possibly this game carries some advantages compared with international draughts, which has become very drawish in grandmaster quarters.